James Governor's Monkchips

Things To Do in the Analyst Business When You Are Dead

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Things To Do in Denver When You Are Dead, like other 90s gangster movies, notably Donnie Brasco, is a movie heavily concerned with language; how it’s used, what it means and how it can be used to include or exclude different constituencies.

Buried within the pastel and claret nightmare of Casino is another movie all about language, a movie about idiom, about how language defines a community, adding richness and play, or leading to stagnation. What does it mean to be part of the family or, more appropriately, The Family?

Richness and exclusivity of language ultimately leads to gated communities and walled gardens, however. Isolated communities become tainted with sterility, with a closed loop binding the community more tightly while simultaneously cutting off its oxygen supply. After falling into a self-referential loop though, how can group memberskeep bring in fresh infusions of creativity, ideas and bodies? This is a problem for all organizations.

In TTDIDWYAD two key concepts explained are “the buckwheat” and “boat drinks”. The buckwheat is a hideous death, medieval in its intensity, but with guns. Boat drinks are those overflowing fruit cocktails we’ll drink when we get out of the business and out of jail and retire to Florida. But it’s the act of naming that for me is the most powerful notion – “giving it a name” makes an idea concrete, it helps us understand the world, it provides the basic currency for information interchange. When someone nails it just so–that’s what I was thinking but couldn’t put it into works and they just did –that’s giving it a name.

In Donnie Brasco we learned what “forget about it” means. Al Pacino explains to the rookie gangster (and undercover cop), Johnny Depp, the multifarious uses the phrase can be applied to. These movies led directly to the Sopranos, provided us with the semantics and semiotics of gangster life to the degree that we can now appreciate a soap opera in that context.

These films harken back through sepia tint to a “golden age” of gangsters – when the only people hurt were other gangsters and where nobody ever broke omerta–that is, the wall of silence kept up by participants in the community (and those they held in fear).

You might be asking yourself where I am going with this. Or you might be way ahead of me. Suffice to say that sometimes the industry analyst business looks something like the Mafia.

To take the metaphor a little further, and uncomfortably close to the truth, some analyst firms appear to run a sophisticated version of the protection racket. If you pay up we let you do business – if not we can make life real hard for you by smashing the place up/downgrading your products. Its an open secret in the business, the corpse out in the backyard we all catch occasional whiffs of.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the industry analyst business is ready for an overhaul.

Open, Lessig, Revolution?

After setting up RedMonk one of the first questions I was asked came from one of the coolest people I have met in this business–Microsoft’s Susan Koehler (you try succeeding in Redmond while bringing up three boys and still remembering to take them the gingerbread home!) The question she asked was the kind of question you hear in Redmond perhaps more than you do anywhere else–what are you going to do to revolutionize your industry? I didn’t have an answer – I admit it. I never set out to revolutionize my business, per se, but was simply interested in creating a good working environment for myself and my partner, Stephen O’Grady, to help clients with complex challenges.

That is not to say I am not ambitious. It is also not to say that I wasn’t deeply aware of some of the contradictions and problems with the industry analyst firms I saw all around me. Nor would I deny that I am egotistical enough to think I might come up with an idea or two that might change how industry analysts do business.

But its only now, two years in, that some of these ideas are really making themselves felt. Because a funny thing happened on the way to making RedMonk a better place to work; we have begun to change the industry. You see the RedMonk is different. We work differently than other firms. It’s taken us a while to figure out all the ways in which we are different, but we’re getting there.

The whole situation became a lot clearer when we took the decision to “open source” a recent report of ours, focusing on an approach to solving business problems we call Compliance Oriented Architecture. In simpler terms, we took about three months work, the results of scores of interviews with enterprise IT users, audit officers, risk managers, IT vendors and services companies – some of our most valuable intellectual property, in other words – and published the whole thing under a CreativeCommons license. And we’ll do it again.

The CreativeCommons is a simple copyright license put forward by Lawrence Lessig that allows content creators to publish their work and easily set policies about how it can be used; allowing the creation of derivative works based on the work, say, but only for non-commercial purposes. The idea is to do for folks in content businesses what open source did for the software business. That is to create a framework for shared innovation, allowing people to work on shared problems in a contributory fashion.

