Personal Log: The Sad State of The Industry Analyst Business And The Need For A Code Of Ethics

Published on August 9, 2013 by R "Ray" Wang

Unchecked Bad Behavior Plagues Both Vendors And Analysts.

I’ve dreaded writing this post for a long time.  I normally think the best of everyone.  Yet, in the course of building our business at Constellation Research, I have to say I’ve seen everything that can go wrong with the industry analyst business.  I’m almost embarrassed to reveal the shady tactics on both the vendor and analyst side that perpetuate.  But for the sake of airing it all out so that we may have a better industry, I’d like to start the conversation and then invite those analysts and vendors who agree to come up with a solid code.  Once we have something, let’s take the pledge on cleaning up the profession.

Examples Abound And We Have Had To Say No.

To be clear, there is a massive self-interest in my putting this out there. Now some of you may still be asking why would I do this?  What’s in it for me?  I’ll be very transparent, we’ve built a business that has:

  1. Shrugged off writing white papers for hire;
  2. Avoided pay to play for content;
  3. Covered vendors who were not clients;
  4. Cancelled contracts when our objectivity would have been compromised;
  5. Rejected stock in start-ups in lieu of payment, even a few pre-IPO’s that would have made us millions;
  6. Fired clients who threatened to cancel our contracts despite our putting out factually accurate defensible research;
  7. Refused the pay for lead business;
  8. Turned down pay for quotes and refused to endorse vendors in quotes unless we had evaluated their products in a side by side comparison;
  9. Fired sales people who alluded to pay for play;
  10. Fired analysts who did not understand we were not a pay to play white paper shop even after repeatedly telling them this.

I’ll be honest.  In order to uphold our integrity, we’ve lost a lot of business.  I’d estimate in the order of $2 to $3M a year.   Now, I am comforted in the fact that I do know we are not the only ones who have done so.  However, I have sadly discovered that this is few and far between in the business.  I am both shocked and disappointed.

Integrity of the Industry Is At Stake.
Now at times, competitors have laughed at us for doing so.  But, we have worked hard to uphold our code of ethics.  We have stayed objective. We have remained fiercely independent.  Talk to our sales folks.   They live it every day.  Talk to our analysts who wonder why they have to work harder.

We can continue doing this alone and have a differentiation in the market, but I think it’s time the industry takes a pledge to end this bad behavior.   It’s important for buyers to know that there is a professional code. Why? It’s critical to the survival of the industry analyst profession.

Now I’m not talking about a code that’s la-la and fluffy. I’m not talking about a code of respect for other analysts.  I’m not talking about playing nice and looking the other way when an analyst screws up or abuses the system. I’m not talking about being stalked by sock puppets and sock puppet wannabes! (inside joke but enjoy it, whoever you may be!)  I’m talking about addressing the real issues, right now!

I’m talking about calling out folks who screw up, including ourselves.  It’s bound to happen.  But let’s get something out there so we can all understand what a standard is.  Then we can work towards there.  Some folks will have higher standards.  Others will choose to bend the rules.  But let’s set the goal posts and hopefully set them high.

A Start For A Code Of Ethics.

Now the components for these code of ethics have to work on both ends. Vendors and analysts have to agree.  Otherwise, we will have an imbalance.  Let’s start with the vendors because they have a lot of the money and most analysts derive a high percentage and in some and exclusive percentage of their business from the vendors.  Analysts could try to earn the end user business and reduce their dependency on the vendors, oh but wait, that’s hard work and some folks just don’t want to work that hard.  I digress…

VENDOR CODE

Let’s start with four simple rules.  Feel free to add more in the comments section.

  1. Agree not to support the pay to play game. Stop asking analysts to write custom white papers that are glowing to yourself.  This pay for content approach is tired.  In fact, when buyers see this, they mostly reject it.  If you choose to go in the pay to play game, then make sure you disclose it.  A better option is to suggest topics to analysts that you think would be useful to your marketing campaigns.  Have the analyst write a report.  Do not pay for the report until written.  Put the report in their regular review process.  Purchase the report reprint rights upon publication.  Do not bribe the analyst during the process with the potential to buy the report.  Respect the process and provide good input.  Expect the analyst to make their own call from their primary research panels and conversations with your clients, partners, and yes – even other vendors.
  2. Call out bad behavior. Over the past month, I’ve heard about a few analysts and sales reps at firms, threatening to not cover or not write good things if the prospect did not subscribe.  Now some have had very subtle threats.  Others, like a certain analyst this week, have made these threats as his business has plummeted as clients have discovered he does not influence end user buyers.  I’m not going to name the analyst because while I respect the work he does when its objective, I do realize how hard it is to make a living in this business.  Yet, vendors should call this behavior out and stop doing work with pay to play analysts.  It jeopardizes the vendor’s reputation and it jeopardizes the good analysts who do not subscribe to this model. (see selfish plug here).
  3. Train and educate internal sponsors and stakeholders. Vendors who have educated executives that understand when and how to work with analysts tend to avoid this issue of pay to play.  This requires good training.  Strong and mature analyst relations programs coach their executives on what is fair influence and what to expect.  They explain how the influence process works and how to provide access for analysts and how to provide transparency without marketing hype.  I do suggest that vendors find experienced Analyst Relations professionals and avoid the converted PR professional with 2 years or less of experience now forced into analyst relations.  It never works well.  Read our board of advisor, Paul Greenberg’s Guide to Influence to get started!
  4. Disclose the analysts you work with and are on paid contract. It’s time to come clean and share with buyers who are the analysts on your payroll. Let the buyers determine the analyst’s objectivity.  I’m asking the analysts to do the same.  Share with the end users what free products are in which analyst’s hands.  Yeah, it can be a demo but make sure the users know the analysts have your demos.

ANALYST CODE

Let’s start with four simple rules.  Feel free to add more in the comments section.

  1. Just say no to pay for play. Stop cheapening your brand with pay to play.  If you are a white paper whore for hire, you will notice that your business will continue to sink.   Your writing will be less valued over time.  Vendors will start pitting you against other analysts.  You will lose your most valuable assets – your objectivity and personal brand.  Now, you probably think that it won’t happen.  That you are better than that.  That you are still can write an objective paper.  After talking to 100 independent analysts before we started Constelaltion, I can tell you why even the top tier legacy analyst firms avoided that game.  Sadly, we’ve had to deal with a few folks like that at Constellation who could not get it out of their system that they write first, then get paid for reprints if a vendor wanted to use it in their marketing materials.  They did not get paid first to write.  When that happened in our case, we had to either drop the client or tell the analyst that they could not get paid upfront.  If you still want to be in the pay to play game, then just be an awesome marketing consultant. Get out of our business as an industry analyst.  You don’t deserve the moniker.
  2. Call out bad behavior. If a vendor decides that they will drop you even after you disagree with them and have objective,  factual based analysis, you need to speak up.  Tell other analysts.  Call out the vendor.  We all know who the bad vendors are and the bad analyst relations managers who play those games.  I had to deal with one while working as an analyst at Forrester. This analyst relations person at a large firm and her boss threatened to get me fired because I would not change my opinion, even after talking to 100 clients and reaffirming my stance.  For a whole year, they stopped briefing me.  They stopped inviting me to their events.  They blocked all formal access to executives.  They bad mouthed me to the press.  They kept pressuring my bosses to fire me.  The result – their bone headed move reaffirmed my standing.  They put me on the market and to this day, I have to thank them for raising my profile to standing up to them.  Now my job would have been on the line had I not driven a lot of revenue, but you know what, I’d have gone out fired with a fight.   My brand and reputation was worth it.
  3. Train and educate your team. There are a lot of bad analysts and bad sales folks.  Let’s not have that be your sales team. Set your boundaries high on what you can do.  Today, our sales guy was refused a contract for a strategy day by a product marketing guy who would only sign if the analyst provided a deliverable that was a pay to play content fluff piece about the vendor.  Both my sales guy and I made it clear to him, copied his CEO, and let her deal with this.  My sales guys knew how I would react and realized he might miss his quota, but we made sure we took care of our sales team for doing the right thing.  Lead by example.  I’ve determined that many legacy analyst firms have very objective analysts.  However, the shady sales guys give them a bad reputation and most analysts don’t realize how their sales folks represent them.
  4. Disclose your vendor client list. At a minimum let users and buyers and the media know who you work with.  While the FTC disclosure policies have not been uniformly applied to analysts and bloggers, a best practice is to publicize this list.  Constellation’s client list is here.  We know about a new analyst firm in Boston starting up.  They plan to use the database of a vendor for their insights service.  We expect that analyst to disclose what they use and what products they have freebies from.  It’s only right.  We’re waiting to see if he ‘fesses up.

