An interview with renowned technology analyst Merv Adrian is as follows. Mr Adrian has spent three decades in IT industry and has also served as SVP at Forrester Research, and now is founder of IT Market Strategy. Merv talks on his views on technology and how he sees the next big tech trends coming.
Ajay- Describe your career in science and technology. What do you think is the best thing that science careers offer to people.
Merv- I wouldn’t characterize myself as having worked in science – even computer science implies a direction quite different from my own. I began as a statistician, and after getting the opportunity to learn some computer skills, spent a number of years coding a variety of decision support and data integration programs. I joined the software industry as a technical journal editor, and held a variety of marketing, strategy and analyst relations positions before beoming an industry analyst.
Ajay- With your background in finance, how do you think the next generation of financial reporting systems should be built for early warning signals of crisis. Due to think predictive analytics can play a bigger role than just traditional reporting and metric aggregation.
Merv- We’re already seeing greater specialization in financial applications that provide context: an understanding of the industry the firm is in, and its special requirements for industry standards, compliance, etc. This added specific depth and breadth, combined with increasing sophistication in pre-built models for predictive analytics and access to hitherto unavailable volumes of historical data, will extend the reach of applications used by financial professionals. Guided analysis and advanced visualization will make more sophisticated tools available and understandable, promoting more awareness of impending problems and recommending courses of action.
Ajay- What tips would you like to give to aspiring analysts or science journalists and bloggers. What are the top 5 things do’s /don’ts that you refer to while writing a report or analysis.
* Never stop learning, and never assume you know enough. Be humble enough to acknowledge that the person you talk to may have something to teach you – and ask about anything you hear that you don’t understand.
* Remember your audience. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, how can you decide what matters to them?
* Explain why what you’re saying matters, and to whom. Don’t assume your readers know.
* Be clear about what is new or changed. If it’s business as usual, there should be a good reason to write about it – maybe change was expected but is slow in coming.
* Acknowledge your sources and collaborators. Be generous with credit.
Ajay- Recently some BI Analyst firms saw the departure of star analysts to found their own firm. How do you think tech companies can manage the retention of talented people especially those who become a bigger brand than they were originally supposed to.
Merv- I’m assuming you want the response to refer to analyst firms. “Bigger than they were originally supposed to” is not an accurate way to describe the sitution.
Analyst firms don’t put a ceiling on their employees’ brand building; quite the contrary. They train them, give them a platform, and sustain them as they do so. Nonetheless, the firm’s brand, not the individual analyst’s brand, is what matters to them.
In general, the big ones don’t care about retaining people. They believe they can easily replace them, and history shows that they recover well from such departures.
Ajay- What incentives apart from the usual financial ones can help build a culture of intrapreneurship in which employees help build startups within the parent firm.
Merv- You can’t leave finances out of it. The business model that has been shown to work for intrapreneurs is partnership, where the partners share significantly in successful practices they build and deliver.
In consulting firms, if you build a practice, you benefit from its success. Analyst firms are increasingly making consulting part of the analyst job description, but the big ones have not made any moves to institute a partner-style model. So to your point, those who build their own brand successfully are likely to leave.
They become entrepreneurs, not intrapreneurs.
Ajay- What are your views on the next 12 months in terms of technology and BI industry dynamics. What is your wishlist- the top three things that you wish happen in the field of technology.
* We’re entering a period of great ferment in data management as a set of upstarts has had early success with specialized analytic database platforms. As spending rebounds, most will see their momentum continue. Several have new funding, strong management teams, and early successes to build on.
* The rest of BI will see similar expansion. BI is a perennial growth market and it’s not about to slow down – predictive analytics, advanced visualization, more spohisticated and widespread use of text analytics, and the movement to SaaS models will play a role.
* True analytic applications, as described above in a financial context, will also continue their momentum. You’ll see them in other places, from manufacturing to retail, as micro-verticalization and the proliferation of templated best business practice models roll out form the largest players.
Those are both predictions and a wish list – they move us closer to delivering on the promise of having computing power help us improve business results. There are many more changes coming in packaging, licensing, the emergence of dramatically more powerful hardware platforms – but that’s business as usual. The aging server population will need replacement, and the rebound will be substantial, hastening the generational shift. And a skills shortage will re-accelerate the growth of offshoring. The next decade will be transformational in many ways.
Ajay- How does Merv Adrian balance his work and home life? How important is work life balance in this profession and do you think younger analysts sometimes dont pay attention to it.
Merv- As a manager, I always did my best to remind analysts working for me to leave time for the things that define us a humans – family, friends and faith. What we leave behind will be there, not in our reports, no matter how good they are. We all find ourselves consumed by our work, and social media exacerbates the situation unless we build in ways to be human too.
Youth will always be in a hurry, but the natural maturation process usually works out fine. Where I see balance begin to reassert itself is usually in the family – when your kids arrive, you must stop and remember to be there for them. You mustn’t delegate that one – nobody has ever looked back at their life and said “I wish I had spent less time with my kids.”
Thanks for asking, Ajay. My final thought is that all this guidance is aspirational; I struggle for balance every day. Sometimes I do pretty well at it,and often I fall short. I try to keep my values firmly in mind and strive to live up to them, as we all do.
Analyst and consultant Merv Adrian founded IT Market Strategy after three decades in the IT industry. During his tenure as Senior Vice President at Forrester Research, he was responsible for all of Forrester’s technology research, and covered the software industry. Earlier, as Vice President at Giga Information Group, Merv focused on facilitating collaborative research and covered data management and middleware. Prior to becoming an analyst, Merv was Senior Director, Strategic Marketing at Sybase, where he also held director positions in data warehouse marketing and analyst relations
For more on Merv’s views you can go here