Does Forrester have a conflict of interest with its AR workshop on the Wave and Magic Quadrant?

Tweet on Forrester AR workshopThere was an interesting tweet this morning (see graphic on right) about Forrester’s new AR training offering.

Hmm, interesting question.

What do you think? Is there:

  • A real conflict of interest?
  • A potential for a perception of conflict of interest?
  • No conflict what so ever?

We are looking to the members of the analyst ecosystem community – AR, analysts, IT managers, PR, research consumers – to weigh in on this issue. If you only have time to say “yes” or “no” that is fine, but we would like to get a little bit on why you answered the way you did.

Please spread the word about this post and let’s see if we can have another lively discussion about an important issue for the community.

Workshop description from Forrester’s website:

Raise Your Game In Waves, MQs, And Other Major Evaluations

Kevin Lucas, Senior Analyst, Forrester

Major comparative evaluations of technology or service sellers, like the Wave and the MQ, play a central part in the analyst relations (AR) programs of included vendors. Leadership placements can drive extensive marketing campaigns, generate leads, and help move deals forward, while poor placements leave these options to better-scoring competitors. Vendor approaches to such evaluations vary widely: Some are extremely organized, while others harm their cause by failing to understand the analysts objectives and processes or failing to marshal the right resources in the most effective way. AR teams must embark on such projects with a well-informed plan that identifies tasks, deliverables, participants, and due dates to insure the best possible contribution to evaluations like these.

In this interactive one-day Workshop, you will learn the fundamentals for organizing your company’s approach to major evaluations, culminating in the construction of a plan using Forresters major analyst evaluations project plan template, which you can then take away with you for use on your next evaluation. Forrester analysts will help you understand what role these evaluations play in the marketplace, how to factor the analyst’s research method into your project plan, and how to handle the evaluation criteria, customer references, report drafts, publication and promotional processes, and, if you need it, any damage limitation.

MQ (Magic Quadrant) is a service offering of Gartner, Inc. Gartner, Inc. is not affiliated in any way with the described workshop.

  • The Role And Impact Of Major Evaluations
  • Getting Started
  • The Impact Of The Analyst’s Project Plan
  • The Role Of Customer References
  • Analyst Interaction Options
  • Renewing And Negotiating Drafts
  • Publication And Promotion
  • Handling Inconvenient Results
  • An Evaluations Project Plan

21 thoughts on “Does Forrester have a conflict of interest with its AR workshop on the Wave and Magic Quadrant?

  1. No, I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest BUT AR professionals shouldn’t have to pay for a workshop to get this information. In my experience, the methodologies, criteria and weightings for Waves and MQs have been readily available from both Gartner and Forrester. Maybe that’s a function of the analysts with which I mainly worked. If you haven’t had the same transparency, demand it. Your key analysts and account managers should help you with this, provided you’re a client. If they’re falling short on client service you should call them out. After all, we invest a lot of resources – time, people and hard currency – in relationships with analyst firms.

  2. Ideally, these evaluations would be transparent and simple enough that they wouldn’t require a day-long training session to prepare for. It ought to be enough for the vendors to brief the analysts who cover them thoroughly. The very fact that training is required (or perceived to be required) is a red flag.

  3. There is the potential for a conflict of interest here, but so far Forrester has been studious in avoiding it. Forrester’s Analyst Relations Council has the potential to steer members in a direction that favors Forrester at the expense of other analyst firms, but that does not happen. The AR Council is very good at raising at raising the game of AR professionals regardless of the firms with which they engage. In the end, Forester benefits by taking the high road and offering valuable training to members, without steering the conversation to blatantly favor Forrester.

  4. I don’t think it’s a blatant conflict of interest. I do think it’s a (perceived) revenue opportunity with a relevant and (perhaps willing and lucrative) audience on the part of the analyst firm.

    In other words, a way to further maximize revenues with vendors, for fairly little intellectual outlay and pure research required. Maximum ROI for the investment given.

    Two points to make:

    1. What intrigues me here, is how and why Forrester is qualified to advise and teach AR professionals about how to maximize their ability to perform on a Gartner MQ/MarketScope or an Ovum Navigator !

    Each of these major evaluations measures different things and utilize different criteria and workflows both on the part of AR and on the part of the analysts conducting them. The process for vendors wanting to maximize their representation are generally common sense (but not common!) across all of the evaluations, and is NOT rocket science. Any experienced, effective AR professional is likely doing just about everything possible to maximize their firm’s ranking in these venues.

    2. The very fact that this type of “service” exists also sense the message that the ranking systems can be significantly influenced on the part of vendors. Isn’t this somewhat counterintuitive to the message that the analysts are projecting of being completely unbiased in their research findings, and particularly detached to the influence of vendors and their money?

    I’m not talking REALITY here, but rather the MESSAGE that analysts take pains to communicate to the market about their objectivity and influenceability.


  5. This is really a non-issue. Forrester has built a great forum and curriculum for its client base, where AR jocks can learn from each other, discuss industry issues and network. I really have no problem with Forrester charging for the workshop. They are a business afterall and have several client workshops related to their role-based research. Why should AR be any different? Lets be happy there is a firm taking an interest in our profession.

  6. (Posted by Carter on behalf of someone who wishes to be Anonymous)

    Gerry has a good point that if AR managers can apply proved and tested principles to get a better ranking in a Wave, then Forrester has an issue with objectivity.
    It implies that if a vendor refuses to participate, it will be badly rated.

    Taking the other side of this argument, how can Forrester teach AR professionals to influence a Gartner analyst for a Magic Quadrant? Letting alone the question of whether they are qualified (A: they are, Kevin Lucas was doing AR before switching to the dark side), the key word is “influencing”. That’s what AR is paid to do.

