HRTech Analysts: ‘Bus Boys’ or Thought Leaders?

analystIt’s HRTech month this month, with #HRTechConf just concluded in Chicago and now #HRTechCongress taking place in Paris. Amongst all the vendors, HR and Talent practitioners there will be a bunch of other folks mooching around who we can loosely categorise as “Analysts, bloggers, Influencers, Advisors”.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about this group, and Analysts in particular. At the #InfluenceHR session at #HRTechConf, the role of the Analyst was discussed by, well, a group of Analysts, and one of the panel, George LaRocque, talked about how the landscape was changing, and why the role needed to change too. He later blogged about it here.

And in her recent blog post, Laurie Reuttimann expressed perhaps a more pointed view, picking out the fact that ‘experts’ are abound when maybe they aren’t experts at all, and many of those experts, whatever you chose to call them, are also spending unhealthy amount of time “getting snippy with each other and passively aggressively criticising their peers.” Wow, things are sure getting a bit spicy in the sleepy world of HRTech commentary!

Unfortunately, I think some of this is due to the nature of the profession. HR is, in many ways, the poor cousin function in the business, or certainly has been historically. It has lacked sophistication both in application and solutions and inevitably this affects the wider market. Ergo, the state of the ‘Analysts/bloggers/influencers/advisors’ however you chose to categorise them (They seem to blur more in terms of role these days) is likely to be a mixed bag too. The barrier to entry is arguably lower.

The audience expects less so it gets less. Not that Analysts in other business functions always get it right or are indeed worth listening to. Sometimes analysts are just too close to the market, too deep in their inch wide niche to notice whats really going on.

I thought this was brilliantly illustrated in a talk given by Jason Averbook a couple of years ago when he talked about his time at Peoplesoft. On the one hand they were popping champagne corks when Gartner announced them as a top right hand box strategic leader in their market, while on the other, their customer service team were being bombarded by complaints about how crap the product was. A veneer of success is, it seems, not so difficult to create.

Laurie suggests creating a ‘scorecard’ so we can sort the wheat from the chaff; see whose predictions come true the most, who made the best call on the ‘next big thing’ and who is being paid by whom. An interesting and useful suggestion but personally I want something more immediate too. If I’m spending money on a third party to help me, whether I’m a practitioner or a vendor, I’m looking for some more concrete measures of success and I think this is where the analysts of the future (or whatever we chose to call them) need to bring value to make themselves accountable.

Here are the three things that I’m expecting as core deliverables:

  • Perspective – whether I’m a CHRO looking to invest large amounts of my budget in solving a business problem or say a vendor entering a new market, I want a relevant perspective on how I should tackle that challenge. Research and reports only go so far. I want insight. As a CHRO I want to know what’s actually gone on, who’s succeeded, who’s failed. I want the war stories. I’m actually less interested in the technology vendor and quadrants.  As a vendor I want to know who else is out there yes, but I want to know what the reality is. Do I really have a challenger product or am I blowing smoke up my own arse? I want true perspective.
  • Connection – Yes, I want to leverage who you know. I expect to be put in touch with people who know shit, who’ve done shit. People I can trust to help me, whether thats fellow practitioners who have been through the pain or, as a vendor, other potential vendor partner contacts who can super charge my entry into a market. And yes if I’m a vendor then maybe I want you to introduce me to potential clients too.
  • Influence – If you have a reputation for giving great perspective and insight, and have a fantastic network, you are likely to have real influence. People will read your stuff, listen to your commentary, go see you speak, value your opinion. If all these are true, then as part of the ongoing relationship I might want to leverage that too. You could call that leveraging your brand.

All of these things are measurable. And they don’t require me to wait 4 years to see if their predictions also came true. It seems to me that as the market continues to change, and the trust economy grows, we need our advisors to continually change and adapt too.

But what do I know, I’m just a Blogger, or as Laurie observed, the bus boy at Waffle House 😉





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