In a vendor’s product announcement, what value does a canned quote attributed to an analyst have for CSPs?
Probably none. And that’s just the problem.
I know how external communications processes work for vendors. You write a release. A dozen people review and change it. And along the way someone writes quotes that no one ever actually uttered. The review process is tedious enough that no one involved really wants to fight upstream for anything, because everyone has other, more pressing problems to address.
But here’s where the logic collapses for vendors. You want analysts to endorse your products because you recognize that they should be respected for their independence and integrity. But you then muscle them into quotes you canned for them. They give in to the pressure because you pay big bucks for their services. But the quotes are hollow. They aren’t authentic. And their intended audience – the CSPs who may buy your products – don’t put any stock in them whatsoever. The only purpose these quotes serve is to a) tell the world the research firm is on your payroll, and b) undermine the integrity of the analysts to whom they are attributed and whose endorsement you ostensibly value.
After our piece on Gartner’s IRCM Magic Quadrant gained a fair amount of notoriety we (BillingViews’ team) conducted a quick straw poll with ten of our readers in the CSP world – all folks responsible for purchasing OSS/BSS products. We asked them how much weight they give to research vehicles like this on a 1 to 5 scale from (1) “None at All” to (5) “Base Decisions on It.” The average score was a 2.7, falling somewhere between “Influential, but among a wide range of other information gathering” and “Interesting, but no influence.” Every respondent answered either the former or the latter, with a majority (seven) leaning toward “Influential, but among a wide range…”
What this tells me is that CSPs want to take analysts seriously. It helps them to make decisions if they can trust that the research and advice they receive is truly independent and objective. But when they see analysts pressed into what are paid endorsements – and make no mistake; these quotes come off like scripted commercial adverts – they have to be wary. There is an inherent conflict of interest. The shame of it is, the conflict is completely unnecessary and counterproductive.
The best and simplest solution is to let the individual analysts do their jobs. Let them bring data to the table that validates your (the vendor’s) market strategy, product features, or technical methodology. Let them talk about whether it aligns with the demand they are seeing in the marketplace and whether they believe your company can deliver on its promises. Chances are good that you’ll get an authentic yet objective endorsement out of it that your prospects can accept at face value. And, in cases where what comes back from your analyst isn’t positive, you a) can choose not to publish it, and b) just gained more value from your relationship with the analyst, because he or she just told you something useful no one in your own organization is likely to say.
So here’s the final question – Why don’t I blame individual analysts for shilling vendor products? Because in the vast majority of cases, they have very few options. It’s sales and management teams with these firms that generally perpetuate the bad behavior. The individual analysts can either play ball or put their livelihoods (and thus their families) at risk. But what the vendors and their research sales guys might be overlooking is that the primary value individual analysts bring to the table is their highly educated, experienced, and unadulterated analyses and opinions. When their integrity is impugned, it undermines the firm’s value to CSPs, and therefore to the vendor clients they are trying to appease.
So don’t do it. Let my people go.