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Finding vendors: Magic Quadrants and so on 6 Jan 2009

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, Managing IT, Technorati.
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Carter Lusher of Sage Circle reports an interaction between Andreas Bitterer of Gartner and a smaller vendor who’s taken issue with coverage in a Magic Quadrant. Credit, as Carter says, to both parties for engaging in a public discussion about this.

If you’re a user IT organisation with a relevant subscription, you probably use the Magic Quadrant (or Forrester’s equivalent, the Wave) to assess the players in a particular marketplace. If so, it’s well worth reading this post to better understand these methodologies. It appeared over the holiday period, so you might have missed it.

Sage Circle looks at it from the vendor’s angle, for Analyst Relations professionals. Here’s a thought for the enterprise IT team.

If you are inclined to look at emerging or niche vendors, or at Open Source (the issue which triggered Carter’s posting), then the mainstream market assessments probably won’t see them, and the main insight providers probably won’t cover them. The same’s true if you are investigating a niche area. I was asked, once, to find a hosting service experienced with a specialised software product. In its own market area, this application was a leader; but it wasn’t exactly mainstream ERP! There was no analyst coverage at all, within our available subscriptions.

In this situation you can try three things.

First, find a niche insight provider which specifically covers the market, if there is one. Ask InformationSpan: we have the database, and the review is almost complete (I’ve got to “T”!), but one thing I do know now is that not all niches have this kind of specialist coverage.

Second, make your own assessment. Both Gartner and Forrester publish their criteria, though Forrester provide more complete details; if you’re in an area where there is no coverage then look at a related MQ or Wave for ideas what you ought to assess.

If you’re looking at niche vendors in a major area where there is coverage, remember that Forrester make available the full model including data and weightings. You can adjust the weightings to create your own Wave, and if some of those criteria aren’t of interest to you in relation to your niche interests, or you can’t either research or estimate them, then just zero-weight them. You can’t add data to a Wave, but you can work in parallel with it. And validate it with an analyst when you’ve done the work: they might well see something you’ve missed.

Third, you can ask the analyst to do custom research. Again, with a niche product there will be criteria they can’t assess – there won’t be a sizeable user community to ask questions of, for example. This may be useful for a niche product in a major area; in a specialist area it’s likely you’ll know more about it yourself and, because they’ll start from a lower base, it will be expensive. They may even say “no”. But they will work, so far as possible, to their standard methodology and this will make comparison easier; aside from not having to do all the work yourself!

Oh – and a Happy New Year! There’s plenty of talk about managing through the recession. I still like George Colony’s take: including, hire the smart MBAs who are not now going into finance!

Links:
• Vendor complains in a very public blog post about Gartner’s Data Integration Magic Quadrant Sage Circle, 29 Dec 2008
Setting the Record Straight Andreas Bitterer, Gartner blog, 28 Dec 2008
• CIO best practices for thriving in a recession Counterintuitive, George Colony, Forrester Research, 24 Sep 2008

Corkscrew or Cathedral? 2 Sep 2008

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, Technorati.
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C S Lewis once said this:The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is – what it was intended to do, and how it is meant to be used!

This applies to Insight Services (variously called analysts, research and advisory services). If you doubt that they are misused, have a look at the AnalystAnalyst blog (another thing I caught on my “Return to Work”). If IT is using external authority to justify decisions already taken, and push them through the Governance Board because the Board expects “endorsed by Gartner”, the battle is already lost.

So you need to know how to identify and buy the right services, and how to manage delivery and demonstrate value. InformationSpan and the Corporate IT Forum have scheduled a seminar in London, on 24th September, which will provide users with the tools to move in this direction. Your organisation doesn’t have to be a member of tif. to attend, though there’s a fee discount if you are. (If you’re not within reach of London, call me!)

I talk about “Insight Services”, because their role is to provide both broader and specialist insight to help IT make its decisions. Not to dictate what those decisions should be! And a Board should know that IT strategy is shaped by the best information available. internal and external; that its team are trusted to apply that information in the context of the business and its needs; and that the investment made in these services – like any other – is returning value. It’s an ongoing relationship, not a hit-and-run engagement.

How do you tell the corkscrew from the cathedral? You can’t ask the analysts themselves! And most commentators in this arena come at it from IT’s supply side perspective. They support Analyst Relations professionals – vendors and service providers. InformationSpan is unique in approaching the field from the user enterprise viewpoint.

Did you know there are over 400 different firms out there offering service, from the global majors to start-up specialists? You’ll get a new direction on how to select, buy and manage an insight services portfolio, and a workbook to take back to your team. You’ll get the chance to share your own experience with fellow participants and shape the workshop outcomes. I might learn something too!

Follow the links below to read more and register. See you there!

