I recently saw this question on Twitter. It was from an AR practitioner, but it also applies to research consumers as well. Several studies* of IT manager clients surfaced that “objectivity” or some variation is an important consideration for buying analyst services. But is this a reasonable expectation for the research consumers? The answer is a qualified “yes” and there are ways for analyst clients to ensure that objectivity is as high as possible.While it is our opinion that analysts do not pull their punches because vendors are clients (see Analyst integrity issues – the urban legend that won’t die), that does not mean that analysts are 100% objective all the time. Every person has life experiences that will permanently or temporarily make them a little less objective. AR teams may have their doubts about some analysts – but they are indeed human. Their bias can show when answering a client’s inquiry or writing a research note. Reasons include:
- Background – Analysts can come to their current jobs after being an IT manager (like me), a vendor (usually product management), a reporter, a firm client service staffer, a college student or from some other career. The analyst’s background can significantly influence his or her thinking, especially soon after joining the firm. This bias fades over time.
- Philosophy – People can have a philosophical bias for or against a particular industry trend (e.g., open source software). This bias can lead to the so-called religious wars where both sides of an issue will vehemently argue their position without listening to the other side.
- Demo glow – There are times when a vendor technology demonstration will be so effective that analysts will temporarily become infatuated with the product or technology. This state of mind usually fades within days or a few weeks.
- Effective outreach by vendor – A vendor can bombard an analyst with lots of content, executive access and attention and effectively shape the analyst’s worldview and opinion of other vendors.
- Ineffective outreach by vendors – In the same vein, badly conducted interactions or neglect by AR teams can leave key analysts with negative feelings or lack of information
* Studies: InformationWeek, SageCircle, Analyst Strategy Group, Hill and Knowlton
SageCircle Technique: When conducting an inquiry, research consumers – whether IT managers or vendors – should tactfully probe the analyst’s thought processes to ensure that subconscious biases are not coloring the analyst’s recommendations.
- During an inquiry with an analyst they do not know, research consumers should ask the analyst about their background and how long they have been with the firm.
- During an inquiry, ask the analyst what would cause them to recommend a course of action 180 degrees different. If the analyst says “nothing,” then philosophical bias might be present
- During an inquiry, ask the analyst if all the vendors being covered in the conversation have been equally effective in keeping the analyst briefed. If the answer is “no,” probe to see where the analyst is getting information about vendors who are doing a less effective job of briefing the analyst
- If the analyst seems really positive about a particular product – and it is the type that can be demoed – ask the analyst whether the vendor had recently demonstrated the product for the analyst. If the analyst gets rhapsodic in their enthusiasm for a recent demo it is possible the analyst is in the grip of demo glow
Bottom Line: IT analyst clients have to use good research consumer techniques to ensure maximum value from their analyst services contracts. One technique to use is to determine whether any subtle biases are affecting the analysts’ research and recommendations.
Question: Research consumers – Do you consistently check to ensure that the analysts are as objective as humanly possible?
Are you getting the most from your analyst contracts? SageCircle can help. Our strategists can:
- Evaluate the usage of your contracted analyst services and suggest ways to maximize business value from your investment
- Train your colleagues with analysts seats (e.g., Gartner Advisory and Forrester Roleview) through efficient and effective distance learning via webinar or teleconference
- Critique your upcoming analyst contracts to ensure you are getting the right services from the right firms to meet your business needs
- Save you time, money and aggravation
To learn more contact us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or 650-274-8309.
Since 2000, SageCircle has helped analyst relations teams to focus on business value by encouraging innovative thinking that leverages insights and drives revenue.