HfS Network
Bram Weerts
 
Chief Operating Officer 
Learn more about Bram Weerts
HfS hammers the final nail in the legacy analyst coffin with the HfS ThinkTank
August 11, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonBram WeertsSaurabh Gupta

It’s time to close the chapter on the legacy analyst industry that has lost its energy, its identity, its independence and sense of purpose.  HfS was founded seven years ago to shake this up, and what’s astounded us is the stubborn refusal of the rest of the industry to change, preferring to milk the remnants of a stale model.  So we’ve worked very hard behind the scenes to develop a knowledge platform that impacts, with an engagement style that shakes our clients from their slumbers.  Welcome to our ThinkTank…

Why is the legacy analyst industry stuck in a depressing holding pattern?

The analyst industry never made it out of 1.0.  Despite all the guff about analysts using twitter and blogs, the sporadic number of boutiques and one-man/woman bands that slipped in (and out) of the analyst market over the last decade. Despite the “freemium model”, where there was a pretence of free research “disrupting” the market, but most of it being regurgitated supplier press releases. We are still trapped in the old analyst model:

Let’s face it, this current model has steadily deteriorated over the last decade, with most analysts firms selling their praise to willing vendor marketeers only too happy to fund the propaganda, adding increasingly damp fuel in vein attempts to heat up their sodden sales decks and watery marketing brochures.  Even firms like NelsonHall, Everest, Zinnov and others have got in on the act of putting out endless scatterplot quadrants of supplier positions in all sorts of markets – as if customers really take this stuff seriously anymore? Is this the only way these firms can forge a living these days? How can you “influence” a market when your only impact is a few thousand quasi-human twitter followers, you don’t run customer summits, you don’t provide your clients with research labs, you don’t provide relevant data products and the only people you ever talk to are suppliers?

I would even go as far as declaring some of these “analyst” firms should be more correctly reclassified as supplier marketing support firms.  How can you be an “analyst” when all you do is take money from marketing people to reinforce their products?

The current model is increasingly desperate, we now see tech suppliers buying up advance licences of Quadrants, Waves and Marketscapes at the beginning of their budget cycles, before they are even written, so they can pick and choose which scatterplots to buy licenses when they like the outcome.  Yes, people, this really happens

How did it get this bad?  Simple – most analyst firms are just not very good. They are jaded, they are too stingy to invest in real talent with real experience, and just reel out the same old dinosaurs whose only value to industry is to market the wares of their paying customers.

Fortunately, we have started to see light at the end of this rather dingy tunnel. Which is about time, as  there’s nothing more depressing than bemoaning a stagnant industry encircling the drain before its eventual plummet into the plug hole of irrelevance. 

Don’t lose hope. Analyst 2.0 is finally here!

The industry is reaching its first major Come-to-Jesus moment, where growth is flat, there is mass confusion surrounding the real impact of “disruptive digital business models”, with the potential creative destruction of automation, the lack of clarity of the business benefits of cognitive and AI, and the blurry potential of blockchain in its nascent pre-industrial form.  It’s well past time for enterprise customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders to come together and really collaborate and think about what their true options are moving forward.

But, all is not lost, folks, because HfS is kick-starting a new era in the analyst biz with the HfS Impact model.  Let’s be honest, the analyst 1-800 hotline market, where you have to wait 3 weeks to talk to some clueless kid, and those strategy days when you got subjected to an endless deluge of dull slides explaining the basics of your industry that you were reading about in 2003, are fizzling out.  No one cares anymore.  No one bloody cares.

We’ve made it our mission  to drag this business kicking and screaming out of these dark ages of obsolescence. So, welcome to  Analyst 2.0, a model based entirely on Knowledge and Influence, centred around our revolutionary ThinkTank:

The ThinkTank approach is all about getting the industry collaborating again, where we use Design Thinking techniques to drive joint problem-solving.  Our mantra is that the analyst role is shifting from passive observer to facilitator. To make this happen, we have dedicated an entire floor of our new offices in Cambridge England, in addition to facilities in Chicago and Boston, to hosting day long ThinkTank sessions with our clients. ThinkTanks are where we invite customers, suppliers and even advisors to spend entire days with us Design Thinking their desired goals, and solving the problems that are preventing their achieving these outcomes.  This is where we challenge you, you challenge us, and we work together, supported by our research, to drive genuine achievement, defining where you need to go and clearing the path to get there. And yes, we lock all our phones away in a safe, while we drive this whole ThinkTank process. Learn more about the ThinkTank.

