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Kaizo Live – How do B2B buyers get technology information?

Kaizo Live – How do B2B buyers get technology information?

[00:01:19] Hello, welcome to Kaizo Live. This week, we are looking at the technology that underpins our business and society and how that gets old, who decides what to buy, what they base their decisions on and where they get their information. I’m joined by Delvaux CEO and distinguished analyst of reform dynamics at Freeform Dynamics are a boutique analyst firm that tracks the technology trends and developments, together with the IoT related buying behaviour for enterprises, SMEs and public sector organisations. Welcome back.

[00:01:54] Hi, Alan. Great to be here.

[00:01:56] Well, thank you for joining us. So what have we why don’t we start by you telling us about how you came to be doing IoT research and your team’s more hands on approach to getting insights into how the technology markets work for vendors and buyers?

[00:02:12] Yeah, sure. I mean, I look at my face, you know, I’ve been in the industry for quite a few years. So of Bouar background, I early in my career, I was a software developer. I then spent a lot of time delivering big I.T. systems, running big projects and programmes and so on. Then I flip the fence, move to the vendor side of the equation, firstly in pre-sales and in consulting and ultimately in more commercial roles. And I ended up actually in business development setting up businesses around the Middle East and various parts of Europe for various technology companies. So my background is a bit mixed on both the delivery side and on the what the biocide and the other side, let’s let’s put it that way. And then we’ve been running AIX now for about 15 years ago. And the reason was that we actually saw Gap. I was a big user of analyst material in my previous roles, and we had lots of blue sky stuff. We had lots of things looking at, you know, how many people bought this versus that and various other material. But there’s very little that actually talked about, I would say, sort of short to medium term decision making and how people went about decisions and material that would help people make the right kinds of decisions for the right reasons. And that’s really what we’re about today. We formed the company to do that and help people with that more. I hesitate to use the word tactical, but more kind of immediate hands on, to your phrase, way of providing analyst guidance.

[00:03:46] OK, so it’s not all just reports. You’re doing a lot of workshopping and that sort of activity as well.

[00:03:53] Yeah. So in terms of inputs, we we do consulting and advisory work on both the buyer and the seller side of the equation, which keeps us kind of in tune in depth with teams that are involved in that kind of activity. But we do also run quite a lot of market research studies. So we’re constantly surveying on a worldwide basis. What is it the decision makers and influencers are thinking? What are they prioritising? Why they’re prioritising it? Why are they not prioritising certain things? That’s always an interesting question to look at as well. So we kind of keep tabs with various levels of input from in depth to a more broad scale studies and gives us quite a good view of what’s going on out there and and also where the opportunities are, which is a big thing. I mean, what motivates us, I suppose, when it comes down to it, is where we really want to see people using technology in a business context in the right way for the right reasons and getting some getting good result from it. So that’s a lot of what we’re about. That makes sense.

[00:04:55] That makes a lot of sense. So it kind of takes us to the start of the buying process. I mean, most organisations don’t get the opportunity to just buy technology for the sake of it. And everybody’s trying to balance the investment, the business advantage that they’re going to get.

[00:05:12] And what are the typical triggers that trigger set off a serious buying process?

[00:05:19] Yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting question. What is it that that leads to decision cycles actually being kicked off? I mean, one thing that’s usually worth doing is taking a step back and saying, well, what is the decision process? Just in a general sense, because it is relevant to both what goes on in an enterprise environment, if you’re in a buying team, for instance, or a planning team, and if you’re on the seller side of the environment, maybe in marketing or in PR or anything of that nature or sales. So we we define three stages. Basically, the first stage is really around the agenda setting. So that’s prioritising what what what can be done and what will be done. So what will receive funding and resource? Fundamentally, that’s what it boils down to. And it’s interesting because when we talk to senior decision makers, senior managers in large organisations, we find that normally there’s a long list of things that they could potentially do, most, many of which have good business cases associated with them. But actually they’re limited. They’ve only got so much budget. I’ve only got so much funding.