COA is hopefully an example of this shared innovation; while the core idea is ours, it was formed with the assistance of tens if not hundreds of different conversations on compliance related topics. The concept and approach didn’t simply emerge one day, fully formed, without the benefit of other experiences, approaches, technologies. By submitting this work to the Commons, we’re attempting to recognize the value of those myriad small contributions to the end product. We’re in discussions with two other analyst firms about adopting the same model.

Lessig’s ideas are important because he has identified the pernicious effects on art and innovation of Big Media cartel’s current attempts at total copyright lockdown. Shakespeare, The Rolling Stones, and yes Microsoft all flourished by borrowing/stealing/building on other peoples ideas. What would the industry be like if Xerox Parc was the only company that could benefit from its ideas? We’d probably all be using green screens.

Lessig is not just an exponent of idea sharing. He is also on a the board of The Free Software Foundation. Which is where Lessig’s ideas for open source intersect with open source software thinking.

Getting Out of The Church

At this point a little more explanation is required. A seminal work- indeed you could say *the* seminal work in open source computing is Eric Raymond‘s superb essay entitled “The Cathedral and The Bazaar.” The work explains – and provide an intellectual framework to underpin – shared work on software problems. When you read arguments in the press today about proprietary versus open source and how open source leads to better, more secure programs because of the far greater number of eyeballs examining the source, that is a meme that was first popularized in The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

The idea is that proprietary software development methods can’t compete with the shared modes and methods of open source coding and coders. An entire industry, not to mention many corporate futures, is being built around this notion.

The above explanation is by necessity simplified. What does this have to do with industry analysts though?

Well, in our admittedly biased opinion, most industry analysts are stuck in the Cathedral and act as if analyisis was an esoteric discipline, featuring the analyst as high priest with enterprise users and vendors as our flocks.

“I am the door to the kingdom of heaven and you must come through me.”

Want to be on the RFP lists of the Fortune 500? Sacrifice at my altar.

I am the font of knowledge, knowledge you aren’t privy to.

I have a proprietary methodology to judge the best available products and services that works unilaterally.

I will make or break new technologies and services.

I am the ultimate arbiter of success, terminology and opportunity.

Well, RedMonk hereby reject these notions and that role.

How The World is Changing

At RedMonk we prefer to spend time in the bazaar, which is where the marketplace for ideas is at its richest. We prefer to admit, rather than disguise, antecedents for our ideas. We prefer to acknowledge, rather than obscure, the conversation that is the foundation to our work.

If we’re borrowing from Clay Shirky we’ll say so. Stephen Johnson‘s Emergence – check it out. Tim O’Reilly‘s Architecture of Participation – wow these guys have really nailed something important, and admit they borrow from Shirky too! Give it a Name!

If we use Geoffrey Moore we’ll nod to it.

Citing The Competition

On a recent call with a vendor that was trying to explain to us how email workflows could and were transactional I had to do the “unthinkable” – recommend the analysis of someone outside the hallowed walls of RedMonk. I recommended they check out the notion of meta-mail, a meme that captures precisely the concept they were looking to describe. Would that the idea was mine–but hats off to Esther Dyson for doing the best job of giving it a name.

Wherefore Credibility

While we’re citing influences I should also point to Michael Lewis‘ rather excellent The Future Just Happened, which makes it abundantly clear using some neat (too neat?) anecdotes that our culture’s notions of expertise are breaking down under the onslaught of mass communications. Who needs a lawyer when a 15 year old on the internet will give better advice, for a hundredth of the cost? Why does another fifteen year old give better stock picking advice than Wall Street, so much so that his teachers are begging for investment picks. The whole notion of a “professional” with some secret knowledge is approaching bankruptcy. Where did lawyerboy get his expertise in the law even though he never reads books? On courtroom TV shows.

This is from the link above:

In Liar’s Poker the barbarians seized control of the bond markets. In The New New Thing some guys from Silicon Valley redefined the American economy. Now, with his knowing eye and wicked pen, Michael Lewis reveals how the Internet boom has encouraged great changes in the way we live, work, and think. He finds that we are in the midst of one of the greatest status revolutions in the history of the world, and the Internet is a weapon in the hands of revolutionaries. The old priesthoods—lawyers, investment gurus, professionals in general—have been toppled. The amateur, or individual, is king: fourteen-year-old children manipulate the stock market; nineteen-year-olds take down the music industry; and wrestlers get elected to public office. Deep, unseen forces seek to undermine all forms of collectivism, from the mass market to the family. Where does it all lead? And will we like where we end up?

