Ray Wang leaves Forrester – normal course of business

Photo - Ray WangWhen it became known that Forrester enterprise applications analyst extraordinaire R “Ray” Wang (blog, Twitter handle) was leaving the firm, it left some folks atwitter on Twitter and blogs (no apologies for the atrocious pun) (e.g., see Ray Wang departing Forrester). What does Ray’s departure mean? Does it portend broader changes in the analyst ecosystem? 

Well, no. This is just the normal change that happens at every firm and most every individual’s career. As we pointed out a year ago in Bursts of analyst departures in a hot research area is not unusual, there are always analysts leaving firms for a variety of reasons. The reasons that Ray gave in his blog post Thursday’s Thanks: It’s Been A Great 5 Years! are very typical: more time with family and a change in research focus that did not necessarily fit in with his job and Forrester’s business model. While Forrester does not like losing a valuable, high profile employee as Ray, it has lots of smart analysts covering the same market as Ray so there will be little short or long term impact on Forrester’s business.

Here are some quick replies to comments we have seen.

Vinnie Mirchandani, former Gartner analyst and single practitioner at Deal Architect says in Fellow rebel, Ray Wang that superstar analysts like Ray are under-compensated by the major firms. We reply – So? As Vinnie himself pointed out that has always been the case. As a consequence compensation is no big deal and the major firms have always been able to recruit smart folks, turn them into superstars, and replace them when necessary. However, a lot of very smart analysts stay at the major firms even if in theory they could make more money elsewhere.

James Governor of Redmonk (Twitter handle, blog) in a tweet says “wondering why Forrester analysts leave, while Gartner analysts do not.” Our response – Guess what? Analysts do leave Gartner, probably 30+ per year (assuming a 5% turnover).  They are just not on James’ radar (e.g., they cover different markets or choose not to play in the social media sandbox). Again, normal course of business.

Wicked smart AR professional Bob Sakakeeny (Twitter handle) tweeted “@carterlusher do either vendors or analyst firms have the ability to change business models given the shift to independents & boutiques?” The response to that question is that there have always been hundreds of independents and boutiques so new boutique firms or single practitioners, even those effectively leveraging social media, are nothing unusual. For example, in the 1990’s Gartner, Forrester, and META acquired over 100 specialty boutique or regional analyst firms. At the end of the 90’s there were more analyst firms than before the M&A frenzy because there are no barriers to entry and no shortage of smart, ambitious potential analysts.

As to whether this is a case of plucky social media smiting a mighty analyst firm dinosaur, nope. Obviously Ray’s effective use of social media (e.g., 4k to 8k unique blog visitors per month and ~2,800 Twitter followers) are a great marketing resource for a new firm if he chooses to hang out his own shingle. However, savvy individuals have always used the media of the day to provide themselves with free marketing (e.g., Rob Enderle and the press quote). Again, nothing new.

On a side note, SageCircle wishes Ray the best of luck with his next gig and look forward to reading more insightful posts on his blog.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR needs to keep it finger on the pulse in the changes in the analyst community
  • AR needs to have a formal analyst list management framework in place to handle changes in the analyst landscape
  • AR teams needs to review their analyst lists at least quarterly and do a full refresh at least annually

Bottom Line: Rather than jump to conclusions that the departure of analysts, high profile or not, represents dire implications for a firm or analyst industry, members of the analyst ecosystem should step back and calmly analyze the situation. Are the departures just typical turnover that happens at every company? Or do the departures represent a systemic problem for a firm or macro change in the landscape?

Question: AR – Have you seen more or less voluntary analyst turnover since the beginning of the recession.

8 Responses

  1. Carter, as a small business owner yourself, not sure why you need to highlight “single practitioner” when referring to me. You know we go to market with partner firms on the advisory/consulting side, am part of the 50+ member Enterprise Irregulars group of bloggers etc.

    And that it is the big shift that has been happening in market intelligence over the last few years – significantly more fragmentation and partnering. Ray is another example of that.

    You have the opportunity to coach your clients about this morphing market and how to deal with what I call “thousand points of influence” – – see below.

    http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/2007/11/the-delusion-of.html

    Most AR execs are doing their employers a disservice by continuing to focus on the big analyst firms, and only the analyst side of such firms.

