Analysts and Influencers: How Can Vendors Work with Us?

Industry analysts, industry influencers — who are we? What are we. What are the ways to work with us, as a solution vendor? How should solution vendors work with us? These are great questions. There are others. And it is the rare event where analysts and influencers, as panelists, get the opportunity to provide their thoughts on these issues, and directly to an open forum-style audience.

The first day’s second session at HR Tech Alliances’ February Virtual Collaboration Zone: Partner Ecosystems Expo was just that, and it is my distinct pleasure to have appeared on this panel alongside several people I respect very much: my co-founder Nick Biron, fellow analysts in human capital management Pete Tialakos and Ben Eubanks, Rayanne Thorn Kreuger as master of ceremonies, and moderator Marilyn Pearson Hendricks, managing partner at HRTA’s sister entity, HR Tech Advisor (and my fellow Cornerstone alum). In keeping with HRTA’s charter, the theme fell back on partnerships and alliances in the HR technology space wherever appropriate, adding an interesting dynamic not often a part of these kinds of discussions.

We have a few main thoughts, here at 3Sixty Insights, when it comes to this subject matter. First off, I’ll speak for myself, at least, in saying we don’t know it all. No analyst or influencer is an expert in the entire scope of HCM. I know of none who claim to be. So, part of our job is to be good at seeking and digesting new information and, well, providing our analysis.

To inform ourselves, at 3Sixty Insights we place high value on continual, ongoing interaction with as many vendors of enterprise technology as possible. Much of this interaction is formal and comes chiefly in the form of one-on-one briefings. We like these to be primarily conversational. A slide deck as a backdrop, and to kick things off, is usually a good thing. We’re not huge fans of group analyst briefings online, but we do attend them when invited.

Another big chunk of our interaction with the industry is informal. Think ad hoc conversations we have with vendors. Crucial to these conversations is our Global Executive Advisory Council, where vendors and users alike enjoy the opportunity help inform our thought leadership behind the scenes, before it surfaces in our published work. We value the feedback members of the GEAC provide us as we formulate the direction of our industry research over the short and long term. We enjoy having members of the GEAC as guests on our #HRTechChat video podcast.

But why, exactly, should solution vendors make it a priority to work with analysts or influencers? For one, this group talks and writes and publishes regardless. Someone, somewhere is going to cover this or that solution vendor. We at 3Sixty Insights are going to cover lots of solution vendors. It’s in any solution vendor’s best interest to ensure analysts and influencers are well-informed so that they’ll cover the solution accurately.

And it’s not just large, established players that need analysts in the fold. This side of the smallest and earliest of early-stage start-ups, most vendors in enterprise technology need a plan and strategy when it comes to building a relationship with analysts. Without one, they risk being overlooked by the analyst community in published work. Perish the thought, but a report could fail to mention a so-negligent vendor alongside competitors who conducted their due diligence with the analyst community. It’s nothing personal. We analysts only know what we know.

Let’s consider another scenario. The HCM technology space is bursting right now with innovative solutions for the so-called future-of-work. These tend to be new takes on old practices and often fuse once siloed, discrete activities as one. As an example, performance management and employee development now go hand-in-hand. Several relatively new vendors provide software to facilitate combining these. If you’re such a vendor, try rising above the din by yourself in these fast-growing, increasingly crowded niches of next-generation point solutions. Any late-stage start-up filing a niche or emerging need in the future of work desperately needs the help of influencers and analysts alike to differentiate, hone and refine its messaging. The competition is doing it.

Consider, also, that most analyst firms have their own angles on their work. Each practice has its own thought leadership and ideas about the market. These might be helpful to a solution vendor’s aims. We have our ideas, and they’ve helped vendors think anew about their solutions and how their messaging can change to resonate with their target markets.

Over the course of the session yesterday, Marilyn presented a number of smart questions. One pertained to rankings-related reports. She asked, “To what extent does the quality of a solution provider’s marketplace, ecosystem, partnership program factor into analyst views?” My guess is that it is indeed a criterion among many that analyst firms that publish such reports consider. Incidentally, when it comes to the idea of rankings reports in general, 3Sixty Insights holds what we believe to be an uncommon view. We don’t bother to publish one of our own, as we think there are plenty of rankings reports among analyst firms already. The ones out there are good, but we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. There’s no need for another.

I hope HRTA does another session like this one in the future. As for this week’s virtual event, it continues today (Wednesday, Feb. 16). Here’s a link.

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