How can we be sure we trust this person though? Networks of trust, of course. Back to Emergence—Johnson explains how slashdot works, why we listen to one geek and not another. Feedback loops and automated counting. Do we trust Amazon book recommendations? I do. Aggregation can drive insights that capture The Wisdom of Crowds.

This debate about authority and credibility is related to one of the current memes i think is particularly telling – that is, the Pro-Am revolution. We live in interesting times – the “authorities” are failing us in so many areas that we’re losing faith in them.

This is true of lawyers, doctors, politicians. Analysts too? Certainly folks like Ed Brill at IBM aren’t taking analyst prognostications at face value. Ed is at the vanguard of a movement to call analysts out and keep us honest. And that is a good thing. We need feedback to work out whether predictions were right, whether we have every fact straight, whether we’re onto something, or just blowing smoke. [Oh yeah- its not just analysts that face major changes. If the conversation is broader and explicitly broadenedwhat impact will that have on AR and corporate relations departments? You certainly can’t promise control of “message”.

A final point about credibility. I was at a recent event when a well known industry analyst, who used to run a firm well known for writing white papers in support of vendor positions, sat down. I was discussing how blogs, RSS splicing and aggregation were going to change industry analyst and other information-based businesses. They sniffed and said that bloggers had no credibility. This from someone that sold their credibility down the river long ago.

Some Closing Remarks On Things To Do

What is the basis of industry analyst credibility? Is is the brand or the work you do?

One of the most elegant blog posts i have seen recently is this one – which talks to credibility through networks, the difference between an exclusive, and an inclusive.

The CBS memos case known as ‘Rathergate’ has been picked over for months in the blog world, so it was a bit of a surprise to me that only now have CBS issued their report.

When told that the memos were fake, Rather said “If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I’d like to break that story.” He is thinking of a story he can put EXCLUSIVE on. But whom would he be excluding? Presumably other big media organisations.

More reflective journalists, such as Dan Gillmor, are instead thinking how they can put INCLUSIVE on their stories – they are measuring success by how many people they bring into the conversation, and they recognise it doesn’t necessarily start with them.

Right On.

We believe that industry analysts need to get out of the Cathedral and into the Bazaar. Its time to clean up the business. We can only do that in collaboration with others. We should be more transparent about who is paying the bills too. We’re going to keep open sourcing content. We’re going to keep talking to practitioners and treating them like peers. We’re going to keep reading Jon Udell.

The great thing about the end of something is it marks the beginning of something else.

This screed is both far longer and far shorter than it needs to be. we’re working on something more manifesto like but i wanted to put this first stake in the ground. i actually wrote this a month ago. The title becomes far more prescient in light of Gartner’s move to take over Meta. That is – what do you do when you are dead? Buy a company for growth. This narrative is nailed by Michael Wolff.

And as he also says “It is both bad form, but entirely impossible to avoid, presenting others ideas as our own”

That is the crux of a problem all industry analysts face. At RedMonk we try and admit it.

Will the Gartner Meta merger be a success? I leave that to others. But i am prepared to say it was not driven by the needs of Gartner’s customers, but of its shareholders. I don’t agree with Hugh on this at all, but the obsession with growth is obviously deeply rooted in the culture.


  1. James, certainly an interesting point of view and one that I mostly agree with. I think it’s high time that analysts were held to account, but I wonder….in this new model of using CC for your output, how do you make a living? I’m probably missing something fundamental here (I haven’t gotten all the way through Lessig’s book yet).

  2. Consulting around the model/ I forgot to include a fave quote

    “Software companies get confused and think they are in the product business, when really they are in the *services* business.” problem is i now can’t find it, it was either stallman or raymond.

    Our business might not scale as fast as some – but we can deliver value consulting around the model, and get paid for it. instructors get paid and they dont own their own coursework/

    Also take Linus or other open source stars- he can earn as much money as he wants, if he wants. get on the conference circuit, say, or Can you imagine the job HP would create for him if he wanted to join them. There are other models that selling the information itself

    Me and my wife had an idea last night. Many people are not very good at breathing. They tend to hyperventilate, or breathe to shallow. This leads to all sorts of health and stess issues. She is reading on the subject and doing a lot of breathing exercises. I suddenly said hey Natalie why don’t you go into business as a breathing coach? I am pretty sure folks in high stress jobs would be willing to work with a breathing coach. And if you can make money out of breathing – well you should be able to make money out of anything.