[00:06:25] They’ve only got so much management, bandwidth and resources available. So there’s only a subset of that ever gets approved and and funded. So we talk about above the line versus below the line, so below the line of those projects that it’ll be great to do. You just can’t get around to do that at the moment. And one thing that I often really have to sort of make clear to people is that that line is is porous. So things move backwards and forwards depending on high priority. So covid came along, for instance, and suddenly. Homeworking got massively accelerated, so that may have been something which you had on a slow burn below the line that suddenly got put front and centre in terms of resourcing and funding. But really, it’s about this and association process. So that’s the first stage, second stages of our investigation. So the investigative stage where you might have decided to prioritise something or do something, but there are multiple ways to achieve what you want to do. So, for instance, I don’t know if you’re as part of an initiative you need to free up or you need to deal with the problem that you’re running. You don’t have enough disk capacity. Say, I’m taking a deliberately a sort of trivial, simple example. So how might you deal with that? One way of dealing with dealing with that is you just go and buy more space, you know, just extend your on-premise environment. Another way you might do that is to go to the Cloud and grab some capacity from the Cloud. A third way might be you. You just invest in smarter information management so that you can get really information you don’t need, only keep what you need, duplicate it.

[00:08:02] And actually you end up storing less data. So you solve the problem that way. They’re all legitimate ways of of doing it. And that’s what the investigation stage is about. It’s about just understanding what are my options. And ultimately, if you decide one approach or another, you get to the selection stage and that’s where you’re comparing products with product suppliers, with suppliers and so on. And I think it’s important to sort of appreciate that those kind of three, three stages exist because decisions you make early on in that cycle, upstream decisions, as we would call them, they influence everything that happens downstream. And it’s difficult to go back and revisit an upstream decision if something comes downstream. So, you know, that’s got consequences for both buyers and sellers, obviously.

[00:08:47] Yes, it is there’s many aspects to that, especially looking from our perspective on comms and you just said that sort of code, it’s triggered off lots of lots of effects, as is that. Do you think that people are going to start seeing downstream issues from the decisions that they’ve already made?

[00:09:08] Yeah, I mean, quick response that was needed for Kobe.

[00:09:12] Yeah. And Kobe is a good example. We’ve heard lots of people talk about we’ve seen more digital transformation in the last six months than we have in the previous six years or whatever. I mean, it’s interesting when you unpick that you find the covid is one of those things that created a must do decision environment. So you really have to get people working from home. As a simple example, if you were trading and servicing customers directly face to face before you had to move to digital to engage with them through your website or some other mechanism. So these were things that you just had to do. I think what we’ve noticed is firstly. There has in some cases created some technical debt, so people have rushed to make decisions, sometimes have been great decisions, they brought forward things that were already well thought out. Other times, though, they move quite quickly. They bypass some due diligence and planning and they have to go back in and revisit those. The other thing, though, which I think is a really positive aspect of. Some some of the activity that we’ve seen certainly is that people have brought technology in. To me, an immediate need, you know, just get people operational in a new environment, but they’ve only really focussed on the essentials at this stage. But what they’ve inadvertently done is they’ve put a nice platform in place that can be used to genuinely drive digital transformation in all kinds of different ways and, you know, just unlock more business value. They haven’t necessarily done it so far. So we’re we’re having lots of conversations with people now where it’s a case of standing back, appraising what you’ve done, where you are and saying, well, how can we build on this? Because now we’re in a much better position than we were pre pandemic in terms of driving some some new and interesting stuff. So it’s a real mixed bag, but is it’s certainly catalysed a lot of new and different activity.

[00:11:06] So from what you’re saying, that’s there are several key steps in the in the buying process and a key element seems to be planting the ideas of the art of the possible at the beginning and then presenting the possible solutions to that. And clearly, from a vendor point of view, you need to be what I would imagine ideally getting in that the very first stage is it’s got to be top of the list so that your your SDDC ideas. But how do you actually get hold of the right people with that information in front of the right people with the influencers and buyers get their information from in your experience in the real world.

