Benefits realisation: analyst insight

I’m facilitating an event tomorrow on “Optimising the benefits life cycle”. So as always I undertook my own prior research to see what the mainstream analysts have to offer.

Forrester was a disappointment. “Benefits Realization” (with a z) turns up quite a lot, but the research is primarily labelled “Lead to Revenue Management” – that is, it’s about sales. There is some material on the wider topic, but it dates back several years or longer. Though it’s always relevant to remember Forrester’s elevator project pitch from Chuck Gliedman: We are doing A to make B better, as measured by C, which is worth X dollars (pounds, euros …) to the organisation.

There is a lot of material from both academic researchers and organisations like PMI (Project Management Institute). But in the IT insight market, there seems to be remarkably little (do correct me …) except that the Corporate IT Forum, where I’ll be tomorrow, has returned to the issue regularly. Tomorrow’s event is the latest in the series. The Forum members clearly see this as important.

But so far as external material is concerned, this blog turns into a plug for a recent Gartner webinar by Richard Hunter, who (a fair number of years ago) added considerable value to an internal IT presentation I delivered on emerging technologies for our enterprise. I’m not going to review the whole presentation because it’s on open access from Gartner’s On Demand webinars. But to someone who experienced the measurement-oriented focus of a Six-Sigma driven IT team, it’s not a real surprise that Richard’s key theme is to identify and express the benefits before you start: in business terms, not technology-oriented language, and with an expectation that you will know how to measure and harvest the benefits. It’s not about on-time-on-budget; it’s about the business outcome. Shortening a process cycle from days to hours; reducing the provision for returns; and so on.

If this is your topic, spend an hour reviewing Richard’s presentation (complete with family dog in the background). It will be time well spent.

• Getting to Benefits Realization: What to Do and When to Do It, Richard Hunter, Gartner, 7 Aug 2014 (go to Gartner Webinars and search for Benefits Realization)
• Corporate IT Forum: Optimising the Benefits Lifecycle (workshop, 16 Sep 2014)

Gartner buys … what, exactly?

A recent monitor report (11th March) from Outsell noted that Gartner have bought a small(ish) analyst firm Software Advice: around 100 employees. I’ve spent the intervening week checking to see what Gartner might be buying. The press release is short on detail and I haven’t spotted any other commentary; KCG, SageCircle and others please correct me if I’ve missed something!

Software Advice does what its name implies. It provides advice (“Find software for your business”) across just short of thirty categories: generic enterprise areas (e.g. Business Intelligence); market sectors (Manufacturing); and niche areas (Church Management). More below. Key to Software Advice reporting are Buyer Views, Industry Views and User Views documents (collectively referred to as Views below, when we report redirections within blog sequences). It’s not the purpose of this blog to explore their style. Its story is told by CEO and co-founder Don Fornes in a (separate) blog post.

Software Advice don’t (appear to) have an online list of their analysts, but I’ve been able to recover a list of 110 contributors to their accessible online content (mainly the blogs). Several cover a range of areas (more than ten, in a few cases). I have no way to check how many of them are currently with the firm, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. My list may not be complete or up to date; but it should help identify if, when and where these analysts re-surface in Gartner, and what happens to the coverage. Will it be merged into mainstream research? Will it disappear into the consultancy business? Will some topics simply be abandoned? Will analysts stay or leave? What will the fallout be? There is far from a good fit between Software Advice coverage and Gartner’s, but Software Advice is probably not enough for Gartner to springboard into these additional areas. Interesting, though, that Don Fornes is now listed as a Gartner Group Vice President. That looks as if Gartner see this as a strategic purchase. Watch this space.

Not all of Software Advice’s categories map either to Gartner’s current list of industry sectors or to their IT topics or roles, although many do. So it will be interesting to see what happens. The big question, going on previous experiences with Burton and AMR Research, is how far and how soon Gartner will integrate these topics and analysts – especially the categories not currently strong on Gartner’s agenda.

As always we can look at the blogs to get the picture. In this case, it’s a confused one. There are two groups of blogs from Software Advice. They are topic related, not personal blogs as Gartner’s are; similar to the former Burton and AMR blogs.