Now wait, you are probably wondering why the Analyst code and the Vendor code look the same.  Well they do because it’s all interrelated.  It takes two to tango and we need both vendors and analysts to take the pledge.

The Bottom Line – It’s Time For Authentic Business

I know I’ve shaken up a few folks here. I’m sure I’ve made many angry.  Once you get over this, and though you may still be angry at me,  let’s get rational and clean up the business.  Send me your ideas.  Challenge the premise. But in any case, let’s start this dialog.  I’m going to be in business for the next 25+ years and I don’t want to see the profession tarnished.  It’s time for authentic business.

Your POV.

Are you shocked? Ready for a code of ethics? Do you think this is even possible? Have I just created a sh!t storm?

I’d love to see your suggestions, comments, and feedback in the comments.  I’ll aggregate and put out the part 2. Then we can decide if you are ready to take the pledge.

Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationR (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) com.

Related Resources And Links

Paul Greenberg’s Guide to Influence

Rethinking the IT Analyst Industry by Zia Yusuf

Monday’s Musings: Putting An End To The Conflict Of Interest Among Some Sourcing Advisors

Trends: Influencers Aspire For Market Maker Status

 

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Disclosure

Although we work closely with many mega software vendors, we want you to trust us. For the full disclosure policy, stay tuned for the full client list on the Constellation Research website.

* Not responsible for any factual errors or omissions.  However, happy to correct any errors upon email receipt.

Copyright © 2001 – 2013 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC All rights reserved.
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  • Ludo – sorry for the delay in reply. this is a very strong point. Analysts should look at the whole market in the eyes of customer regradless of payment or client status. -R

  • Ray,

    I think there’s more to it than just pay to play for white papers. Many analysts talk about a technology in general… but omit to cover technologies pushed by vendors that are not clients. Similarly, quite a few analysts don’t really cover non-clients in major evaluations.

    Some vendors are also known to bully analysts, either by not being a client and refusing to disclose information that analysts need to do their work ; or by pressurising analysts when they’re clients.

    Both tactics are not viable in the long term.

    The IIAR has proposed some rules of engagement aiming to develop mutually beneficial relationships based on respect, let me know what you think.

  • Great statement of ethics! My only problem with this is limiting any of it to the labels “analysts” and “vendors”. As both a customer and an IT decision maker, from my perspective you’re all in the media business. There’s really only two kinds of media: fiction or non-fiction. Shelf it correctly! Most media – especially “analysts”, “consultants”, “marketing”, “PR”, and ad-driven “broadcast” media are fiction. Perhaps your media “based on a true story”; but without full disclosure of citations and attribution of all sources and support up front and inline, it’s still just fiction. You can still get on Oprah with fiction posing as non-fiction, but I’m not buying it. Neither should anyone else.

  • Chuck

    Keep selling, but we could use a briefing on what you do =)

    1. Contests by some firms – I’ll name them – Frost & Sullivan are designed to be money makers. We know that and we do see that. We put together our SuperNova Awards to recognize early adopters and build a community. It could be done in a foundation or it could be done through us. We haven’t finalized a model

    2. Sellers agents are available today – they play in the consultant world. Analysts or at least traditional analysts work in both camps. You could have just procurement experts and that may work but to date, no viable model other than a Consumers Union foundation exist that I know of.

    3. We don’t have full transparency but I think there needs to be an objective clearinghouse to pull this off. maybe a non-profit? not sure how the mechanics would work.

    4. I do disagree with the focus on Constellation vs others. We think over time, we will have differentiated what we are doing in the market, enough to make a difference for buyers. We could try to boil the ocean, but we think we can get ther in incremental phases. I am curious what you would do in my shoes as I’d love to take everyone on but that’s hard to imagine a pragmatic approach.

    R

  • Ray:

    Thanks for responding. Just as an example, you never responded to my questions about buyers largely only having “sellers agents” available or shared your thoughts about my contention that many “contests” are more about generating vendor fees than providing analysis of real worth to buyers. How about your willingness to call out vendors, analysts and “contests” that you find to do the pay to play thing? Your code of ethics only mentions calling out vendors. What about commenting on how much weighting a buyer should really give to light weight analysis often completed by folks with financial interests with the firms they are evaluating?

    You were brave enough to call out real fundamental issues with a model that everyone but many buyers knows exists and absolutely needs correcting in the interest of truly helping buyers make good purchasing decisions for their stakeholders. If you now back off and only focus on your own firm’s code of ethics, you will not begin to effectuate the change you spoke of as important, necessary and that you positioned yourself and your firm as a champion.

    Again, I absolutely believe that most in the space are highly ethical and provide valuable insights, especially on a macro level. I do however believe that the norms for how this model now operates has caused many to rationalize and confuse whose interests they really represent and to what degree they legitimately should play in purchasing decisions. I just hope you don’t stop pushing for change beyond your own firm.

    Thanks for the opportunity to engage on this topic! Enough for now, I need to sell some software 😉

  • chuck,

    thanks for the comments and input. what questions would you like us to answer that aren’t answered or politically correct? fire away.

    As for how we build this, we are building the firm on our ethics. We can’t impose those on any others. These are our operating principles. We will let the market decide in the end if that is a viable model.

    R

  • You are certainly a great analyst, but this post is looking more like a marketing tactic to help differentiate your firm than anything else. You only answer the questions you want and always are careful to be politically correct.

    Let’s see where you really take this in the industry and if broad change is really the motivation. How about leading the way and stop communicating opinions you have on any firm you receive revenue? Calling out bad behavior for Vendors AND Analysts would also be validation that you walk the talk.

  • The one thing that we should all ask ourselves is: who is actually using this code of ethics today?

    It’s easy to say that you “Just say no to pay for play” or “Train and educate your team.” as long as most people can’t verify it. And it’s not complicated to publish a list of your customers, as long as you provide no information on the type of relationship you have with them.

    As for “Call out bad behaviour”, is anyone actually doing that? Ray isn’t doing it in this post. Maybe he did it in others?

  • Ray,

    I am late to the party in reading this, but I would love to be part of a code of ethics for the industry. We run into this issue constantly. We are very open about who we have as clients…and we always tell vendors that we take briefings for free and allow any vendor to have a listing in our Matrix of industry solution offerings. Many of our contacts continue to express frustration with the the traditional IT analyst firms about being pay-for-play. It’s not simply a problem of independent analysts that write white papers for hire (and I agree that is a huge problem), but it is the big analyst firms that create and perpetuate the problem by not covering small, innovative vendors that don’t have analyst relations budgets. The code of ethics should probably include some kind of incentive to cover and write about vendors that no one has heard of because that is where the next big thing will come from.

    Just my $.02 on a late summer day. Great article!

