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Grading the analysts

Chances are you deal with industry analysts pretty often, whether your company pays for their services or whether you meet with them at conferences. And if you don’t talk to them, your boss probably does. As a tech journalist, I talk to a lot of industry analysts on a daily basis. I rely on them for insight into nearly all the stories I write and edit.

Over the years I’ve recognized that analysts are like anyone else. Most of them know what they’re talking about. Some of them don’t. Sometimes its hard to know when these people who are paid to be the experts on a subject really are the experts they’re purported to be.

That’s why it’s so useful to hear from paying customers of these analyst firms about their experiences. Sam Lawrence, chief marketing officer of Jive Software, a social software vendor,
blogged this week about his experiences with two shops: Gartner and Forrester Research, two of the the biggest IT research and consulting firms out there. He’s assigned them letter grades based on how they treated his company, both before Jive became a paying customer and after it signed up with them.

Forrester scored a B and Gartner scored a C-. Lawrence was happier with Gartner before he became a paying customer. After he signed on with them, its performance declined, according to his blog. Forrester has been relatively steady in its performance throughout.

From my own experience, I’ve found that Gartner and Forrester both have a number of intelligent and well-informed analysts who are always willing to help me with a story. I couldn’t do my job without them. And both firms have very helpful media relations people on staff. In general, however, I’ve always found Forrester’s analysts more accessible on a daily basis. I’m not sure if their paying clients feel the same way, but with Lawrence and Jive that seems to be the case.

Lawrence also offered praise for some of the smaller, more specialized research firms out there, such as The 451 Group, RedMonk, Jupiter, and specifically Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Burton Group who specializes in collaborative technology. I’ve worked with all of these firms over the years, along with Mike and a bunch of other people at Burton Group, and I agree that they’re a big help.

What firms do you depend on to give you expert advice?

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