Wine connoisseurs take as much pleasure talking about drink than savouring it…. so let me indulge you into an analogy between research firms and some of my favourites.
As with fine wines and corporate buying trends, so goes analyst firms. The shift of power from IT to Business signifies a move from Wine to Champagne….
- Client base and research approach
- There’s a wine analogy there: Gartner is like a Bordeaux (predictable blends) and Forrester is more like a Burgundy (more variable but sometimes great).
- Gartner tends to sell to a mature IT audience, which is where most of the IT budget is. Its research output thus tends to be more conservative, after all most people don’t really want to experiment the at bleeding edge. As a result, it’s unlikely you’ll be surprised by a genial piece of research.
- Forrester does this as well, but because (or thanks to) its marketing research, also cater for that role and its research style tends to be more adventurous (the Giga legacy probably) even if its coverage quality and quality is less constant.
- And IDC sells to IT vendors mostly, a little to industry leaders (has to be a Côtes du Rhône, with elements of both depending on the individual analyst for opinion whilst the trackers are more constant –Shiraz is a bit like Marmite, it’s “love it or hate it”).
- The point there is that your client base is your legacy, and unless you’re Steve Jobs or Henry Ford, most fail to break away from ‘building a faster horse’. In IT research aspects, it translates into “IT must align with business” (yawn). Analysts have been preaching this for the last 15 years, and it seems the issue hasn’t gone away. Some part of the IT will be run as a utility (a better word than cloud, and in the same bucket than facilities and real estate) whilst the innovative stuff will be done by the business. IT is the business, the rest is a commodity (this doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to provision a commodity efficiently).
- Another interesting aspect is that because they sell to a mature audience, they will confronted to a bit of an issue when baby-boomers will (finally) retire in the coming 5 years and be replaced by Gen-X and Gen-Y who have no appetite for academic style research. [Note: there's a discussion here with some fellow IIAR members on whether the Gartner client base is that, er, experienced. What do you think?]
Indeed Gartner is trying (again) to grow its SMB user base, but unless they radically change the way research is written, they will probably fail again. Constellation has probably a good card to play there by targeting smaller, innovative companies –even though up to 2/3 won’t make it into adult age.
- On “design point”, Constellation is pitching itself right in the “future of work” trend.
- For analysts, time will tell if it’s ensuring, but trying to retain them by force (check this letter from Forrester’s CEO George Colony on non-compete) isn’t going to build a star-stable. Indeed, whilst Gartner seems to be doing a good job at keeping its best analyst, but it’d be curious to see how the average experience of Forrester analysts has evolved over time. There seem to be more researchers who graduated as analysts than analysts who came from a previous career. That in itself isn’t a sole predictor for insight, though it helps, but one would think that there’s a cost aspect (it’s the Forrester vs. the Giga models).
- For users, I’d venture out to say it’s again like Marmite. For establish companies, dealing with established brands having real offices offices is probably deemed ‘safer’. For Constellation’s target customers, meeting in a Stabucks probably isn’t a problem. James Governor (@monkchips, blog) seems to have found out that being unconventional actually helps with his specific audience: developpers.
- On analyst access
- In terms of business model, Ray is indeed accessible which is quite refreshing compared to other analysts who for instance reduce briefing slots to 30mn. Whether that can be scaled without administering Modafinil to the rest remains to be seen.
- For end users, it would be a net-gain if the processes to ensure a constant user experience as Constellation grows in size work effectively.
- On research approach
- Legacy firms underplay the community aspect indeed but let’s not forget that Gartner is quite a large community in itself.
- From an end-user aspect, one could expect more innovative research.
- On sales
- IMHO it’s where I’ll be watching Constellation as converting from a consulting model to a RAS one isn’t that straightforward. So far they seem to be on the right track though.
- Gaining enough scale to gain a sufficient end-user base is challenging for mid-sized firms but Constellation seem to be making all the right noises.
- Establish firms need to break away from their traditional user base to reinvent themselves before baby-boomers retire.
See also Duncan’s post on the IIAR Forum with Constellation:
And Ray Wang’s own post: