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January 4, 2013 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Mobility, Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Sustainability, Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Big Data, Business Analytics, CIO, Cloud Computing, Market Research, Mobile Technology, Social Collaboration, Social Media, Technology | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
Happy New Year to all my readers and followers. I hope everyone has gotten some rest and is ready for a great 2013. 2012 was a busy year in which we saw a critical inflection point, where an elevated focus on new methods and innovative technological approaches such as big data, business analytics, business and social collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media become part of the mainstream business and IT dialogue. These technologies are beginning to be part of or embedded into enterprise software that will be available in 2013. This is a critical step forward that will help organizations become more efficient in their operations and use technology to its fullest. As we start the new year, I thought a reflection back on the some of the highlights from 2012 was in order.
I had a chance to review some of the most-read blogs from some of our research directors, and found many of them worth further mention as you look for insights. First, Robert Kugel educates finance and business professionals across a range of topics, and his leadership in areas like financial management is apparent in GAAP and IFRS Harmonize Revenue Recognition Standards. In Rob’s research on governance, risk and compliance (GRC) he identified the reality that GRC is about the individual words and that the specifics matter differently to finance, operations and IT. Rarely do you see an integrated process and technology strategy in organizations for getting the information required to mitigate risk and ensure the right level of governance and compliance, though it is so important that organizations ensure they are taking the proper steps with an understanding of their operations.
Next, Richard Snow continues to be a steady voice in customer and contact center management, helping businesses understand the value of technology and vendors learn how they can improve customer experience through more intelligent interactions. Richard’s post on his agenda in 2012 was our most read industry blog, and his contact center in the cloud post was a big read too. Each provided research-based guidance on how to improve an organization’s customer service culture. Richard’s research in customer feedback management continues to identity the immaturity of organizations’ measurement of and actions with customers across social media channels.
In the realm of business and big data, Tony Cosentino noted that business analytics is a priority for organizations, but found a lot of confusion on what approaches best fit specific roles. His post Making Sense of the Swirling World of Business Analytics outlines these challenges and explains what organizations need to understand to ensure the right level of process and technology. I personally liked Tony’s call to transform the three Vs of big data into three Ws of business analytics. Tony’s latest research on the next generation of business intelligence is uncovering what is important with mobile technology and where social collaboration is changing the way business operates. Tony’s recent analysis of the movement to leverage event- and stream-based data to gain better operational intelligence is also critical, since data across the network is definitely part of big data and should be harvested to its full potential.
Some of my own blog posts sparked both violent agreement and disenchantment. In one, I pointed out the silliness of placing a bunch of business charts on a web page, calling it a dashboard, and believing that this will help organizations improve performance. My title maybe caused some stir – The Pathetic State of Dashboards – but it helped instrument a dialogue on what business needs to see and do with the results of analytics, which is not just more charts that need to be deciphered or discarded. I followed this with a look at issues in the data within the charts, and specifically the relevance of key performance indicators (KPI) and what types of measurements are needed to provide actionable metrics (see The Stupidity of KPIs in Business Analytics). These blog posts collectively provided some honest analysis and heavy use of research to show how business analytics needs to improve to reach its true value and contribute to business outcomes in the most efficient manner.
I had some good insights unveiled in our research into the demand for social and mobile technology as part of human capital management and how they have become a necessity and how these are impacting the daily operations in the next generation of workforce management and I am happy to point out that we have a new research director to help advance our research and education in this critical applications and technology category.
We will publicly unveil the research agendas for 2013 on the second week of January that we completed last month and provided to our clients. We post research agendas publicly to provide depth on the themes and plans for our research in the year. Unfortunately most technology analyst firms do not publish their plans for the year and have dropped the process and ignore the rigor it takes to ensure an independent level of research is conducted. This is part of the challenge I laid down to the technology analyst industry last year. We have a passion for research and provide a strong focus on the best practices and insights to applications and technology that help business and IT be successful. I believe our firm plays a role in helping businesses improve in their use of technology.
We finished a decade of business at Ventana Research and as I mentioned in my analysis of a decade of research there is a great opportunity to use research as a more effective technology selection method. We have many surprises in store for 2013, from two summits that will align with our Business Leadership and Technology Innovation awards to a new look and feel in our brand, which we have already begun to roll out and which will soon show up on our website.
On behalf of the entire team at Ventana Research, we hope you find the best possible value from technology in 2013, and we look forward to hearing from you across any of our channels, from research, blogs or social media. You have a lot to do to make sure you adopt best practices, build the best business case and even select the right technology, and we are glad to be part of helping your organization be successful. Our research helps everyone bring the best possible technology to market and deliver the best possible value for every organization.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
October 5, 2012 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Analysts, Blogs, CIO, CMO, Industry Analyst, Influencers, Market Research, Research, Technology Vendors | by Mark Smith | 16 comments
In my more than a decade of writing on the trends and direction of the technology industry, occasionally I have talked about the dark side of technology industry analysts. In that vein, I wrote about the diminishing science of research in technology analyst firms, which has impacted the quality of the analysis and advice given by analysts. It built on my previous post on Why Bad Research Could Jeopardize Your Business. Unfortunately, the ethics and morals in the technology analyst industry have not gotten a lot better since I wrote those pieces, especially when it comes to the objectivity and independence of the research. Now it is time to provide shed light on the financial bias of written research and blogs by industry analysts and the firms they represent and publish under in coverage and rating of technology vendors.
