Thanks to Ivan Pepelnjak’s weekly link post, I found myself reading a very interesting piece this weekend entitled The Rosetta Stone of IT Industry Analysts. Brian Sommer took a humorous look at the types of people that he sees all the time in the analyst field. From the grouchy old Curmudgeon to the prissy-pants Egoist, I had a very good laugh since I could identify with many of those caricatures. Then I spent a little more time thinking about what that means to me and to those affiliated with Tech Field Day.
Obviously, many of these are oversimplifications and written for the sake of laughs. However, I also found myself going through each of them and realizing that I’ve been that person many times in the past. Whether it be the Fish Out of Water when people start talking about advanced fibre channel configurations or or the Snark when I have a chance to make a joke about something, I find myself floating in and out of these roles. On the other hand, I do see that there are a couple that are great for those that are interested in Tech Field Day, as well as a couple that need to be avoided.
In the article, Brian specifically calls out the Rifleman as his preferred archetype for an analyst. The Rifleman holds vendors to their word and cuts through the hype with a straight razor. Their words are usually carefully chosen to ensure that the balloon of overpromises is deflated with a quick poke, usually followed by others jumping in to assist in the takedown. For the Tech Field Day hopefuls (and delegates as well), this is the way to approach interactions with vendors. If you can quickly understand where they are coming from and eliminate hype, you can gain the advantage and ensure that the audience, whether it be viewers on video or readers of you blog, can understand what makes a technology so great and grasp concepts with ease.
The Rifleman does run the risk of becoming the Curmudgeon or the Assassin without careful consideration. It’s very easy to lose sight of the goals of being a skeptic when it comes to vendor presentations and begin thrashing presenters simply because it’s fun to be the bad guy. In the IT analyst world, this is very simliar to the Dark/Light sides of the Force in Star Wars. The slippery slope of beating people up gives way to becoming the grump that never likes anything and is more than likely just going to verbally abuse you whether you’re selling data center switches or air fresheners. The key to avoid slipping down the dark path is to constantly ask yourself why you are being so sharp toward the vendors: Is it for your audience? Or for your own glory? I’ve been hard on some vendors before during Tech Field Day because I think they can do a better job of delivering their message or because they can make a better product. I want to make sure the vendors understand where the audience is coming from. I always try to put myself in the shoes of the people that will read my posts to be sure my motives are pure when I take someone to task.
I also do my best to avoid falling into the roles of the Ryan Secrest vendor cheerleader or the stoic Unmovable Object. If I only spend my time giving useless platitudes to presenters and vendors my opinion isn’t worth much. At the same time, never changing my mind or critically thinking about information being given to me is just as bad. Without opening my mind to new ideas I become a liability in a setting like Tech Field Day where keeping up to date with people bring fresh ideas and products to market is a requirement.
The key to being a good Tech Field Day delegate is to be somewhat outgoing. I’ve done my best to ensure I don’t spend my time at the back of the room sitting quietly and learning very little. At the same time, I also understand that I need to be sure that my questions and commentary are carefully chosen to enhance the event and the participants rather than merely cutting them down for the sake of making a few look good. With this list of IT analyst archetypes, I can do a much better job of identifying when I’m slipping too close to the undesirable attitudes that no one likes. Instead, I can refocus myself on being more effective and ensuring that everyone involved, both participant and audience, gets the most they can out of the event.