Should I really try telling Nokia how to make mobile phones?

Sometimes I wonder about the extent to which analysts are qualified to advise vendors and operators on what they do. There's an element of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.

Take the example of Motorola and Nokia in 2006. Everyone and their brother were fawning all over Motorola telling them what a wonderful job they'd done and occasionally asking about the follow up to the RAZR. In contrast they were hypercritical of Nokia for failing to get on the ultra-slim bandwagon and no-more-than half-heartedly embracing clamshells. Turns out the Finns knew exactly what they were doing. If they'd followed most analysts' advice they'd be in a much worse state than they are now.

Take also the example of an analyst talking to an MNO about mature services. What can I as an analyst tell (for instance) the product manager for x at a European MNO about the product that they are responsible for?

So I tend to use a few rules of thumb:
  1. Do not try to tell people how to do their job. They know better than you. There's no possible way you can understand the Portuguese IM market than the IM manager at a Portuguese MNO.
  2. Offer international perspectives. You’re there to tell them something they don’t know and they won’t know what’s going on in other similar markets and will appreciate the benchmarking.
  3. Listen. You may think you know what they want to know, but they definitely do. Analysts have a tendency to think of strategy sessions (or whatever they’re called) as set-piece presentations. They shouldn’t be. The more interaction the better.
  4. Talk about the future. Everyone has a view on what will happen in the future but they’re also interested in an independent view. As an analyst you’re probably better placed to comment on it than anyone else.
  5. Be able to talk about the whole eco-system. MNOs understand the MNO business, vendors undertand their business. Giving one insight into the thoughts of the other is always useful. Similarly other parts of the value chain, e.g. media players etc.