[GUEST POST] Looking Back at Three Analyst Firms by Barry Rabkin / Market Insight Group

By Barry Rabkin (LinkedIn, @Impactoftech), President & Principal Analyst, Market Insight Group, Ltd.

 

Barry Rabkin / Market Insights GroupI was fortunate to become an insurance industry analyst in 1997.

Before that time, I had worked in the business side of the insurance industry for 17 years (primarily in marketing and/or market research across all major lines of business) and then due to, what was to prove a very lucky event in hindsight, being caught up in a purge from John Hancock, becoming a management consultant. After eight years as a management consultant, I got and grabbed the opportunity to become an insurance industry analyst. I definitely found my true professional love being a part of the analyst community. [One difference between a management consultant and an analyst? Analysts don’t have to be nice!]

My insurance industry analyst experience included leading or launching and leading insurance strategic advisory services in the US and the UK. Looking back at those experiences at META Group, Financial Insights (IDC), and Ovum, these highlights standout to me. BTW Before going into my highlights I want to state that I respected all three firms for not being just vertical (i.e. industry) analyst firms but instead were homes for analysts from a large variety of IT and Telco disciplines as well as having vertical analysts.

I continue to not understand where analysts who work for analyst firms that cover only industries (i.e. only insurance or only insurance, banking, and capital markets) get their IT and/or Telco information. I felt blessed that I could walk over or talk to IT or Telco analysts. Part of my role as an insurance industry analyst was to understand and learn what the IT and/or Telco analysts considered to be trends, issues, challenges, and implications, in their respective fields and then repurpose their ideas, where appropriate, for the insurance segments I was covering.

From 1997 on, I quickly discovered that “the world is not flat” – what may seem to be an important emerging technology (or even a maturing technology) really wouldn’t capture the insurance industry lines of business at anywhere near the pace that the IT or Telco analyst thought it would. I carried a large number of sharp pins to prick their balloons when we discussed the insurance industry – or really, specific insurance lines of business.

The Three Analyst Firms

Returning to the title of my post, here are my key take-aways for each of the three analyst firms:

META Group

  • Very strong analysts – they knew their technology and industry spaces cold.
  • Very opinionated analysts (which I totally loved) – to this day I continue to feel / behave as if I am still a Meta Group analyst.
  • Analysts used sparingly by the consulting area – the philosophy was to use analysts as subject matter experts but don’t take up their time pursuing consulting engagements. (Analysts exist to research, do analysis, write reports, deliver presentations, and be briefed by firms or brief firms.)
  • Analysts ‘took a stand’ but changed their position as they ‘got smarter’ from more research and ‘talking to their market.
  • Short reports (about 1,200 words MAX) but each analyst had to write 6 – 8 reports / month.
  • Coherent themes for the analyst firm and simultaneously for each service area.
  • Had freedom to create an insurance research agenda that aligned with the Meta themes – still left a huge opportunity area.
  • Analysts’ text took priority over the editors – correct the grammar but do not replace the analyst’s text.
  • Quick editorial process – get those reports published !!

Financial Insights, IDC

  • Strong analysts but nice people, really nice people – I once told one of my colleagues that if IDC analysts were any nicer I would need an insulin shot.
  • Quite a few templates to write our reports – quite a few templates. But I didn’t think the templates were ‘over-engineered’ as some of my IDC colleagues.
  • Significantly more than analysts “who count boxes.” Quite a brush-back I almost always heard from Gartner analysts (and only Gartner). Didn’t take me long to realize that IDC analysts are waaaaayyyy more than box-counters.
  • However, IT Spend is a critical component / theme for IDC – ironically, I don’t believe in IT Spend at all. Not even an iota. I care about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ but not the ‘how much’ or ‘how many.’ IDC analysts cover that entire spectrum of those facets.
  • Relatively efficient editorial process – with the right attitude that editors shouldn’t re-write what an analyst has written (except correcting grammaritical mistakes).
  • Still shocked that our reports didn’t have an Executive Summary – but the 3 – 5 bullet points on the first page served that purpose.
  • I was part of a great global team of insurance industry analysts – and it was global: Canada, London, Italy, and Singapore. I always reminded the team that when we crafted our annual research agenda to change it however they felt necessary because they knew their regional significantly better than I ever could.
  • Colleagues from other parts of the world – and other practices – graciously agreeing to participate in the areas around the globe where we didn’t have insurance industry analysts.
  • I did run into some IDC analysts in my first year who told me that they never would have hired me once they found out I came from The META Group. (That gave me a few chuckles ….)
  • Used analysts in consulting engagements, including pursuit teams. Analysts had a consulting component of their compensation. Hated it.

Ovum (an Informa Company)

  • Gave me an opportunity to better understand first-hand the issues and challenges that insurers faced around the world, specifically Europe and Asia-Pacific.
  • Erroneously believed that one insurance industry analyst, or two analysts for that matter, could cover the entire planet. Insurance regulatory differences make that impossible (even if the one analyst or the two analysts are willing to work without any sleep).
  • Strong analysts including extremely strong Telco analysts – it quickly became apparent that Ovum’s roots were in Telco.
  • Editorial process (peer review and editing) that served to slow down the production of analyst reports.
  • Editorial process that erroneously was built to enable the editors to over-ride what the analyst wrote (beyond grammatical errors).
  • Reports that were too long – really too long … and when I first got there were organized as books with chapters. Books !! I continue to believe if an analyst has a lot of material the analyst should write multiple reports.
  • Far too much emphasis on head-to-head (i.e. Decision Matrices) for my taste – yes, they are important but they take way too long and analyst areas with three of fewer analysts shouldn’t be asked to do any H2H reports.
  • Analysts from various services were happy to collaborate – significantly different from IDC where some of the analysts would only collaborate if their service got a % of the subscription price (of the analyst asking for collaboration) or wanted to be shown as a co-author even if the collaboration was a short paragraph.
  • Wonderful approach to help analysts not just understand issues their market faces by sending the analyst to different parts of the world – got me to Australia twice and New Zealand once to visit clients and prospects.
  • However, wouldn’t tackle North American when I was with Ovum. Yes, there is a whole world out there but not being willing to compete with IDC, Gartner, and Forrester in North America is myopic IMO.
  • Used analysts in consulting engagements. Analysts had a consulting component of their compensation. Hated it.

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If I had a magic wand, I’d combine META Group and Financial Insights, IDC into the analyst firm that I’d want to work. (I would eliminate the IT Spend and, of course, any head-to-head reports.)

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