One blog group maps to most of the categories used by Software Advice: many of these seem dormant but some have recent postings. The other is a group of eight current, named blogs. There is overlap and redirection within both. So for example a post indexed in B2B Marketing Mentor redirects to an Industry View document outside the blog structure. Similarly, posts in the Customer Relationship Management blog redirect to CSI, to B2B Marketing Mentor, and to Views.

Here is Software Advice’s list of blogs and topics, with an indication of their status in the blog lists. There are some inconsistencies in naming, which we have resolved. Not all topic blogs carry the topic as a page title; a few carry the generic title The Software Advice Blog.

The following are the titled blogs:
The Able Altruist: Non-profit. Most recent post (of 16): 27 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage in this area: minimal.
The B2B Marketing Mentor: Most recent post (of 33): 12 Dec 2013. Gartner coverage: strong.
CSI: Customer Service Investigator: CRM, Most recent post (of 36): 3 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
Hello Operator: business telephony including call centres. Most recent post (of 11): 16 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
The New Talent Times: Human resources. Most recent post (of 57): 19 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
Overnight Success: hotel and hospitality management. Most recent post (of 7):30 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: none specific.
The Profitable Practice: medical practice management. Most recent post (of 55): 18 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: none specific.
Plotting Success: business intelligence. Most recent post (of 23): 29 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: strong.

There is overlap between these and the older-style (non-titled) blogs. All or some posts in some of these older-style blogs redirect to postings in the titled blogs. Inconsistency is rife! The following list covers all Software Advice categories. The website lists these on the home page; there is also a drop-down menu which breaks them into Industry and Application groups. Asterisks * here indicate categories not included in the drop-down menus which I have added to what seems the most appropriate group.

Assisted Living*: no blog.
Church Management*: no blog
Construction: The Construction Blog (66 postings, most recent 4 Feb 2014); one post redirects to a View. No titled blog
Dental*: no blog
Distribution: The Distribution Blog (17; 8 Jul 2013); no titled blog
Home Health*: no blog
Hotel Management*: The Hotel Management Blog; all (7) articles redirect to Overnight Success
Long-term Care*: no blog
Manufacturing: The Manufacturing Blog (37; 23 Sep 2013); no titled blog. Manufacturing is a headline Gartner industry sector.
Medical: The Medical Blog (59; 6 Jul 2011); 18 further articles redirect to The Profitable Practice (though some older articles can no longer be reached by that route) or to software evaluation reports. Healthcare providers is a headline Gartner sector.
Non-Profit: The Non-Profit Blog (1; 6 Jul 2011); further articles redirect to The Able Altruist (one of these appears there under a different title).
Professional Services: no blog
Property Management: Topic blog headed as The Software Advice Blog (34; 9 Jan 2014); no titled blog
Recruiting Agency*: no blog
Retail: The Retail Blog (40; 13 Feb 2014); one further articles redirects to a software evaluation report and another redirects to the generic page for retail software. No titled blog. Retail is a headline Gartner industry sector.

Gartner sectors Banking & Investment Services; Education; Energy & Utilities; Government; Insurance; and Media do not appear to map onto these Software Advice categories

Accounting: The Accounting Blog (20 postings; most recent 19 Oct 2011); no titled blog
Business Intelligence*: The Business Intelligence Blog, all (9) articles redirect to Plotting Success (29 Jan 2014). Business Intelligence & Information Management is a listed Gartner IT role.
Business Telephony*: topic also referred to as Business VOIP. Topic blog headed as The Software Advice Blog, all articles redirect to Hello Operator (16 Jan 2014)
Career Advice*: not included on the blog index page. Topic blog (8 Aug 2012) headed as The Software Advice Blog; no titled blog. One post redirects to The New Talent Times.
CRM: also indexed as Customer Relationship Management in full, or as Customer Management. The Customer Relationship Management Blog (109; 12 Feb 2013); 17 posts redirect to Views, to The B2B Marketing Mentor or to CSI: Customer Service Investigator.
Enterprise Resource Planning: listed in the blog index as Enterprise. The Enterprise Blog (50; 26 Jun 2013); no titled blog
Facilities Management: in the blog index as Facility Management. The Facilities Management Blog (10; 25 Mar 2013); no titled blog
Human Resources: The Human Resources Blog (56; 76 Dec 2012). 13 further articles redirect to The New Talent Times.
Inventory Management*: no blog
Maintenance Management: Topic blog (3; 26 Jun 2013) headed as The Software Advice Blog; 1 further post redirects to a View document. No titled blog
Project Management: The Project Management Blog (3; 10 Feb 2014); no titled blog. Gartner’s list of IT roles includes Project and Portfolio Management.
Security*: The Security Blog (3; 6 Mar 2014); no titled blog. Security and Risk Management is a listed Gartner IT role.
Supply Chain Management: The Supply Chain Management Blog (20; 5 Mar 2014); no titled blog.

