"Analysts have become regurgitators, not cogitators" says Jonathan Yarmis

"Analysts have become regurgitators, not cogitators" says Jonathan Yarmis

Summary: The 21st century analyst world is in crisis. This is how we got here. How do we get out from the morass?

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Jonathan Yarmis recently of Ovum messaged me with what you see as the headline to this article. I asked his permission to put this into the public domain. He said: 'proudly.' Why such ire from the past representative of a mainstream analyst firm? Step back.

Over the holiday break I took the opportunity to read and watch material on topics wholly unrelated to IT but which have everything to do with the way I see the world and the tangential influences on my life. This was important because one of the things I am trying to work out is how the analyst world is going to shape up in the next few years.

Disclosure: I am an advisory board member to Constellation Research. It is working its way towards finding a fresh approach to the business of IT analysis and research. It hasn't got there but it is making steady progress. I'm offering a few ideas. Some will stick, others will be modified, still more will be tossed in the can on the basis of the 1-19-80 rule. My modus is about attempting to keep the main analyst crew honest, fresh and genuinely differentiated. We'll see how well that works over time. In the meantime I make no claim to special insight other than closing in on 40 years around this business.

In a recent post, Vinnie Mirchandani suggested the 2000-2010 period was a 'lost decade:'

Honest CIOs will tell you it was mostly a “lost decade”. The hangover from poor payback Y2K projects which started the decade blended into just as poor ERP, Sarbanes and other compliance investments. There were few delighted consumers who lined up for blocks like they did for iPhones. Instead there were plenty of disgruntled users and critics like Nick “Does IT matter?” Carr. There is palpable frustration in most executive suites about technology costs and performance.

It's an authentic observation. I see much the same pattern among those who call themselves analysts. It seems to me that just as Tom Foremski suggests that 'we're all media now' pretty much anyone with a half baked opinion and a skill to write catchy headlines gets to call themselves an analyst. It has come to the point where anyone with a following of more than 10 people gets to spout whatever they wish with a good chance they get some attention. In principle that's not a bad idea. How else does the long tail of analysis surface and become considered of value? Yet that is only a fraction of the analyst story.

We are now told the 21st century is one where you should build your personal brand. Heck - some people are running courses for that. I don't recall that needing to be spelled out in 1995 when Gartner/AMR/IDC/Giga etc could each showcase a clutch of seriously talented analysts. Those were the days when getting a call took weeks with people like Vinnie, Jim Holincheck, Barry Wilderman, Erin Kinikin, Bruce Richardson, Erik Keller, Jeff Comport and many others. Those were the days when if an analyst of their calibre said something of importance, tech CEO's took interest...or tried to have them fired. Today? We have Twitter and the relentless pimping of me, me, me. A great example? 'I wanna be adored.'

The latest iteration of platforms for the self important is Quora. I love it. That's where I get to find the latest crop of attention seeking anal-ysts, assess the extent of their idiocy so I can ignore, block or otherwise avoid their regurgitory, brown nosing nonsense. Juxtapose that with the blatant vendor biased position of those once great firms.  Add the third leg of Silicon Valley attention seeking paid for junk and what do you get? Pap.

It is time for a real change. It is time for those that have been in the business trenches and know what it takes to build effective IT to step forward and push aside the fashion driven marketers masquerading as analysts. It is time to squish the idea that media is analysis and ask the question: Did you really think that or were you gaming Techmeme? Do you truly believe what you are saying or chasing the latest buzz phrase? Tell me, where is the evidence of which you speak so boldly and with such paper thin conviction?

Because when someone asks me the question: 'Why are you so rude?' I cannot help but retort: 'Why do you treat me like a childish fool?' Buyers deserve much better and a return to serious thought tempered by humility.

Rant over.

Topics: CXO, Enterprise Software

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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19 comments
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  • Praise the Lord!

    I'm so sick of people grabbing a twitter handle and "becoming the expert". Expert REQUIRES experience. For some reason, now all that appears to be required is showing up for the party. Literally...
    mncahill
  • RE:

    First, that was a hilarious video! Second, this is a great post. I don't put a lot of faith into any of major analyst companies like Forrester or Gartner or IDC. A lot of times they are just stating the obvious.
    Loverock Davidson
    • The classic definition of a consultant (or analyst)

      @Loverock Davidson <br><br>Our incumbent management consultants got the job by starting off their presentation with multiple "pronouncements" by Gartner et al. Then they proceeded to tell us how they disagreed with most of them. It was their answer to the "regurgitation" problem and demonstrating some critical thinking of their own. <br><br>Anyway, the classic definition of a consultant (or analyst) is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is, then keeps the watch.
      terry flores
  • Amen!

    This is something that I see day after day, specially regarding the mobile market. Ignorant US bloggers pontificate endlessly about what they think is good or bad, without objective facts, numbers, or worse: using the skewed numbers of the PR departments of their favorite company.

    Fact-checking? None. Self-analyzing the past to see if they were wrong or right on their predictions? Zero.

    The bigger the blog, the worst the content. From the top of my head, Engadget:

    Editorial bashing RIM: http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/15/editorial-rim-seems-to-be-as-lost-as-my-blackberry/

    Less than one week later, RIM delivers: http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/16/rim-beats-earnings-estimates-falls-just-shy-on-subscriber-growt/

    Did they ever bothered to write another one assessing their own assessment? HA!

    Kids this days...
    mrojasg
  • Re: The meaning of &quot;Analyst&quot;, &quot;Research&quot;, and &quot;Content&quot;

    Dennis,

    Very interesting and compelling sentiments.