Links:
• The Expert Guide to Managing Analysts and Research Partners Verbatim (Corporate IT Forum blog), 20 Aug 2008 – you will need to create a free Guest account to visit this page
• Ass-covers AnalystAnalyst blog, 14 Jun 2008, and commentsC S Lewis, philologist and theologian

The return to work: the user take on Forrester+Jupiter 25 Aug 2008

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, Technorati.
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I’ve been away from the office for most of August, letting news build up, so I missed the acquisition of Jupiter by Forrester at the end of July. There’s plenty of comment out there from the market perspective – SageCircle’s is one of the best. But, as enterprises return to work, maybe I can help you catch up too!

For a start, this is something of a reversal of fortunes. A decade or so ago, prior to Forrester’s acquisition of Giga, Forrester were moving into coverage of the emerging world of online business. The enterprise I worked for closed down a contract with them because we judged they were falling between two stools. They didn’t have sufficient IT coverage (till Giga filled in the gaps). And consumer data was available from our marketing support services – such as Jupiter. So Forrester came some way second to Jupiter. Now, they’ve acquired them.

I’ve never been a Jupiter user, so I can’t comment from the Jupiter users’ perspective. But read David Schatsky, Jupiter’s President. His blog isn’t just the usual “gosh we’re excited” senior executive stuff. He talks about Jupiter’s “grudging admiration” for Forrester, their disagreements over past forecasts, and the recognised strengths of a competitor. So, when he does say he’s excited, you can believe it.

I’ve been a technology-side user of Forrester rather than a marketing-side user. But I know enough about the two firms to believe that this combination does make sense, and George Colony will make it work. Forrester’s integration of Giga, some years ago, was no doubt tough but Forrester adopted many of Giga’s working practices – the ones that the clients valued most. Expect the same approach.

So both Forrester and Jupiter clients will see some changes. Now’s the time to start the conversation with your sales executive, and let Forrester know which aspects of either offering you value.

If you’re a Forrester user on the technology side, it likely won’t make a great deal of difference. But on the market research side (Jupter will join Forrester’s Marketing & Strategy Client Group) George Colony clearly expects Jupter to deepen Forrester’s capability and add some new directions. If you’re a Jupiter user, and you need help understanding how Forrester work, get in touch!

I haven’t had chance to talk to Forrester yet; I’m back at work on a Bank holiday, so there’s nobody there in the UK office. Watch for an update posting when I have chance to do so!

Links:
Forrester Acquires JupiterResearch, Forrester Press Release, 31 Jul 2008
Forrester Buys Jupiter, blog, David Schatsky,31 Jul 2008
Forrester buying Jupiter – smart, but not a big deal, SageCircle, 3 Aug 2008
Forrester acquires JupiterResearch, Analyst Perspectives, 5 Aug 2008

Analyst industry ethics 1 Apr 2008

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services.
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I’ve just come across a paper by Joe Clabby (Clabby Analytics) talking about advocacy and objectivity in the analyst business (what InformationSpan calls Insight Services). It’s worth reading to get you thinking about how you use insight services, and what they’re doing.

Joe’s a researcher (as I am) and he espouses a solid research-based methodology. He expects insight services analysts to base their positions on actual research not just “feel”. He’s comfortable that analysts take a position on a market place: the best of these are hands-on researched, like Forrester’s Wave and similar tools, and I agree with him. After nearly 15 years as a service user, I know that enterprises want help and actionable support in making actual decisions, not just the raw data and an invitation to “make up you own mind”.

However – I think he’s over-optimistic in expecting technology press to be accurate and objective, over against an analyst. A reporter is going to be on one assignment one week, and another the next. They may have an area of specialisation, but a good analyst from one of the larger firms, or a niche specialist, will outdo them. How often have you read a trade press report about something you actually know about, and agreed with everything they say? Not often, I assume! which is by no means to question their professionalism, only to say that with deadlines and limited resources they will mostly get only part of the truth. Sure, I use the news sources; but I treat them with caution. Especially today, which is April 1st, but that’s by the by!

I picked the Forrester Wave as a prime example because, unlike some competitors, Forrester gives access to the raw data so that a client can re-balance the scores to meet their own specific environment. And that is another thing which I expect from a good analyst: the ability to take their in-depth research-based knowledge and apply it to my particular concerns: the company’s business aims and culture, the “how we do IT”, the CIO’s top six issues, and so on. In other words, reading the research report isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of the conversation.

Joe – thanks for starting this debate. Let’s keep it going!

Links:

IT Analyst Ethics: Advocacy vs. Objectivity Clabby Analytics, Jan 2008
Waves and Vendor Comparisons from Forrester Research

Links are provided in good faith, but InformationSpan does not take responsibility for the content of linked third party sites. Forrester Wave is a trade mark.<

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