I don't want to get in the middle of the argument going on between Stephen Few and Boris Evelson of Forrester, but Steve raised some very important points that deserve airing, independent of this particular skirmish. The large analysis firms serve up boatloads of information (most of it for sale at premium prices), but one might question how useful it is. Steve asks, "Far too often when relying on these services, however, we get advice from people whose range of topics is too broad to manage knowledgeably."
This is a problem with the business models of these firms. Analysts are very highly paid, but in order to produce enough revenue, they have to cover areas too broad and too quickly to master the nuance of each and report on it authentically. Don't blame the analysts themselves. In Boris' case, here is an extremely conscientious and articulate professional, who is very well-informed in his areas of primary focus, but he can't escape the pressure of the modern analyst firm to jump on the next big thing lest they fall behind the competition.
I don't provide "research" on products anymore, but when I did, I only published about those I had field experience with in real-life situations. An analyst does not have this opportunity and in fact, many of them never have, which rendered them, in my opinion, not much more credible than reporters. To make matters worse, it came to my attention that one of these firms said something favorable about one of my clients in a recent "research" report, only a paragraph, and included a note saying the client was free to use the quote for an entire year...for $15,000! Now how in the world can you provide objective analysis when your words are for sale?
Boris makes a suggestion that Few and Forrester "collaborate" as a means to improve the quality of the research. Few's response is predictable, and I would respond the same way. Basically, when you're an "indie" you have only your reputation, whereas a firm like Forrester has an entire infrastructure to advance its business. How could an arrangement like that ever work out?
I also seem to be the only person who agrees with Steve. Many argue that his words are too inflammatory and his tone too blunt or insulting. I don't find it so, but I believe these claims just avoid the real issue: Is he right? If you can't argue the case, attack the means by which it is delivered. A classic rhetorical technique. Lord knows I've been on the receiving end of that myself. But I for one find the large analyst firms' grip on decision-making in IT to be detrimental to our industry because it isn't sound. The business model disrupts it. It keeps the focus on the industry and product features to the detriment of good sound decisions. And the unholy relationship between the firms and the providers would be called racketeering in any other industry. Or at least collusion.
So I'll probably join with Steve in getting a chorus of boos and raspberries over this, but isn't the point of a blog, of social media in general, to raise the level of discourse to meaningful things, not just a recitation of the obvious? If Boris was offended by the way Steve dissected him in public, I don't blame him. I would cringe if someone did the same to me. In that sense, it was unfair, but in reality, Steve was pointing out a larger problem, and that needs airing.
And just in case your aren't sure about the messenger, I was referring to Steve Few.