[00:11:44] Yeah, well, I think the first thing today is that the number of people involved in any significant buying decision now with it’s it’s quite high and spread broadly across the business. It was interesting. A few of us were writing a book a few years ago, and as part of that, I was interviewing CEOs on the concept of IoT business alignment, how closely the right priorities align with business priorities. And I was kind of pulled up by one of the guys I was talking to. He said, look, the problem that we have is not it, aligning with the business. There is no such thing as the business. I have eight different business units who are all pulling in different directions. They have different priorities. They want different things for different reasons. And we’re here trying to make sense of all of that. So it highlights the fact that actually, in particularly with infrastructure related decisions or strategic decisions around key applications and so on, there are so many stakeholders in the game. So it’s really important to make sure that you understand who those stakeholders are, whether you’re a programme manager, working internally, trying to make sure that the decision is made in the best interests of your business, or if you’re on the marketing side, trying to make sure that you’re covering all the bases in terms of who needs to know what you have to offer. So is very. Very complex in that sense, and that brings us to the internal sales process, so, you know, whoever is leading the charge needs to make sure that other people are brought on board and kept on board decisions like.

[00:13:20] And so if we to come out where we are, where these people get their information from, are you finding a big split between where the people are reading stuff online, whether they’re actually taking stuff from news media? Or is it just their own specialist titles for their role? Because it sounds obviously you’ve got the business side and the I.T. side. I’ve got different perspectives on the problem.

[00:13:47] Yeah, I mean, we keep tabs on this on an ongoing basis, you know, where our people getting their information from. But firstly, I guess you have to separate the source from the channel and in terms of sources, people generally tell you when you ask them who are your most important influences, peers and colleagues, it always comes top of the list, as you would imagine. But then, interestingly, the media, particularly if it’s IoT people, it tends to be the trade press. If it tends if it’s business people, it tends to be whatever is relevant to them. So if it’s a senior, it might be the financial press or business press. It might be some kind of professional set of publications if you’re in a particular discipline. So the press actually is is very, very high on that on that list. Now, that’s where the confusion between channels and sources comes in, because third on the list usually is analysts and consultants for it, decisions in particular. But clearly a lot of what’s produced at that level gets surfaced through the media. So in that sense, it when you do ask people, the media tends to be there in second position, but it’s actually supported by a lot of material that that comes up through other sources. So it is really important to understand what these influences are. I think the other thing I would say is from an internal sales point of view, we do a lot of work helping people who are trying to make things happen in a particular environment with their internal sales process. So if you work in it and your job is in development or operations or, you know, any other aspects of of systems delivery, you’re not necessarily completely in tune with what your CIO, CIO thinks or what your CFO thinks. And these guys are instrumental now in making decisions, at least approving decisions. So a lot of what we do is, is help them understand what is it that’s important to these non-technical stakeholders and what arguments can you make to them to support whatever decision is that you’re you’re trying to champion or drive within the account. And a lot of the the work we’re doing with some of our vendor clients is helping them produce material that can be fed into the buying cycle. So hand over a buyer’s guide mean that a CFO, for instance, so that you’re championing the account, can hand that across to their colleague and maybe set up a meeting and say, look, read this a couple of pages, let’s have a meeting and I’ll run you run you through why we’re proposing what we’re proposing. But if you read this, you’ll you’ll get a bit of a grounding in terms of how you think it was important and so on, but all expressed in their terms. So it’s it’s a really big part of the whole process at the moment. I mean, I talk to a lot of salespeople on particularly on the right side of it, then decide who I think sometimes don’t appreciate how much how many moving parts there are behind the scenes and how many conversations take place where every one conversation they’re having with their champion in the account that they’re trying to drive a deal around.

[00:17:10] Yes, you’ve got to answer the why should I care about it now? Well, I was going to say China, but it’s not really a Chinese. It’s a network.

[00:17:19] It is a network.

