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.