The Bottom-line:  The HfS Mission is to Revolutionize the Industry and lay the Analyst 1.0 model to rest.  For good

HfS’ mission is to provide visionary insight into the major innovations impacting business operations: automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital business models and smart analytics. We focus on the future of operations across key industries. We influence the strategies of enterprise customers to develop operational backbones to stay competitive and partner with capable services providers, technology suppliers, and third party advisors.

HfS is the changing face of the analyst industry combining knowledge with impact:

  • ThinkTank model to collaborate with enterprise customers and other industry stakeholders.
  • 3000 enterprise customer interviews annually across the Global 2000.
  • A highly experienced analyst team.
  • Unrivalled industry summits. 
  • Comprehensive data products on the future of operations and IT services across industries.
  • A growing readership of over one million annually.

The "As-a-Service Economy" and "OneOffice™“ are revolutionizing the industry!

How a chicken, Clay Christensen, Nikki Beach and a bunch of Utility executives provide a sunny outlook
May 05, 2017 | Derk ErbéBram Weerts

This week we crossed the Atlantic to meet the cream of the crop of the utility industry in Miami for the International Utilities and Energy Conference, hosted by Accenture. A packed agenda entertained the brightest minds in the utility space from around the globe.

 

We were in for a surprise: from the first session to the closing key-note it was one big future-oriented gig, focusing on business value instead of enabling technology. No sales pitches from the provider (many providers can learn from this), zero bad jokes... and a highly engaged audience (yes, we are still talking about utility executives here) that wanted to smell, touch and work towards a better future with more and better client interaction. They all want to be more profitable but more important (for real) greener! Their customers demand it; the infrastructure is ripe for an upgrade, and so the question is, why not make it happen?

Fossil is the new uncool, and renewable energy (with loads of digital components for their clients) the new hipsters, the future of utilities!

Let us explain with a couple of fantastic examples that had a high impact on your peers at this week's event. Over to you Derk!

Thanks, Bram. We had an interesting time for sure. Let me give you some quick pointers on the new, the unexpected and the future that headlined IUEC 2017.

A dizzying barrage of industry shattering disruptions thrown at attendants

As one Utility executive put it; the first day of the event was a succession of shock and awe, fear and nausea. Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy set the stage immediately; the unstoppable force of renewables and how being clean is good business. It is a vision that not everyone dares to execute on as radically as Florida Power & Light, but they are doing it without hesitation. CEO Silagy provided an excellent example of lowering his customer's bills by taking the most polluting oil and coal plants offline.  

 

In this picture, you see a perfectly well-operating oil based power facility Florida Power & Light just blew up (after many people try to stop them) to build a far cleaner and more profitable (not only for them but also their clients) and this is just one of many examples. Don't wait, just do it. There are always excuses, but just doing it will pay off in the end.

Further, he explained his strategy for relationship building with the regulators, being proactive and ahead of the curve and highlighted Florida Power & Light’s investments to build a more resilient infrastructure to deal with (the ever increasing) hurricanes’ ravaging effects in his service area.

Salim Ismail of ExO Works and Singularity University, talked about Exponential Organizations, and the drastic competitive forces these present in many markets. As electricity shifts from a scarce resource to an abundant resource, the dynamic of the market changes. Exponential organizations find business models to leverage abundance. Ismail explored Airbnb, GE and Ford’s journeys. One key takeaway that resonated with the audience is how innovation in large organizations is almost impossible. Innovation needs to be positioned at the edge, insulated from the internal organization. Large organizations have immune systems that attack any threats to the status quo, i.e. innovation. This is particularly relevant to utilities; being large, engineering-oriented and traditionally conservative organizations.

Accenture’s Digital guru Mark Sherwin brought his analogue chicken Penny to illustrate digital business models (his chickens and eggs turn out to be some of the world’s most expensive when factoring in the services he gets offered through digital channels to make his and the chicken’s life easier, from predictive food delivery to chicken hotels).

