Same old, same old - which vendor did I just see?

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29 December 2014
Tom Scales
As part of my role as an industry analyst, I attend a number of vendor sponsored analyst meetings. Some are vendors entirely focused on the Financial Services space, but most are larger vendors with a much broader perspective. The meetings are interesting, as we hear from their leadership team about their perspective on both modern technology needs as well as what their company is doing to meet those needs. What surprises me, and perhaps it should not, is how the presentations are so generic and common. We see the same buzzwords: Cloud! Digital! Mobile! Innovation! Yes, usually with the exclamation points. I honestly believe you could change the logo from one vendor to another and their CEO could happily and easily give the presentation. Worse, at a recent conference, three different executives gave essentially the same presentation but with different slides. At least they agreed. The vendors do differ, however, on their approach to these meetings. I have a new theory on how to rate these vendors, which is based in humor, but I often wonder if it could be validated with data. 1) Let me talk to your customers The majority of the vendors hold their analyst days completely separate from the customer meetings. Usually they are back-to-back, so the customers are nearby, but they don't let us talk to them. My scoring system would rate a vendor higher based on their willingness to let us mingle in a completely uncontrolled manner with their customer base. An example could be:
  1. Analysts attend the customer meeting and are given total access to the customers
  2. Analysts attend part of the customer meeting and are scheduled with select customers in a controlled manner
  3. Analysts attend a separate meeting, but are given one-on-one access to company leadership
  4. Analysts attend a separate meeting, attend lectures on how great they are and go home
One vendor gets the highest rating because they combined 1 and 2. We were in shared sessions, shared meals and shared entertainment plus they scheduled one-on-one meetings to discuss projects interesting to my specific speciality. 2) How well do you organize a meeting? If you claim to be the company that should come in and revolutionize my company, you ought to be able to manage a decent meeting. The best meetings are well-organized with personalized agendas that focus on the analyst's speciality and with one-on-one meetings with the right people. The worst meeting I recently attended started off poorly when they didn't have a name badge for me and cancelled my hotel room. I certainly didn't feel loved. Worse, they never did get me a badge or an agenda, so I suspect I missed many one-on-one meetings. Since that was the last session of the day, I did the only thing I knew to do. I went home. One vendor put the analysts front and center, at tables, and each spot had both power and a wired internet connection. Outstanding. 3) What are your production values and who are your presenters? Again, if you want to transform my company, you should be able to do an amazing job in your pitch. You should at least upgrade to purchased photos from clipart. I am amazed at the number of presentations that look like they were prepared on the plane ride to the meeting. Some don't even have the company's logo. Oh, and don't forget, I'll recognize the templates that come with Microsoft Office. Perhaps even coordinate the presentations to ensure they are not all the same, or worse contradictory. At the other end of the spectrum are the professionally prepared presentations, clearly not done in Powerpoint, that include appropriate use of videos, etc. The vendor mentioned above again wins this prize as their materials were outstanding. They also understood that they needed to be both informative and entertaining to keep our interest. The corollary to production values is the concept of who is presenting. At a recent meeting, I heard from a range of company execs but noticed one thing was missing. Not a single customer presented. At the other end, virtually all the presentations were customers, sharing their unique, positive experiences with their customers. I suspect you get the point by now. Hopefully any vendors reading our blog will too. To the vendors: Feel free to call me to discuss! (exclamation point mine). If you've read this far, you're probably wondering what this has to do with financial services or research. Well, nothing, but now you know a little more of the pain that we go through for your benefit.

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