Among the roles that I have chosen for myself as Lead Analyst for Enterprise Search at the Gilbane Group is to evaluate, in broad strokes, the search marketplace for internal use at enterprises of all types. My principal audience is those within enterprises that may be involved in the selection, procurement, implementation and deployment of search technology to benefit their organizations. In this role, I am an advocate for buyers. However, when vendors pay attention to what I write it should help them understand the buyer’s perspective. Ultimately, good vendors incorporate analyst guidance into their thinking about how to serve their customer better.

We do not hide the fact that, as industry analysts, we also consult to various content software companies. When doing so, I try to keep in mind that the market will be served best when I honestly advocate for software and service improvements that will benefit buyers. This is a value to those who sell and those who buy software. My consulting to vendors indirectly benefits both audiences.

Analysts also consult to buyers, to help them make informed decisions about technology decisions and business relationships. I particularly enjoy and value those experiences because what I learn about enterprise buyers’ needs and expectations can translate directly into advice to vendors. This is an honest brokering role that comes naturally because I have been a software vendor and also in a position to make many software procurement decisions, particularly tools and applications that were used by my development and service teams. I’m always enthusiastic to be in a position to share important information about products with buyers and information about buying audiences with those who build products. This can be done effectively while preserving confidentiality on both sides and making sure that everyone gets something out of the communications.

As an analyst, I receive a lot of requests by vendors to listen to, by phone and Web, briefings on their products, or to meet, one-on-one with their executives. You may have noticed that I don’t write reviews of specific products although, in a particular context, I may reference products and applications. While we understand the reason that product vendors want analysts to pay attention to them, I don’t find briefings particularly enlightening unless I know nothing about a company and its offerings. For these types of overviews, I can usually find what I want to know on their Web site, in press releases and by poking around the Web. During briefings I want to drive the conversation toward user experiences and needs.

What I do like to do is talk to product users about their experiences with a vendor or a product. I like to know what the implementation and adoption experience is like and how their organization had been affected by product use, both benefits and drawbacks. It is not always easy to gain access to customers but I have ways of finding them and also encourage readers of this blog to reach out with your stories. I am delighted to learn more through comments to the blog, an email or phone call. If you are willing to chat with me for a while, I will call you at your convenience.

The original topic I planned to write about this week will have to wait because, after receiving over 20 invitations to “be briefed” in the past few days, I decided it was more important to let readers know who I want to be briefed by – search technology users are my number one target. Vendors please push your customers in this direction if you want me to pay attention. This can bring you a lot of value, too. It is a matter of trust.