Continuing the Bullying of Analysts Issue

Today I read a SageCircle post about threatening analysts by cancelling business, which seems like a variety of bullying and certainly an abuse. I discussed analyst abuse previously, a situation that involved bullying an analyst. I looked at the situation as one that hampered both the analyst/vendor relationship and quality of communications. SageCircle offers the following smartness.

“First, it does not make business sense for an analyst at a major firm to change research that displeases a vendor, even one that is a client. If an analyst developed a reputation for being that malleable they would soon have no clients as what they sell in part is objectivity and independence.”

I completely agree with this statement. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to show vendors that they’re not helping their cause when they try to undermine the objectivity of the analyst’s perspective. Occasionally a software vendor does try to unseat this balance–I’ve felt the implicit if not sometimes explicit threat of cancelled business. TEC based its model on trying to be an “impartial advocate for the end user” which is why our company has an audience that software vendors want to be in front of. That objectivity and independence is the wellspring of the audience the vendor seeks.

I tend to agree with most of the SageCircle points except I’m uneasy with the following.

“…analysts are not responsible for contract value so they don’t care if a vendor client cancels. Yes, the sales rep whose year just went down the drain will care, but the analyst just shrugs.”

But really, A cavalier attitude toward the work produced is unlikely to do anyone much good. Although the analyst may not be the one directly making the sale (in my company’s case we try to maintain a sort of church/state separation), all employees of a company do need to pull together in their work–after all the analyst’s job is every bit as much on the line as the salesperson’s. Does this imply that no analyst can be entirely objective? Well entire objectivity is a full topic in itself and covers a lot more ground than just where the money comes from.

So where am I going with that comment? Look, how could an analyst do his or her job well if s/he wasn’t attentive to a vendor’s concerns (even if they do involve threats or bullying)? There may be some underlying issue that has not been well understood or another sort of misunderstanding. The analyst, conscientious toward his or her labours, ought to critically consider these possibilities rather than shrug. I’d argue that the analyst ought to have the intellectual capacity to separate the threat from the issues so that s/he can rise above a vendors’ unsatisfactory communication skills (which, in the end, is all that a threat boils down to) in order to deal with the issue at hand.

As for the rest of the SageCircle post, it continues with a series of nicely-made other points on the topic of cancelled-business threats–I tend to agree with those and won’t comment further here. Software vendors, it’s worth a read!

Bullying Analysts isn’t the Best Way to Deal

I’ve enjoyed reading Robin Bloor’s series of posts on How to Deal with Analysts. The title of one called attention to analyst abuse, which set some thoughts meandering. Robin made a point under the heading of scruples, and related to briefings.

“The fundamental balancing act lies in the interaction between analyst and vendor. The vendors are keen for the analysts to know and understand their products. The analysts treat briefings as occasions for relationship building and selling.”

Although the point of the post I’ve quoted differs from what I’m about to mention, I really liked that bit in relation to the title on analyst abuse. One form of analyst abuse that could be included in a taxonomy on the subject: bullying.

A few months ago, my job function changed with some corporate restructuring. I found myself taking on the management of several additional teams, including directing TEC‘s research analyst group. It’s been an interesting and busy few months where (cue an excuse for my woeful lack of posting here) I’ve identified and set the groundwork for the year and focused attention on areas that needed it.

Yes, it’s an exciting time full of creative possibilities but when you take on a new job, role, or responsibility you quickly learn it comes ready to share its treasure trove of frustrations too. For example, analyst/vendor communications sometimes feel like an uplifting meeting of intelligent people, ready to help each other learn and spread useful information. Other times, communications go awry and it seems that one person after another dumps their grey matter onto a buzzing heap of rotting political motivation.

I think that Robin says a key thing in calling attention to the analyst and vendor interaction. Something important transpires (or ought to) between analyst and vendor, which involves building a relationship. That relationship (fundamentally if it’s good) requires understanding of the vendor’s product, direction, motivations, etc. Personally, if I don’t have a good relationship with someone, I find it more challenging to understand the person. Why? Pragmatically speaking, a poor relationship likely signifies that the people involved are not communicating well. Not communicating well certainly doesn’t improve understanding.

So, back to my frustations… there I was, sitting with one of my analysts on a briefing. The briefing resulted from a third party that provides some sort marketing/publicity/AR type of function for the software vendor. Ok, that’s fine, a nice briefing facilitated through this person’s efforts. However, the underside of this is that the third party only facilitated the briefing after falsely accusing the TEC analyst of having erred by excluding the vendor from an article we published. We agreed to the briefing under the assumption that it was a good opportunity to find out more and get to know this vendor better–after all, what harm could learning more do? Sadly, it seems the third party presented it to the vendor in a rather different light, one in which the vendor was inaccurately lead to believe we’d slighted them and owed them a fix.

The briefing was fine. Later however, the third party began a strangely vehement and tentacled campaign to charge us with further, (false) wrongdoings. The third party bestowed its unfounded opinions to a host of people including the vendor’s president–curiously shaping attitudes around a neglectful mythology. Coinciding with this, were the third party’s demands that we publish new research about this particular vendor or include mention of it in unmerited ways.

To me, this is a case of bullying. Here, the third party muddied rather than fostered good interactions between a vendor and an analyst. I suspect this particular third party has an odd sort of motivation to appear as an important source for garnering publicity (thereby securing its position with the vendor). Of course this is just an example, not necessarily the norm.

I don’t know whether bullying works on many analysts but it doesn’t impress me. At best, it cannot influence an analysis of the vendor, at worst, provided I have to continue dealing with the marketing/publicity/AR third party, it doesn’t compell me to reach out more than required to do my job properly and certainly raises some questions about that vendor’s interactions with its customers, partners, etc. I mean, is that part of its corporate culture?

It’s striking that a person hired to facilitate understanding with analysts, instead permeated vendor/analyst communications with misunderstanding. Bullying is analyst abuse, it fouls the relationship.