  • Hey Ray: Even at 80/20, would you not agree that indicates a relevant and real problem with the model, when vast majority of model is supported on the backs of people selling stuff and not by the people buying stuff?

    Relative to the real estate market, it is akin to having only sellers agents, and in this case the problem is exacerbated because the subject matter for the analyst model is much more complex and broad than found when buying a house.

    What’s more, I bet the skew would be even more lopsided if Vendors could not be made into Buyers for measurement sake just because they also happen to be buyers in another market the analyst happens to cove. No fault of their own, I bet this would be especially true for all the smaller analyst firms, reaching if not exceeding my estimate. Wanna bet?

    Chuck

  • You make some great points Mike. However, I think the only risk that is potentially mitigated is the risks associated with getting penalized for making a bad purchasing decision and not the risks of making a bad purchasing decision. Smart leaders do not allow managers to somehow delegate or even mitigate their risk to a third-party with zero real accountability.

  • Hi Ray,

    I have long loathed the analyst industry, for many of the reasons you’ve outlined here. Kudos to you for being full kimono about it.

    Here’s the reality – the analyst industry (and let’s take enterprise software analyst industry specifically) was created because executives found it hard to make software purchasing decisions without an authority figure. Personally I call this shifting the burden of responsibility – http://www.techdisruptive.com/2013/07/18/shifting-the-burden-of-responsibility . Along came some smart people who said “yes we can provide this information…we know how Oracle work, SAP work, etc” – “trust our information”. And thus the analyst was born. As analysts became the go-to place for information (I’m looking at you Gartner magic quadrant), it meant more and more sales for software vendors.

    Imagine you’re a software vendor and you could buy this influence. Commercially speaking, this is much cheaper and less risky than the normal 3-6-9-12 month enterprise sales cycles we all know and love. So now we’ve got conflicts of interest.

    Here’s where I struggle – customer requirements are never clear and vendor’s features are even less clear. So which vendor is better positioned to provide your FI/CO/MM/HR/whatever that you need in order to run your business? If the analysts have their influence bought, then really there is no one I can really trust for making decisions.

    The reality is, no matter what industry you are in, curators/analysts/influencers/pundits, whatever you want to call them, all exist for the same reason – they reduce decision making risk. Whether that’s reality or perceived, it doesn’t matter – human beings do not want to make the wrong decisions.

    I don’t envy those who manage $1bil+ IT budgets.

  • Chuck

    I’m not sure what the revenue splits are. I’ve heard the ratios at most firms are about 80:20 vendor:enduser. worth a look.

    R

  • Ray: I think a “consumer reports” like service would certainly be valuable, but I also believe the rules I called out to be ones that could and should be followed by everyone. Take money, you lost your right to expect anyone to take your opinion on that ‘paying customer” seriously. Write high level product analysis realistically only providing a low level data point in any purchasing decision, then call that out. Play by those rules and you still have lots of ways to earn, especially when staying at the macro-level.

    Real value in any model must ultimately be driven by the value delivered to the end customer buying stuff and not on the backs of the people selling stuff.

    What would you guess the ratio is now? 95% earned from vendors selling their stuff and 5% from people buying stuff? Not a good ratio for the buyers! Let’s have everyone post their ratio. Ha!

  • Rick

    Agreed. This is an important part of the process. Having knowledgeable analysts cover the right areas and provide fair and objective research.

    R

  • Chuck

    It sounds like you are looking for a consumer union like approach (consumer reports) where they are a foundation that does not take any money from any vendor. I’ve always wanted to put that together but haven’t been able to figure out the sponsors that could make that possible. That is the highest level approach to get there!

    R

  • Leo

    You are now experiencing the legacy analyst firm approach to the low cost consulting. They want to put lower priced, less experienced team members (sometimes not even analysts) on projects to ride the firm name not the analyst name. this has been going on for some time. The industry is going through a shift, probably 5 years behind traditional media companies. Sorry to hear that you have had such difficulty. Professional and perform quality work should be part of that. While assumed, it should be explicit. Thank you for the suggestion!

    R

  • Bob,

    We’re looking to add folks who understand the code. So we think short of a truth and reconciliations commission, if we have folks who know where we stand when the join us and clients who understand how we operate, we can be transparent about how we operate. We can look forward and move on. =)

    R

  • Milind

    Thanks. The tragic quadrant and squares of despair that are out there are a tough one b/c they are static. Also even white papers by independents tend to be an issue. The challenge here is the collapse and convergence of business models. A true research firm is often seen as offering syndicated research and pay wall access. Blogs are one way to open up research however, if the pay model goes away, then the challenge is what’s the value to the firm for curated content. So we believe some level of pay wall has to exist otherwise free content would have to be sponsored. If it was all vendor sponsored, the objectivity would be lost. This is why it’s important to have members from the buy side otherwise the revenue model gets skewed or over influenced.

    Any suggestions from folks out there?

    R

  • Interesting topic, Ray.

    Whether it’s a big firm, small firm, boutique firm, or one-person show, I do think the overall analyst community is a mess.

    To me, the core issue is one of most firms, simply not doing the underlying research and information gathering necessary to provide informed and knowledgeable opinions. The vast majority of analysts seem to be rehashing their opinions based on the past and their limited sphere of existing knowledge, rather than on the current state of affairs and on the important future players and trends.

    In that scenario, the established players tend to get the most headline time, whereas startups and new entrants tend to get short shrift. Perhaps it isn’t coincidental that smaller players have smaller AR budgets and staff.

    In any case, almost any “ranking” or “quadrant” based on capabilities of products, services or solutions is pretty much a load of crap these days, since I am 100% certain that the writers haven’t truly done their homework and investigated those solutions in real detail, much less used them. I suspect the vast majority is based on unvalidated vendor supplied input.

    That’s one fundamental area where the industry needs to just cut it out. Sadly, too many end users/buy-side companies take this stuff verbatim. And again, it’s mostly just dated information and arbitrary crap.

    I think rankings/quadrants should simply go away, and be replaced with a list of vendors and a detailed analysis of each. If the analysts are forced to actually *learn* what they’re claiming to be experts in, and had to do some legwork to prepare the detailed analyses, everyone wins. Even the analysts, who will hopefully see their volume go up due to the value they deliver.

    Rick

  • With the idealistic assumption that the focus is on helping buyers make the best possible buying decision for their firm:

    Rule #1: Do not push opinions about companies that pay you.

    Rule #2: Give buyers the real scoop on the level of the analysis on any product and how much relative weighting it really should have in purchasing decisions. Note: When pushed, analysts will generally acknowledge that a buyer should not be placing much weight on their high-level analysis, but none of them call this out…imagine that!

    However, since fee income is really the driving motivation for most, the only way things will ever materially change is when buyers get a clue and start demanding options from providers that provide detailed and unbiased data focused on helping them make the best decision.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of super smart analysts of the highest integrity. I just think most of them should stick with macro-level analysis, which is invaluable to buyers too!

  • Great post, and it got me thinking I wish I had the courage to post what I wrote about 15 months ago regarding my own experience working with analysts. While limited, I’ve worked with a handful of analyst firms in my current job and prior on customer case studies and whitepapers. Some experiences have been good, but most range from mediocre to horrifying. Here are some of the low-lights:

    • You don’t always work with an analyst, but a lower level “project manager.”
    • Sometimes they’re not well prepared.
    • At times you’ll receive “used” work product. (Cut/Paste from their other work.)
    • They (and their management) can be very arrogant, and lack a customer service orientation.
    • Early drafts can be awful.
    • Later drafts sometimes aren’t much better, resulting in doing much of the editing work yourself.

