Freeform Dynamics snares Tebbo

Well, it’s in the open. I am teaming up with Freeform Dynamics. Here’s what I wrote to my nearest and dearest:

After a lot of discussion and thought, I am joining the Freeform Dynamics team and this will be my primary role in life, although I shall continue with my writing and training commitments wherever they fit comfortably with my new role. (And, so far, that means everywhere.)

Why have I done it? Primarily because I like the team and I like the work they do and the way they operate. We are very harmonious in our values and our outlooks.

Freeform Dynamics is a research and analysis firm rooted in the hard reality of properly conducted research. And it is this solid, fact-based, approach that appeals so much.

I reproduce, below, the official blog post on the subject:


David Tebbutt comes out

There has been an ongoing debate in analyst relations (AR) circles
(i.e. among the people who manage industry analyst relations on behalf
of IT vendors) about what exactly constitutes an analyst. The emergence
of expert bloggers has particularly confused things — people who
investigate like analysts, think like analysts, write like analysts,
but don't actually call themselves analysts.

This is something
that SAP has caught onto with its 'blogger relations' programme, which
AFAIK, was the first of its kind in the industry from a major vendor.
AR thought leaders like Barbara French, Jonny Bentwood and David Rossiter
have also acknowledged that boundaries are becoming a bit fuzzy, which
has led to tentative talk of ideas such as 'Influencer Relations'.

Those who know us at Freeform Dynamics will be aware that we actively challenge boundaries and 'labels'
ourselves as part of what we do, which is one of the reasons for the
'Freeform' part of our name. All of our analysts maintain a broad
perspective and indeed much of our work is at the points where
traditional boundaries are looking less and less relevant over time.

by the same token, if you want to call us analysts, market researchers,
consultants, misfits or anything else, we don't really care that much.
We even do some stuff which on occasions looks a bit like journalism.
The important thing from our perspective is driving understanding,
objectivity and harmony into the dealings between IT professionals and
business people, IT vendors and their customers, and generally people
and technology, based on solid market intelligence and a down to earth
approach to figuring out what it all means in practical terms. We'll
continue to use whatever means are most effective to achieve this.

brings me on to the latest addition to the Freeform family. Against the
above background, we are really chuffed to have one of the most well
respected commentators and forward thinkers on the IT industry come to
join us — David Tebbutt.

may know David as a journalist, others as a trainer, yet more as
software publisher or enterprise consultant. Those with an interest in
the enterprise aspects of social computing might know him for his
expertise in this area in particular, where he has been operating at
the forefront of activity for a number of years now with a pragmatic
approach that is very akin to the way we do things at Freeform. Beyond
this, his behind-the-scenes work on sustainable development with a
major public body, which predated the current hysteria on the subject,
places him in a position of authority with respect to the important
‘greening of IT’ agenda.

Truth is, much of what David has been
doing over his career, particularly in recent times, can best be
described as industry analysis if you use the generally accepted view
of what that means. And what's really interesting is that when we sat
down to work through what David would be doing with us, it was pretty
clear that not much would change in terms of his approach to
investigating the market, writing style, consulting style, and so on.
In fact, we are looking forward to David helping us to change and
develop ourselves in some areas, such as the delivery of training
services (watch this space) and the increasing use of social media to
improve the way we communicate even further.

So, after working as a 'closet analyst' for so long, David is coming out, and the whole team here, Jon, Helen, Martin, Joyce, Tony and myself, are looking forward to welcoming him into the fold.

And, if you want the official bio, it’s on the team page

This blog will continue, as will my others at Information World Review and SmallBizPod, but I’m not yet sure quite what the emphasis will be.

In case you cared…

Getting to a proper broadband connection has been hit and miss since I moved house. The reason is because it’s being decorated and refitted and we’re hiding most of the time in a static caravan in Sussex.

I’ve kept the blogs going at Information World Review and SmallBizPod and, to a lesser extent, at thinkerlog. And, of course, have continued to submit features and columns as usual. My personal web page lists recent online stuff or you can pick up the RSS feed.

Give me another couple of weeks and I’ll be back. I’ll tell you about the new website I’ve set up and why. And generally just get back into the swing of things.

I might even tell you why I’m exceedingly chuffed with the name of the road I’ve moved to – it is perfect for someone who writes columns and blogs.

Blogs before blogs

Before there were blogs there were columns. Comments were through the laborious process of ‘letters to the editor’ and hoping you’d get published.

The columnists were hired for their ability to interpret, inform and amuse. Two of them (me and Martin Banks) watched the PC industry as it flowered in the UK. We’ve also lived through the networking, web and social computing waves and, no doubt there will be more. Before the PC, Martin specialised in electronics writing and I lived through the visible record and minicomputer waves as a participant, with mainframes as a noisy backdrop, before becoming editor of Personal Computer World.

Martin and I grabbed a slice of history, as we saw it, by scanning and uploading 363 of our columns. (In the original blog post, I miscounted – I said 365.)

However, we relied on Google for the search and it wasn’t comprehensive. Result: you type in something you’re interested in (Sinclair, Curry, Hauser, Jobs, Gates or whatever and there’s a good chance nothing will show.) Shame.

