Coté Memo #049: how to brief analysts, tech co.’s splitting up, noise canceling-enough


Hello again, welcome to #049. Today we have 53 subscribers, so we’re +/0. See what happens when I stop posting? I’d love to hear what you like, dislike, your feedback, etc.: (If you’re reading this on the web, you should subscribe to get the daily email.)

See past newsletters in the archives, and, as always, see things as they come at and @cote.



Tech & Work World

Quick Hits

Having gotten three days behind, there’s a lot!

HP divorcing itself, splitting up

Divorce rate set to go up in tech-world


Dealing with analysts

Stephen O’Grady wrote-up some tips for briefing analysts. It’s a good item to type up every few years; self-serving, but helps us analysts out. As you may recall, I have gave a presentation on the topic back in January, focusing on startups.

I added an extended comment to his post, which I’ll plunk here as it highlights some of my top pet peeves in briefings:

I think point #2 (“Unless you’re solving a unique problem, don’t spend your time covering the problem”) is where people waste the most time. And polite analysts like myself let them do it. In general, discussing “macro” issues is not interesting. We know computers are awesome, businesses want to focus on using IT to make more money, and everything that came before the offering being briefed on is crap.

There’s two common patterns I see, at startups and large companies here:

  • Startups like to re-use their VC pitch deck (or something else weird), which is usually that TED-level 500 slides that takes forever to get to a meaty point.

  • Large companies often talk about “solutions” and industry needs, and all sorts of high-level nonsense (did you know companies could be using computers to make more money? I know! crazy right?! Check out this picture of a guy in a suit smiling.)

In both cases, what I want to see if the actual product, what it does (feature set), and how it does it. Screenshots and demos are nice.

When looking at a new product – be it from a large company or a startups – the default assumption I have is that the product is crap and does not work as well as promised. Like the rest of the IT world! What I want to see is the reason(s) why this product is better and solves problems in a better way.

And, as you note, sometimes there is a genuinely new thing that demands a lot of “macro” talk. Like, remember when you and I had that first briefing with 3Tera long ago? It wrapped up all of the problems here: one, they needed to educate us about what “private cloud” was (this was back in 2006 or so before that concept existed) but at the same time, they needed to tell us the actual technology stack that was supporting it (I remember you badgered them for about 30 minutes before they stopped saying “new paradigm” and started saying “Linux”).

As a more contemporary reference, I’ve had similar experiences (though better) with Mesosphere and CoreOS. The initial Mesosphere briefing I got was very “macro”: grandiose, revolutionizing how all applications would run (“So, I can run SharePoint and Lawson on this?” “Well, not exactly…all applications except those,” etc.) but once I started asking questions about the stack, it perfectly turned into nerd talk and was great. CoreOS skipped the macro talk with a simple “updating Linux sucks” and moved onto the stack (all etcd, systemd, hot/cold images, containers, etc.) and discussed how that was all different than “the current paradigm.”

And, on point 9 (“Asking for feedback ‘after [or during!] the call’”), another phrasing would be: “so, can you give me some free stuff?” I don’t think most people understand that casually and formally giving people advice is a large part of how us analysts get paid (and 80-90% of how RedMonk gets paid – 451 has a paywall, as do others). Again, I’m very polite and never really say anything, but unless I’m “friends” with the person briefing me or they’re regular, good clients…and they ask for “input and feedback” I find it rude. It’s like asking a doctor or a nurse to just “check out” some ache I have in my back instead of scheduling an appointment: I’m asking them for free stuff.

So, there you go. You could also just tell us analysts to fuck off and stop being such pansies, but hey, there’s some insight into on our our core APIs: briefings.

Fun & IRL

  • I helped host a dinner at HCTS with SolidFire. It was fun! They gave me a pair of Bose QC15’s as a thank you gift. They’re nice! There’s a built in mic. I’ve been using them and while they don’t actually cancel all outside sound, I feel like they cancel enough to make the world (and airplane) much more pleasant. They also keep your ears toasty.

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