Each year, most of the service providers like to bring together their multifarious assortment of “influencers” to pitch their capabilities, reinforce their strategies and make sure their key executives have some sort of relationship with the key people in their space who talk to their clients.
Having been in and around the analyst and consultant community for the last 20 years, these gatherings were typically 90% attended by industry analysts, namely Gartner, Forrester, IDC et al and a few small boutiques, independents, bloggers etc who mattered to them. Then, about five years ago, most the service providers had the bright idea of tacking on a handful of sourcing advisors who could also benefit from the same experience of being influenced. All of a sudden, these events have become about 60% advisor, 40% analysts. I think only Accenture and IBM are the only service providers left which actually separate the analysts from the advisors these days.
As a recent example of this, I had the privilege of attending Capgemini’s influencer day in an arctic Chicago last week. And I was impressed at the line up of legends attending from the sourcing advisory world – characters like Peter Allen (Alvarez & Marsal), Harvey Gluckman (ISG), Kevin Parikh (Avasant), Chip Wagner (Alsbridge), Peter Bendor-Samuel (Everest), Tom Torlone (PwC) – all accompanied by teams from their advisory firms. I have to hand it to Capgemini’s advisor relations team – no-one has ever assembled a gaggle of advisors together in one place quite like they managed. I then popped into WNS’ influencer day in New York and a similar line up ensued there… with additional SWAT teams from KPMG and Deloitte adding to the festivities.
This change in dynamics is having the following impact on the way these service providers interact with their influencers:
Much better questioning from advisors. It’s almost a relief to hear sensible, real-world questions from advisors during these sessions. Long gone are those days when you’d get analysts piping in with their drawn-out abstract thought-patterns, which actually were never really supposed to be questions, more statements of how clever they were.
Advisors are much more social. Most the advisors like to network – even with their competitors. Always good to exchange views with (some) them over a glass of wine. Most analysts just disappear to their hotel rooms at 8.30pm, never to resurface.
Advisors have more energy and passion. Most of the advisors enjoy what they do – they are passionate about services and are hungry to learn more. Most of the analysts have been doing this for decades, are clearly jaded and exhausted by these dog n’ pony shows, and are just going through the motions these days.
Advisors have become quasi-competitive with most service providers. As the outsourcing service providers look to move further up the value-chain with their client engagements, they are essentially offering the same services as most the advisors. All I hear from the leading advisory firms, today, are how they are running consulting practises in digital transformation, robotic process automation, CFO services, GBS etc. These ambitious advisors want service providers who are only really focused on the efficiency-driven services further down the value stack, so they can profit from the consultative and governance-driven services they can layer on to their clients’ outsourcing engagements. However, the more complex clients’ needs are becoming, the blurrier the line is becoming between what service providers and advisors deliver.
Advisor “influence” is much harder to track. With analysts, the goal for service providers is simple: dazzle them and hope they will write about them to their readerships and social followings. Tracking their influence is easier when there is a tangible outcome, such as a piece of research or a blog post. Most advisors won’t write anything – even with a gun to their heads. The service providers simply hope the advisors are moving them up their evaluation curves and pushing more deals their way.
Most advisors with deep client engagements do not have time for service provider days. Having been on the advisor side myself, I can tell you that I never had the time to take entire days out to hobnob with service providers, unless I had a lucky week of break-time in between client engagements. Most of the advisors who do have the time for these service provider influencer days are clearly the executive-level leaders not so ensconced with the day-to-day execution of advisory services. Hence, the service providers are hoping this bedazzling of the advisor leaders is somehow translating its way to the advisor deal teams doing the site visits, service provider selection sessions etc.
The Bottom-line: The influencer model is clearly broken in the services industry – a new breed clearly needs to emerge that advises, analyzes AND influences
In short, the evolving confusion over advisor and analyst roles is a result of the lack of real influencers in the industry – experts who not only talk to buyers on a daily basis, but also share real insights and leverage data for them. In today’s world, advisors and analysts are very different animals – and the winners will ultimately be the ones which can fuse together the two worlds.