    I will say most (one didn’t) of the firms I’ve worked with have had editorial integrity. While discussing a case study with one, I suggested they missed a specific value proposition of a service. I respect their response: “We won’t put it in the case unless we heard it from the customer.”

    Still, can “be professional, and perform quality work” be part of the code?

  • Ray, about time this important discussion was aired!

    On the white paper for hire front, I’d go further and say
    most big brand analyst firm-written whitepapers are really not worth
    the price vendors pay. They are light in research,
    Low in thought leadership and (surprise, surprise)
    “Find” that very vendors solution is a perfect match for the
    problem:)

    But you haven’t (yet) touched on two of what are perhaps the
    biggest issues I’ve seen in the vendor-analyst influence dance.
    Would be great to hear your Pov in future posts.
    1. The illusory quadrant / maverick wave / market crystal ball (I think this one is often where analyst vendor relations start and end!)
    2. Behind the Pay wall research/subscriptions versus public domain
    Fully transparent accessible for free research ( this is as much business model as philosophy)

    Thanks for having the courage to take on this discussion!

  • Bob

    Great comments. I think what I’m leaning towards now is putting out our code of ethics. Recruiting against them and seeing where the chips fall =)

    R

  • Hi Ray,

    Apologies for being a bit late in this conversation stream, but I do want to share some thoughts.

    As others have noted, you have raised interesting and provocative points and I believe that the need for a code of ethics extends beyond the industry analyst community.

    In my career, I have worked at two top-tier industry analyst firms, have worked in the vendor community leading marketing strategies, and have implemented the systems and processes I often write about. Throughout my career, I have always strived to make ethics front and center in all of these roles.

    When raising the topic of abuse, I have observed so-termed pure “research” being sourced from publications, conference organizers and even marketing teams. Obviously, there is a current erosion of standards regarding rigor in research, and technology users are frustrated by that blurring.

    Yes, like other have indicated, we have been approached with “pay for content” proposals, and have turned down business. My observation is that marketing teams are often confusing the role of industry analyst with that of content marketing generation specialist. The Industry Analyst community needs to understand the difference and insure it focuses on research rigor, insights and market analysis. The community also needs to understand the influence of analysts is taken on a different perspective by the user community. As we all know, the Internet has provided far more sources of insights that can be tapped. Users can sometimes be smarter than industry analysts, and look to the analyst community for a sounding board.

    Being recognized as an industry analyst, thought leader and blogger, I am fully aware of the fine lines of each and always strive to clarify the ethics of each. When we write about vendors, we will disclose any associations. We do not observe other bloggers nor industry analysts doing the same.

    Bottom-line, I agree with #1 the need for a code of ethics that umbrellas both industry analysts and vendors and their analyst relations teams. Having a third party outline the standard is wise.

    As others have already noted, #2, the calling out of bad behavior is not productive. We all know the reality that the big analyst firms are just as guilty or more guilty of fostering “pay for content” practices as smaller or independent firms. Pointing fingers back and forth does not help to fix the problem nor does name calling. More firms exhibiting ethical practices helps to change overall behaviors.

    Thanks

    Bob

  • Ron,

    Maybe we’ll just post our own ones out there and if folks like them, they’ll abide by them. That’s always an option! Thanks for commenting.

    R

  • Stephen,

    I’ve seen companies with limited AR budgets go far. The secret in AR has never been the budget but the relationship skills. The best AR folks reach out and connect with analysts. They also know the product strategy or direction well enough and when they don’t, they help analysts with access. Unfortunately, they also need assistance from a management team that needs to know how the AR exchange works and how long it takes to build those relationships. On the flip side, the analysts have to do their job and sometimes that’s not there.

    If there’s a market for analysts who take the code and for vendors to promote those analysts as preferred to work with, we may just have one potential solution. What do you think?

    R

  • Nick

    Thanks. It’s all worth trying and appreciate you taking the time to comment. I agree, we’ll have to find a Market Driver for vendors working with analysts who agree to abide by the code. Maybe they are “preferred” in the market for their objectivity. They also have to know their stuff. As you can see, this won’t be easy but It’ll be worth it

    R

  • Alberto,

    We are seeing this. the skill of the analyst here is the question as many analysts have not had real work experience in deploying solutions they evaluate. That can create some issues. Also, when the stakes are high, we have seen gaming.

    R

  • I agree with everything you said, Ray, except for one thing: I don’t think we need a Code of Ethics.

    I think the analysts and analyst firms that are successful — and that will be successful in the future — already adhere to a “code of ethics.”

    The analysts/analyst firms that don’t follow that code today would likely sign your COE anyway, knowing full well that they have no intention of complying with it.

  • Charles

    Very good points. it’s a two way street. This is why a code of ethics on one side won’t help unless the other side also appreciates it or respects the code. What do you think?

    R

  • Ray,

    A very interesting and perhaps controversial piece indeed.

    As a veteran media and analyst relations professional, I have always made “ethics” front in center in the way I deal with the media and analyst community. In fact, “ethics” is a key component of my PRSA training.

    On the analyst side, I believe there are ways we can work better together to keep “transparency” first and foremost in all of our minds. I’m not a big fan of the “pay-to-play” game, especially since many firms like mine have razor-thin budgets. I believe most analyst firms should have a policy of hearing from non-vendor and vendor clients on a regular basis. What I mean by this is if my company is a major player in a certain market space you have an obligation to learn more about our strategy whether we are a client of not.

    On the analyst relations front, there are many times we need to work more strategically with analyts on increasing thought leadership and awareness by working on whitepapers and case studies together.

    Needless to say, perhaps the IIAR and other organizations can develop a standard “code of ethics” for the industry moving forward.

    Thanks.

    Steve

  • Great post Ray, which demonstrates a commitment to transparency that’s sorely lacking among some (but not all by any means) in the analyst industry.

    I’m very proud of what we created at 451 Group and we abided (and the company still does, though I’m no longer there) by numbers 1-3 of your code of ethics. It partially discloses its client list but not as explicitly as you do, though I don’t see why it couldn’t. There were many times in the early days when we could’ve really used the money from pay-for-play white papers but decided our integrity was worth more than $10-20k we were being offered. That integrity is still intact and the company is plenty big enough not to have to need to offer such things.

    Now I’m on the vendor side I see better how it works and although I’m not shocked by the number of white paper merchants out there because I knew there were out there when I was an analyst, I do find it depressing as one of your other commenters said it shows a distinct lack of imagination from those in marketing that get such ‘analysts’ to rubber-stamp their message. It doesn’t help anyone: analyst, vendors or the vendor’s prospects & customers. One challenge I’ve found is so few analyst firms actually do have influence over buyers, that when you are working with one that doesn’t, its customer base of end users is often so small as to make any user-based research skewed to the point of being worthless, e.g. ‘76% of our user base say they don’t know if we have an information governance policy in place. I made that one up but it’s close to what I’ve come across.

