Defining an analyst
There are several arguments that you can be sure will continue as there are too many views as to what is correct. Even though my personal favourite is who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman, the more pertinent one in my focus area is defining “who is an analyst?”
Normally I try not to get to emotional about it, but after reading Vinnie’s post where he quotes:
seems like AR folks want to cling to a narrow (and shrinking) definition of market influencers.
…I have to say that my cage well and truly got rattled.
Vinnie’s view is that analysts are becoming less influential in a world where multiple people can provide equivalent or better value. He states in a tweet:
"analysts" are just a small subset of a "1000 points of influence
Even though I agree with some of his points, I think that Vinnie has missed the big picture.
Like Vinnie, I see that many people influence decision making. I believe that we have moved from a top down version of decision making to that of a spherical one where public engagement is key. Decision makers have the luxury of being able easily seek advice from multiple parties when deciding what to do.
However, how much weight does the individual put on the different audiences he can engage with. The answer to that lies with trust.
Edelman has ran surveys every year defining who decision makers trust. The highest ranked people, and one that has remained top for some time is not the CEO, peers or journalists but analysts.
Perhaps then, the highest definition of an analyst is someone who you can trust.
The characteristics of this trust were very clearly seen in the recent IIAR analyst of the year survey:
- they are independent
the understand the industry
their advice is based upon primary or secondary research
they are trusted with NDA information so they can make their decisions based upon sound knowledge.
Are they involved in every step in the decision-making process? Of course not, but the steps they do take part in are critical. Perhaps the key point that Vinnie needs to realise is that just because not every analyst has the ability and authority to help in procurement like he does, it does not mean that no analysts can. Ovum famously help the government save millions of dollars in IT spending – isn’t that influential?
The analyst role is changing though. The saturation of information and commentary available has ensured that firms have had to adopt different business models to survive. Some succeed well providing syndicated research, others specialise in a patronage approach, some focus on messaging and consulting.
It is true that not everyone who is an analyst, analyzes but they still fulfil a key role.
Is Ray Wang an analyst now that he has left Forrester, according to him:
yes. but not in syndicated research. more like a cross between the Ent Irregulars and some indep analysts
Other thoughts that have come in through Twitter defining who is an analyst:
analyst = ones who draws conclusions based on hard numbers/ratios/real comparisons (via Mauricio Samayoa)
Anyone that has insight and/or has impact on purchasing decisions (via Mark Duke)
one element : analysts are influencers with some proof points behind their opinions (or at least they should be) (via Sandy Bergman)
Analysts study the complexity of markets, their communities translating them into market models, opinions and advice (via Martin Hingley)
Seems to me that the hard and fast pigeonholes don’t work across the universe anymore. And really, why should they? We’re at point in time where lots of businesses and services are shifting from "mass" to custom, personalized, specific one offs.
What’s important is that every organization has clear and informed answers to the questions: who informs your decision makers? and who influences your decision makers? (via Barbara French)
What does this show us?
It certainly appears that even amongst analysts and AR Pros, that we cannot agree. However, I’d like to define an analyst based upon all the comments as:
An independent expert who is trusted to give impartial advice based upon their privileged information
Whether they can fulfil all the different roles in the cycle (such as procurement, messaging advice, market analysis, sales training etc) depends upon the calibre of that analyst and the type of firm they work for. There will always be individuals to fill the vacuum where analysts do not have the skills and in that space there will be a grey area.
Nevertheless, as long as this community is trusted by the decision makers, there will always be a role for analyst relations and true engagement.
What do you think?
Filed under: analyst relations | 11 Comments