What qualifies me to make that assessment? In my career I worked at technology vendors, among them Oracle and SAP, before I became an industry analyst at META Group, now part of Gartner. After a stint as a solo independent analyst and after spending some time reflecting on cleaning up this industry, I started Ventana Research a decade ago. Our firm focuses on supporting business and IT with in-depth fact-based research, including primary research and deeper analysis of technology products to help assess and recommend better technology strategies and plans.
Information from industry analysts can provide critical input for technology decisions. Given the rapid pace of technology change, it is not easy for businesses, no matter how large or small they might be, to determine what technology trends and vendors they should work with. Yet despite the increasing need for informed help on the part of businesses and IT, the volume of timely research from the large analyst firms has gotten smaller, not larger. Granted, the business of reviewing, editing and publishing research is no easy task, and the larger the research firm the more challenging the process. But nowadays one insidious factor is having a pernicious impact on not only the timeliness of the research but its honesty as well. The dirty secret is that some of the largest technology vendors have forced industry analyst firms to contractually agree to the right to review, edit and approve any written research that references their name or products before it is published.
Technology vendors claim this is because they want to fact-check industry analysts’ work before it is published. However, it is the job of research analyst managers and their operations staff to ensure that what is written is accurate and properly stated. We have done it that way for a decade and refused the financial control of our research just to get access or to have our research purchased. And vendors, even the best-intentioned, cannot escape the biases they bring to reviews of their products. Vendors’ heavy oversight has led to less research from industry analysts being written that offers a useful level of detail or analysis, let alone opinion. Moreover technology vendors use their influence to control access to their executives, offering interviews to those who agree to play this game and leaving out those who do not while leaving executives in the dark about the decisions about who is being scheduled.
Nowadays, Internet information has significant influence on technology buyers. Social media dialogue and blogs have surpassed the influence of industry analysts. Here again, though, some vendors are bringing money to bear to influence this channel. We have technology vendors now who are paying for seemingly independent blog entries to be written in order to gain visibility and promote their latest announcements or marketing activity. If you read a blog entry that ends in a promotion of a vendor activity like a webinar or event that seems out of place – well, it probably is. Any coverage of technology vendor products should be based on the merit of the technology and its impact to the market, customers and the analyst research agenda and not the result of the financial influence of a technology vendor. Blogs and written research that has been funded should have a disclosure at bottom disclosing it has been funded directly by the specific vendor no matter where you read it as they are distributed and syndicated across the Internet.
I feel personally obliged to help reestablish the standards of the industry analyst business, as it plays a critical role for research buyers and suppliers of technology. This is an industry that I passionately enjoy working in, but it needs cleaning up. Individuals and firms that represent themselves as industry analysts and influencers should not allow vendors to use editorial or financial influence to shape their research. Technology providers should stop demanding contracts that allow them approval of research or paying covertly for written coverage and should cancel existing agreements that do so immediately. If industry analysts and teams cannot apply quality control to their own research or correct errors after publication, and if the head of research is not able to stand by the research written, you as a company executive should not work with them. Unfortunately, today you still have to scrutinize everything you read from what you might think is a trusted provider, and certainly from any new source, to ensure you have analysis and opinion you can trust and not propaganda that has been edited, cleansed or manufactured.
Many of we newer analyst firms refuse to play into this game of contractual review of research as it crosses the line beyond which we stop being independent and objective research and advisory services firms. It also tilts the markets because the power of a very large vendor to control industry analysts creates an unfair situation for smaller vendors that do not have similar power to influence the written research of industry analysts.
It is time for change. I hope business and IT increasingly will demand to know if some vendors have edited and changed research that assesses or rates them as a vendor or in some other way put their thumb on the scale. Maybe the answer is for analyst firms and analysts to disclose when research has been reviewed and edited by a vendor before it was published or if it was paid for advertising disguised as a blog. We take the opposite tack, declaring that our Value Index research on vendors and Benchmark Research on buyers has not been edited or reviewed by vendors and we do not allow our blogs or research notes to be scrutinized by vendors before they are published. If we make a mistake that is factual, then we correct it. Our goal is just to ensure the best possible research and insights from our firm that is independent, not skewed by technology vendors.
I, Mark Smith, approve this message and verify that this article was not reviewed, edited, paid for or approved by any technology vendor before it was published.
CEO & Chief Research Officer