    The analyst code of ethics should be fairly easy to implement; they just need to get on and do it and there’s a few that already adhere to it, they just need to say so. The vendor side would be considerably harder not because it’s asking much of them – it’s not – but because unless they have someone at the top that values the contribution analysts can make, they won’t see what’s in it for them. However, it’s worth trying.
    Thx
    Nick

  • Hi Ray:
    Congratulations for bringing such important topic.
    One of the things I learned in multiple assessments I do for professional purposes is that the results vendors make public are very far away from reality, despite some analyst firms cross check (supposedly ) with open contacts with end users. This is worse than cheating, because vendors are not able to deliver as promised. Hence, some end users are shifting from the classic evaluation round trip to a “show me the money” test stage, this means a small test to see if the system and the team delivers.
    Some conference and event organisers are being bitten by independent organised ones that let freely in from of the audience a live demo, assuming all the risks. But that is not enough. That concept should evolve to a challenge, prior to the event, that the system vendors should take, that would highlight the ones that perform best, and separate the signal from the noise. Analysts and end users would be able to make better decisions rather than looking to a rehearsal demo.
    Best, Alberto Manuel

  • Ray: Thanks for responding here, but it would be great if you could respond to my comment on the Enterprise Irregular blog and in particular my comment about the proliferation of contests, awards and the like as vehicles for generating revenue from vendors much more that providing any real value to buyers.

    http://bit.ly/19oJEbA

  • Like yourself, Ray, I have also worked on both sides, as an analyst and for a vendor. As an analyst I have also received threats from vendors, that claimed that I “spoiled the market” for them and they would take legal action (which they never did). But as you mentioned, I knew I had done my homework, and many readers confirmed that my research was valid.
    However, I do also think that sometimes vendors are at the mercy of analysts, who sometimes write “whatever” because they fancy a new technology or a new vendor and thus compare all others with this new technology or new vendor. A good example is SaaS, which to some appears to be the holy grail and all else is somehow suddenly rotten. So in addition to a code of conduct, I wish there would also be a way for anyone (users, reader, analysts, vendors) to grade analysts and reports in a public system of some kind, visible to all, similar to how financial analysts get graded on recommendations and estimates in systems like ThomsonOne from ThomsonReuters. This could also apply to blogs from industry observers that don’t write for syndicated research firms (as in SeekingAlpha for example), and consequently aren’t edited as rigorously as the formal industry analyst firms.
    Charles

  • Chuck

    Thanks. I think increasing transparency moves the needle in one direction. The other part is the uphill battle among marketers who see no harm in blending paid content with earned. Got any ideas there? =)

    R

  • Hi Ray:

    I posted my thoughts on the Enterprise Irregular site http://bit.ly/19oJEbA. Thanks for replying when you get a moment.

    Only the very naive and/or lazy will continue to give material weight in purchasing decisions to this high-level analysis from those with economic incentives to be generous if not outright deceptive in their opinions on vendors that pay their bills. This model is certainly ripe for disruption.

  • Interesting piece. I work with over 100 journalists covering the tech field and we often feel queasy quoting some analysts. You get a gut feel sometimes that maybe they have a hidden agenda.If analysts loose credibility through corruption, how will that affect their relation to the press? Maybe they’ll get quoted less often, or maybe media sites will adopt disclosure policies.

    I work with the B2B journalist professional association, ASBPE, and posted about your blog over there at http://www.asbpeblog.org/2013/08/12/are-your-sources-ethical/, for those who want that perspective.

  • Reading more into this, essentially the demise of the analyst is directly correlated to the demise of quality marketing.

    If “white paper whore” analysts continue to make a living, it’s because their vendor marketing clients have failed to evolve their own marketing capabilities and are simply checking the boxes in an attempt to justify their own jobs.

    What baffles me is the amount of “analyst” crap that floods the market, sponsored by vendors, which will never get read. People don’t read sponsored white papers which regurgitate the same old hackneyed trends and are so obviously paid-for.

    Once these vendors wake up to the realization that their marketing is legacy and ineffective, they will replace with relevant marketeers who do not waste money on legacy white paper activities.

    Moreover, even the smarter marketeers need to do more than simply “buy influence” and “muzzle” angry analysts – they need to drive thought leadership themselves – not try and buy it!

    So is it really a “code of ethics’ we need, or merely an improvement in quality and capability from both analysts and vendor marketeers?

    PF

  • Ray –
    A brave post indeed. Thanks for starting the conversation.
    This post mentions the vendor responsibility, the analyst responsibility, but the third leg of the stool is Customer Responsibility.
    As long as the status quo seems to work in the market – there will likely be little movement from the existing model you have described. I’d like to hear the customer POV on this proposal.

    I’ve worked at Software companies for almost 30 years now – and agree – that transparency from all parties involved would make research created by the vendor and analyst community much more valuable.
    – It would focus the conversation on what the vendor felt was important.
    – It would allow the analysts to compare and contrast that to what the customers really need.
    – Hopefully that would lead to targeted development investment by vendors in solution areas that would truly accelerate market transformation.

    What a concept! Thanks again for your continued courage in bring forth such topics.
    Guy

  • Phil,

    If this code of ethics works and is abided, imagine what a network of independents could do? =)

    R

  • Bryan

    The lines are getting really blurred. I pulled out of Forbes last year b/c #advoice and the editorial philosophy wasn’t making any sense any more. Blurring paid, owned, and earned without clearly identifying it is part of the larger cultural issues. Looking forward to getting to some go forward path for the industry.
    R

  • Ray,
    Always good to see the “profession” of an analyst considered. It is something we do not do enough of as an industry. That is perhaps for another discussion. Given we cannot as a community readily “define” our business, (is not necessarily a bad thing) these questions are not going to provide uniformity of outcomes.
    The first thing I was taught by my first post uni employee (Lend Lease, major Real Estate developer in Australia) in the early-mid 1990’s was “Would I want what I am doing now to be on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper”. That has stayed with me throughout my career, and is a good test for any behaviour.
    As an individual analyst whether at the largest firms, or as a stand-alone in Asia Pac, we live in a reputation based industry. If you have a poor reputation then your credibility goes. If you are at a legacy they will survive, you won’t. But if you are at a small firm, your reputation and integrity is all you have. That is why these initiatives and the drive will come from the emerging providers because we have the incentive much closer to the reality. As a result, with capioIT, I will not sell a report until it is published, and I don’t do white papers, custom research cannot be published and I will protect my personal integrity with my every breath. Like many, it costs me money, but I am fine with that. I sleep well.
    There is an interesting dynamic across regions as well. In the Asia Pacific where we have legacy analyst firms, but sadly, still very limited independent analyst/advisory firms, there is a lack of understanding of alternative approaches and the ability to avoid a generic approach. Hence the legacy analyst firm here is basically a PR company. That is for another day.

  • Well written and much needed to be written. You probably should throw in a list of ethics for the media and bloggers too. I don’t know how many vendors (and increasingly analysts) just assume that I offer “pay for play” on my blog. I do get a number of vendors that ask me through subtle hints what it will cost them for me to write a story on them. They’re a little surprised my site doesn’t accept money to write a specific article (although we do accept site sponsorship through banner advertisements).

    I would be cautious about your #2, Call out for bad behavior. At least I wouldn’t do this publicly in hopes of embarrassing others. Sometimes when vendors have approached me for “pay for play” it’s not because they see it as the right thing to do but desperation of business survival. If you follow your #1, your #2 will take care of itself. There is definitely no issue with privately confronting groups that are doing bad behavior…I just think that sometimes the people that do “pay for play” are victims too.

    Like you, those of us that do not “pay for play” have lost money. At the same time, my niche blog also has a loyal following that would not be there if I had crossed the line. Advertisement on my site is almost always sold out, something I doubt would happen if I had a reputation of being unethical.

  • Jonny

    Always a wise answer to be found with you. Transparency and trust are key here on all ends.

    R

  • The issue of ethics comes around every few years as firms struggle and perhaps in desperation to keep paying the bills allow a white-paper for hire model to go from being independent views to “positive-no-matter-what”.

    I have always been a believer that the market will take these pay-for-play analysts and stop using them as has happened many times in the past.

    However, vendors will always need good collateral and analysts are (normally) good writers so its a great fit where everyone should be happy. Provided there is a clear transparency regarding who write and why then there should be no problem. I am not against this and it is not wrong.

    But… If this openness is not clear then its wrong. Period.

