Forrester’s IT Forum will be a test of client satisfaction

What a difference a year makes. In 2008 Forrester was the winner of the Analyst Firm of the Year award. However, since then we’ve seen a different tone to the conversation about Forrester: while praise for Forrester’s analysts continues, vendors’ dissatisfaction with the firm seems to be rising, especially in Europe.

Certainly the quality and insight of Forrester remains valued, both by clients and companies (such as AMR Research and Microsoft) that most frequently recruit from the firm. The attractiveness of Forrester’s focus on the needs of business managers was reflected this week by George Colony’s recent (and to me, surprising) appearance in the Huffington Post. And the growing ranks of Forrester alumni shows that the firm can lead to great prospects, both on the analyst side (as evidenced by Michael Rasmussen, Erica Driver and others) and for those on the ‘business’ side (such as Liisa Kivelä).

Every firm has leavers and joiners. Forrester’s lost several analysts over the last year (and of course) hired some. There were rumours: that a lot of discord was brewing with the analysts; that the firm is either gearing itself up to be bought; that it might make a major acquisition; that pressure was growing from Vendor Account Reps both on analysts (to tone down critical coverage) and on clients (to meet quarterly targets just at the moment).

However it’s interesting to see what and who is rising at Forrester.  Holger Kisker has joined from SAP and Nate Elliott came from Jupiter. But the real growth has been on the sales, marketing and program management sides of the business, which has been reinforced over the last year by Gregory Yard, Patti Taylor, Joseph Phillips, David Rezendes, Will Henke and Grey Keenan.

Despite that extra effort being poured into the relationship with clients, the firm’s not in great shape. While Gartner has been able to grow client numbers, Forrester has lost clients. Some of the dissatisfaction is, as we’ve noted recently, with vendors. Of course as AR people, vendor staff have to work with Forrester as it is: Go with the grain is our advice.

As we noted a couple of years ago, role-based research should have led to greater client satisfaction (perhaps even too much, to the degree where research quality becomes less important.  However, as clients many vendors remain deeply frustrated and struggle to see Forrester delivering the added-value it wants to see. Vendor’s MI and marketing teams sometimes don’t see Forrester as a partner, and some really expect it to do what’s told by the vendor community.

That’s why this week’s Forrester IT Forum in Europe this week will be such a significant opportunity for AR professionals to get a better feel for how different client sectors are responding.

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.