The Analyst’s Dillema: Not Everything Sucks

By Rich

There’s something I have always struggled with as an analyst. Because of the, shall we say, ‘aggressiveness’ of today’s markets and marketers, most of us in the analyst world are extremely cautious about ever saying anything positive about any vendors. This frequently extends to entire classes of technology, because we worry it will be misused or taken out of context to promote a particular product or company. Or, as every technology is complex and no blanket statement can possibly account for everyone’s individual circumstances, that someone will misinterpret what we say and get pissed it doesn’t work for them.

What complicates this situation is that we do take money from vendors, both as advisory clients and as sponsors for papers/speaking/etc. They don’t get to influence the content – not even the stuff they pay to put their logos on – but we’re not stupid. If we endorse a technology and a vendor who offers it has their logo on that paper, plenty of people will think we pulled a pay for play.

That’s why one of our hard rules is that we will never specifically mention a vendor in any research that’s sponsored by any vendor. If we are going to mention a vendor, we won’t sell any sponsorship on it.

But Mike and I had a conversation today where we realized that we were holding ourselves back on a certain project because we were worried it might come too close to endorsing the potential sponsor, even though it doesn’t mention them. We were writing bad content in order to protect objectivity.

Which is stupid.

Objectivity means having the freedom to say when you like something. Just crapping on everything all the time is merely being contrarian, and doesn’t necessarily lead to good advice.

So we have decided to take off our self-imposed handcuffs. Sometimes we can’t fully dance around endorsing a technology/approach without it ending up tied to a vendor, but that’s fine. They still never get to pay us to say nice things about them, and if some people misinterpret that there really isn’t anything we can do about it.

We have more objectivity controls in place here than any other analyst firm we’ve seen, including our Totally Transparent Research policy. We think that gives us the freedom to say what we like. And, to be honest, we can’t publish good research without that freedom.

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Rich - I have come close to writing this post twice in the last three months - and I am not even sure what project or vendors _you_ are talking about - based upon research and projects I am focused on.

My particular problem is there are a couple of vendors who simply embody an idea/concept or technology in such a way that they are, well, the Q-tip for their industry segment. It embodies or represents an idea rather than denotes quality. You say Q-tip and people know what you are talking about. The problem is with every vendor vying for market position and differentiation (our cotton is way better and we use a bio-degradable plastic handle blah blah blah) somebody throws poop at you for making an endorsement when you merely want to add clarity.

This is becoming a really big issue with cloud service providers because we have the *aaSes (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), both public and private. I have like 25 service providers on a list and trying to keep each straight when talking to customers or describing in blog posts is a nightmare. It makes sense to offer a recognizable reference point when trying to categorize core vendor services. And if something is good and it works for a particular service type, we should be able to say that in non-paid research projects.


By Adrian Lane

Rich, I say “Bravo!” for being forthcoming about your situation, for opting for better content instead of less possible controversy, and for standing behind the TTR policy.

I think Securosis’ reputation speaks for itself at this point, enough that your readers won’t over react to an occasional “...and product X did this very important thing really well…”.

Of course, if you start to conduct your research in the vendor-supplied luxury suite at a Cardinals game, I reserve the right to change my mind :)

By Pj

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