    The question of ethics could lead to many angles. Is it wrong for AR professionals to be involved. Surely the job I did for many years is about the act if persuading analysts to say things they may not have said otherwise. I may dress this up and believe that its about education but I know that sometimes to get the time needed to educate fully, I may need to pay for that analysts time in the form of consultancy. Is that wrong? I am not telling them to say anything but I have their time and can spend it how i want to educate? Sure i could get a 30 minute briefing but can i get across my value in that time or will i need a few hours? History has unfortunately proved that often that latter case creates better results.

    In summary, a code of ethics is needed but it should be pragmatic. Transparency is critical and in fairness is probably all that is needed. Let market dynamics decide whether people want to work with them.

  • Greg

    Thanks for taking the time to weigh in. We hope so. So far so good, we’ve survived 2.5 years of keeping up with our values. We hope this will improve the situation for the industry.

    R

  • A bold, much needed step that sets the bar very high for your firm and yourself professionally.

    If you compromise your standards it only comes back to bite you in the rear later on.

    If your firm gets known for work that is not shilling or pay for play as you call it, then your reports will stand out in the eyes of the reader.

  • Looks like there will be different rules for different influencers. I’m focused on the Industry Analyst, not the

    Author
    Academic
    Blogger
    Consultant
    Event organizer
    Media or press professional
    Training guru

    Maybe that narrows it down. =)

  • Clive

    Great points as usual! thanks for jumping in. Buy side focused analysts will do that! We do need some scale over Gartner but it’s not size. How to scale and remain relationship based =)

    R

  • Res ipsa loquitur?

    Perhaps the research thing itself speaks: “Consumer Reports” for business systems…

    + RFP or Analyst driven
    + Taxonomy for big data analyst research
    + Granular votes on RFP questions via community
    + Continually updated (Wikidata’s new schema)
    + Huge scale (dwarfing Gartner)
    + Transparent by design

  • Jay

    The teeth will come with transparency and exposure. Yeah, the honor system will only go so far, but in a connected social world, it’s easy to reveal what’s going on.

    R

  • Ray,
    Great article. I used to work for an analyst firm and while I was there we did our best to abide by those principles. And yes, we also left money on the table which wasn’t easy for a small start up company.

    The one thing that is missing is the “teeth” in the agreement. What happens if someone or a firm violates the principles? Who is the objective party that determines innocence or guilt and if guilty, what is the price to be paid?

    As a consultant, I am often approached by vendors who want me to recommend their products. I always turn them down and say that my value to my clients is my objectivity. Most of them understand. And the ones who don’t, just don’t.

    Regards,
    Jay

  • dean

    good idea. one way is to get out a code for each company. take a look at the uber list and see if we can get to a least common denominator than tier up for different levels. I’m not a fan of regulation but in this case, it’d be good for some self-regulation among the firms and vendors.

    R

  • Ray

    Absolutely agree on the transparency issue. Paramount.

    Anything sponsored has it very clearly marked on the cover & noted in the introduction. Usually no reference is made to the company or its products either – I usually write about a new trend or tech I see emerging (TelcoOTT, WebRTC, various forms of WiFi & policy management etc), rather than the supply-side vendors.

    One thing that’s hard to deal with in your model – companies or individuals who are cross-disciplinary, eg analysts who also do consulting, bizdev, hold patents and so on. Especially in niche areas, it’s common for general “experts” to both analyse & directly/indirectly “get involved” as well.

    I wonder if it’s worth making a distinction between “independent analysts” & “non-independent analysts”, with the latter disclosing possible conflicts of interest transparently. That then allows clients to work on the principle of “caveat emptor”. Many walks of life (politics etc) acknowledge that *some* conflicts are inevitable – so get them out in the open.

    Dean

  • Josh,

    thanks for weighing in. I’m focused on how do we move forward and these points are spot on. Maybe we’ll see everyone put out their code of ethics that answers Bill Kutik’s questions below. Having that out there independently is a start. That itself over time, may evolve into an industry code. In any case, I hope the discussion improves the overall situation.

    R

  • Paula

    that’s a great point. the vendor vernacular is white paper and that’s hard to shake off that terminology. The reason we do vendor comparisons is b/c we are a buy side shop and they keep asking. We could do it w/o having it in the syndicated research pool.

    R

  • Bill,

    Your succinctness and directness always amaze me. Yes. these are the key questions. If we just answered these, we’d be 80% of the way there.

    ]R

  • Good points and an interesting list to work with. Few people or companies take this sort of a path. If more did, the whole industry could rise a bit and everyone would benefit from better quality, more useful work.

    Some of the points might not apply to all the existing analyst business models. One example that comes readily to mind is Real Story Group since they rid themselves of part of the issue by not doing vendor business at all. But for a lot of other analyst firms, I’d say there’s often something in the business mix that isn’t quite right, and would be improved by cohering to a code of ethics like this.

    The onus is more on the analyst side but so long as there is a vendor-oriented business, it’s good to address those points for vendors as well. Vendors often attempt to get analysts to do things (contravening the list you provided) and the end result of that always diminishes the analyst’s value to the vendor (not to mention the “end user”). Not a smart move for the vendor’s self interest, nor for the short-sighted analyst.

  • Hey Ray…

    I agree with you on most of these…I will say one thing: If you avoid being involved in the system selection or vendor landscape universe, you avoid a lot of problems. We don’t do either of those and it costs us money for sure, but at least we can sleep at night.

    And….we don’t write white papers….we write pretty pure research / opinion. Are they sponsored by vendors? Mostly. But that’s why what I wrote above is so important. We don’t discuss how the vendors shape up at all. But getting the vendor community to stop calling them “white papers” even when they’re not is insanely challenging.

    And, when A/R people are paid on “positive mentions” – which most are, it gets even more challenging to maintain an objective business model.

  • A long and compelling argument that might possible be boiled down to your last sentences, Ray:

    “There needs to be a call for transparency. Who paid for it? Who had editorial control? Was it paid before or after publication?”

    Every analyst has a conflict of interest with vendor and end-user clients (call them “buy-side” if you must).

    The issue is how much integrity and good judgment the analyst and his/her firm brings to managing that inevitable conflict of interest. Maybe in the future, what it “vows” to do.

  • Dean

    Thanks for sharing your POV. A few things need to be in play. Transparency or trust. the mix of paid content in the mix is what’s confusing folks. When AdVoice on Forbes serves as journalism, or a paid white paper that’s not disclosed, this is the blurring of the lines. There needs to be a call for transparency. Who paid for it? Who had editorial control? Was it paid before or after publication? Just some more thoughts to add here =)

    R

  • Ray

    Agree with the sentiment but feel you overlook a few nuances & grey areas.

    First off, there’s a different dynamic for telecom analysts for whom “users” are telcos (eg network equipment, OSS etc) as they co-develop products & standards with their vendors, to a much greater degree than elsewhere in the mainstream enterprise. In many cases, it is these “users” who get criticised as much as their suppliers. This means the buy/sell distinction is much weaker, and analysts need to be doubly wary of hype & not believe rhetoric from *either* constituency.

    Secondly, I’d argue that analysts who are time-proven cynics – curmudgeons even – are able to safely & sagely write white papers etc, especially if they are explicitly NOT vendor-related but about general thought-leadership. Frankly, any of my clients wanting a Disruptive Analysis branded paper or blog post is choosing me because its contrarian & edgy, not because it’s puff or “endorsements”. I’m pretty explicit about editorial independence in my contracts. Others may be unable to build reputations as free-thinkers, but I see that as their problem and not mine.

