HfS’ Fersht: Analysts could decline without regulation

Many thanks to HfS Research founder Phil Fersht for this reply to our recent post opposing state regulation of analysts.

Duncan – thanks for airing this important issue. It’s become even more relevant over the last year alone, as rogue technology and services “analysts” are increasing on the take from whichever vendor is willing to buy their “influence”. Without some form of regulation, the IT analyst industry could find itself in permanent – and I hate to say terminable – decline, which is what is happening in today’s market.

In reality, regulation is probably impossible – vendor marketeers control most of the analyst industry and they like having the deck stacked in their favour as they know how to play the game. I would argue a more realistic – and effective – strategy would be simply to rebrand these fake analysts as “Vendor Advocates” – let’s just call them what they are.

I think we are all so jaded of seeing people brand themselves as “analysts” when they are not. The technology and services industry is awash with individuals whose only professional activity is flitting from vendor event to vendor event with the sole purpose of writing entirely non-objective puff pieces praising their vendor hosts in exchange for money (or in the hope said vendors will pony up some dough in gratitude).

Now, there is nothing wrong with this, as long as these individuals stop masquerading as “analysts”. I can’t proclaim I am a professional accountant, lawyer or hip-replacement specialist without proving to the world I am trained and can deliver those services adequately, so why should we allow these people to call themselves analysts, when they are not. Do these vendors hire these fake “analysts” to do real strategic work for them? Of course they don’t – they use them as marcomm extensions, and pay them as such. So let’s call them what they are. Vendor Advocates.

Once we can all settle on that term, then we can all stop complaining about their tactics, crying foul when we see their blatant pay-for-play. Once they are officially branded as Vendor Advocates, then they can rent themselves out as much as they like to marketeers willing to buy their services, without having to masquerade as something they are not.

These Vendor Advocates play an important role supporting the industry – as long as they are correctly branded as such,

Let’s keep the conversation going!


Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As SageCircle research director, Chapple directs programs that assess and increase the business value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.

There are 3 comments on this post
  1. June 02, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Agreed. However, the North American market has already coined the term “Influencer Relations” to cover pseudo analysts, who are in actuality consultants, bloggers, journalists, ‘puff piece’ writers and pay for play writers, etc…. Unfortunately for us experienced analysts, many companies AND potential customers of technology don’t understand, or don’t care about the differences…until the six figures+ they spend on software recommended by these influencers requires replacing.

  2. Lawrence Hecht
    June 02, 2015, 8:51 pm

    I actually commented on the original post and comment. Here is summary of my take with additional analysis:

    Why would anyone want to be called a vendor advocate? How about technology evangelist? That connotates a point-of-view without saying that the advocate is beholden to the vendor’s interest.

    Except for a few outstanding, specialized analysts, there is no room in the market for independent analysts that do not do some work advocating technologies. The key is not to sell your soul. Just a politician can take a contribution and not be corrupt, so can an analyst.

    Most tech buyers don’t trust analysts and haven’t for years. If anything, with an increase in information availability the tech buyers now know more about the market than the analysts do. That, rather than bias is the biggest reason inhibiting the analyst market.

    In terms of regulation, it is a non-starter because it is a bad idea. To combat poor information, more information is needed. Tech buyers are sophisticated and can sort through the maze of reports.

    Finally, the real solution is as Ray Wang wrote a couple years ago is a coordinated attempt to promote standards and to call out bad actors.

  3. June 04, 2015, 8:01 am

    @Hypatia – “influencer” is a poor term as most of these “analysts” do not influence at all. Some write advertorial blogs which I guarantee are not read by real buyers – they are purely for desperate marketing executives in second tier vendor shops who have few options to get nice things said about them. “Influencer” only works when it’s tied to pushing thought leadership in front of people making buying decisions… is that what’s really happening with today’s analyst racket?

    @Lawrence – “Evangelist” implies these people are genuine visionaries with large followings. Definitely not the case for most of these people, am afraid.

    What we need are some Millennials getting into the game – people with fresh ideas and passion for the future. The analyst business is old and jaded – at 43 I am one of the young ones left. The wave of analysts coming through in the 1990s simply made sure they didn’t train their successors – now we have an aging analyst community (many are in the 60s and 70s now). What will be have in 5-10 years? Octogenarian evangelists?

    The biggest threat to the analyst industry is people losing interest in analysts – and I am afraid that is what is happening.