Analysing the analysts

At first glance, the news that IT analysis giant Gartner is to acquire one of the few remaining independent analyst companies of any size – AMR Research – might be cause for alarm.

Many IT buyers – and vendors, too – already lament the dominant influence of certain analyst companies over the industry zeitgeist, and news such as this solidifies an impression that the number of strong, informed opinions on IT trends is dwindling.

This impression might also have been given by the recent consolidation of two of the UK’s big names in analysis, Ovum and Butler Group, both of which are owned by Datamonitor but which operated independently until August of this year.

But this impression is an illusion. In fact, never before has there been so much informed and well-researched analysis available so readily. But today, that analysis is highly distributed.

Analyst relations blog Technobabble 2.0 – which helps IT vendors and their PR partners understand the analyst community – recently compiled a list of what it considers to be the most influential analyst blogs.

Of course, an IT buying organisation does not necessarily want their chosen analysts to be the most influential: some might prefer an analyst with great ideas their competitors haven’t heard yet. And the site's definition of influence is open to question.

But it does give some indication of what the IT analysis landscape looks like today. Of course, analysts from Forrester and Gartner figure heavily. But so to do independent analysts, whether they are one-man bands or members of small organisations.

Perhaps the consolidation in the analyst industry, then, should not be seen as proof of the ever-growing dominance of the elephants in the space, but as the reaction of those elephants to the number of mice springing up around them.

This is a development that has its pros and cons. What IT buyers gain in the diversity of opinion available, they lose in certainty: when independent analysts disagree, who can be trusted? Buyers must make their own mind up, of course, but isn’t that what lead them to seek out analysts in the first place?

Clearly, we need analysts to analyse the analysts.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...