Last week we posted some “dont’s” about using analyst written research, so it seems appropriate to follow up with some positive actions for how to use the research and recommendations from the industry analysts.
Contrary to popular belief, IT market researchers and advisory analysts do not do either lab-based product evaluations or take an academic ivory tower approach and think great thoughts in isolation. Rather, the primary research tool is talking: talking to clients, vendors, investors, and the press – the people on the front lines of creating and using technology. Doing client inquiries is not only a way to deliver client service, but also one of the best research sources that analysts have available. Every inquiry provides an analyst the opportunity to find out why a client has some vendors on or off the evaluation list, how the product they installed earlier is working out, how good the vendor’s service has been, and so on. By gathering hundreds of data points from a number of sources, analysts can quickly use pattern analysis to determine what is happening in a market or with a vendor. Knowing how this research methodology works gives research clients insights into how they can better use analyst research, either written or spoken.
For consumers of analyst research an important question to ask analysts break during an inquiry is “What are the sources of information and number of data points used to create this research and recommendations?”
Another important tool for analysts is the conceptual model. A conceptual model is a discussion tool to describe a market or IT management issue not necessarily backed by significant amounts of hard research. Early TCO (total cost of ownership) numbers and market size projections for emerging technologies are examples of conceptual models. These models can be useful but should not be considered the final word on a topic.
For consumers of analyst research, an important question to ask analysts during an inquiry is “Which models being used are conceptual and which are backed by hard numbers?”
When searching for published research, ensure that the material covers the right market. With vendors having different products and overlapping markets it is easy to obtain and read research for the wrong marketplace. Also, check to verify that you are using the right type of research deliverable. Many analyst firms have a deliverable (e.g., Gartner FirstTake, Forrester Brief) to provide an immediate analysis of a news event or vendor announcement. These snap analyses tend to be superficial and should be ignored after a week. Instead, clients should concentrate on obtaining the full reports that are longer and were not written under artificially short deadlines.
As we said last week, the most important tool to leverage in using analyst research is the telephone. While the published research is useful, the real value of an analyst subscription lies in being able to talk directly with the analysts to apply the research to a company’s specific situation. Whenever using an analyst to make a product or vendor decision, it is important to set up a series of inquiries to: obtain the assumptions used by the analyst in creating their research and recommendations; to procure copies of unpublished research such as conference presentations; and discuss the research and recommendations within the context of your company’s specific situation.
Before calling the analyst you should prepare background material on the company and project that can be e-mailed in advance and outline what you hope to accomplish with the inquiry. Even if you believe you have read the most current published research on the topic you should speak with firm’s client service organization to ask for recommendations.
Most importantly a good research consumer will review materials from multiple firms for consistency, immediacy, applicability, and relevance and then check with the analyst(s) directly to enhance their understanding.
Clients should be aggressive in challenging analyst positions and asking for background information on how they developed their recommendations.
Clients should validate the research and recommendations of analysts through independent research and by talking with different analysts at different firms.
Clients should also keep an independent mind and realize that they are ultimately responsible for the technology buying decisions to be made.
Question: Clients – Do you always take advantage of your inquiry opportunity to dig deeper into analyst research? Analysts – Do you appreciate when a client is being a good consumer and asking you to dig into an issue? Vendors – Do you suggest that prospects go beyond written research, even when you are favorably mentioned?
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