MIT professor George Westermann implored the audience to challenge pre-digital assumptions, as those hamper real transformation, reinforce the status quo and limit the ability to think outside the current frame of reference. Unintentionally providing great input for Design Thinking exercises.

Accenture’s Chief Strategy Officer Omar Abbosh shed light on disruptive forces over the last decades, from mainframes to IoT, AI, and Quantum Computing. He provided a great comparison of how he and Accenture’s leadership reinvented the strategy five years ago to rotate to “the new,” completely overhauling the organizational structure to change the culture, and how utilities are on a similar trajectory.

Vlogger and, more importantly, former monk Jay Shetty reflected on the Millennial mind, demystifying and busting myths. It turns out; millennials are not as scary as you might think. Jay called on the audience to incorporate four ‘Millennial mindsets’ (which are great for anyone by the way): the leadership of a coach, the fresh eyes of a child, community thinking and the mindset of a coder.

Missy Cummings, one of the first ever female US Navy’s fighter pilots and currently Duke professor of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory Duke Robotics, talked about the highly relevant topic of drones and other unmanned vehicles and robotics’ potential in the utility industry. One of the key points she made addressing the fear robots will destroy jobs, is robotics and automation will likely create more jobs than destroying them, albeit different jobs requiring different skills, providing examples of people and robots working side by side in aviation.

It was time to evaluate all this and time to hit the Miami’s South Beach and more specifically Nikki Beach. The first feedback trickled in, and people had a lot to think about. Clearly, the platform that is IUEC worked.

Day two focused on more practical, “how to” examples and some great new research findings from Accenture and Bloomberg New Energy Finance about the industrialization of renewables, and Accenture’s global lead for Smart Grids Stephanie Jamison presented fascinating findings from a study of distributed generation (DG), focusing on business disruption of DG and the lack of clear forecasts utilities have around the impact of DG integration.

What stood out

At previous editions of IUEC, there were still reservations amongst executives about how fast digital and renewable energy would force change upon them. Those reservations are completely gone. Overall, utility executives have a positive outlook. Solid examples and cases are providing proof points and inspire the way forward, but there still a lot of work to be done.

A terrific event was wrapped up by living legend Clay Christensen, the godfather of disruptive innovation and Silicon Valley’s favorite guru. He gave the audience an excellent perspective and frame of reference of disruptive innovation and clues to shift capital investments to disruptive innovations to prevent becoming the next Blockbuster.

The Bottom Line

It is all about disruption and making a play instead of being played. Harvard Business School professor Christensen expressed his desperation for his industry - higher education - being disrupted with lightning speed by online learning and corporate universities. He did not worry too much about Harvard itself, but many universities are not that well funded and will be disrupted by new forms of learning leveraging technology. His response, without any hesitation, to a question about disruption in the utility industry was: “If you all pray for me, I will pray for you.”

From Derk and Bram; Godspeed, safe travels back home and until next time.

Yamazaki, Macallan and Redbreast lead the inaugural HfS Premium Whisky Blueprint
April 01, 2017 | Phil FershtBram Weerts

We've talked long and hard about the extent of digital disruption of traditional business models, so we decided to extend our research coverage into growth markets where the impact of digital is always positive.  When you look at the premium whisky, for example, our research shows its impact promotes new ideas, helps foster greater team collaboration and can even provoke new Design Thinking principles. Let's have a look at how the leaders in this space are positioned, based on our Blueprint Research Methodology:

At HfS we are expert analysts at peering into markets and evaluating the performances of the major players, so we thought "why not extend our coverage into adjacent markets where some of our analysts have years of practical, hands on experience?".  Personally, I have had more innovative client discussions comparing the various merits of single malt whiskies than which automation tools vendors have better control features.  

So let's talk to a few of our contributing analysts to understand how this market played out:

Bram Weerts, COO, HfS Research:

"I've tried each and every one of these buggers and you can't beat the old Yama 18.  I do love the Mac, but Yama hits the spot everytime"

Tom Reuner, SVP Intelligent Automation Research:

"I believe I've sampled all of these whiskies, especially when I am out at analyst conferences. I haven't a clue which is the best, but wanted my name on the report, so I endorse whatever Bram and Phil came up with."