  3. James, I read your comment over at Dan Gillmor’s site. Good writing here and good luck on your endevours. Spread the good word!

  4. James, points well made. The econonmics of this new openness are not intuitive, but you are right, folks do seem to make a quid out of it. The instructor analogy explains it well, I think.

  5. James … congratulations. This is an amazing piece you have here. Best of luck implementing such ideas in your industry. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to be so honest even on my own program, which is Sun’s OpenSolaris project. In many ways we are being extraordinary open, but the process of getting to that openness is sometimes painful. We have people at Sun who are living light years ahead on the astral planes and encouraging us to all come along, and then again we have some who are trying to drag us back to the dark ages, too. Granted, all large organizations have such creatures, so I’m not complaining. Just trying to follow the light …

  6. Very interesting read that makes me think back to Edmund Gwenn in “Miracle on 34th Street”. As Santa Claus, he was supposed to push Macy’s product lines. But then he did the unthinkable and sent customers to Gimbles. “Heresy!” though the retentive boss, until it was realized that this added value to the Macy’s name, thinking about the customer first and getting unintended rewards.

    Yes this is a work of fiction, but talk to Rocky Oliver (http://www.lotusgeek.com) about how much value he has gottent for “giving things away” and you see the reality of the Bazaar. The again, I always stop to rememember my read of Herman Wouk’s classic, “Don’t Stop the Carnival” (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316955124/theinternationad/ ). 🙂

  7. A provacative peice indeed, but I remain curious how the community will provide editorial policy— open source/community IP efforts are only successful when (1) the group size is small or when (2) some organizational hierachy evoles to ensure coherency/quality for larger groups of contributors (as happens with Linux, Apache, Slashdot, etc.). Since RedMonk is presumably after the latter, the challenge seems to be how to build communities for more precisely targetted content (e.g., most IT decision makers will want different content their star developers), and how pier-review can be leveraged to aggregate and prioritize content. And of course, there’s also the question of how RedMonk makes money at this—perhaps be launching sponsored studies that the community then shares in?

    The net: I’d like to see a more specific scenario to have a better since for what RedMonk envisions. My at-best semi-informed $.02.

  8. James,

    Great narrative as always. Bang the drum and shake up the analysts as much as you can. High Priests they may try to portray themselves as, but you’re on the road to breaking down the catherdal doors!

  9. James,

    Very interesting and well written piece of work. I think it is clear that a lot of industries are moving towards the open source/bazaar approach, so why not the analyst industry? The good thing is that if you get the business model right, it could be a big thing.

    The industry definitely needs the services of people like yourself to bring together ideas and people. The challenge is to make it open and accessible. You seem to moving in the right direction!

  10. Good work but, respectfully, I think it misses one very key point. CC certainly is a means to greater transparency but as others have said, where’s the business model? My take is that the answer lies in oversight and regulation. If there was an equivalent function for IT analysts in the same way the SEC regulates financial analysts then that’s how you break the protection racket and level the playing field. If analysts all got the same information as compared to today where they are selectively briefed only then will the lack of transparency issue disappear. Or maybe we should just “forget about it”…

  11. Open source is driving the revolution that we will all want to be part of. The sooner you get started the sooner you can start building up your whuffie points. What can you get with whuffie points? I don’t know but you need them. Those with them will decide what they will be worth, along with pretty much everything about how society progresses.

    I don’t know much about the business model for an analyst firm. (I thought they just wined and dined around the world then magically turned those events into saleable material.) But I know the closed source model is dying, so what choice have you got? Go forward with the throttle ‘wide open.’ (The more you open it up the faster you will go.) When you get there look back and give the rest of us directions.

  12. I think you’re right about the idea of releasing, sharing, sourcing, referencing and complementing information. The biggest problem with analysts at the moment is the lifecycle of creating, hyping and discarding an overlapping set of bandwagons. Case in point – corporate performance management, business process management and business service management, all of which mean diddly squat other than something to put on the press release. Such broad categories do nothing to help the CIO – in fact, they hinder, as s/he will be trying to solve real problems – these aren’t real solutions, they’re “market categories” or somesuch. If you add to that the fact that such categories are being cast as “intellectual ideas” (which they’re not – the opposite if anything), which are then sold to subscribers, the result becomes a wholly artificial tower of cards, or a bag of wind. If only it were both.

