Thursday, May 27, 2010
Analyzing the Analysts: Comparison of Gartner and Forrester
I currently follow the likes of Ray Wang of Altimeter, Nick Selby of Trident Risk Management, Brenda Michelson of Elemental Links, James Governor of Redmonk and others who periodically throw daggers. Their comparisons are usually cordial and tend to leave out certain relevant detail for us end-customer types to fully understand the real conversation. The challenge of the outsider looking in.
Industry Analyst Relations professionals such as Barbara French and Carter Lusher provide great insight for vendors on which analyst firms to work with, but otherwise leave a void in that they don't address end customer considerations. Today's blog entry starts with me attempting to emulate their style. Imitation is the best form of flattery...
At Gartner, Analysts do limited consulting engagements. Much of the consulting is handled by a dedicated consulting team. At Forrester, Analysts have a mix workload of consulting and research.
McGovern’s Take: There is something to be said for having more time to dedicate to research. The challenge is in doing research that is relevant to the challenges that end-customers face. At times, you need to be in the heart of the conversation, while at others you need to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
- Does less frequent face-to-face interaction with end-customers cause depression? Being trapped in one’s home office for extended periods can make your home feel like a prison.
- Does so much consulting result in another form of burnout? I would think that traveling to different clients potentially in different time zones would cause every day to feel like a permanent jet lag?
At Gartner, the vast majority of analysts come from an end-customer background with IT vendors as the second. At Forrester, A significant portion of the analysts come from a journalism background.
McGovern’s Take: Journalism teaches one to become more aware of market trends, while coming from a practitioners perspective allows you to separate out marketing from reality.
- Do clients of analyst relations firms such as Tekrati and SageCircle ever consider what is most important to getting their product message out? A journalist can write marketing materials that vendor sales teams can use, but to truly influence an end-customer such as myself, this also best realized by having a conversation with someone who has walked in my shoes.
- A practitioner can functionally decompose a problem-domain and has the potential to provide guidance not just in the marketing aspects of any given product, but may be able to comment on the architecture of the product as well. Do analyst relations professionals only consider the marketing aspects?
At Gartner, Analysts only speak at events where they are sponsored. At Forrester, Analysts can speak at any event. It is up to them to manage.
McGovern’s Take: There is a subtle distinction between events that help build an analysts brand vs events that help increase direct analyst revenue. Limiting the events that an analyst can speak at can serve to build brand in a way that avoids commoditization. Limiting the events that an analyst can speak at may encourage analysts to research popular topics vs those that are necessary for complete coverage.
- Do analyst relations firms ever encourage their clients to consider sponsoring analysts for speaking engagements at conferences? For example, could Fortify Software benefit by having Neil MacDonald speak at the upcoming OWASP conference or say could Whitehat Security benefit by having say Chenxi Wang speak on web vulnerability scanning tools at BlackHat?
- In terms of analyst relations, I would think that sponsoring an analyst in this manner would allow for more intimate conversations above and beyond a ½ hour dialog. Why aren’t analyst relations firms figuring out creative ways for vendors to put the words into the mouths of analysts?
I absolutely love BurtonGroup.TV. The conversational style absolutely rocks. At Forrester, analyst participate more frequently and engage in conversations via Twitter than many of their peers.
McGovern’s Take: I could envision customer inquiries regarding social media where customers have to resort to using traditional telephone technology. Analysts have a personal vested interest in keeping tabs of the pulse of their coverage area, and social media is the most up-to-date relevant method for doing so.
- The model of measuring influence is busted and there is a growing chasm between how vendors think enterprise buyers think about technology vs how we actually think about technology. If you look at Twitter as a micro chasm of society, increasingly people are having less appetite to read long-form information. If this is the trend, why are analyst relations firms not talking their clients out of working with analyst firms who create reams of documentation?
- Why aren’t analyst relations firms asking analysts to do podcasts or other modern methods? Webinars are good, but have you considered how much multitasking goes on while at work? Do you think I am truly capturing the full value of the message being delivered? Have you considered that I probably have lots of idle time during my commute and can listen to podcasts where I can spend more think time on your value proposition?
