Nurturing your analysts is like nurturing wine

Tomorrow, a team from Lighthouse will be running our foundation course in California’s Bay area. Nature has blessed the state with a fertile wine growing region. Over half a million acres have been cultivated by over 1,000 vineyards, making it the largest wine-growing region outside western Europe. The Bay area is the centre of the wine region. It’s most concentrated on the north side of the bay but extends even into Santa Clara, the ‘Silicon Valley’ area where we run our classes.

Being here reminds me of a comment by one of IBM’s analyst relations managers, Ludovic Leforestier: “Nurturing your analysts is like nurturing wine”. There are several analogies to be made along those lines.

  1. Terroir. Although California and Europe, grow the same grapes the wines they produce differ greatly. This partly comes from the French call terroir: stable, sustainable soil that works with the environment around it. The prominence of this concept is reflected by the existence of a masters in terroir management among the European Union’s elitist Erasmus Mundus degrees, in which federal funding combines the expertise of leading universities. As in analyst relations, producing results means understanding what you are working with, to understand what things cannot be changed and what things need to be not undone.
  2. Vintage: If the base material is good then wines are best consumed when aged — but only if kept in the right conditions. If the basis is not there, then things will be weak. It also needs to be continually cared for as it matures. A week out in the cold or a day of incredible heat can sour things.
  3. External environment: A strong organism still needs good weather (analysts will not flourish in a drought of revenues). And the right balance of sun and shade is needed (not too much information, nor too little). All of this depends on the general weather but also on the way they have shaped their own microclimate.
  4. Not all flourish. Young analysts and upstart firms need to mature and gain market experience but some will remain unpolished forever, like bad white wines from the New World.
  5. Don’t keep too long. On the other end of the spectrum, some analysts can develop frustrations and should not be kept too long. For example, we think some analysts who came to Gartner with the META acquisition will be corked very soon by (what seems to some of them to be) bureaucratic frustration and boredom.
  6. Be conscious: Fine wines require fine wine makers. In the end, the similarity is that analyst relations is all about making sure you treat your analysts well, that you nurture them.
  7. Pair them carefully. Use them when the timing is right, for the right occasion. Just like a young muscadet is perfect with oysters, an IDC junior analyst might be perfect to pitch market trends to financial analysts (now, here’s an idea…) but to advise big cheeses, it’s often best to have a vintage port -like a seasoned Gartner analyst?
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