  13. There is some overlap with design: a designer has to have a portfolio, why not an analyst? I guess the difference is in the CC licence. But a lot of designers include CC designs in their portfolio, eg CSS Zen Garden. Designers who participate are not saying “buy that design I did for the Garden”, they are saying (apart from it just being a celebration of the craft of CSS web design) “buy my capacity to design for you in future.”

    I am amazed that people continue to ask the “but how will you make money?” question.

    Key concepts for me are that clients do not buy you “thoughts”, they invest in your “capacity to think” and that chemistry between supplier and client is getting more and more important. I just did a bit of supplier selection consulting – clearly, we were not buying what the suppliers had done, but what they had the potential to do for the project in future.

    Chemistry was so important in that process. The buyer was not buying a design (or heaven forbid a “solution”) from the supplier, not even “design services” in isolation. They were setting up a relationship, into which both sides will put creativity and technical knowledge, out of which an end product will come. And open source stuff was what convinced the buyer about which relationship to continue.

    Sure you won’t make money off the CC stuff directly, but putting your stuff out there, open source, is a celebration of what it is you do and a sign of your understanding of the how business is moving right now. It’s a sign of your confidence in yourself, in your capacity to do great work in the future. That has to have an appeal to clients. And open source is rooted in relationships, which is what I think forward thinking clients want.

    That kind of thinking appears to work. I saw a survey which suggested that programmers who have contributed to open source projects earn 20% more than those who haven’t. Oh, there is evidence to the contrary, too. Someone did a PhD in which they worked out that senior businessmen and women have historically placed more stock in the advice they pay for than advice that comes free, even if the paid for advice is a clearly inferior.

  14. Jimbo,

    OK piece, I thought. Although you could have expressed your idea in 50 words!

    Love n Hugs, G

  15. Jimbo,

    Lovely. What the hell were you going on about in the first bit though?

    Love n Hugs, G

  16. well, I’m in Denver, but not dead yet..

    Couldn’t agree more with the assessment of Analyst Business As It Is Done Now. I’ve monitored the analyst firm predictions for the past decade or so in my specialities (data warehousing, EAI, now SOA) and they haven’t been right yet. Add to that the pay-to-play aspect, and it’s all just a kind of expensive game.

    I still don’t see how anyone outside of an elite few can make a living from open-source coding (or analysis 😉 Before the handover of their database to MySQL, SAP had a hundred developers on staff for an open-source database. The rationale was that it was a way for their customers to avoid paying the Oracle premium, so it supported their business. That made sense, but I wonder where those developers are now ?

  17. re: your answer to “how do you make money?” I sort of agree but I sort of disagree, and in a sort of big way 😉

    My background is in consultancy, which is essentially a resource-constrained business. Like it or lump it, utilisation, aka “bums on seats”, is a (the?) major measure of success in a human-constrained, consultancy only based model. It becomes very difficult to get very rich out of being a consultant. Sure, you can put your rates up so that you can become quite well off as an individual; alternatively you can own a consultancy company – the consultants get paid, you get the profits. Either way, you are ultimately resource constrained.

    A second way of making money is on a per-license basis. In this way, having produced a creative work, the only limitation is based on the number of people that want to buy it. While it is a perfectly valid approach to release information and reports for nothing (indeed we do it too), it is equally valid to want to gain revenue for a work. Ask any musician. If you choose not to, that’s fair enough, but just because you don’t want to charge, that doesn’t mean people aren’t prepared to pay.

  18. I’m Really Not This Dull, or, Irons in the Fire

    My posting rate has been abysmal for the past week or so, both here and on my other blog. Here, dear readers, is a formal apology. I’ve been drinking from the RedMonk firehose, and there hasn’t been much chance to…

  19. Not much on my mind. I don’t care. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me , but shrug. Whatever. I feel like a void.

  20. Helping clients with their problems – that’s just crazy talk!! Isn’t there more money to be made in consulting? After all, you cannot spell “consult” without concatenating the terms “con: and “insult”.


    I love you guys!!!! Keep up the good fight!!!!


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