Nancy Shapira-Aronovic, a Tel Aviv partner of Knowledge Capital Group, has triggered an interesting discussion on her blog. She asks readers what they think of KCG’s view that vendors cannot buy the opinions of Forrester and Gartner’s research and advisory services. The discussion is here.
She’s cites KCG’s Bill Hopkins making the comment in respect to what the firm calls ‘Deal makers and Breakers’. Ygel has nice chart on his blog to show who those firms are.
Her title, Are Industry Analysts Objective?, reposes the question very nicely. It would be mistaken to suggest that one can simply buy the views of top analyst firms. But it would be too sweeping to suggest that vendors’ commercial relationships with analyst firms, even the top ones, have no impact. Vendors are not buying opinions the way they buy advertising space, but they are buying an opportunity to shift bias and change the sources of information from which analysts are reaching their conclusions. As Carter comments in that thread, there is bias even in the top firms.
Opinions come from experiences. By buying analysts time, vendors can directing the analysts’ work and focus them on particular topics and viewpoints. There are many reasons to do that, and one is the common-sense observation that we tend towards the opinions of those we know more than to the opinions of those we do not know.
This subject has certainly sparked the attention of many people. Even one anonymous analyst posted a comment. As I said in my last post, Objectivity is one of the biggest assets the Deal Maker/Deal Breaker analysts such as Gartner and Forrester have and they need to defend it even when it makes their paying customers unhappy.
Pretending total objectivity is a desired goal but every opinion and every analysis is influenced by subjectivity. Therefore, analysts clients should know this and take their views just as source of insight and information and use their own criteria when a decision is needed. We, as analysts, are not here to make decisions that belongs to others.
As a former META Group analyst myself, I contend that there’s no way for analysts to be unaffected by the attention vendors shroud them with (from the endless tchotchkes to ski trips posing as “analyst conferences” to bonuses paid on vendor subscriptions). Only a truly empirical research model, one that relies exclusively on the feedback of actual users rather than the ruminations of analysts, can provide truly credible insights. Peer insights are favored by 3:1 over analysts anyway (Align IT Group study), and the book Wisdom of Crowds shows how the masses are better predictors than so-called experts. Ask your analyst when was the last time he actually used or saw (in production, not demo) the products/vendors he’s advising you on. Even Gideon Gartner himself said that the “magic quadrant” was the worst representation of anything ever created. These are the concepts and principles upon which Evalubase Research was founded.