A while back, Curt Monash (@curtmonash, blog) caught our attention by calling on tech vendors and solution providers to disclose which IT analysts’ white papers posted on their web pages, or otherwise used in marketing, are sponsored. That’s good practice, and one which most AR professionals have supported over the last decade or more.
But since AR is a two-way street, what about the reverse? Shouldn’t IT analysts (and actually, pretty much about everyone, including bloggers) disclose if a specific research area, project, note, blog post, white paper, speech, webcast, etc, is being paid for by a third party?
Yes, analysts should disclose their work is sponsored, commissioned, paid for, etc.
This is the only honest way to behave, because there’s always going to be what Curt calls an attention bias.
Some, like James Governor (@monkchips) at RedMonk are going further are already disclosing all commercial relationships on all their posts (example). Of course there are objections (Gartner has relations with every firm, wouldn’t it be impractical for them to list every client) and methods of avoidance (for example, to be sponsored to investigate a topic, rather than specifically to write a particular research). Nevertheless, it’s one way forward.
What Curt does not mention is one more source of bias: the selective coverage bias, i.e. the fact that some analysts won’t cover non-client firms in the same depth as clients. And there I don’t see many showing the way apart from firms getting the bulk of their coverage from end-users: one very promising example there is the work that Carter Lusher (@carterlusher) is doing at Ovum to develop its 20th-century independence charter into something adapted to today’s market.
Of course there can be issues on the end-user analyst side of the market as well. Analyst reports are are often driven by inquiries from end-users rather than by systematic research work. Users might ask about something that is broken, or which they cannot get the system to do, or about a bad outcome, or about hype. And thus analysts who work only to write up client conversations sometimes don’t cover things that simply work, especially is the technologies have crossed the chasm.
There is no easy and complete solution to these ethical issues, although we think that when Carter’s work is completed it will produce an opportunity for a discussion across the whole industry. Below, we’ve selected come of the AR Chat’s comments on the topic. Wat’s your opinion?