Derk Erbé, VP Research:

"I believe the whisky market is ripe for digital transformation.  Emerging brands like the Walmart Fireball are poised to rip the bottom out of the market"

Jamie Snowdon, Chief Data Officer:

"There's no way I could get through our quarterly forecasts without sampling a few of these first.  And the way the industry's going, the old Walmart Fireball will only increase in popularity"

Phil Fersht, CEO:

"We may worry about robots stealing our jobs, but those bastards will never be able to drink our Scotch."

Bottom-Line:  This is only the beginning, HfS is going to extend into new markets everywhere as digital disruption takes hold

We believe we are qualified to become experts on any market where money changes hands and greats ideas emerge. Stay tuned for our forthcoming blueprints:

"Tequila Transformation - it can really change things"

"The least disgusting low-carb beers of 2017" and

"Organic wines that you really want to avoid As-a-Service" 

And of course... this was an:

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Interview: Meet Sunayana Hazarika; The passionate marketing voice from Bangalore
March 13, 2017 | Bram Weerts

At HfS Research, we’re growing fast in a very competitive and volatile market… and with growth comes change - but change is always good if you ask me! The most fun in jobs is when you have changes - you learn new things, get new ideas, and you meet new people to help accommodate the change.

HfS is always on the lookout for serious talent that can help our clients become even more successful. So happy days when I heard that some serious quality was on the lookout for some new chapter in her life. Sunayana Hazarika has joined per January, and today I wanted to give you a little more background about her.

Bram Weerts, Chief Commercial Officer, HfS:

Bram Weerts, Chief Operating Officer, HfS Research: Sunayana, can you share a little about your background and why you have chosen Marketing and Brand Reputation as your career path?

Sunayana Hazarika, Senior Brand Strategist at HfS Research: As the saying goes” Everything happens for a reason,” the economic recession in 2008 changed my career path. From an engineering graduate to a remote executive, my first job in TTK Services introduced me to the world of marketing. I was facing global clients- the who’s who of the business world from renowned bloggers to technology founders, and helping them in doing Digital marketing (web marketing is what it was called then). The varied requests from clients opened the door for understanding SEO, content marketing, social media promotions, brand messaging, to even executing fundraising events. This inspired me to pursue my MBA in marketing and soon after explored both services marketing and product marketing of software enterprise solutions. 

What draws me towards Marketing is the very nature of it – dynamic, fast paced and the fact that it is centered around the relationship between People’s awareness, product/service innovations and the value generation. I am intrigued by how brands impact the market. To me, Brand Management is like nurturing a sapling to grow and proliferate into a forest. The right and proper projection of the organization is the heart of Brand Reputation. A big and serious task, but with the passion and right intention, we can see the results. All this put together has compelled me to make marketing a career and more so in brand management.

Bram: Why did you choose to join HfS?

Sunayana: HfS Research is an industry leading research and data analytics firm, renowned as a trusted voice with edgy insights and disruptive viewpoints. They do not shy away from raising real issues even if it bruises some egos. I echo the same spirit. The organization has an impressive and matured outlook focusing on fostering an optimized business function, fully empowered team and delivers maximum value for the global community of clients. This provides me an opportunity to unearth optimum potentials to scale heights of success. Moreover, the fact that it analyzes cutting-edge technology and services like Digitization of business processes and Design Thinking, Intelligent Automation and Outsourcing makes it even more viable for a marketer to be on top of latest market trends. And to top it up is the pleasure of working with some of the most intelligent and good people on earth. Trust me; I have never been more content.     

Bram: What are the areas of focus for driving success in your current role?

Sunayana: The success of marketing in a Research, Data Analytics, and Strategy firm lies in enabling the “informed decision making” by providing the right information at the right time to the right set of people. For this, it is crucial for Marketing to merge into the organization’s core objective and culture. This enables outlining the appropriate value proposition to the audience. It is also equally important for marketing to connect with the audience to know their expectations and be abreast with the market. The focus on maintaining a symmetry between the two approach creates a two-way network for shared experiences and true value projection.

Bram: What trends and developments are capturing your attention today?