Gartner list Applications and Sourcing and Vendor Management among their IT Roles. Digital Marketing also relates to several areas of Software Advice coverage. Gartner IT roles which don’t appear to map easily to Software Advice coverage include Business Process Improvement; CIO and IT Executives; Enterprise Architecture; Infrastructure and Operations.

• Gartner acquires Software Advice, Gartner press release, 11 Mar 2014
• Software Advice; link here to Software Advice titled blogs and to Software Advice untitled blogs
How Software Advice Got Started, Don Fornes, A Million Little Wins, Part I, 25 Mar 2013 (the link to part II is at the end of this post)

Gartner Blogs directory improved

I’ve finally implemented a long-planned improvement to the InformationSpan directory of Gartner analyst blogs. Actually, two improvements.

The first sounds simple but proved remarkably difficult to achieve. There are a small handful of Gartner bloggers who are not listed in Gartner’s own online directory of analysts. They are people like my friend Val Sribar, who are senior members of Gartner’s research management team and not “analysts” in the regular sense of the word. Or they might be new arrivals, who haven’t made it into Gartner’s online list yet.

Up to now, these individuals have had special mention at the foot of the “by name” page, and haven’t appeared in the directory of coverage areas at all. Well, that’s changed. They are now fully integrated into the main lists, with a neat little dagger indicating their status.

The second enhancement sounds complex but was much easier. The index of blogs by coverage area has now been split into three sections: Technical coverage (the part of Gartner that most of us look at); Industry verticals (the sectors for which Gartner has a focussed specific advisory service); and Management focus (which at the moment includes two areas: Gartner for Business Leaders, and the Small/Midsize Enterprise IT service). This split doesn’t exactly match Gartner’s own, but it makes sense to me. The three sections are still on the same page; just page down.

Also there are a small number of new blogs highlighted since the last update. The number of analysts blogging has pretty much reached its plateau, I think. I wonder if the joining rate permonth over the last couple of years would plot into a hype cycle shape?

Why not have a look at our Blog Index.

PS – for the technically minded, the implementation uses some arcane Excel coding to sort out the information into the order wanted. The new code vividly exemplifies Niklaus Wirth’s statement: there is no problem in computing that can’t be solved by adding another layer of indirection. Two layers, sometimes, here!

Gartner creates Business Continuity blog

Gartner recently added a new Business Continuity blog, categorised as Gartner Special Research. It contains advisories relating to the Swine Flu outbreak, which is a more serious issue in the US than it is yet in Europe. Like their other blogs, it’s on open access.

You won’t find it in their list of titled (topic-focussed) blogs, which followers here will know remains somewhat disorganised. Instead, and illogically, it’s been included in the Blog Network as if it were an individual analyst’s blog.

InformationSpan sorts these things out. There’s one new Gartner analyst on stream as well. Visit and click the link to our index of analyst blogs.

More Gartner Blogs and some under-the-cover changes

Another ten Gartner analysts have joined the Gartner Blog Network and I’ve updated my blog index to include them. For the first time, a couple of the new names are also new analysts, and these are indicated in the index.

There are a couple of other changes on the Gartner side too. Their Investment Services and Banking vertical coverage has been amalgamated, so the sole blogger in this area, Kristin Moyer, now appears under “Banking & Investment Services”.

And one of the new analysts, Richard Fouts, is working within Gartner’s business management service Gartner for Business Leaders. Gartner describe this as “reinvigorated” rather than “new”: it provides “business strategy and marketing insight for technology and service provider organizations” covering analyst relations, sales, product management & marketing, and market & competitive intelligence. I’m going to need to revamp the approach a little to ensure these additional areas get reflected in the topic index; at the moment, they don’t.

