1 on 1 auctions vs. person years of A/R time

1918 Farm Auction by dok1 (cc) (from Flickr)
1918 Farm Auction by dok1 (cc) (from Flickr)

I have had this conversation before (and have blogged about it with Crowdsourcing business analyst …) where there is lots of time and effort (person years?) devoted to scheduling one-on-one meetings between analyst firms and corporate executives. I may be repeating my earlier post but the problem persists and I see an obvious easier way to solve this.

Auction off 1 on 1 time slots

By doing this the company puts the burden on the analyst community by giving every  firm some amount of “analyst buck”s (A$) and then auction off executive meeting slots. In this way the crowd of analysts would determine who best to meet with whom (putting crowdsourcing to work).

Consider today’s solution:

  • Send out a list of topics to be discussed at the meeting,
  • Have the analyst firm select their top 3 or 5 topics, and
  • Have analyst relation’s sift the requests and executive availability to schedule the meetings.

For analyst events with 100s of analyst firms, 20 or more executives, and 10 or more time slots, the scheduling activity can become quite complex and time consuming.

I understand a corporation’s need to make the most effective use of analysts and executive management time, but what better way to make this determination than to let the (analyst) market decide.

How an executive 1 on 1 auction could work

The way I see it is to hold some sort of dutch or japanese auction (see wikipedia auction) where all the analyst firm representatives attended a webex session and bid for 1-1 time slots with various executives. In this fashion the company could have the whole schedule laid out in a single day with the only effort involved in identifying executives, time slots and supplying A$s to analyst firms.

It doesn’t even need to be that sophisticated and potentially could be done on eBay with real money supplied by the company (useable only for bidding in executive time slot auctions) and donated to charity when the process is finished.  There are any number of ways to do this on the quick and cheap.  However, using eBay may be a bit too public but doing this over a conference call with webex would probably suffice just as well and could be totally private.

Of course with this approach, the company may find that their are some executives that are in higher demand than others.  If such is the case, perhaps a secondary auction could be supplied with more time slots. Ditto for executives that have time slots that are not in demand – they could be released from providing time for 1 on 1 meetings.

In my prior post I mentioned the option that maybe the corporation might want more control over who meets who. In that case allocating some A$s to the corporate executives (or A/R as their proxy) to use to augment analyst firm bids might do the trick. Of course providing those firms more A$s would also give them preferential access. Obviously, this wouldn’t provide as much absolute control as spending person years of effort doing 1 on 1 scheduling but it would provide a quick and relatively easy solution to the problem from both the analyst firm as well as analyst relations.

But how much to grant to each analyst firm?

The critical question is the amount of A$’s to provide each firm.  This might take some thought but there is an easy solution. Just use last years analyst spend as the amount of A$s to provide the firm.  Another option is to provide some base level of analyst bucks to any firm invited to attend and then add more for the prior year spend.

Possibly, a less appealing approach (to me at least) is to give each analyst firm an amount proportional to their annual revenue regardless of company spending with the firm.  But perhaps some combination of the above, say

1/3 base amount for any invitee + 1/3 proportional to annual spend +1/3 proportional to annual firm revenue = A$s

would work.

In my previous post I suggested so many A$s per analyst. As such, bigger firms with more analysts would get more than firms with less analysts. But I feel the formula described above makes more sense to me.

Information provided to facilitate the 1 on 1’s auction

In order for the auction to work well, analyst firms would need to know more information about the executive whose time is being auctioned off.  But aside from that just a schedule of the time slots available would allow the auction to work. On the other hand, some idea of the company’s org chart and where the executive fit in would be very useful to facilitate the auction.


That’s it, pretty simple, set up a conference call, send out executive information and org chart, allocate analyst bucks and let the bidding begin.

Auctioning off Lot-132: 30 minutes of Ray Lucchesi’s time …, let the bidding begin.


Crowdsourcing business analyst 1 on 1 scheduling with executives

Paris vs Pranksky - Lot 101 by Pranksky (cc) (from Flickr)
Paris vs Pranksky - Lot 101 by Pranksky (cc) (from Flickr)

Just got back from a conference with business analyst meetings and while there I talked with a number of analyst relations people in the audience about what it takes to pull these meeting together.  I was astounded by the effort that goes into setting up 1 on 1s for all the analysts.  In some cases, person weeks of effort goes into this scheduling nightmare.

I have a better answer, just crowdsource the process and let the analysts do all the work by auctioning off your executive meeting slots.  For example, give every analyst showing up a certain amount of analyst bucks (A$) and let them bid their A$’s for whichever executive(s) they want.  The winning bidders get to meet with the executives and the losers can take their money to the next auction.

I see this working as follows:

  • A company creates an auction website accessible to analysts registered for the meeting, with the executive names, bios, and pertinent areas of expertise/influence listed for everyone able to talk with analysts.  One may want to add the number of meeting slots and a minimum acceptable bid (if warranted).
  • The auction should have a duration or time window with which all bids would need to be in and at the end of which a “striking price” could be determined for each executive time slot.
  • While the auction is open, analysts would apportion their A$s to whichever executive(s) they wished to talk to, letting the analysts decide (do the work to determine) which they want to meet with.

Whether this could be done on eBay, some conference call/webex or other facility would need to be investigated.  If eBay were used, the proceeds from the auction could go to charity.

One problem with this approach is sometimes executives have to change their schedules at the last minute.  Thus, there would need to be some list of alternates for executives so that if the primary executive bowed out, an alternate could take their place.

Another potential issue is in how to apportion A$s to analyst firms or analysts.  Personally, I like a per attending analyst apportionment (one man/women, one vote sort of thing).  This way, larger firms with multiple analysts attending would have more A$s to use.  Although as a single person analyst firm I may be disadvantaged with this allotment, there is a possibility that I could syndicate with other  firms to build up our collective A$s, if necessary.

A follow-on question is whether to use the English, Dutch, or sealed-bid auction method (see wikipedia on auctions).  Personally, I think either the English or Dutch auction form would work fine and would provide adequate visibility.  However, the sealed-bid approach could make the process simpler for the company hosting the auction as it wouldn’t require much support other than some address to email the bids for the various executives.

Of course, this all assumes that the purpose of the analyst 1 on 1 meetings is to have executives meet with analysts. But alternatively, another purpose may be to have executives influence particular analysts.  In this case, the auction could be reversed and have the executive team bid on meetings with the analysts.

On the other hand, a combination of the two approaches could be done by supplying both the analysts and executives some A$s and have each submit bids for the other. The total combined A$ value from the executives and the analyst (firms) would decide how their time slots are allocated.  This may not be optimal from either the analyst or the executive perspective, but it would cross-optimize both sides for meeting slots.

Well there you have it, crowdsourcing/auctioning meeting slots, my solution to the problem of scheduling 1 on 1’s for company analyst meetings.

Auctioning off Lot-102, 30 minute meeting with Silverton Consulting/Ray Lucchesi, do I hear any bids?