[ISN] Credibility Of Analysts

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Tue Feb 28 03:05:25 EST 2006


By Larry Greenemeier 
Paul McDougall 
Feb 6, 2006

Research firms make their living by offering expert advice to business 
and technology people about the best ways to invest their IT dollars. 
It can be invaluable insight, but only if that analysis comes with no 
strings attached. And on that, there's no guarantee. 

Forrester, Gartner, IDC, and others insist their output is squeaky 
clean, yet they also rake in millions providing services to the very 
same companies they monitor, heavyweights like Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, 
and Oracle. Which leads to a question that continues to dog the 
research firms: How much influence do technology vendors have over 
their work?

At issue are business practices that beg for closer scrutiny. For 
example, it's not uncommon for IT research firms to write reports that 
are funded directly by tech vendors. Money changes hands, and the 
vendor that commissions a report often reviews it before general 
distribution. Microsoft's "Get The Facts" marketing campaign has made 
liberal use of sponsored research to tout the benefits of Windows over 
Linux. Such reports aren't always clearly marked as having a vendor's 
backing. A 47-page white paper by Security Innovation, published in 
November, mentions that it was funded by Microsoft at the bottom of 
page 6. 

Analysts also show up in the marketing programs of the companies they 
cover. IDC's Bob O'Donnell recently made an appearance in a video 
produced by thin-client vendor Wyse Technology on the advantages of 
thin-client computing. IDC also published a report, sponsored by Wyse, 
that found the software and hardware costs of thin clients to be 40% 
lower than PCs. Wyse, it turns out, is an IDC client.

And there are hard-to-prove grumblings among small vendors that they 
have a better chance of being covered by a research firm if they are 
paying clients. It's called pay-for-play, and it's an issue that the 
overseers of Gartner's office of the ombudsman do their best to dispel 
on their Weblog (ombudsman.blog.gartner.com). 

InformationWeek went to senior executives of leading IT research and 
advisory firms to ask how they're addressing questions of objectivity 
and customer trust. Not surprisingly, all say they're committed to 
delivering information services of the highest integrity. "We are 
independent--that is not an issue at all," Gartner CEO Gene Hall says. 
Maybe, but we also see troubling practices that continue to cast doubt 
over their best intentions. 


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