Gartner has a thriving Fellows program where star analysts are given a year to research topics of interest to them. I am unsure of what the equivalent at Forrester is.
McGovern’s Take: Ray Wang and others have frequently discussed the challenge of maintaining top talent within analyst firms. At some level, the conversation should be less about ego and should be driven by dollars and sense. If an analyst brings in lots of money and is profitable to the firm, pay them for doing so.
- At work, I am surrounded by lots of former Accenture employees. Other firms such as Mckinsey, Diamond, Deloitte and so on have strong alumni networks. Would love to know why analyst firms arent leveraging their network in this regard?
- There is something to be said about eliminating star analysts as it has the side effect of allowing up-and-comers their opportunity to shine. Should analyst firms figure out better ways for each and every analyst to get their day in the spotlight instead of reserving it for the select few?
At Gartner, members of analyst teams tend to be distributed in different parts of the United States. At Forrester, members of analyst teams tend to be clustered around a Forrester office.
McGovern’s Take: I am probably over generalizing but based on my own experiences with both firms, this tends to hold true. For example, in Gartner I have had great interactions with Ian Glazer, Bob Blakely, Mike Gotta, Ramon Krikken and Anne Thomas Manes. From what I know, none of them even live in the same state as each other let alone near a Gartner office. My interactions with Forrester analysts have included Chenxi Wang, Andrew Jacquith, Alex Cullen whom all live in the Boston area near the Forrester office. I would think that analyst firms should hire talent regardless of where they live. This worst practice is a fatal flaw in many enterprises. If we can outsource business processes around the planet, I think we should be able to figure out how to let a few employees not live near an office.
- I haven’t yet figured out whether the differences in approach are one of culture or lack of tools or both? If analysts can collaborate with us end customers without being in the same geographical reason, what requires them to be in the same geographical location as each other?
- There are times when I love to work virtually at home with my coworkers and others where I appreciate being able to have a room with lots of whiteboards. I know that analysts can also collaborate at conferences they all collectively present at. This begs the question of how much cross-analyst collaboration is beneficial.
Gartner's recent acquisition of Burton Group proves out its commitment to the IT practitioner within the enterprise. I have not observed an equivalent within Forrester's business model.
McGovern’s Take: The vast majority of published analysis seems targeted at making a procurement decision which in the eyes of this enterprise architect feels fugly. If analysts are to truly provide guidance to enterprises, they not only need to assist with product selection but also provide architecture-level guidance as well. There is incredibly benefit from analysts not only enumerating industry standards but being a catalyst in the modification of existing ones and creating new ones where they are needed.
- If analysts are driving standards, do analyst relations firms guide their clients to understand this as a method of analyst influence as well. For example, Gerry Gebel formerly of the Burton Group drove interoperability discussions across vendors. The very nature of this activity would require him to spend a lot more time understanding the unique characteristics of each vendor than analysts who only publish product selection documentation. I know the likes of Mark Diodati of Gartner will do the same for SPML. So, this begs the case of analyst relations understanding and guiding their clients on which consortium to participate on, whom to send and how it will result in increased sales.
- The Gartner website indicates that they have 80% of the Fortune 500 as clients. What is missing from the equation is how deeply they penetrate each of their clients. If you were to study the organization chart of my employer, you would note that the procurement department is centralized and located within one building. The ability to produce product selection documentation for their benefit is relatively straightforward. However, if you were to study the IT organization, you would find that it is highly distributed across at least six different locations. At some level, this feels like analyst firms leaving money on the table by not pursuing practitioners. If an analyst firm has experienced talent with hands-on experience and has walked in the client’s shoes, why would they not want to pursue this market? They have the potential of taking money away from consulting firms such as Deloitte, Accenture, etc. What is the impediment for taking the next step?
There are probably lots of other dimensions on which these two great firms could be compared on that I didn't think about. Anyway, hopefully a few analysts who happen to read this post will reply back and share their insight to some of the questions asked. I am thinking about doing a similar comparison in the future between RedMonk and the Altimeter Group which will most certainly put a smile on both James Governor and Charlene Li's face. Stay tuned...