The recent Institute of Industry Analyst Relations poll results produced some startling results. While the power hitters of Gartner, IDC and Forrester were well represented, it was the boutique groups that caught my attention. Redmonk, MWD and Freeform Dynamics all performed well across multiple categories, despite being minnows in the panoply of analyst groups.
Knowing James Governor, Dale Vile and Michael Cote adds a certain poignancy for me. They can all stand their own in the most powerful company albeit from very different perspectives. All are proponents of what they term the 'open source model of analysis,' where most of what they know is freely available on their blogs or websites. As Dale noted on my personal weblog:
The thing about the IIAR poll that pleased me was the bit about integrity, independence and industry knowledge being so frequently mentioned as criteria. I think the community-oriented analysts have an advantage here as an open approach and open dialogue keeps you well tuned in to what really matters to people and keeps everything very clean and unbiased.
At another level, I wonder whether this poll reflects a subtle change in the analyst landscape. Three years ago, the open source crowd wouldn't have figured in the rankings. But then there are other differences. Ray Wang, who was named analyst of the year (with James Governor taking a creditable third place) was recently interviewed by IIAR. He said:
There is a real concern that analysts no longer make the tough calls and that overall analyst quality has declined. Analyst firm business models continue to shy away from star analysts who bring charisma, real world experience, and an ethos of quality.
Ray's candor is to be applauded, coming as it does at a time when the 'household names' seem beholden to the vendor communities they increasingly serve. Vinnie Mirchandani observes that:
It is interesting that Gartner is ranked 10th in relevance but 1st in importance. The surveyed audience was mostly vendor analyst relations folks. That's code for they cannot ignore Gartner, but wish it was nicer.
My problem comes in understanding the difference between the two measures. Importance to whom? Relevance to what? I can only guess but my conversations with large enterprise vendors suggest analysts are still regarded as important reference points in deal negotiations, even though they are only one of many reference points.
Relevance is a more subjective topic. If we're talking the developer community then I know Redmonk is highly regarded among a number of the vendor developer communities and especially among startups where help is often most urgently needed. If we're talking about the C-suite in Fortune 500 companies then I'd expect a different picture to emerge where the tick box reference is more important.
If we include the enterprise software bloggers, I'd argue that loose associations like the Irregulars are emerging in importance as quasi-analysts adding nuance to the otherwise more formal views of the traditional analyst community. I only have to consider that Vinnie and Zoli Erdos were recently named to the Industry Standard's top 25 B-Z list of bloggers as justification for that position. Whichever way you want to slice and dice the influencer landscape, things are changing. But then as a buyer advocate who throws the odd pebble into the void left by the large, vendor funded analysts, I would say that - wouldn't I?
In the meantime, I hope the independents continue to achieve the recognition they deserve. Regardless of what anyone thinks about their business model, they are achieving the kind of prominence that only comes from hard work and talent that is appreciated by their customers.