When it comes to IT analysis, there are two sets of customers: business technology managers and technology vendors. Other than a few outspoken vendors (such as Oracle), many are guarded about their opinions of analyst firms for fear that their products or strategies won't be mentioned or recommended in an analyst's report. Some smaller vendors say they're outright ignored because they don't (or can't afford to) purchase the firm's services. Their suspicions are supported by a former analyst I spoke with the other day. She said revenue was the driving factor behind her firm's analysis. "Rarely did we do anything for the sake of getting information out there. We were discouraged from having briefings with vendors if it didn't seem as though they were going to sign on as clients." That attitude, of course, could affect the kind of analysis on which business technology managers base their buying decisions.
Before I go any further, let me stress that I'm not suggesting all IT analyst firms behave this way. In fact, Al Biland, CIO at Snap-on, says he's gotten great advice about smaller vendors from analyst firms. I'll also add that CMP Media, which owns InformationWeek, sells IT market research, that reporters at InformationWeek often seek out opinions from analysts, and that InformationWeek.com sells reports from various analyst firms. So we aren't here just to criticize.
To wit, this week's cover story ("The Reality Of Research"), by senior writer Steve Konicki, will give you a good idea where business technology managers get the most value from the analyst community and where they believe they've been burned. Find out, too, how some firms are changing in order to stay relevant. IT analysts who might be reading our story will learn three primary lessons: Cut the B-to-B hype (some may tell the media to do the same!); don't play the role of the "yes man"-tell your clients if their strategies are wrong; and help your clients better understand their customers, not just their competitors.
Let us know about your experience with IT analysts.