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Time for A Vendor/Analyst Bill of Rights?

by Scott Nelson  |  July 29, 2011  |  3 Comments

As a manager of analysts, I get involved in a lot of issues between vendors and team members. Most are some variant of one side feeling that the other is not treating them right. And to be honest, the tech advisory business has a history of being adversarial. While that has changed to some degree, there still is the very real issue that for an analyst to do their job, they have to help end users by taking strong stands that many vendors won’t like. And that is a problem when vendors, deep down inside, think of analyst firms as PR vehicles, not strategic consultants that can help them interpret the future direction of the market.

So what are vendors and analysts to do? Agree to fight with each other like the family cat and dog? Probably. But I think that both sides could do more. I believe that if each side made a commitment to make some small changes, the whole process of strategic advisory services would work much better. A sort of Vendor/Analyst Bill of Rights, as it were. While you could make a long list, I would suggest that if each side agreed to work on four things, the whole industry would benefit.

Analysts

1. Commit to being even handed: All analysts have their biases. We are human after all (well, most are). But if analysts would stop and check themselves to ensure that they were being even handed with all vendors, it would go a long way. This is just a matter of basic respect.

2. Explain yourself: Analysts love to keep the recipe to the “secret sauce” to themselves. They believe that the less they tell vendors about why they think what they think, the more valuable they are. That’s rubbish. I have found that vendors value more the analysts that explain what they are thinking, and why. They may not agree, but at least it gives each side a place to start communication from.

3. Communicate: Analysts tend to be terrible at communicating, even among themselves. This has to change. Communicate time lines. Communicate feedback. Communicate research plans. Communication is key.

4. Be honest: If you don’t like something, say so. But if you do like something, say so as well. I am appalled at some of the lack of honesty that I hear from analysts. When I ask why they said one think to the vendor, then published something else, the response is often that they didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Not acceptable. A vendor can’t work on shortcomings if they don’t know you view them as such.

Vendors

1. Respect our time: Analysts are extremely busy. Yet some vendors act like all we have to do is meet with them. Repeated requests for briefings, visits, conference sessions, etc. All valid, but let’s prioritize and try to use the time as efficiently as possible.

2. Provide what is asked for: I can’t tell you the number of times I have requested a briefing on something specific, only to get a long briefing on something else…often something we already had talked about. If an analyst asks about something specific, it is because that is what they need. Help us out and provide what we requested. It really helps.

3. Work with us: We are serving as an information nexus. We have lots of information to share, and we will be happy to share it with you, but we need to gain more information as well. Failing to give us references does not help. Failing to five us a product road map does not help. Yet vendors that don’t want to provide us with needed info act hurt when we don’t reveal to them the secret plans of a competitor (which we would never do anyway). Interesting double standard.

4. Ask questions: You must have some. What would you like to know? To point #3, above, we have a lot we can tell you, but we aren’t going to do a memory dump of everything we know. Ask some questions. Ask the analyst what they are thinking? Where their concerns are.? How they would compare the product to the future direction of the market? What were they expecting? What’s missing? Etc. And when they answer, take notes…don’t defend yourselves.

Will following these rules solve all the issues between vendors and analysts? Hardly. But they sure won’t hurt.

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Category: applications  vendor-contracts  

Scott D. Nelson
Managing VP
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT industry

Scott Nelson is a managing vice president in Gartner Research. He is responsible for managing research in the area of CRM. His particular research focuses on CRM vision and strategy.


Thoughts on Time for A Vendor/Analyst Bill of Rights?


  1. Well done, have lived through this process with Gartner and others. It takes time but with dialogue the two sides can come together, in my experience.

  2. Totally agree with your V/A bill of rights. I find the dialogue valuable, but navigating the personalities on both sides is challenging some times. I’ll share this blog with my colleagues.

  3. Jay Heiser says:

    I’ve lived this from both sides, wtih more time spent on the side of the vendor than as a Gartner analyst. While there are a number of interesting high tech companies run by people with a passion for solving a specific problem and pleasing their customers, it remains the case that a number of vendors put more effort into spinning their message than into actually fixing their product.

    A few months ago, I found a box of product literature from the software company I was working at in the early 90s. The funny thing was, our product actually did what we claimed it did.

    Only half tongue in cheek, I’ve suggested that we develop a new research type, called the ‘Spin Cycle’. It would measure the ratio between legitimate levels of effort to provide a product that functions as documented, and the degree to which marketing mechanisms are used to provide a false impression of product purpose and efficacy. This would be the one Gartner branded research document where you would NOT want to end up in the upper right quadrant.

    There are plenty of great companies selling useful and interesting stuff. That’s not a source of conflict. The biggests conflicts between vendors and analysts happen when the spin cycle is turned up to 11, and that is a corporate decision on the vendor part, not a personality conflict.



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