Treat user-centred analysts different from those funded by vendors

Dave Kellogg, a Silicon Valley marketer and blogger, recently provided commentary on a previous article from Alan Pelz-Sharpe of CMS Watch. Alan’s article covered rules he thinks vendors should follow when dealing with independent analysts. Overall, of course, Alan and Dave have some pretty good advice, and we’ve had some good feedback from our readers, and especially my colleague Efrem Mallach, about both articles.

Nevertheless, some readers will take exception with Point #8: Don’t ask analysts for advice. It’s too important to give a simple yes or no to this point. Many analysts *want* you to ask their advice, but not in a clueless fashion, as if you didn’t know what you were doing. However, some analysts are so tightly focussed on the needs of end-users that they don’t think it’s their job to solve vendors’ problems.

A few folk will also have raised eyebrows on reading Point #1: Don’t assume the analyst is out to get you. Part of the analyst’s job is to better predict technology directions, so in that sense they can’t help but form opinions as to which is the better path. So the task, then, is to try understanding their views and biases… but not to assume they are all “in bed” with a vendor (even though some are).

However, one point Alan misses is that the right way to deal with analysts depends on whether that analyst’s clients consist primarily of users or of other vendors. At CMS Watch Alan’s clients are primarily users. His recommendations assume that’s the case. However, lots of other analysts work primarily with vendors. The “rules of engagement” for them are different. Alan would probably be the wrong person to ask what they are, even though he has much insight from his years at Ovum.

They key point is that the analyst is out to do what helps his or her client. That may mean taking sides if taking sides is necessary, which it sometimes is. However, that doesn’t mean being against a vendor even if the analyst sides with that vendor’s competitors in that instance. At another time the same analyst may be for the same vendor – in both cases, for exactly the same reason!

This is a topic where the analyst’s client base plays a big part. Analysts whose clients are primarily users see it as their duty to prevent those clients from making mistakes. They therefore see it as their responsibility to find, and, make sure their clients know about, any holes in vendor offerings. Continually harping on this theme may lead the vendor to feel that the analyst is against it. He or she is not. The analyst is simply doing the best possible job, as he or she sees it, for his or her client.

Conversely, analysts whose clients are primary vendors tend to come from a position “every offering is best for some users some of the time, let’s figure out which users and when.” This will seem to a vendor as a much more positive attitude to that vendor. In a sense it is. However, in the final analysis both types of analysts may come up with identical vendor rankings on whatever criteria.

Similarly, the observation about whether or not to ask analysts’ advice depends on the analyst. For Alan, his rule #8 is pretty much spot-on. For a vendor-facing analyst, it is pretty much wrong. The problem is that all people called “analyst” are not identical. To suggest that there should be a universal way of dealing with them all, regardless of this difference or others, is an oversimplification. We’re impressed that he came as close as he did.

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As the head of CCgroup's analyst relations team, Chapple directs programs that increase the value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.