Anyone with a real history in the services industry will be familiar with the insights of one Christine Ferrusi Ross, who spent many years leading the services and sourcing practice for Forrester Research, during the firm’s heighday. And in pre-HfS days, I used to enjoy meeting Christine for lunches when we would bemoan the state of the research analyst industry and what needed to be done to revitalize how analysts do research. Little did we realize back then we would be able to shake up the analyst industry together in an analyst firm not beholden to the whims of their paying suppliers and analysts confined to covering tiny slices of software markets. So when we got the opportunity to bring Christine, or “CFR” as her colleagues like to call her, to help shape our events and research strategies, it wasn’t a difficult decision… especially when you hear her views about moving to outcome-based contracts.
Welcome Christine! Can you share a little about your background and why you have chosen research and strategy as your career path?
Making a career of research and strategy, and then product development, came serendipitously. What I explicitly chose was being an analyst — because it seemed like an easy job at the time! When I graduated college I was working in a public relations firm for high tech companies. A big part of my job was convincing analysts to take briefings with my clients and then hopefully convince them to say something good about those clients to reporters. And I thought, wow, an analyst’s whole job is based on people being nice to them! PR people, tech execs, and reporters chasing analysts around like they were rock stars, who wouldn’t want that kind of a job? So I called some reporter friends who got me connected to some analysts and the rest is history. From the content side, I had done PR work for ERP companies and I understood how databases worked. So the application development and systems integration space was where I landed in my first analyst job.
Can I mention a competitor here? Because I started at Dataquest (now owned by Gartner) and was lucky enough to work with Allie Young, who taught me that the whole “rock star” thing was really not what the job was. She was the one who showed me that being an analyst meant doing good research and making sure you are as accurate as possible. Once I was at Dataquest, I realized I found my path — I love research, strategy, and I love the services space. From that first job, I’ve expanded into strategy and product development because I wanted to get deeper into helping clients solve problems in a tangible way and not just through research.
And why did you choose to join HfS… and why now?
Phil, I was joking with someone the other day that the real question is who thought it was a good idea for you to bring me on? It’s like taking the two kids causing trouble at the back of the classroom and letting them teach the class! That’s exactly what it’s like! You and I have had many conversations about where the IT services market is going, and where the research business is going. I’m not particularly bullish on either in their current forms. And HfS has a braver outlook than most when it comes to pointing out the flaws, but more importantly what hard changes have to happen if the businesses in these areas want to stay viable.
So with that context, why strategy and product development instead of fulltime analyst? I have spent a lot of time over the years with buyers who are frustrated. They have trouble negotiating with suppliers because deals are complex. But they’re also not getting the kind of help they need from consultants, advisors, and analysts. I’m excited to be working on some new products that will make buyers’ lives easier and hopefully make the industry as a whole more productive.
What are the areas and topics that you will focus on in your role?
On the “corporate” side, I spend most of my time on events and building new products. But I always say that analysts are born and not made, so I can’t really stop myself from looking at a few topics, at least. Right now, those topics include supplier risk and security, sourcing governance, contract negotiations, and improving the quality of life of people affected by our supply chains. There are a lot of good things we can do for the world — reducing human trafficking, for example — just by being responsible buyers and vetting suppliers properly. I talk about this more in my first blog post about being a superhero.
And what hot trends and developments are capturing your attention today?
Within the areas I mentioned, I’m particularly interested in compliance with supply chain and supplier risk requirements, as well as how contract negotiations are affected by emerging technologies. For example, it’s one thing to sign a contract with an automation software vendor. It’s another to think about how automation is applied to your services contract and the impact that has on the different cost levers. Related to that, I’m spending time on defining and contracting for outcomes. We’ve been on this ride before, but we really have to get it right. And once we get the definitions and the contracts right, what will be the impact on our industry?
So what do you do with your spare time (if you have any…)?
Hmm, a lot of things blend together in terms of work and personal for me. I’m very interested in fashion, and they have supply chain and sourcing problems too, in fact probably much worse than the tech industry. Especially problems like poor worker conditions and sweat shops, which I already mentioned is a hot button for me. I like music. You’ll hear a lot of my music taste at HfS Events actually, since I pick the playlists. I also go to a lot of concerts. My next concert is Steve Vai, and I’m really excited to see him since I’ve loved his music since college. In the past couple of years I’ve seen a lot of global musicians like Ed Sheeran, Stromae (from Belgium), One Ok Rock (Japan), Hozier (Ireland), Exo (S. Korea), BTS (S. Korea) and Block B (S. Korea.) The whole kpop industry is pretty fascinating. As someone who does product development and management, I was surprised how many product and marketing best practices we talk about in the technology that the kpop industry puts into practice. I love to discover singers from other countries, so if anyone has suggestions I’d love to hear them!
Welcome to HfS, Christine. Delighted to have you choose us as your analytical home!