    I guess I see some risks and dangers from multiple perspectives:

    1) The corruption of ?analyst? ? I do believe that it has become more difficult to distinguish between Analysts, analysts, writers, marketeers, and PWO (people with opinions).

    2) The corruption of research ? I have it in mind to write a piece as early as possible in 2011 on ?the white paper? one of the most misunderstood and misused terms, in my experience. This aside, it is clear to me that many people do not know how to do great research, and it is perhaps a bias of mine that research is a terrifically undervalued prerequisite for great writing.

    3) The corruption of content ? The exponentially heightened focus on content has led to such innovations as "content farms", Paper Li, and CopyPress. Far be it from me to judge the value of these various innovations; I have said publicly that I think there is a real danger when publishing becomes too quick and easy. I think we are seeing the results of this on a daily basis.

    There is a place for research and analysis. There is a place for content aggregation. But we owe it to each other to rigorously scrutinize the value of what we are producing, and to ask ?So What?? more than once, and revise accordingly, before we hit ?publish? or ?send?.

    If the result of your piece is that we each are on higher alert to represent ourselves more honestly, and scrutinize much more seriously the value of what we are adding to the conversation, then you have performed an invaluable service.

    Seth Godin offered something important, I thought, with his June 2010 piece, ?Do you have the right to be heard??, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/06/do-you-have-the-right-to-be-heard.html.

    Uh-oh, did I just regurgitate?

    Bob Eastman
    http://www.smbresearch.net
    REastman - SMB Research
    • RE:

      @REastman - SMB Research - I have much more to say on this...
      dahowlett
  • Whither Primary Research?

    Great points in your article and hilarious video clip, but you neglect to mention the role of primary research in the analysis process. Even the most experienced individuals can lose their objectivity without grounding their analysis with primary research. Then when it comes time to say why you speak so boldly, you will have data to back up your opinions.
    dpmenninger
    • RE:

      @dpmenninger - don't worry, I'll get to that
      dahowlett
  • RE:

    ZDNet does seem to worship analysts a bit too much. The future really is pretty much a crap shot, and trying to predict technology is like trying to predict the next roll of a dice.

    Asking Gartner about the future is like asking my next door neighbor about the future - and fankly my next door neighbor is usually more accurate.
    CobraA1
    • RE:

      @CobraA1 - Worship? I don't that's true. At least not on these pages.
      dahowlett
  • RE:

    The time when I most felt that analysts were just being 'regurgitators' was while watching my Twitter timeline during Workday's AR day. Obviously, you can only be so incisive in 140 characters but even so it was a serious love in. Funnily enough, Workday was congratulated on its AR approach on these very pages.<br><br><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/projectfailures/five-analyst-relations-lessons-from-workday/10581" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/projectfailures/five-analyst-relations-lessons-from-workday/10581" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.zdnet.com/blog/projectfailures/five-analyst-relations-lessons-from-workday/10581</a></a>
    Pete_S
    • RE:

      @Pete_S - as one of those on the Workday room I can tell you as a matter of fact those Tweets were sincerely written. If you'd care to take this up privately then email me.
      dahowlett
  • Bring on the flames, I am a heretic...

    The Analysts I know and the ones I follow on Twitter back up their statements with extensive research. The Analysts I know and respect are working 24x7 and are traveling constantly, meeting with customers and companies so they can provide insight to those of us who value their guidance. They are kicking the tires on new applications like Quora and Nimble so they can provide their thoughts to others who value their opinion. So if you are going to criticize "the Analyst" you should probably be more specific and name names, because they are NOT all alike.
    charlieisaacs
    • RE:

      @charlieisaacs Travelling a lot explains why they're buried deep in the concept of mobile devices being the future of everything. People tend to gravitate towards devices that suit their particular careers.
      CobraA1
    • RE:

      @charlieisaacs - I know THAT. Care to provide a list?
      dahowlett
  • Those who can't do, blog

    I think that says it all (apologies to Ed and others who actually do do).

    I'm afraid ZDNet is mostly entertainment, not analysis ;-)
    tonymcs@...
  • my observation

    Even when people do present some semblance of research along with their interpretation of the results there will be many who express disagreement. That disagreement takes on many forms. They may disagree with research methods, assumptions, constraints, data integrity, and interpretation of the results as well as an author's skills, expertise, ethics, and credibility (among other things). <br><br>For each piece of "research" published eventually someone will publish a report that claims the exact opposite. At the end of the day, readers--especially people who are not well versed on the topic of the reports--are stuck wondering which is the "right version" of the truth. <br><br>From a layman's perspective outstanding research, good research, shoddy research and opinion are pretty much the same damn thing. One person makes a claim. Someone else makes a different claim. And a third person complains about the work of the first two and how it doesn't meet their own quality standard. <br><br>So for the average person it isn't about the research itself, it's about determining who we happen to believe most, whether we're reading off-the-cuff opinion or extensive data-backed research.
    sqp
  • Re: &quot;Analysts have become regurgitators, not cogitators&quot;

    Great post, Dennis. I think back to my Summit Strategies days (late 1990s-early 2000s) and it was a totally different game then.

    Some of the changes have been for the better--such as that it's easier for smart people with expertise and opinions to get in the game--they don't need to be with Gartner, etc. or be part of an elite circle to get involved.

    But there's also much more noise and clutter to sort through. Since the genie's out of the bottle, though, I don't think that it will ever go back in!

    So, it all boils down to what it always has--does the consumer of the information trust the experience of the influencer and get value out of what he/she has to offer? Or not...
    Laurie McCabe
    • RE:

      @Laurie McCabe - problem? marketing....and the desperate need for companies to latch onto anything that sounds gorgeous instead of listening to buyers.
      dahowlett