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May 2014 Analyst Relations Newsletter


How Mature is Your AR Program? - An Interview with Peggy O'Neill

Peggy O'Neill
Senior Director of Analyst Relations,


Whether your AR program has a long tenure or is just being launched, the right methods can enhance your relationships with analysts and have a significant impact on your company. How do your processes compare against best practices? What are your team’s strengths, and what are some areas for improvement?
We asked Peggy O’Neill, senior director of analyst relations at Informatica, to share her “Maturity Model for Industry Analyst Relations Programs” — a diagnostic tool that was recently published in a best practice paper by the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR). The following interview highlights the ways this model can help an AR organization of any size to evaluate its maturity level.

Peggy, welcome. How long has your maturity model been in existence, and what first drove you to develop it?

I created the model in 2009. I was working with AR clients at Hill + Knowlton at the time, and prior to that, I had spent time in analyst relations on the vendor side. My clients ranged from prospects who had never created an AR program to companies struggling with their existing programs, and I was looking for ways to explain to them where they stood and where they needed to be. So I created the maturity model for my personal use, and we used it at Hill + Knowlton on a case-by-case basis.

For our readers who haven’t seen it, let’s talk about how the model is structured. What are the key diagnostic components?

The tool is composed of 12 evaluation areas — for example, “Research Coverage” (How extensive is your research coverage?) and “Interaction Types” (Are your analyst interactions formal? Ad hoc? Structured?). These 12 areas are measured against a set of criteria (I call them symptoms) that comprise five maturity levels, ranging from “No AR program” to “Strategic AR.” An AR team can go into the model and compare their program against the symptoms for each level to determine where they stand.

What do you see as the key value points of the model, and how do you see it being used? Is it applicable across different technology segments?

The maturity model helps you understand how pervasive AR is within your organization. It can be very useful in educating your stakeholders, especially if you have an executive that likes this type of model. However, if this model doesn’t resonate, then use a good story.
As for technology segments, I have a bias toward enterprise software because that’s where I’ve lived. But if you talk to AR managers in hardware and services, there are common issues across segments, so I do think the model applies.

Can you give an example of how an AR team might progress through the model in one evaluation area?

Sure, let’s take a closer look at analyst interactions. At the more immature end of the scale, no one in your organization is talking to the analysts; but by the time you get to the mature end of the scale, your CEO and his or her direct reports are interacting directly and regularly with the analysts.
At one end, you’re only dealing with messaging and you’re only influencing marketing. At the other, the company understands that analysts are a market research function and you’re affecting policy. For example, at Informatica, we have analysts advise us on acquisitions, pricing, support and partnerships — areas that go way beyond marketing.

That’s a great example of how AR can drive greater ROI to the business. Can a company live at different levels across these evaluation areas?

Yes, they can. You might find that your AR program is at a certain level overall, but it will likely vary by product, region or industry. Very few companies have a strong maturity level in every category. For example, you might have a new market segment and product where the analysts don’t have a lot of impact or there are few spokespeople available. That would put you lower on the maturity curve for that particular area.

What is the best way to run the diagnostic? Do you need outside data, or is it fairly straightforward?

A lot of traditional models are backed up by surveys and data. This one is really one person’s opinion, based on my experience with multiple companies and talking to other AR managers to find a degree of consensus. There may be some gray areas in terms of best practices. That’s why I developed a quiz, as a sort of supplemental diagnostic tool.

Talk about the quiz for a moment.

To get people interested in the model, I came up with a five-question quiz. Each question matches a certain dimension of the maturity model. For example, the first question, “Are you surprised by an important analyst report impacting your company?” addresses the category of “Visibility Into Research” in the maturity model. The second question gets you to look at your analyst interactions, and so on.

We talk to quite a few AR teams — many of them experienced — that still have limited interactions with industry analysts. How can the maturity model help them see where they stand?

There’s age and then there’s maturity. You can have an AR program that has been around a long time, but it may not be very mature because you lack spokesperson support or budget or cultural support. The model can help you see where you are and where you need to be. Most programs can get to a higher maturity level in two years or less with the right culture and support.

Would you share your thoughts on AR in the bigger, newer firms like Facebook, Yahoo, Google and Amazon?
Can a model like this can help them, or does the current AR structure even apply to them?

Analyst relations does best where analysts have an impact, so if analysts don’t have a big impact on the sales cycles or PR of these newer companies, then they aren’t going to be a big priority — and they shouldn’t be, from a business standpoint.

However, if you’re doing large enterprise deals, human nature will demand some degree of validation and justification. Social media is fine, but for big, expensive, politically sensitive decisions, even the most progressive companies will go back to traditional analyst research and consulting to defend and advocate for those purchases.

Peggy, to summarize, what would you like our readers to take away from this interview about the maturity model?

I’d reiterate that the AR maturity model is one person’s opinion. I don’t think every AR program needs a model, but you should have some aspirational vision, and this model may help other AR professionals looking for that.

How can our readers find the quiz and the model?

Readers can access the quiz on the IIAR blog, and they can contact me directly for a spreadsheet version of the model. IIAR members can access a paper that explains it in more detail.