Tech Buyers Network With Peers To Aid Purchase Decisions

The exchange of information between peers is perhaps the most effective way for IT professionals to gather useful decision-making data, experts say.

Larry Greenemeier, Contributor

May 20, 2006

2 Min Read

Many IT decision makers, and even some analysts, concede that the best sources of information and advice are one's peers. The IT analyst market has in recent years picked up on this notion and begun to use Web portal technology to establish peer-to-peer communities where business and technology executives can turn directly to each other for insights.

"As tech spending has slowed down, people have come to rely on larger networks of people to help them make decisions," says Louise Garnett, VP and lead analyst with Outsell, a firm that tracks the market research and analyst industries.

Connecting with peers helps to round out information IT professionals depend on. But IT pros should tap diverse streams of data and be careful not to rely solely on RSS feeds or similar tools for all of their information, cautions Karen Coburn, president and CEO of Cutter Consortium, which is adding RSS capabilities to a recently launched a Web site. Use your peers and resources on the Web to challenge your perspectives rather than merely reinforce them, Coburn says. Cutter, which resembles a peer-based think tank as much as a traditional analyst firm, is planning to launch a blog that will make use of its worldwide network of 150 analysts, many of whom are pulled from industry and academia and aren't full-time Cutter employees.

In 1998, research firm Corporate Executive Board launched online forums specifically to meet the needs that CIOs and other technology executives had in aligning IT and business strategy. Corporate Executive Board provides research, decision-support tools, and executive education to its members. Once AMR, Forrester Research, and Gartner got wind of these peer-to-peer services, they began to adopt this business model for their clients, Garnett says. Forrester and Gartner have membership boards where tech buyers subscribe to become part of a group of peers, she adds.

The exchange of information between peers is perhaps the most effective way for IT professionals to gather useful decision-making data, says Brian Kardon, Forrester's chief strategy and marketing officer. Forrester in 2003 launched its leadership board peer network, which includes 554 members. The firm also lets its clients vote via the Forrester Web site or write-in ballot for the content they'd like to see Forrester analysts produce.

The best source of advice is someone who's already been where you're going, says Vinnie Mirchandani, a former Gartner analyst who now runs a consulting business. "Most CIOs won't tell you this, but they will hear a fellow buyer and believe them before they believe a journalist or analyst."

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