Analyst Q&A with Clive Longbottom, Founder of Quocirca

March 28, 2012

By Rose Ross, @Rose_at_O

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m on a quest to debunk technology, putting it back where it belongs as a pure facilitator to business process.  I’m also on a quest to try and make briefings with industry analysts a bit more fun. Let’s have a bit of a laugh and enjoy things, rather than getting too serious and spoiling each other’s day.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your analyst firm and its interest in information technology (including storage, security, mobile, cloud and virtualization).

Quocirca was set up to be a firm with analysts who are big enough to have their own views.  Talking with a Quocirca analyst should not have any “company views”, but should be from the analyst’s own heart – their feelings, their experiences, their take on the markets based on research amongst large and small companies worldwide, face-to-face discussions with end users and vendors and a hard-headed dose of reality thrown in.  All our public output is available completely free of charge without any need to subscribe or register – just go to the web site and take whatever you want!  All the above technologies are inherent to the problems that organisations are dealing with – therefore, Quocirca covers them all, but in a contextually aware manner that fits each part in to an organisation’s needs, rather than looking at them as pure technology plays.

Q. What’s hot in IT this year? 

Mainly confusion.  Vendors are trying to stake their claims to various different parts of the market, as are different parts of the channel – as well as industry bodies, analysts and the media.  2012 will be the year of cloud and big data, followed in 2013 by the year of sorting out the mess caused by wrong implementations of technology to underpin these strategies, poor business models from providers and confusion from end-users.  I’d keep away from what’s hot, and concentrate on what’s right – driving up IT equipment utilisation rates through rationalisation, virtualisation and consolidation; looking at breaking down enterprise applications into functional components to reduce unwanted functional redundancy; looking to external sources for taking a lot of the more mundane aspects of IT off your hands, whether this be through going co-lo, I/PaaS, hosted systems or Cloud.

Q. How many IT events do you attend each year? 

I actually keep away from the trade shows (unless I’m presenting), but do go to vendor events to talk with the customers and prospects that go to them.  At the moment, I’d say that I probably do 20-40 such events per year.

Q. Which one are you most looking forward to? 

Looking forward to? Very few.  I prefer to take a rear-view mirror look on these – some events surprise me by being remarkably good, and these become the beacon events.  Many more just seem to trot out the same old marketing bumph that I could have picked up from the company’s web site and adds very little to the sum knowledge of either me or the vendor.  This tends to result in a waste of time for all concerned.

Q. What types of companies are likely to attract your attention this year? 

There are a lot of new companies that are doing some interesting things.  Storage is becoming interesting once again as cloud computing moves from a SAN-based view to a NAS/DAS-based one in many cases.  Security is having to change to be more inclusive across cloud boundaries, which is forcing far more of an information security approach, rather than an hardware/application one.  Systems management of the combined virtual/physical estate across cloud boundaries is also looking interesting again.  The whole BYOD/consumerisation/mobile play is also throwing spanners into the mix – just when people thought they may have brought mobility under control.

Q. How many interviews do you do per week? 

Lots.  I’d say that I average 5-15 per week.  By talking with a full range of vendors across many different disciplines, I believe that I get a better picture of what’s happening in the technology and vendor space overall, which those who focus only on the large vendors or those vendors in a specific space may miss.  As businesses are driven by processes, and processes cross over disciplines, I believe that being more of a generalist enables me to speak to business people at a more meaningful level.

Q. What’s the best way to pitch a company to you?

The majority are done by email.  However, too many are done to a group under bcc: – this means that I have no idea how many people have been included and few of these will get a response.  Those that are based around pitching a standard press release will also not get much of a response.  If it’s a pitch, then pitch it: if it’s for information only, then mark it so.  A pitch requires personalisation; some form of a hook to me that will make your company worthwhile me adding to the 5-15 interviews that I will already be doing on the week in question.  Phone calls are OK – but need to be followed up by an email, otherwise details get lost.  Twitter is also OK to gain my immediate attention – but not to actually set anything up.  Paper is filed straight in recycling…

Q. Who else is worth listening to on IT issues?

There are a lot of analysts and journalists who have deep expertise in the areas that are well worthwhile listening to.  There are also many charismatic and open people in the vendor community, who are willing to enter into full and frank discussion around what they do without getting too protective around their own portfolio.  There are also many in the end user community who have faced problems that we in the analyst world just cannot contemplate who add to our understanding of the issues around a technology immeasurably.

Q. What’s your favourite blog?

I don’t follow any single blog religiously – in fact, I don’t really care if it’s a blog, an article or a page on a website.  If it’s interesting, it’s interesting.  If not, then it’s not worth bothering with.

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

My favourite – as in it gets me excited – is either the Parrot quadropter or the smaller, high-precision quadropters that you can see on YouTube doing some amazing things.  My favourite – because it is useful – is the iPad. Although I hate to be seen to be nice to Apple, the iPad has changed how I work.

Q. What do you think is the most important development in data storage to date? 

SSD is having the largest impact and seems to be an unstoppable force.

Q. What is the best piece of advice for companies pitching stories?

Well – don’t.  I’m not interested in stories – I’m interested in your company, its go-to-market, its business model and its future direction. Pitch that to me, and promise a discussion – not a briefing; some under-the-cover stuff – not just marketese, and we will probably meet up or talk on the phone about what you are up to.

Q. What was the best business trip you’ve ever been on? Worst? Why?

Best – a strange one.  A vendor flew a group of us out to Israel and set up an extensive social experience of meals, donkey caravan rides to a Bedouin feast, a visit to the Sea of Galilee, a wander round Jerusalem – and a lot more – to be interspersed with a few talks by the company and some of its customers.  However, the company spokesperson couldn’t make the trip, and the customer was caught up in a road accident and couldn’t make it either.  What we all got was a 3 day holiday in Israel, all expenses paid.  Worst – travelling out for a vendor event where the travel and accommodation company was worse than useless.  Arriving to find that I was there all week, whereas the analyst part of the event was only one day long and the overall event finished a day and a half before I left, and that the hotel was in the middle of nowhere.  Then finding that the analyst event was just a bunch of presentations with no access to company execs, and that the hotel food was dire.  A waste of a full week, having to travel economy long-haul both ways and coming back with just as much knowledge as before I went – not my idea of useful time.

Q. What’s your favourite restaurant?

Kitchin’s in Edinburgh is pretty damn good.  But I think that my little local restaurant – The Leatherne Bottel at Goring in Berkshire – beats all the Michelin starred places I ‘ve been to.  Great cooking, well presented and a warm welcome from the Maitre d’ is just what the doctor ordered.

Q. Are you a social media lover? Which ones are you on? FB? LinkedIn? Twitter?

I’m on all three of those – I use Twitter a lot when at certain events, Facebook for less work-oriented stuff.  I don’t use LinkedIn much except as a database of contacts across my network.

Q. Tell us something no one knows about you.

Well, quite a few people know that I am a wolf handler at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust at Beenham, just outside Reading.  Fewer people know that I collect cask-strength Scotch whiskies.  Fewer still know that I also collect antiquarian illustrated books – mainly by Gustave Dore, but also Edmund Dullac and others.

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