Interesting discussion. For what it’s worth, I’ll just chip in a few grizzled opinions based on the perspective that my idiosyncratic career trajectory has given me.
I’m with an analyst big-brand firm now, and it certainly has its advantages (more sales/marketing/account mgt people pitch me to more customers; more people/companies read my stuff; more users/vendors want to engage me in inquiry/consulting; more vendors want to brief me on their innovative technologies; more reporters want my expert commentary for their next story; more of what I say is heeded simply because “that’s their analyst saying that”; and so forth).
Cool. What professional analyst wouldn’t want the sorts of in-built advantages that a big brand provides?
But I’ve been in the biz for a while, and I had previously been with a few mid-tier analyst firms. I’m not so full of myself as to think what I put out there has any more merit now than before a big-brand firm made me an acceptable offer. Much as I appreciate the depth and range of analyst talent of my current employer, I’m also a big fan, and a fond friend, of many “competing” analysts with other firms–as well as those who are doing quite fine as solo artistes.
I considered myself a solo analyst for the first decade-plus of my IT career, from the mid-80s to late-90s, with most of my work published freelance by trade papers (and one book publisher). Nobody else considered me anything but a glorified reporter until an honest-to-gosh analyst firm made me a job offer a few years before the turn of millennium.
It’s with that dues-paying background–my self-identity as an analyst long preceded others anointing me one–that I must absolutely respect every smart person I encounter in the “blogosphere” (or “twittersphere” or what have you) who self-publishes an interesting/informed opinion or two. They’re all commentators. I’m a commentator. We’re all, essentially, at same place in the industry foodchain: providing commentary as perishable fodder for decisions and evaluations being made continuously by vendors and users everywhere.
It’s a noble enough calling. I consider the IT analyst industry an exciting, dynamic space where many brilliant people with diverse backgrounds, skills, and personalities do superb work of different sorts under different business models for different clients. Every sustainable analyst business model is equally valid.
Are the small players gaining ground on the analyst big brands? The smaller firms are just as entrenched and vibrant now as they’ve ever been, but I doubt that the IT industry would welcome an industry order without at least a handful of major “banner” brands that, regardless of the merit of this or that opinion, people habitually turn to for “official” or “summary” comment. If nothing else, notice how reporters tend to gravitate to commentary from the big brands before wrapping their stories? Among other forces, that press-anointed ecosystem of expert commentary tends to keep the analyst space sorted into big vs. mid-tier vs. boutique brands.
But let’s try to retain a modicum of humility here. Nothing any analyst firm of any size says is ever the final word on any IT industry topic. There’s always the potential for some new super-smart nobody to rise to salience based on the power of their brilliance and eclipse the bigger guys on this or that hot new topic.
That’s an opportunity that a steady stream of up-and-comers can and will always seize–if the circumstances are right.
Originally posted to discussion thread at "Advisory Industry Competition: Pushing Past ‘Business as Usual’"
The opinions expressed are my own, not my employer's. So don't give them a hard time over it.