The Motley Fool has a pretty interesting article on IT analyst firms such as Gartner & Forrester.

I’ve worked with these firms for nearly a decade and do believe that they provide a valuable service to their customers and the IT market in general.

Some metrics for Gartner:

“Each year, Gartner’s 650 researchers attend 18,000 vendor briefings, along with answering 240,000 client inquiries.”

Obviously, not every client inquiry is of equal weight, but these numbers work out to 1.5 client inquiries per researcher per weekday.

Let’s set aside the client inquiry figure, which, even if each inquiry was from a different customer we’re only covering a very small subset of IT buyers. Even if a company is not a Gartner, Forrester, IDC, RedMonk, 451 Group or Entiva (etc.) customer, the company will be influenced by what these analysts say in the public media.

Analysts help customers make purchase decisions. Analysts also educate the market on new technologies. Even in open source land, the IT manager and CIO of a developer using your OSS product is much more likely to take something serious if they hear it from Gartner, Forrester or IDC first. Working with the large analysts will help your OSS business if you want *paying* customers in the enterprise. Boutique analysts like RedMonk, 451 Group or Entiva are going to be crucial in developing/refining your OSS business strategy. However, because of their size, these boutique analysts don’t have the reach of a Gartner or Forrester in terms of customer purchase decisions. You’ll need to work with both classes of analysts, because each bring a lot of (differentiated) value to the table.

BTW, the article also makes the case against using analysts:

“The current model of analyst-intermediated, opinion-based technology buying and selling produces poor financial returns. Across the world, corporate managers spend more than $1 trillion a year on technology. To help managers invest, and technology marketers persuade, $2 billion a year is spent on technology analysts. Yet 70% of projects fail to deliver a financial return, according to the Standish Group and other commentators.”

(Funny enough, Standish Group is also an analyst firm). Should analysts bear the weight of these 70% of projects that fail? Would fewer projects fail if analysts were not involved in the equation? What is the ratio of project failures for similar companies that use analysts vs. companies that don’t?

Questions, questions, question…I better call an analyst ;-)

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”