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The Difference Between a Research Analyst and Everyone Else

by Jack Santos  |  May 26, 2015  |  Comments Off on The Difference Between a Research Analyst and Everyone Else

Sat thru a few presentations this week where IT practitioners, college professors, and consultants give their diverse opinions.  Now I have to tell you, I am a great fan of some of our Gartner conferences – particularly Gartner Symposium in October (for CIOs) and Gartner Catalyst in August (for the rest of the organization).  But ever since it started, I have also attended MIT’s CIO Symposium.  What draws me is some of the top notch thinking at Sloan and CISR, and the resources that they draw on (lets face it, MIT has been, and is, a major source of technical innovation); and we at Gartner sometimes collaborate with the MIT folk.

But as I sat through some of the MIT sessions,  I started thinking about the differences in presentation and content of some of the presenters.  How do you tell apart someone that investigates, analyzes, and presents about technical trends – versus those that practice management and delivery daily (managers and practitioners), or those that just write about it as news reporting (journalists).  This is a particularly important question for me, since there are many practitioners (including consultants) that think they are top notch analysts (“what can you tell me that I haven’t already figured out myself”), as do many journalists  ( “I dont just report, I analyze”).  So I had the opportunity to watch all three in action, hopefully dispassionately, and here’s my somewhat tongue in cheek three simple rules for distinguishing a good analyst:

1) Does the presentation or report present new ideas, new conclusions – that Aha! moment. And does it do it convincingly, while entertaining?

2) Does the presentation or report have supporting facts, and not just opinions or conclusions?  Does it avoid presenting declarative statements without supporting evidence?  Is it impossible to mistake for a blog post or a news article?

3) In presenting the results, is it done in a convincing and succinct way, with the minimum amount of verbal cognitive pauses with terms like “you know?”, “right”, “dah” ? Does the presenter avoid  roaming the stage without purpose, stare at their notes or monitor, and generally not engage the audience?

The first two  observations are admittedly qualitative.  The last one can be measured.  My observation was that non-analysts would consistently utter verbal cognitive pauses at the rate of at least 5/minute, with a peak rate of 5 per ten seconds (yes – you heard me – one every 2 seconds – and that was a journalist!).  But – in all fairness –  you can still get your stagecraft down, but without points one and two, you still aren’t an analyst.

If you answered “Yes” to all three, you are (or should be) a Research Analyst.  In addition, If you spend more time reading, observing, talking to others about key trends and issues in the tech industry – more than actually delivering technical products or results, you should definitely think about being an analyst.  And I do have an opening on my team for an EU analyst that is not just focused on technical trends, but how technical trends affect us as individuals – and how we do our jobs, interact with our peers, managers, and subordinates to deliver results (which is what we call Professional Effectiveness).  Click here to find out more .

The nice thing about not being a research analyst is that you can still speak at (or even attend!) a Gartner conference.  Everyone wants to hear real world stories, and  personal experiences.  We have our fair share of case studies and client presentations at Gartner Catalyst – so its a nice mix of research, ideas, and real world experience.  In San Diego in August, London in September.  But that won’t necessarily mean you’re an analyst.

See you there.

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Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

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