Forbes | March 31, 2014

An End To The Traditional Analysis Model? More Analysts Go To The Vendor Side

The traditional IT analyst world is an interesting place. Sitting as I do somewhere between “press” and “analyst”, I’m always interested to watch both sides. Since some vendors put me in the analyst camp I get to attend lots of analyst briefings and events but at the same time I also go to many traditional press events. I’ve always been a little dismissive of the traditional models of analyst relations and press relations. It seems to me that the artificial divide between AR and PR is increasingly becoming a false one – some of the best tech journalists write insightful analysis that is up there with the best (good examples include Jack Clark at The Register and Alex Williams, formerly of TechCrunch). At the same time some of the best traditional analysts have a journalistic-like cadence towards publishing (case in point Holger Mueller of Constellation Research and Rene Buest at Crisp Research). As such trying to keep these two groups apart is kind of nonsensical.

This contention is borne out by those players who are seemingly impossible to categorize – Paul Miller, like myself, is regarded as press by some vendors, but as an analyst by others. And we’re not alone, there are many who are in this apparent middle ground. I wrote about the topic a few years ago and contrasted modern approaches towards AR/PR with more traditional ones. As I said at the time:

“The bottom line here is that we (the industry observers) can no longer be put into defined buckets – there’s not a bucket for analysts and one for bloggers, one for press and one for customers. We’re different and hence need to be treated individually, it’s possible to conclude that how a vendor treats those who think, write and opine about it can be paralleled to how they feel about heir customers, their industry and their world. Maybe that’s overstating it a little, but having that’s what it feels like me at the receiving end of all of this.”

As the pace of change in the industry increases, traditional analyst models (deep research, long-form reports, delayed reaction and hyper-expensive subscription models) seem destined to fail – to be replaced by something more akin to the nimble services delivered by new-age firms such as Constellation Research, Cloud of Data, Red Monk and my own practice.

So in light of all of these changes, and having spoken with analysts for the big firms about their frustrations with the status quo, it’s interesting to reflect on the quantity of traditional analysts that are moving over to the vendor side. In just the last few months we’ve seen some big names – Chris Wolf, formerly of Garter and now CTO of VMwareThomas Otter, also of Gartner and now PM at SuccessFactors. Aneel Lakhani, formerly Gartner (see a trend here?) and now at CloudPhysics. Alessandro Perilli from Gartner to RedHat and Ian Glazer from Gartner to CRM +1.7%. All of these analysts have left the ivory towers behind and moved to the less stable, but arguably far more exciting world of the vendors.

The latest to join this exodus is Chris Gaun who moved from Gartner over to PaaS vendor Apprenda. While it would be possible to suggest this is simply a case of analysts attracted to the allure of big vendor pay-packets, I think there is something more going on here. The rationale for traditional analyst firms seems broken in this modern world where content takes on different forms. One ex-Gartner analysts who wanted to remain anonymous told me that:

“the problem is that analyst firms think they’re in the publishing business, but that’s not why customers are paying”

The same ex-analyst also suggested that the industry is vulnerable to disruption and disaggregation. I reached out to one of the most recent defectors, Chris Gaun, to get his thoughts on the topic and his justification for moving over to PaaS vendor Apprenda. According to Gaun’s viewpoint, cloud is an area where you get to mold a new technology that is expanding at double, sometimes triple, digit growth year over year. The allure of being part of such a disruptive process was just too much for him to say no to. Gaun believes the likes of Gartner still have a place, but suggested that newer ways of working will come to dominate their businesses – he called out Gartner’s Technology Planner and Gartner for Technical Professionals as two examples.

Technology Planner is an interactive, web-based tool that continuously updates with data to help Gartner customers create detailed, customized reports and support IT environment and infrastructure analysis. GTP is a project-based technical research team. Both of these products aim to deliver up-to-date and relevant information to customers and not simply dry analyst reports and Magic Quadrants.

Clearly the traditional analyst firms aren’t going to fail any time soon, but at the same time there are significant disruptions coming down the line to them – more analytical journalists and crowd sourced technology recommendation offerings are two examples. At the same time the large number of analysts moving to the vendor side shows that arguably the cachet that comes with being an analyst with a top tier firm is no longer enough to overcome the financial return that can come from being part of a successful technology vendor’s journey. It is fascinating watching these sector changes occurring right in front of us.