    I compare it to the State Department when the Soviet Union broke up. It took a while for it to accept and adjust to the fragmentation impact on diplomacy.

  2. Hi Vinnie,

    Thanks for the comment.

    We find that size of the firm is a useful and relevant characteristic to include in a discussion about the analyst landscape along with markets covered, style of deliverables (e.g., qualitative and/or quantitative) and other points. The categories we use are:

    Number of
    Analysts
    1 ——— Single practitioner
    2-9 ——- Boutique
    10-24 —– Small
    25-99 —– Mid-size
    100+ —– Large

    I am curious why you bring this up. Do you consider “single practitioner” to be a pejorative label? We obviously don’t. In fact, we have talked with vendors who like working with single practitioners on the belief that they provide better client service and unique insights.

    • Not pejorative but increasingly less relevant in a world of networked partners..and IRS rules which provide incentives to keep employee counts low and partner/sub-contract more…

      85% of CIO budgets are spent with vendors…so lots of leverage from small teams – that is our industry’s future

  3. Hi Carter

    Out of interest, what is the logic behind the breakpoints on size you have listed?

    Just so you know where I am coming from, when we are analysing the SMB market, and indeed when we are articulating insights and advice in this space, we use breakpoints in terms of size that reflect typical transitions in IT procurement and usage behaviour, which are in turn driven by factors such as organisational structure, funding/budgeting structure, IT leadership, skill mix within IT, etc. While it is always dangerous to generalise too much, and there are other factors that are as important, an understanding of *why* size has an impact on behaviour is really useful.

    With this in mind, what are the relevant differences in behaviour, or anything else that matters from an AR perspective, that distinguishes a single practitioner from a boutique, a boutique from a small firm, and so on?

    Also, picking up on Vinnie’s point, what are your thoughts on the practical differences (from an AR perspective) between a firm with, say, 50 analysts, and a network made up of the same number of analysts collaborating from range of smaller entities?

    To kick this off, my guess would be that the average level of industry experience among single practitioners and boutiques is going to be significantly higher, as smaller players who rely on reputation and impact find it harder to operate successfully with too many junior analysts in the mix. As firms scale, however, populating teams solely with seasoned talent is impractical, so blending more junior resource into the formula is critical. I guess this has an impact in how teams are structured, how individual analysts are focused and deployed, and how information flows around the firm, which in turn must be important when determining how to engage effectively as a vendor.

    Apart from the skill/experience mix, there is then the question of how the firm is operated and managed. One AR person remarked to me a couple of years ago, for example, that his company was reluctant to engage with smaller firms because it was more difficult to control the relationship with them. The point he made was that when the analyst is a) very experienced, b) quite opinionated, and c) one of the owners of the company, you cannot escalate a disputed opinion/conclusion up the management chain and have someone ‘pull rank’ as you can with a larger firm.

    Beyond the obvious questions of reach, influence, brand, etc, are these the kind of things that matter when it comes to size? What else does an AR team need to bear in mind when thinking about engaging with firms in the various bands?

    Cheers
    Dale

  4. Dale, Great comment. Thanks for taking the time.

    I’m going to work on a reply this weekend and upload it next week (I am swamped with client deliverables between now and Friday). In fact, I am planning doing it as a full post. I will link to it from the comments of this post.

  5. I have a point of view about being a single practitioner – now that I are one – but I’m not here to talk about that.

    I just want to say that Ray Wang is the equivalent of a boutique all by himself. The volume of his output, his frequency of interactions with clients on both sides of the market, and the unflagging commitment to principle Ray has shown throughout his career have made me proud to have helped him a little in his early days at Forrester. I’ve worked with hundreds of analysts as a colleague and a manager, and I have never met anyone who came close to Ray’s energy and output. If anyone deserves a chance to step back and take stock, it’s him. And I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

  6. […] to the dozens of tweets, blog posts and comments on blog posts found elsewhere (like the thoughtful post by Carter Lusher on Sage Circle) about Ray. He will be leveraging the more open world outside, where […]

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: