Demystifying The World of Analysts
4 lessons that can help you make better purchase decisions
While I’ve been an avid reader of Gartner, Forrester, Frost & Sullivan and other analyst reports for years, I recently had the opportunity to contribute directly to those analysts’ research and through the process, I learned quite a lot. Here are the top four ahas.
I am stunned by how many “other” analysts are out there, aside from “the biggies”. Every industry has its own ‘trade rags’ but I’ve never realized how many sector-specialized analysts there were until I was asked to help those researchers understand Crownpeak’s digital experience platform position within the competitive landscape.
Some of these “niche analysts” are helpful, productive, and insightful because of their intentionally limited focus and ability to specialize. The Digital Clarity Group is one example.
But there are other boutique analyst groups that suffer from their smaller scale and cannot compete with their larger, less specialized brethren in the quality of their research. Due to what I can only assume are smaller budgets, they rely solely on passive methods and tertiary resources. This results in a less comprehensive and severely sub-par analysis.
The Lesson: If you’re using analyst reports to help evaluate vendors, make sure you’re aware of the methods being used by these analysts. Look for those that are actively engaged with multiple perspectives of the market place.
The leading firms have a major publication (e.g. The Wave or The Magic Quadrant) supported by a number of other, more nuanced or ad-hoc publications over the course of their publication cycles. The research for the major publications tend to follow some variation of these tried and tested, usually well-coordinated, activities:
- Select the most competitive participants,
- Issue a questionnaire, akin to an RFP or RFI,
- Conduct an in-depth briefing and demonstration,
- Exchange of drafts and comments, and then;
- Final publication.
Some of these questionnaires are exhaustive (quantity) while others are incisive (quality). Overall I’ve been impressed with the thoroughness and the objectivity of most researchers.
The Lesson: There is a benefit to relying (at least to some degree) on the research of high-quality, highly trusted analysts.
The third and fourth lessons might seem to contradict the second lesson to some degree, but stick with me…
I have great respect for the analysts with whom I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over the past year. For the most part, they are an extremely thoughtful, intelligent, and professional group of people.
But industry analysts are fallible too. They sometimes miss, misinterpret, or misunderstand the facts. Do I believe that this is intentional, and that “pay to play” incentives are the root cause for this? Not for the vast majority of the analyst community, no. I simply believe they, like most of us, are moving quickly, are deadline-driven and will not allow perfection to be the enemy of “great and on-time.”
The Lesson: For anything mission-critical in your project, verify those details in your own evaluations of potential solutions providers.
There is no way an analyst can assess the field from every nuanced point of view, including and especially yours.
While the leading industry analysts do an extraordinary job of evaluating a large landscape, only select criteria are applicable to your company’s current situation. Otherwise, everyone would just pick the player that is in the “top right” corner (or whatever the highest ranking position is) in any given analyst publication.
Even analysts themselves will tell you to select a provider based on your specific needs. Most of the big analyst firms will point out that each of the organizations featured in their publications merit consideration in one way, shape or another, but the point bears repeating.
The Lesson: Prioritize the problems you’re trying to solve in order to select a contender and use the analysts’ input as one but not the only source of information for your selection.
As I mentioned, I’ve been a consumer of analyst publications for years, both as a solution buyer and as a basis for understanding the competitive landscapes in which I’ve participated. This past year of engaging with analysts to aid their research has brought me a new perspective, appreciation, and a few lessons worth sharing. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and invite you to reach out to me with your own thoughts on the subject!