  7. As Kevin’s fortunate former colleague and having preceded him in launching the AR practice at Forrester, I can say that from Day One, the intent of Forrester’s AR practice was to do *research* – just as in other areas of coverage. We worked hard to base our work on what was demonstrably effective, both in documented data collected in surveys and in anecdotal interview-based analysis.

    As for the twin questions of objectivity and potential Forrester-centricity: when I first scoped the work out, I made it clear that I expected to survey analysts from other firms when studying how analysts behave – and I never had any serious opposition to that internally. One or two firms formally declined to participate. But their analysts did anyway. Kevin and I even conducted panels including analysts invited from other firms at Forrester events.

    With respect to the offering under discussion here, I was around for some of its development and I can assure you that the content is rich and filled with pragmatic, useful training. It genuinely offers ways to be succesful in anybody’s large evaluation. Like any other training, value is in the eye of the beholder. I recommend that anyone with doubts talk to a few participants – I supect you’ll hear positive feedback. Kevin does great work.

  8. I would call this a duality of interest, not a conflict of interest. The concern comes when there is a non-obvious conflict of interest – here, where is the conflict? Forrester, it seems to me, is obviously wanting to make money from this, and obviously getting the benefit of training AR’s to help their firms come to the technology bake-offs better prepared and more sensitive to the timelines, etc., and it seems extremely clear to me that all who participate in this workshop will see that it is likely to mainly benefit Forrester. As a former client research analyst at another analyst firm, I can speak from experience that anything you can do to help the technology vendors help you help them creates greater value for all.

  9. I agree with Merv (and others) in that I do not view this body of work as a conflict of interest. If we continue to look at the work product as research, I believe Forrester analysts (and others) could do a very good job advising AR professionals about Gartner MQ’s, and Ovum Navigators’ and other noteworthy ranking reports, in addition to their Forrester Waves.

    At the end of the day, it’s research. As was stated in previous posts, Gartner and Forrester are two firms which make their evaluation criteria very accessible. Hence, it should be no surprise to any AR professional when it comes to evaluation criteria for a particular report.

    I, for one, think it’s a good idea for AR professionals to explore how they can improve their company’s position in these ranking reports through the objective lens of other analysts.

    As for the hefty sum Forrester charges for the workshop, I recommend Forrester offer this and other workshops (once again, research) under its AR Council subscription.

  10. No comments about fees etc, but from the enterprise user perspective this looks like a great benefit since (like most of the comments here) I do trust Forrester to manage any potential conflict. What it should do is (a) raise the quality of information and completeness of coverage which Forrester are able to use and (b) simplify and streamline Forrester’s task in getting these reports timely to the enterprise community.

    For example: as a client, I’ve been told in the past that some specific high-profile product is omitted from a Wave because the vendor declined to submit it for evaluation; and this might be because a new release was due out and they didn’t want to be evaluated on an old one. If the process is shorter and the output better (because the information from the vendors is more easily collater and more reliable) then this is less likely to happen. And the information’s available to any vendor (whether for fee or included in some other subscription).

  11. From Facebook — Rob Kolokousis at 12:17pm May 21

    CJ: I think this is inappropriate content by Forrester and just a money making opportunity. While Forrester can talk to how best to work with their analysts on waves (provided all waves are created equal), they cannot comment on MQ;s or other signature reeserach…………….again, not all MQ;s are created equal. Forrester should offer a … Read Moresingle webinar free to their clients to get across the real topic, how to best work with Forrester so we have the data we need to develop a more accurate wave. While AR teams and the analysts probably talk about this one by one, a webinar would reach the masses faster.

  12. From Facebook — Bruce Stewart at 7:47am May 24

    Teaching people how to present and interact effectively is fine. Teaching them how to game the system is not.

  13. From Twitter — MarkPriscaro

    Re: Forrester Wave/MQ workshop, re: MQ advice, I dunno, that’s kinda like SAP asking Microsoft for marketing advice, isn’t it?

    10:21 AM May 20th from web in reply to carterlusher

  14. From Twitter — apearson

    with several significant caveats, however, most of which I agree with.

    6:39 AM May 20th from TweetDeck in reply to carterlusher

  15. From Twitter — janovum

    but several comments are answering a slightly different question which is arguably also important

    6:11 AM May 20th from Tweetie in reply to carterlusher

  16. From Twitter – ekolsky

    the only thing i learned about conflict of interest: it is perception, not reality that sinks you. (arthur andersen taught me)

    8:04 AM May 19th from TweetDeck in reply to carterlusher

  17. From Twitter – ekolsky

    not a conflict of interest unless they build expectations of better placement. definitely ill advised though….

    7:34 AM May 19th from TweetDeck in reply to carterlusher

  18. Under normal economic conditions, I doubt if Forrester comes up with the brainstorm to offer this product. One can argue make the argument that the move falls under the opportunistic umbrella. But it’s also a bit weird, like IBM offering a paid seminar on how to be more effective selling into IBM.

    1. Keeping with your analogy, it’s more like paying Oracle for a seminar on how to evaluate IBM or SAP products. How well would you trust that? Analyst firms do compete with each other.

      Reminds me of Deliverance.

  19. This really seems much ado about nothing. This appears to be a class to help you better understand the criteria used in the wave and MQ evaluations. There have been some great points that seasoned AR professionals already know what is needed to perform well in these evaluations, but we are not all seasoned AR professionals. It is valuable to better understand what the analysts are looking for vs. what we think we should want to tell them. I don’t see any conflict, because this class is arming you with a better understanding of the whole evaluation process, but not providing ways to dishonestly improve your results.

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