The Changing World Of Analyst Firms

It’s interesting to read analysts writing about the changing world of analysts firms, especially the ones with apocalyptic pronouncements. As a soloist focused on a relatively narrow and young niche – social tools – I really don’t come into contact with large companies interested in conventional analysis like Gartner and Forrester provide.

HFS, Will the industry analyst business be dead in five years?

Short-term attention-span theater has taken over, and some analyst firms are oblivious. Very few people have the patience, or inclination, to read detailed reports any more.  Even just five years’ ago, many people only checked email two or three times a day, allowing them to focus on tasks that required a lot of deep-thinking, reading and writing.  Nowadays, most people are checking email constantly, scanning tweets, Facebook status updates, LinkedIn invitations and contributing to whatever social group or network with which they like to spend time. Research needs to be served up in bite-sized chunks to stand any chance of being read.  The analyst firms are slowly becoming aware that few people read their stuff anymore, but persist in “checking the boxes”, forcing their analysts to meet their report quotas each year.  Their problem is that their product and revenue model is based on numbers of reports and hours of enquiry time – they are serving up expensive macro services, where their clients now want the micro.

There’s too much “research” being produced that’s not telling us anything new. I am actually hearing major IT/BPO providers and C-suite buyside executives declaring that today’s “traditional” research “isn’t relevant to them anymore”.  They just don’t see the point in a lot of it.  They’ve figured out how to sell/buy their products and services, and dont need some primadonna in their ivory towers telling them what they already know, using big words such as “ecosystem” and “agility”.  They view analysts as useful sounding boards and occasionally get some competitive intel out of them, but that’s really all the value they currently get, beyond favorable positions in scatterplot charts and after-dinner awards.


Buyers don’t read research.  Fact. I can tell you from years of experience that buyers will only read a research report if their job depended on it and it’s forced down their throats.  However, buyers love learning things that help them do their job better – they like listening to real experts and learning from each other.  Analysts need to spend as much time as they can talking with buyers and becoming a focal point for idea-sharing, knowledge, data and validation of their strategies.  While some analyst firms know this, many of their analysts rarely have more than two or three buyers in their Rolodex.

The large analyst firms lack rock-star visionaries. In years gone by, there were countless big personalities emanating from the Gartners, IDCs, Forresters at al.  Sadly, that number has dwindled as these firms felt the need to control and scale their corporate brands and keep their payroll under control. Moreover, the last thing they want are clients calling up demanding to talk with Bill, not Ben.  Innovation is bred from people with vision and personality – and the more analysts are “standardized”, the more the personality is drained from the product.  Analyst firms need to create new visionaries for clients – and maybe even dust off a few of the old ones knocking around somewhere in the blogosphere.  Hell – the retirement age is 70 now, so let’s bring some of the old egos back!

I agree that analyst firms have a morbid fascination with writing fat reports, perhaps because they have contrived a great deal of their operations around their production.

To the extent that conventional analysis firms persist in the near future, they will have to shift gears, or better yet, shift their gearing: they will have to adopt social media tempo and form factors, and craft interactive relationships with their clients based on a dramatically more open research approach than they have traditionally employed.

I also agree about the rock stars comment, in part. The very best minds with most distinctive voices are unlikely to accept being homogenized by a corporate machine, or being forced to paint neatly within the lines.

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