[00:17:21] And if I can I just say on that one, because I think it is really interesting. People need sometimes to know what not to say as well as what to say, you know, what turns on a an architect about a certain technical solution, for instance, you know, they might have all kinds of reasons why this is great, you know, for their careers, for. Yes. Interesting technology moves the business forward, but none of those are interesting to some of the business stakeholders out there. So in many ways, you got to stop their eyes glazing over. So it’s about not telling them about all that stuff and just focussing on the two or three things that matter to them and and importantly as well, using the right kind of language. So it’s it’s worth spending time on that and thinking in advance.

[00:18:15] So guess investing the time in translating the technology into what matters for that particular business. So, yes, good. How about how about social media? Where do you where do you see that playing in the channels of communication?

[00:18:31] Yeah, I think social is becoming more important. It was always a third, fourth, fifth sort of level priority, particularly within I.T.. Roles, I think, because a lot of IoT practitioners in particular. So these are the guys that would maybe recommend and evaluate and do the investigative work that we talked about earlier. They were members of all sorts of communities already. So, you know, if you’re an Oracle guy, B, you know, they are deep in the Oracle developer network or whatever happens to be a member of Microsoft and VMware. And, you know, forgive me if I don’t mention your favourite vendor, but all of these guys have really well-run communities where there’s a lot of information available. And so that’s been the first port of call. But we’ve noticed that. Not so much Twitter, but particularly LinkedIn recently has become pretty important for those roles, and I think it really depends on where you are in the business, on the business side of the house as to, you know, the prominence of social media. But in general, we’re seeing it come up the list in terms of priority, which is which is interesting. There’s not one that you can ignore anymore. But you know as well as I do, the trick is not to focus on one channel as it is to get them all working together and appreciate that people are getting information from lots of different sources. So it needs to be I mean, sometimes you’re fire-fighting if you’re someone. Trying to get a decision through, you know, in a business context and trying to undo some of the mis perceptions that people have when they read certain things, but other times you just need to know what’s being said so you can help put it in perspective and put a practical spin on it.

[00:20:22] And we’d certainly usually be talking to people about working at multiple levels of the business level and specialist specialist roles in the business and technology levels as well. So make sense and SDDC social media as a way of amplifying the sort of media content that you’ve got out in the mainstream media and as well as the content you’re putting out on your own and thinking of your own content. How important are vendors own websites and the materials they produce?

[00:20:52] Yeah, really important for because their first port of call, quite often when they want to say, OK, so let me just learn a bit more about that is is to go to their incumbent vendor websites. So if you look at any particular business, typically they’ll have a fairly strong commitment to two or three vendors, for instance, and that will be where people will will head to find out more. So they might hear about the latest release or the latest idea or the latest technology from the Web or through social or through the IoT press, as we said. But where do they go when they want to know? OK, so how does this work then? What does this boil down to in practise then they had for the vendor website, so I’d say. It’s important for four vendors to be able to respond to that by producing material or providing material that’s first and foremost educational and sort of awareness based, but also then into practical how to stuff. We’ve done a lot of research around this, actually, and it is amazing. The mix of information that people want early in the cycle when they’re trying to get up to speed on a new idea, they want explainers, you know, very simple primer type material for them themselves. If they work and it can, then so they can talk confidently. But then, you know, there comes a point when they need How-To guides and, you know, more practical guidance. And depending on your role, often you just want to know how it works. So sort of basic white papers to explain concepts and architectures and those kinds of things are just really key so that getting that blend of content right is is really important. And some vendors do do better than others. So some do well on the high level positioning stuff that falls short on the detail. Others are great for the detail. But you would never find it unless you actually knew that you knew what you were looking for. So, you know, I’m always trying to help encourage vendors to be more balanced in terms of their entry points and the way content works together.

[00:23:04] Well, that’s a that’s a pretty strong argument for having a comprehensive content plan and really thinking about the audiences you’re trying to reach with each piece, which is just great common practise.

[00:23:16] Yeah, yeah. Encouraging to hear you preaching, really?

