Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
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5/14/2007
06:07 PM
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Why Is Everyone So Afraid Of IT Analysts?

The ink was barely dry on last year's InformationWeek cover story analyzing the credibility of IT analysts when the e-mails started hitting my inbox. Some readers applauded our efforts to examine the criticism often leveled at the analyst market, while others thought the story fell flat for lack of specific or new examples. Funny thing about the latter -- whenever I'd get a supposedly jilted customer

The ink was barely dry on last year's InformationWeek cover story analyzing the credibility of IT analysts when the e-mails started hitting my inbox. Some readers applauded our efforts to examine the criticism often leveled at the analyst market, while others thought the story fell flat for lack of specific or new examples. Funny thing about the latter -- whenever I'd get a supposedly jilted customer on the phone, they'd clam up.During my research for the Feb. 6, 2006, story, I found some good examples to sufficiently illustrate the flaws in the IT analyst system. But I found no smoking gun, no IT executive or vendor who would tell me what it was "really" like dealing with the Forresters, Gartners, IDCs, and Yankee Groups of the business world. Sure, anonymous readers would accuse these companies of trying to make markets rather than analyze them. Others pointed out that the analyst market was driven by "pay-for-play": if you want to be at the top of the next IT vendor analysis report, you need to be a paying customer.

But very few sources wanted to stand behind their convictions. I was recently asked to examine the prospects of a third story on this topic (the second one ran in the May 22, 2006, issue of InformationWeek). The CEO of a software company had written an editor here to belatedly applaud last year's story and complain of firsthand mistreatment at the hands of the analyst community. I'd been through several situations like this last year. Every time I got the author of such an e-mail on the phone, they would tone down their criticism and, often, would refuse to go on the record with their complaints.

What's everyone so afraid of? I certainly understand the role that analysts play in promoting one's products and services, but is there a problem here or not? The fact that so many people are unwilling to stand behind their criticisms makes me wonder if (a) they're just sour grapes because an analyst firm didn't like their products or gave them advice they disagree with, or (b) the analyst community does in fact hold too much sway over the companies that buy and sell information technology.

Tell me I'm wrong, but please do it on the record.

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