Click through to the blog index, and take it from there.

Oracle acquires Sun: what do the analysts say?

As the comments begin to settle down around Oracle’s latest blockbuster acquisition, let’s have a look at who reacted how quickly, and the quality of their comments.

There’s plenty of discussion of the basics: that Oracle is to acquire (“rescue”, according to some coverage) Sun Microsystems. The crown jewels are:

  • the Solaris version of Unix, which Larry Ellison talked up and which is perhaps the most important platform for Oracle’s proprietary software portfolio. Relevant past acquisitions here include PeopleSoft/J D Edwards (Dec 2004) and Siebel (Sep 2005), both hard-fought battles
  • Java, the basis for Oracle’s growing middleware business. BEA Systems was acquired in January last year.
  • Sun hardware … it will be interesting to see what Oracle does with this, as an indicator of the company’s future direction
  • Star Office and Open Office – there’s not much comment about these. But Ellison may well encourage them, the better to compete with Microsoft
  • MySQL open source database, widely used by start-ups and web companies
  • Definitively stopping a link-up of IBM and Sun

When I looked at coverage of the Satyam scandal, the questions were: who reacted first? Who has the most incisive coverage for the enterprise user? Who had the best accessible coverage?

But things have moved on, not least with Gartner’s entry to the blog movement. The major analysts had blog postings up pretty much on the day, and so did a range of other commentators. Some postings are very short and don’t do much more than register that the analyst had seen the news. But some have significant analysis, and I’d commend Darryl Plummer from Gartner, James Kobelius and Ray Wang from Forrester, and Bruce Richardson of AMR who all quickly began to explore the implications. Stefan Ried of Forrester waited a couple of days and then, after a call with Oracle, brought together some of his colleagues’ earlier comments so that’s a useful link.

And at this stage there is not much early stage formal research reporting. There are a couple of reports from the big two (Forrester and Gartner). Forrester haven’t disappointed as they did last time: the quality of accessible coverage in the blogs is high. Gartner’s blog coverage is more random; perhaps this is where Forrester’s approach to blogging, with topic-related rather than personal blogs, pays off. Then there were rapid initial research notes from Forrester and Gartner but not a great deal more.

As with Satyam, there’s no consensus about the future direction of this integration. The main disagreements are:

  • will Oracle divest the hardware business, or leverage it? Significantly, the Oracle press resource talks about delivering “an integrated system—applications to disk”, not “applications to CPU”.
  • will MySQL be used as a route to migrate more customers for Oracle’s database and then killed off? will it be actively supported? or will it be cut loose for the open source community to work with?

So perhaps the main conclusion for insight service users is that the pace and quality of fast-response comment to major events has significantly picked up. And that there were no real surprises about coverage – except that I discovered a new source (GigaOM) which had an incisive article – matching Forrester’s Kobelius for early considered analysis. That’s a source I’ll be watching in future.

• Oracle and Sun, Oracle press and information website
• Forrester: Oracle’s Sun Acquisition Is A Game Changer, 22 April, client research targetted at vendor strategy professionals (i.e. the IT supply side) but relevant to users too
• Gartner: Oracle/Sun Deal Will Change Competitive Landscape in IT, 22 April, client research, short but publicly available
Our Full Analysis of the $7.4B Oracle-Sun Deal, GigaOM, 20 April

To see more of the coverage identified for this survey, click for items tagged in

My Forrester blog index catches up

A quick alert. I’ve finally caught up with my target of updating my index to Forrester’s analyst blogs. Not as urgent a job as keeping on top of Gartner’s because Forrester’s own index is structured by topic – they aren’t, mostly, individual analysts’ blogs – and the list is up to date on their own site.

The list is a little longer than it was in January, when I first put the page up. So I’ve moved to a two-page structure. When you go to the index you’ll see first the blogs which are relevant to enterprise IT; this does include some of the consumer and marketing oriented blogs, because there’s a strong IT interest in these areas. A second page links you to the marketing strategy blogs and those for the technology industry (that’s vendors, to you and me). But IT people should have a look there too; for example, there’s currently some discussion on Cloud issues.

• InformationSpan index to analyst blogs
• Forrester’s blog index