[00:23:20] Absolutely. I think one of our frustrations, a lot of the time we are asked to write white papers is you would guess most journalists do that kind of thing. And I’m. I guess sometimes we’re amazed that people are asking us to write a white paper and they’re not really clear on the audience, they’re aiming for where in the buying cycle they’re trying to influence thinking or educate people or whatever it happens to be and what the context is. And I think that that work context is really important as well, because no decision is made in isolation. For instance, if you’re selling anything around platforms or storage or anything of that nature, what’s the context for that? Is it a big sap migration? Is it an Oracle migration? What is it that’s actually driving that? And it’s important to understand these things that you can make a lot more sense with the material you put out, the message you put out and how you articulate benefits and so on.

[00:24:19] That surely has got to be a cue for the sales teams from the vendors if they can find out something like that is happening. I mean, obviously sell directly to that project, but to look for the sort of auxillary product projects that can support and enhance that, that they can get the opportunity to sell their particular solution into.

[00:24:37] Yeah, yeah. There’s a certain amount that, you know, analysts and others who do research can do to paint the broad brush in terms of dependencies. So if you are going to make this kind of decision, there’s almost certainly going to be decisions made around here, here, here and here simultaneously. But there’s nothing like actually going in and talking over first hand with people. Incumbency matters as well. I mean, if you’ve got a big commitment to any of the big infrastructure funded IBM, HP or whoever, then that’s going to colour the way you look at different options. So there all kinds of variables involved here. So we can generalise. But at the end of the day, you need to get quite specific in terms of talking to people, just understanding how people make decisions and what they’re trying to achieve.

[00:25:28] Well, we’ve got a few minutes left. It would be very unusual for me to get an analyst on the line and not not ask you at this time of year. What do you think the future’s going to bring us? How has the landscape going to shift for twenty 21?

[00:25:46] Well, it’s interesting what I mentioned earlier about I think a lot of organisations have accelerated the adoption of technology as a result of covid, but haven’t necessarily started to fully exploit that technology yet. And I think that’s that that’s laid some foundations for some really interesting things to happen, particularly around work for workplace transformation, workforce automation, that those kinds of things. So I see that as an area now. People are know everyone’s comfortable with video and and remote working and so on, whereas previously it was only a relatively small part of the workforce in most organisations. That gives you opportunities. You can change the way you do things. So I think we’re seeing a lot of activity around there or technology enabled, obviously. So we’re we’re tracking that very closely and helping people with that. The other thing is, you know, I keep hearing people talking about move to the cloud. And certainly, you know, we picked up a lot of of that. People have found that by turning to cloud service providers, they’re able to sort of accelerate bringing things in. But actually, we’ve seen an equal number of people actually invest in the data centre. It’s covid has boosted data centre investment as well as the data centre modernisation, introducing more flexibility, automation and so on on on that side of things. So we hear a huge amount about hybrid nowadays, hybridity, hybrid, cloud, hybrid, whatever. It is just an acknowledgement that as we go forward, we’re going to be mixing and matching different sources of of compute, of application functionality, of storage, of everything that’s involved in it. So the problem, I think for. Next year is and it comes through very loudly and clearly in our research now is how do you orchestrate all of that? How do you manage it? How do you live with a world where not only have you got a mix of things that you’re using, but that mix of things is constantly changing. So there’s a huge renaissance in management and those kind of disciplines that just help you make sure everything hangs together and is managed as a coherent whole. So we see a big a big emphasis there for next year. And I think that the other thing I probably mentioned, it’s pretty obvious, really, a lot of organisations have been forced to go online with their interaction with customers. They had no choice because of covid, and again, that’s laid some foundation and they can now build on that and start to really think about now we’re here, how can we change what we do and how we do it and even the you know, what we sell and how we sell it. So I think it’s going to be an interesting year going forward. Obviously, lots of unknowns, but lots of potential as well.

[00:28:43] Well, it’s good to look to the future with some positivity that certainly accelerated change that we’ve had so far been able to continue to say, well, thank you very much for your time. That’s surely, surely food for thought for a lot of people watching it in the marketing departments of the various vendors in the market. And so thank you for your time. We look forward to talking perhaps another time. And thank you for watching, everybody. Don’t forget this and all of the previous episodes of Kaizo Lapapo are available on the website. And we look forward to seeing you next week from more Kaizo.