Thursday, May 27, 2010


Analyzing the Analysts: Comparison of Gartner and Forrester

I have frequent interactions with industry analysts in my day job as an Enterprise Architect for a Fortune 100 enterprise. Likewise, during evening hours I can be found on Twitter under the handle of McGovernTheory engaging in virtualized short-form conversations where many analysts also hang out.

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.

Outstanding Questions:
Analyst Background
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.

Outstanding Questions:
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.

Outstanding Questions:
Social Media
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.

Outstanding Questions:
Star Analysts
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.

Outstanding Questions:
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.

Outstanding Questions:
Practitioner-Level Research
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.

Outstanding Questions:

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...

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