Inside the Moments that Matter: Melissa O’Brien of HFS Research on how analyst relations is changing

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Jessika Parry
September 2, 2023

“For me, as an executive, it’s a good investment of time, to literally learn, in a small capsule, everything that I want to learn.” — Sandeep Dadlani, Chief Digital Officer, UHG

For our latest edition of Inside the Moments that Matter, we are joined by Melissa O’Brien, Executive Research Leader and Head of Research Operations at leading global analyst firm HFS Research. With over 15 years of analyst and business services industry experience, Melissa formerly worked at PSG Global Solutions and IDC, honing impressive expertise in evolving business processes, emerging technology and industry-specific services.

During our session, Melissa took a deep dive into the evolving analyst industry landscape, sharing HFS’ Market Analysis Horizons Methodology along with their research coverage areas for 2023, as well as answering all our burning questions. Here’s what we learned:

HFS was the first analyst firm to evaluate GenAI + is using it in its own tech.

How is generative AI technology going to transform your business? This is undoubtedly the question of the year, and HFS is looking to help companies evaluate the opportunity for real value generated (we couldn’t resist that pun…) with GenAI in their fields. HFS’ Generative Enterprise™ articulates the pursuit of AI technologies based on Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT to reap huge business benefits to organizations in terms of continuously generating new ideas, redefining how work gets done, and disrupting business models steeped in decades of antiquated process and technology.

It was also one of the first analyst firms to provide direct access to its business and technology insights using GenAI, powered by This integration goes beyond the hype of most GenAI solutions, giving users access to immediate, accurate, and synthesized insights across a body of HFS’ research. The search capability allows questions to be answered side-by-side with the sourced research, making it much more efficient than traditional search techniques while providing a more profound understanding across the content. As we all are exploring how GenAI is changing our day-to-day, this sneak peek into early adoption in the analyst field was encouraging to see.

Analysts are moving away from the quadrant model.

To provide a more action-oriented and comprehensive analysis for companies, HFS has moved away from the traditional scoring quadrant and top 10 lists in favor of their new “Horizons” model to evaluate the hottest IT and business process services, emerging tech, and industry domains. Horizons are designed to assess the forward-looking innovation and value potential of vendor capabilities across three distinct horizons:

  • Horizon 1 is Optimize: Ability to drive functional digital optimization outcomes through cost reduction, speed, and efficiency.
  • Horizon 2 is Experience: Horizon 1 + enablement of the OneOffice model of end-to-end organizational alignment across the front, middle and back offices to drive unmatched stakeholder experience inclusive of customers, employees, and partners.
  • Horizon 3 is Grow: Horizon 2 + ability to drive OneEcosystem synergy via collaboration across multiple organizations with common objectives around driving completely new sources of value.

Analyst firms are eager to learn about your business – but come prepared.

As more and more players enter the tech and business services scene, Melissa encouraged companies to set up meetings with analysts to provide a better understanding of the supplier’s strengths and weaknesses through solutions, culture, and context. But, companies should come prepared to get the most out of these meetings and ensure they’re appropriately evaluated in any future research.

The main areas companies should be prepared to discuss:

  • Corporate overview (who, what, when, where, why, future plans)
  • Solutions (products + audiences, differentiated value)
  • Competition and go-to-market strategy

Just as important as covering these topics is making sure your spokesperson is doing so in a way that helps explain what you do. Minimize jargon and emphasize value/ROI. And most importantly, come prepared with client stories that reinforce these areas. Throughout the entire conversation, continue to pull each of these pieces back to the WHY for your organization.

Building relationships with analysts is a marathon, not a sprint.

Finally – for all you PR and marketing folks out there – Melissa offered some valuable tips for building lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with analysts:

  1. Embrace collaboration – share news early and often, especially if it significantly impacts your products/services or the competitive landscape.
  2. Leverage events and in-person meetings for updates – analysts are increasingly attending major industry events, so use this as an excuse to sync up for a live briefing.
  3. Know what the analyst firm plans to cover and show where you fit in – HFS is planning over 30 market research reports in the next year. Don’t forget to check the schedule of the firms you’re hoping to connect with to help identify when you should reach out!

Thank you, Melissa, for joining our team so we can have a deeper understanding of your offerings, what you’re seeing and experiencing around the topics and approaches to GenAI, as well as how to best work with analysts to get the most out of the relationship!

Don’t miss their latest post on how to navigate the launch of ChatGPT Enterprise: As ChatGPT goes Enterprise, here are Ten GenAI Reality Checks you need to take… And for more information about HFS’ upcoming areas of research and to set up a briefing, check them out online or on LinkedIn!

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