    Thirdly I’d argue that some of your suggestions are self-serving for Constellation. Organisations such as yours have different economics to those of standalone independent analysts, who often cannot support subscription-type models. It’s a big commitment & risk to write research and just hope people buy it. Many important topics & deep insights do not have a large-enough customer base to justify writing & publication. Other ways to monetise are useful if done appropriately. Often, I’ll find people read my views expressed via blog or Twitter, agree with them & then ask me to write them up as (sponsored) long-form. Given my sentiments are already “out there” in some form it’s pretty easy to spot any opinion changes or biases.

    Lastly – and to be honest I’ve been a hold-out in many ways too – various boundaries *are* blurring. It’s a consequence of the Internet, and seen in many industries besides ours. Trying to erect rigid boundaries to what is & isn’t an “industry analyst” activity is futile in many ways – perhaps over-defensive even.

    There’s some good principles here, but I think you’re being too absolutist.

    Dean Bubley
    Disruptive Analysis

  • @Ray that is a good post to show the funnels of influence into that “market maker” umbrella persona.

    I’m not sure I could describe myself with that term with a straight face, has a “guru” or “ninja” vibe, but maybe I can use it as a motivational in the mirror each morning. 🙂

    Thanks – I’m going to stop commenting so you can enjoy what’s rest of the weekend…

  • Ray, thanks.

    I will be curious to see where this leads. I have nothing to lose by being even more honest about this kind of thing so count me in for whatever evil plans you are hatching.

    I wanted to say also that there should be no sacred cows in our world with so much money at stake. If you’re not willing to challenge and be challenged you don’t belong in our industry.

    For now, I will reserve the use of the word “analyst” do those who do systematic, funded research that I respect. Meantime I am still searching for a word that adequately and quickly describes what I do. 🙂 Perhaps I will just go with “outlier”. Irregular is probably hauntingly accurate also.

  • Jon

    well said. the large legacy analyst firms are guilty. that behavior is led by their sales teams who often say one thing but never tell the analyst. Sometimes both are in cahoots.

    On your 2nd point, agreed. the more information the more of a need for trusted, curated content and objective opinion.

    Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts here!

    R

  • Ray, I loved that you wrote this and aired this issue out with genuine emotion. Thanks.

    Many years ago I came to understand that doing business the way I wanted to meant leaving some money on the table sometimes. I wonder if that will ever change.

    But I also came to find that there are always those who value a transparent and honest approach and so it has always worked out for me and I came to no longer resent those who were making unethical plays and more money than I was. I find wealth has diminishing returns on happiness whereas not being for sale is priceless.

    Vijay has said a lot of things I would have said so my comment can be shorter.

    I’m not sure if we need such a pledge only because I do think customers are getting a heck of a lot smarter about this kind of thing. They are talking more to each other and sniffing out a lot of BS. As Vijay said, let them vote with their wallets.

    That said I am happy to take a pledge along those lines. For me it comes down to trying to disclose bias, financial ties and so forth whenever I share views and content. It’s a rigorous thing but I see you want to take it one step further and force broader change. If it helps, I’m all for it.

    In the past I am guilty of using the word “analyst” more than I should to describe myself. I didn’t realize the extent to which that was stepping on toes of those firms doing the kind of deep research I am not doing on my own or via my current colleagues.

    I used it as an aspirational title, a shorthand for my own aspirations for fairness and data-driven objectivity. But I have attempted to remove that in my bios and will do so even more rigorously going forward. I apologize for that.

    Having said that, I do take a bit of issue with you not including the large “analyst” firms in your industry critique. Some, though not all, of the worst pay-per-play examples I have heard of come not from vendors but from the bowels of some of these larger firms. And the worst thing was these stories were told in confidence because the people in question literally feared the power of these firms for retribution.

    I don’t honestly see how these firms can be left out of the critique, and without their participation in this discussion a big piece is missing.

    And while your critique of independents has plenty of valid points, I personally find many of the voices I trust most in the enterprise are independents (or with very small shops). So there must be something about being independent that has merit also, despite the serious challenges you noted and the reality that there really is no “independent” voices out there, we are all funded by someone.

    The good news is that I think things are shifting for the reasons Vijay described. I think there is a greater critical awareness of the financial agendas behind those who share content (or charge for research) in our industry. Hopefully this kind of convo forwards that dialogue.

    Finally, I don’t agree with the sentiment expressed in one comment that the need for great specialized research is going away due to real-time Internet. I still think those who can provide valuable context for buying decisions based on deep data will win a lot of business. Maybe charging tons of money for research will get tougher, but the principles of intimate knowledge of trends across customers should hold a value, it just may need a different form of expression.

    My sincere hope is that those who have that good data and who share it as impartially and disclosure-heavy as they can will win out, whether or not their brand is a household name currently.

  • Luke

    thanks. when we get some set of ethics up. please join us in taking the pledge. cheers!

    R

  • Hi Ray,

    Top piece and kudos for raising an important point. Enterprise software is hotting up and marketing is becoming a stronger force. This, of course, infects the work that some analysts do that are purely out to mark-up the P&L account. I made a similar comment on Dennis Howlett’s excellent blog “Weekend rant – dealing with the analyst racket” (http://diginomica.com/2013/08/10/weekend-rant-dealing-analyst-racket/).

    Anyone who is writing should have integrity and authenticity. I blog regularly on the SAP HCM market and products and chose to blog my opinions whether they align with SAP or not (and recently they chose not to promote a blog I wrote because they felt it was critical, even though they didn’t disagree with the critique). I expect the same level of integrity for people that influence the million dollar buying decisions of customers. As a profession, it should be the starting point. Companies can live or die by the huge expenditure they make on enterprise software and it is reckless and irresponsible to impact this based on personal gain and corporate profit.

    I congratulate you on raising this topic.

    Best regards,

    Luke

  • Chase

    Thanks for the kind comments. Let’s see who’s ready to up the game! Let’s catch up in September.

    R

  • Ray you’re bring back “The Real Analysts” a big part of why I was avoiding the “Analysts Game” was the lack of integrity and a real authentic businesses.

    Its was just causing the entire business to look cheep and like entering the red light district i.e anything goes at any price. Thank you for stepping up the game and more reason why I want to work with you. @chasemcmichael

  • Vijay

    That is a post. I think you should make it into a document =) j/k. thanks for bringing out these other issues. We all need some code going forward. There are some great things here to add to the bigger list.

    R

  • Very well written, Ray . This is a much needed debate.

    I am 100% with you that a code of ethics is much needed, and full disclosure should be mandatory . Few additional points from my side , as someone who uses and pays for analyst services .

    1. Analysts should stop saying they are “buy side”.
    There is no such analyst who doesn’t take money from sell side.
    And an analyst is not useful to a customer or vendor , if they don’t deal with BOTH customers and vendors . Advertising as “buy side” is borderline false advertising

    2. Analysts who do not write and publish research , – and only do blogs, event coverages , contract negotiations etc – should stop calling themselves as analysts.

    3. There are many models of disruption in analyst industry .
    Only history will tell us which ones succeeded.
    In any field – new entrants have to call out loud for disruption because there is no way for them to beat incumbent big players at their own game .
    Big SIs get criticized by small SIs and independents, big software companies get made fun of by small software companies and so on . I say live and let live.
    Because we don’t agree with another person’s business model is not a good reason to say their model is not legit . Why not let the free market decide with customer wallet share .

    4. A code of ethics is needed not just for analysts – it is needed for vendors, customers , investors, AR teams etc . It is a complex field – and for real fair play , all ecosystem needs to sign up . And that will not happen because one analyst firm or one software vendor demands it . For this to happen – customers and user groups need to take a strong stance that they won’t spend dollars otherwise . But I doubt that will happen in foreseeable future.

    5. While there is always a new CIO or inexperienced software executive who is naive and will blindly swallow every recommendation, vast majority of customers do discount analyst and consultant advice sufficiently . Definitely many times more today than when I started my career – and mostly due to ease of getting info on Internet . More than research itself – a lot of CIOs value analysts for contract negotiations with vendors to squeeze out best price.

