Rainmaker spotlight: Research and analysis become open and social

Martin Hingley ITCandor

Martin Hingley ITCandorHenry Fellow, Rainmakers contributor and distinguished analyst Martin Hingley set up ITCandor three years ago to address a gap in the market for analysis that cuts across technology segments. We caught up with Martin to see how the technology industry’s most recent adventures have translated into insights.

RF: Congratulations on 30 years as a technology analyst. Biggest difference in the role of an industry analyst between 1983 and 2013?
MH: There are no big changes in the nature of analysts. I see 2 types focusing on users and vendors respectively, helping make purchasing, implementation and management decisions and building business plans respectively. I’ve always been vendor focused in my business. There are huge differences in the speed need for analysis and the vast quantities of information to assimilate however: we used to use filing cabinets, grab product literature from CeBit once a year. Don’t forget we didn’t have even email – let alone the Internet 30 years ago.

RF: What do you mean by ‘Social Computer Industry Research’
MH: As an independent analyst you have to be relevant and be an influencer for your customers – it’s completely different from being in a large research firm, where influence is assumed from the history. For illustration I published more research papers in the first 6 months at ITCandor than I did in 22 years at IDC and have doubled the output every 6 months in the 4 years since then. Basically you have to get involved in discussions around key developments (Big Data, Cloud Computing, Mobility, etc.): a lot of analysts at the big firms aren’t allowed to do that, or are restricted through their commitments to internal processes – I know, because I was one of them a long time ago.

RF: Hottest industry trends heading into 2014?
MH: Growth will be a big issue in 2014. We’ve had an overall market that has been declining for the last 2 years and there are good signs of a small recovery in Western Markets at least. Cloud will continue to be important as more medium and large companies begin to trust the services sold to them by major companies. Mobility will have less dramatic growth than in recent years. I’m hoping that Corporate and Social Responsibility will also make a come-back – too many of the large companies are avoiding paying adequate tax in the communities they operate in.

RF: You have argued return of the vertically integrated company. What are some of the more recent examples towards this trend?
MH: Actually I’m hoping to see ‘Matrix’ rather than ‘Vertical’ Integration. The difference from 30 years ago should be that new systems will be built on Open standards and vendors will help customers to move to new vendors if necessary at the end of their contracts. Some vendors get it – some don’t and are locking the customer in. In any case there’s a strong movement away from the ‘Horizontal’ integration of the last 20 years: most vendors want bigger contracts and many clients want one throat to choke.

RF: We have discussed at length the role of aggregators in the industry’s go-to-market makeup. How have you seen their profile change/evolve?
MH: Yes I remember we discussed that a lot in the past. Technology has deepened significantly, but it’s typically too complicated for non-specialists to deploy effectively. Aggregators are going beyond System Integrators to bundle things up and help. Perhaps we should look back at all the stuff we used to write about ASPs in 1999!

RF: How has consumerization of IT changed enterprise IT buying patterns/habits?
I tend to look at it the other way round – the younger people ‘born into’ a technological landscape (now including smart phones, the Internet, social media, etc.) make different decisions from those of us who had to ‘learn technology’ along the way. There’s more assumption that things will work and less questioning about the differences of approach. If you take the issue of privacy for instance, it’s quite possible that laws will eventually be jettisoned if no one cares about it.

RF: As an analyst and part of the broader umbrella of ‘influencers’, what have you seen change in the way technology vendors produce content to persuade buyers?
MH: There’s not a lot of basic change here: they still produce product literature and marketing bumf as before. There’s more focus on sub-markets (vertical, geographic, company size, LoB, etc.) than before perhaps. The best ones talk about markets – but Sun was doing that for workstations in the 1980s. Social business allows the vendor to get closer to the prospect of course – I’m always turning down on-line chat from sales people these days. American start-ups are much better at building stories around their USPs than ever before, European ones are typically still just as hopeless as ever.

RF: We maintain that successful vendors are those that have figured out thought leadership, to help customers navigate complex buying decisions. Who are the industry’s thought leaders that you hold in high esteem, and why?
MH: It’s the ones who can expand the business they run into a wider context, avoiding trite regurgitation of standard arguments (such as the 70:30 maintenance innovation, or scary Big Data numbers stuff). Some of the best are Ginni Rometty at IBM, Michael Dell, Peter Ryan at HP, David Farajun at Asigra, Mark Templeton at Citrix: but there are lots of smart users and analysts too of course.

RF: What’s bubbling in your research pipeline?
MH: I’m working on adding SSD into my storage work, getting ready to look at Cloud and systems orchestration software. Every year I work on a full set of predictions for the coming year – so I’ll be evaluating last year’s forecast and trying to work out where our industry is going next once I’ve had a chance to gauge Q3 business. I’m always searching for new companies to talk to and new subjects to learn.

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