AMR Research: Earning RespectBy Mel Duvall | Posted 2002-12-19 Email Print
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Dossier: When it comes to technology research, AMR succeeds by staying within niches.
Steve Hammond, vice president of information services at Plasti-Line, views AMR Research as an important ally in achieving his company's business goals.
When Hammond undertakes a new initiative, such as the deployment of a manufacturing execution system, he asks AMR to evaluate vendors. Not only do the analysts help Hammond translate vendor speak, they also can tell him if he's paying too much. "It's evolved from a technical relationship, where they more or less evaluated solutions for us, to more of a strategic relationship," he says. "It took some time, but they now understand what Plasti-Line is all about."
Plasti-Line, in fact, is about the signage business. It manufactures new or modifies existing signs for some 20,000 businesses a year. Two years ago, when Plasti-Line was looking for a system that could take order forecasts from the company's enterprise planning system and generate production plans for the shop floor, it asked AMR to recommend vendors. Plasti-Line selected SynQuest on AMR's suggestion and its own review. Overall, Hammond is satisfied with AMR's service and the resultsenough that he signed an expanded contract with AMR for 2003.
That's a big plus for AMR, particularly in the current economic climate. AMR is a fraction of the size of its main competitor, Gartner Inc., with only 210 employees compared to Gartner's 4,000. But the firm's smaller size, and its expertise in sectors such as supply chain management, appeals to many.
Arquest, a diaper manufacturer, wanted to prepare for changes in collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment. For a better perspective on technologies needed, Arquest contracted AMR earlier this year as an adviser. "The most important thing for us is to make sure we put the right tools in place," says Wayne Nix, Arquest's information systems manager. It took some time for AMR analysts to get to know Arquest's business, but a number of one-on-one consultations have removed that concern.
Vendors consider AMR as a key influencer of purchasing decisions, and look to the firm for insights into their own product strategies as well as where companies are headed. "They can virtually derail a deal by telling an end-user something negative about your product or company," says Trudy Montgomery, spokeswoman for Business Engine, a project management software developer. "Conversely, they can shorten the sales cycle if they're positive."
Plasti-Line's Hammond says AMR not only translates vendor's pitches, but can help him avoid paying too much for a product.