So we’ve now switched to FreeFind‘s sponsored engine. At the expense of a few text ads at the top, you can now properly search the archive. It runs from 1979 to 1991 although it probably follows a bell curve. The search is at the bottom of the left sidebar on any Press Here page. (That’s where Martin and I hang out ‘cos we’re the press and we’re here.)

If you know anyone who’s interested in this kind of thing, you might want to tip them off.

One of the issues of the fast-moving pre-web world is that a lot of computing history got lost. This is our small attempt to redress the balance with the observations of two insiders.

New life

Well, it’s all change in Tebbo-land. The regular cleantech work that I was hoping to get fell through. A pity because it was going to be an interesting project. The company has decided to do it in-house. This is theoretically a wise decision, providing they have good writers who can focus on the subject, set it in a broader context and be given the time and support to do the job.

So, for the first time in six months, I can stop mentally allocating two days a week for the foreseeable future to a project that may or may not have come off. But one which I’m sure I would have enjoyed and done well.

Of course, life hasn’t stood still while this has been going on. I recently had the pleasure of working (again) with Robert Norum on ‘pitch training’ for startups. That particular event put seven companies through their paces and one of them went through to be voted the best startup pitch at a recent v.c. conference. Another was a runner-up. A cool result but, of course, the underpinning products and the presenters were really the stars.

Last week I was helping senior management of a major company to ‘handle the press’. That’s essentially about message development and interview control. A rather satisfying 100% rating for me. Similarly, a high nineties rating when I did something similar recently for a major IT manufacturer with Martin Banks, my long-standing partner in Press Here. We have trained well over three thousand delegates over the years and the ratings are nearly always mid-eighties and above.

What’s clear is that getting stories right and knowing how to deliver them effectively is a universal requirement, whether it’s high-tech, cleantech, holidays, chemicals or charities (all of whom I’ve trained).

Keeping the listener ‘on side’ is also crucial, something a lot of people forget in the heat of the moment. They’re so busy being passionate about what interests them that they forget the listener is a person with their own needs, whether it’s a board member, a venture capitalist, a journalist, an analyst or a work colleague.

Many years ago, Martin and I branded ourselves ‘Press Here’ and the soubriquet served us well. Indeed, we still provide our services under that banner for those who are comfortable with it. But, increasingly, we have been adding smaller, tighter, engagements to those who don’t want the full regalia. Maybe they want to chew messages over, or dry run a pitch or whatever. And given that, these days, the press is not always the intended audience, the ‘Press Here’ brand may be a turn off rather than a turn on. Seems like a new brand is called for…

My own focus is still on ‘helping companies formulate and communicate their stories’. And I will do this solo or in partnership with Martin, Robert, PR companies or whoever. Of course, I will continue to write for papers, magazines and online publications. And the odd private client…

So there we are. New home. New liberation. New life.

It feels good.

SME/SMB blogs and podcasts

A little while ago, one-time PR man and general good egg, Alex Bellinger, approached me with a view to starting a blog which specifically served small to medium businesses. We both agreed that the SME/SMB segment is ill served, yet it has millions of participants. We talked at great length before he decided to take the plunge with a ‘Small Business Blog‘ adjunct to his popular SmallBizPod podcasting site.

According to the official blurb, the blog sets out to offer "practical advice, news and insight for start-ups, small business owners and entrepreneurs".

We thought it best to get a few blogs under our belts before letting people know about it. Well, we’re on the verge of our fifth week and we all seem to be settling down together. So here goes: I write about technology stuff; Guy Clapperton writes about franchising; Sara Scott writes about marketing; and Alex Bellinger seems to write about whatever catches his eye. (We all have to be on our toes to make sure he hasn’t nicked one of our ideas.)

If you like what you see please tell others. If  you don’t, then please tell us.

Thanks. We look forward to seeing you over there.

Communicating IT to the board with the NCC

I didn’t realise that the NCC was promoting some work we (Martin Banks and I) are doing in December. Not online, anyway. We approved the brochure a while back. The NCC logo in the left sidebar of this blog links to Communicating IT to the Board.

For 18 years Martin and I (together and separately) have been helping mainly blue chip IT companies handle the press. Occasionally this work has taken us into other areas and other industries. What we divined a long time ago is that a systematic approach to handling the press actually stands you in good stead with other interested (or disinterested) parties: venture capitalists, the board, analysts and even work colleagues.

It’s a way to hook interest, tell your story, engage in meaningful dialogue and all come away better off as a result of the encounter.

David Tebbutt and Martin Banks ride the PC wave

For the past few years, I have been riding the social computing wave in various forms. Before that it was web-related stuff, as well as traditional software. And, before that, it was the PC and microcomputers. (Before that, I was in the computer industry but not writing about it.)

In honour of the real PC’s 25th birthday, I’ve put a link in this blog’s ‘About‘ page to a selection of articles and columns that Martin Banks and I wrote as we rode the PC wave. For quite inexplicable reasons, my review of the first IBM PC isn’t in there. It would probably bore you witless anyway.

When you’re looking for some displacement activity, try typing Sinclair, BBC, KayPro, Osborne or Bricklin. Or whatever you like really.