Sunayana: The world is moving towards digitalization and the marketing function of an organization, as a harbinger is expected to lead the way. Mobile, Social Media, Analytics, and cognitive automation are breaking the path for an individualistic approach towards interacting with the target audience. We as marketers should harness these technology enablers to increase market reach and have personalized engagement with the audience directly. These innovations can be used to evade distractions, garner relevance and bridge the gap between insights and actions.

Bram: And what would you like to see different in the research/services industries?

Sunayana: “Change is inevitable” and occurs sooner than ever. Information, opinions, trends, technology and processes have an expiry date, so it makes sense for the industry to keep ahead and have control of this transformation through continued innovation and research. Even if it requires challenging or superseding conventions, proven methodologies, tested services, recommended solutions, wealthy analysis or rich offerings.

Bram: And, what do you do with your spare time?

Sunayana: I love to explore nature and my husband partners with me, we go hiking in the forest and hills, trek to mountains, swim in natural water sources, to get out of comfort zone and appreciate the basics. I love to travel and go on backpacking trips to live life in a million different ways, with people from various regions and enjoy a variety of cuisines.

I also play racquet sports regularly and enjoy watching good movies and reading books.

Bram: If you could change one thing in Marketing what would that be?

Sunayana: Marketing has often been looked at as a function that projects the magnified and exaggerated image of the values provided by an organization. This need not be the truth anymore. Marketing is an integral part of an organization aligning to its goals and objective. Marketing enables organizations to stay in touch with their target audience, understand them and relate to their unique and different needs. Now in this new age with the availability of instant information in one’s fingertip, the audience is gravitating towards facts and authenticity of every promotion and do not get allured by the shine. Therefore, it is time marketing reflects the true image of the organization and value of the offerings to its clients.

Bram: Thank you for your time Sunayana, it’s a real delight to have you onboard and work with you in these fascinating times!

FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful
September 26, 2016 | Bram Weerts

How many of you go to a store without a list of what you need? Personally, I never go out to the store without a specific need. I guess I am not the type of clientele the retailers are looking for since I don't buy just because there’s a discount. And definitely, don’t go shopping randomly.

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Interview: Meet Sunjeet Ahluwalia, the sales elephant from India!
August 15, 2016 | Bram Weerts

At HfS, we’re growing fast in a very competitive and volatile market… and with growth comes change - but change is always good if you ask me! The most fun in jobs is when you have changes - you learn new things, get new ideas and you meet new people to help accommodate the change.

HfS is always on the lookout for serious talent that can help our clients become even more successful. So happy days when I heard that some serious quality was on the lookout for some new chapter in his life. Sunjeet Ahluwalia has joined per August, and today I wanted to give you a little more background about him.

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Five must-have traits for Leaders
July 19, 2016 | Bram Weerts

People love status; that's just the nature of the beast. But wanting something and then going out and getting it can be an insurmountable hurdle. So sometimes people need to clarify what they want and why they want it. If you see yourself as a leader, have a quick look at the "five questions mirror." If you can't get past this list honestly, save yourself some time. You’re not a leader. That’s not all bad—you can still do something cool and be popular some place.

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The Art of Deal Negotiation: 5 Simple Tips
July 08, 2016 | Bram Weerts

Doing business is all about making successful deals happen and negotiating them effectively. Getting deals done right says something about your own personal negotiating capabilities, but most importantly, it speaks volumes for your company’s brand.

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Interview: Meet Samyr Jriri, the Sales Guru from Brussels!
July 05, 2016 | Bram Weerts

At HfS, we’re growing fast in a very competitive and volatile market… and with growth comes change - but change is always good if you ask me! The most fun in jobs is when you have changed - you learn new things, get new ideas and you meet new people to help accommodate the change. Nine months ago, we needed to add more firepower to our sales function.

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Successful Strategic Partnerships must go beyond the press release
June 30, 2016 | Bram Weerts

Any organization can quickly come up with a list of the top 50 partners with which they would love to work… identifying these opportunities really isn’t hard.

The real trick is to identify what you can offer and align these incentives with a company that fills one of your needs. Look for companies that might be able to bring in valuable customers and give you added credibility. The key is finding a partner with a similar vision who wants to find mutual value, “beyond the press release.” Chances are you are going to be working closely with these companies for extended periods of time, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure the spirit, vision, and culture are all aligned.

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