    6. All the top consulting companies also publish research – albeit self serving in several cases . In the late 90s – I have seen customers disregard research from consultancies summarily and only use analyst research . Today – most customers don’t make that distinction . They use both and just factor in the bias before taking a buying decision . Analysts who also do consulting call themselves as analysts, but consultants who write and publish research don’t call themselves analysts though. No more solid boundaries – and just plenty of fodder to point fingers 🙂

    7. It is high time that AR teams are given more attention by their employers . A good AR person is worth his weight in gold to the executives of the company . However , AR as a function needs more modernizing . For example – this whole idea of carpet bombing every influencer with every bit of news needs to stop . More targeted and proactive AR would immediately increase the quality of life for analysts and their ecosystem .

    That was almost as long as the post – sorry . I will stop now 🙂

  • Mike,

    Yes. this convergence of paid, owned, earned is getting worse. Some folks seem to say it doesn’t matter, other folks are scrambling to build authentic businesses. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Thanks for your comments!

    R

  • Mitch,

    It’s probably a reflection of the current state of business and society. There seems to be a growing need for authentic business. #authbiz

    R

  • Ray, well said. To your previous posts about the even greater need for transparency given the trend of not just analysts, but businesses (my own, not guiltless) starting to weave paid, owned and earned content together making it hard in today’s publishing world to know what is truth. While we can hope for transparency – hope only gets us so far so I appreciate you using your bully pulpit to shed some light here. The fact that marketers have known and grumbled that “this is a game” for so many years and yet we all play it and pump our fist when we play it well reflects too much shrugging of shoulders and “that’s the way it is” attitude that will take time to change. Maybe it’s time to follow my old alma mater and do something like “The Oath”for the analyst industry (http://mbaoath.org/).

  • Ray,

    I applaud the writing of this post. You also know I will present a non-standard response – off-topic, meandering a bit…

    As a bit of connector, this line of thinking extends well beyond analyst land – it is problem all over the place – because, unfortunately, it is about money in the end. Take a look at baseball everyone signed on the dotted line there. Transparency and accountability, kissing cousins. Science, Politics…the list goes on.

    I absolutely respect the choices you describe, but these choices are not as easy to make for many folks. Make no mistake, I am not defending those others, just pointing it out. 90% or more of the vendors have shareholders, VCs or a BOD to report to each and every quarter.

    It seems that everyone’s objectivity, yours, mine every analyst firm and every vendor is questioned twice a day at least. As someone who has played on the vendor side, the analyst and as an SI, there seems that there is no place to hide. Life would be better if people could stick to riding on their own merits.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  • Dr. janice,

    thanks. this is two sided. we’ll invite folks soon. Let’s gauge the reaction.

    R

  • Where do I sign the vendor pledge? We aren’t anyone’s customer (yet) but have been the subject of at least one report by a small organization. In that experience, I really appreciated being respected, not hustled, and I’m sorry those reprints were just not in the early stage budget at the time. But Ray, you are absolutely correct – to work, this MUST be two sided. It’s our collective responsibility to all act with integrity if the opinions of the analyst community are to remain objective and, therefore, valuable.

  • Jarret

    Agreed. Calling like it is means you have to live up to a different standard. You can’t be afraid to call a vendor out when you need to. But that’s hard to do alone when you have just a few vendor clients. We put #8 together for our FAQ’s on being an analyst. it reads like this:

    You maintain and enhance your independence and objectivity. Based on research w/ existing and retired independent analysts, independent analysts often start off with great promise. However, years out they are often challenged with maintaining objectivity. Most only work with a few clients and most of those clients tend to reside in the sell-side. After several years, many lose touch with the buy-side and become spokespersons for the sell-side. Three years out, many independent analysts lose influence with the buy-side, the sell-side clients marginalize these analysts into writing white papers for hire. Soon objectivity is cast aside for survival. While going independent for several years may initially seem attractive, Constellation’s focus on writing buy-side research and the ability to build a large portfolio of buy-side and sell-side clients, helps an analyst to maintain objectivity. More importantly, the firm model support independent thinking as Constellation can afford to upset a large sell-side client over a factual argument and maintain revenue streams. Most independents could not fire a client and meet personal payroll or income requirements.

    http://www.constellationr.com/content/join-us-analyst-faqs

    Thanks for commenting and keep up the torch!

    R

  • Phil

    Agreed. Drop the analyst moniker if this isn’t the role you are playing. There are many other monikers available in the battle for thought leadership. You could be a author, academic, futurist, blogger, media, consultant, event organizer, and even pundit. But please don’t use the industry analyst name and not live up to the meaning.

    R

  • Greg

    Great points. We actually think that with IoT and more information, there will still be value in curated relevant advice. That advice has to stay objective or remain independent in order for the buyers to have value. We’ve been working hard to do this. Let’s see how it all works out. What are your suggestions?

    R

  • Ahmad,

    We list all our clients on the vendor side on our website. http://www.constellationr.com/content/clients We do this because we want you to know who we work with . We also work with Oracle and SAP and Rimini Street and Spinnaker. We can tell you that four firms know that we already abide by our ethics. It doesn’t mean the vendors are happy or unhappy with us. What matters most here is that we write for our end users. And for them cost savings and choice are key to their apps strategy. We apply the rules we have listed on ourselves. Hope that makes sense.

    Would love your POV here.

    R

  • Interesting piece. One day I came across an article that pointed out your research on the potential behind third-party maintenance for SAP and Oracle customers. When I inquired with another research firm on the topic, they implied that CR was doing business with a third-party maintenance provider.

    It seems to me like an industry where someone’s doing something wrong, and maybe badmouthing others to get ahead.

  • http://www.waltersshutwell.com/2013/07/013-dotc-prime-thedeathoftheconsultants.html#.UgZOM2RAR8M

    Two things:

    The analyst gig is on the path to irrelevancy as the internet of everything connects everyone with up-to-date data through adoptive algorithms – who wants to analyze 12 month old data?a

    Additionally, with information at everybody’s fingertips, why do clients need assistance making buying decisions in the first place? Don’t prospects simply need to ignore recommendations, upper right quadrants and other people’s KPI’s/benchmarks?

    Also, your Jerry Maguire moment is admirable when we remember the key line –

    “fewer clients, less money…”

    Are your words marketing or core intent?

    Well written and good read.

    Greg

  • Ray –

    One thing we are really noticing in recent months is that most vendors are (finally) figuring out which analysts actually have reach and influence to the end user. we’re seeing a couple of analyst players which actually do quite good research, but are dying on the vine because they simply do not get their stuff read – and everyone knows it.

    So while we can deplore the lack of ethics going on in the business, it’s the reach-factor that is dominating. ‘Analysts’ are being judged solely on their ability to get eyeballs, as opposed to quality and ethics.

    Aren’t we really seeing a shift from ‘analyst’ to media? aren’t many of these ‘unethical’ analysts really just ‘industry reporters / sandwich boards for hire’? Maybe we just need to stop calling them analysts, because, most really aren’t.

    Phil

  • Great job with this Ray and thought it was very well written.

    Although I am not an analyst I follow your rules although I haven’t been as vocal on bad behavior I have seen and know about, as I probably should be.

    Important to note this applies outside of analysts as well as many “consultants” and SI’s have “influence” as well yet have become mouth pieces for the vendors they support even though clients are paying them to be objective. If they try to be objective many vendors make it clear that will not be tolerated

    Like you, I plan to be in this industry for years to come and realize being being honest, ethical and trustworthy are the keys to my profession reputation, which is extremely important to me.

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