French Caldwell on when analysts join vendors’ staff

Many thanks to former Gartner analyst French Caldwell (iTGuru) for this guest post, drawing on his experience crossing over to the vendor side. I’ve written about this here, and French replied to my view: I think a lot of analysts get a rude awakening, and often a great shock, when they go to the vendor side. They might be smart enough to see the firm’s prospects, not often they are not smart enough to realistically understand the value they will generate for themselves and for their new firm. Here is his reply.

Duncan — you are right, and it’s easy to sink into “the trough of disillusionment.” But I’ve been there a couple of times frankly, and each time I have come out much higher on the plateau of productivity. Once I got it into my mind that I can make real change, I’ve been happier. It took one of the other senior execs to point out all the improvements I’ve made in how we do things for me to realize the impact I was really having. After just a few months here, I’d made change, but since I wasn’t writing it all down in a research deliverable, I just hadn’t seen it as clearly.

One thing an analyst can bring to an organization is clarity about our role in the market which creates a real sense of purpose. In my case having helped architect a new market — GRC — I truly had a sense of purpose that once the market began to really take shape and gain definition, I just could no longer fulfill at Gartner. Gartner covers lots of markets, not just mine. So going to a vendor that is focused on just GRC and nothing else — it’s great. But it has required an adjustment.

There are others like me — Howard Dresner for instance — he was an architect of the BI market. Gartner became too constraining as that market took off.

For those analysts who are just looking for something different, and they don’t really own their markets in their hearts, then I can see how the vendor side would be too disorienting. It’s confusing and priorities shift — but one thing that an analyst who really has a sense of purpose can do is to share that purpose and bring clarity and focus to not just their own company but to the market. MetricStream gives me a better platform than Gartner for that, and I’m happy. By the way, that sense of purpose spreads throughout the market — we here are not delusional in thinking that we can control that just for MetricStream, but since we are the GRC vendor, and we don’t do other stuff — we get tremendous benefit from bringing clarity and purpose to the market.

I left Gartner last year and then took a job with one of the vendors that I covered. I reached out to several of the vendors I covered to let them know what I was doing, and I openly published a blog explaining what I was doing. All but one vendor were understanding and supportive to me personally, though several voiced their concerns to Gartner. The one vendor executive who was unfriendly was unfortunate, but I can understand his concern, if not his hostility.

Many analysts see themselves as part of the industry, particularly those like me who started a new research area to cover a new type of software. We grew with the market, and it is only natural that we would want to stay with that market.

Frankly, as far as competitive information leaking — that assumes that the vendors actually shared anything worthwhile with the analysts in the first place! Half truths and hype are hardly competitive info, eh?


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.

There is 1 comment on this post
  1. September 07, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Most analysts have big egos and need them stroked constantly to be happy. When they enter vendor world, those can park their egos at the door and accept that they need to earn their stripes through their capabilities, not their past reputations, should be able to survive by supporting strategy, marcomms, writing white papers, proofing analyst presentation decks etc.

    Sadly, many have had their egos so well fed over the years they just lose the plot when they don’t have anyone kissing their posterior any longer.

    The other issue is what skills are they truly bringing. Most the big analyst houses fail to train their analysts to do proper quant and qual research – they really are just good bullsh*tters who can follow the trends. Some can write quite well, so that can be a saving grace (they can pump out vendor puff pieces all day, not worried about “bias” any longer).

    In short, most analysts have failed in vendors to do anything more than marketing bit-part roles. IMO they should go into consulting as that profession really benefits from the analyst skillset (and consultants have even bigger egos than analysts!),


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