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Security Analyst Sausage Machine Firms Quash Innovation

Tackle
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will watch the watchers?

Short and sweet and perhaps a grumpy statement of the obvious: Security Analyst Sausage Machine Firms quash innovation in vendors’ development cycles and in many cases prevent the consumer — their customers — from receiving actual solutions to real problems because of the stranglehold they maintain on what defines and categorizes a "solution."

What do I mean?

If you’re a vendor — emerging or established — and create a solution that is fantastic and solves real business problems but doesn’t fit neatly within an existing "quadrant," "cycle," "scope," or "square," you’re SCREWED.  You may sell a handful of your widgets to early adopters, but your product isn’t real unless an analyst says it is and you still have money in the bank after a few years to deliver it.

If you’re a customer, you may never see that product develop and see the light of day and you’re the ones who pay your membership dues to the same analyst firms to advise you on what to do!

I know that we’ve all basically dropped trow and given in to the fact that we’ve got to follow the analyst hazing rituals, but that doesn’t make it right.  It really sucks monkey balls.

What’s funny to me is that we have these huge lawsuits filed against corporations for anti-trust and unfair business practices, and there’s nobody who contests this oligopoly from the sausage machine analysts — except for other former analysts who form their own analyst firms to do battle with their former employers…but in a kindler, gentler, "advisory" capacity, of course…

Speaking of which, some of these folks who lead these practices often times have never used, deployed, tested, or sometimes even seen the products they take money for and advise their clients on.  Oh, and objectivity?  Yeah, right.  If an analyst doesn’t like your idea, your product, your philosophy, your choice in clothing or you, you’re done.

This crappy system stifles innovation, it grinds real solutions into the dirt such that small startups that really could be "the next big thing" often are now forced to be born as seed technology starters for larger companies to buy for M&A pennies so they can slow-roll the IP into the roadmaps over a long time and smooth the curve once markets are "mature."

Guess who defines them as being "mature?"  Right.

Crossing the chasm?  Reaching the tipping point?  How much of that even matters anymore?

Ah, the innovator’s dilemma…

If you have a product that well and truly does X, Y and Z, where X is a feature that conforms and fits into a defined category but Y and Z — while truly differentiating and powerful — do not, you’re forced to focus on, develop around and hype X, label your product as being X, and not invest as much in Y and Z.

If you miss the market timing and can’t afford to schmooze effectively and don’t look forward enough with a business model that allows for flexibility, you may make the world’s best X, but when X commoditizes and Y and Z are now the hottest "new" square, chances are you won’t matter anymore, even if you’ve had it for years.

The product managers, marketing directors and salesfolk are forced to
fit a product within an analyst’s arbitrary product definition or risk
not getting traction, miss competitive analysis/comparisons or even get
funding; ever try to convince a VC that they should fund you when
you’re the "only one" in the space and there’s no analyst recognition
of a "market?"

Yech.

A vendor’s excellent solution can simply wither and die on the vine in
a battle of market definition attrition because the vendor is forced to
conform and neuter a product in order to make a buck and can’t actually
differentiate or focus on the things that truly make it a better
solution.

Who wins here? 

Not the vendors.  Not the customers. The analysts do. 

The vendor pays them a shitload of kowtowing and money for the privilege to show up in a box so they get recognized — and not necessarily for the things that truly matter — until the same analyst changes his/her mind and recognizes that perhaps Y and Z are "real" or creates category W, and the vicious cycle starts anew.

So while you’re a vendor struggling to make a great solution or a customer trying to solve real business problems, who watches the watchers?

/Hoff

  1. July 10th, 2008 at 12:56 | #1

    Yowza! Hoff is whining. This is such a typical rant coming from the vendor side all it does is increase the standing and power of the analyst firms.
    Granted, most analysts truly do have a mature product bent. They grew up with Lotus Notes, Oracle databases, and EDI. Everything else is new to them. But, look at their customer base. Almost by definition, the customer base of a major research firm is all late adapters. They are post chasm buyers. That is why vendors want to get to the analyst firms, to tap into that old school of buyers. The kind that pay millions to EDS/Unisys/IBM for implementation projects.
    But, when one analyst firm gets it wrong, like Gartner with UTM, it just opens up an opportunity for a more visionary firm (IDC) to get some cred for recognizing a new trend. For that matter lowly bloggers like you and me can even get in on the act.
    Look how easy it is to one up the analyst firms, who as near as I can tell support Network Admission Control universally. Everyone except the folks at Updata Ventures know how seriously flawed NAC is with only one viable market, edu.
    And for that matter look at the established old school companies. It is very rare for IBM, HP, Unisys (your employer)to be in the Leader's Quadrant of a Gartner Magic Quadrant. They are always Challengers, good ability to execute but no vision.
    So if you are frustrated with a particular analyst don't give up. Show him or her she-he is wrong. Get sales, get moving. Stop whining.

  2. July 10th, 2008 at 13:27 | #2

    Yup. One man's whining is another man's confusing and slightly embarrassing admission that what I've said rings true.
    Thanks for four things:
    1) Bringing up my employer when this is my personal blog.
    2) Not realizing that my employer has been and is in a Gartner's leaders quadrant
    3) Giving great examples as to exactly why analyst firms play hopscotch with reality
    4) Assuming I'm having trouble with a particular analyst and have "given up."
    In return, and along the lines of your first sentence, I'd like to suggest that this is a "typical rant coming from the ex-analyst side and all it does is increase the resentment and disdain for those who don't get it."
    So, how's that new vendor gig going by the way? ;)
    /Hoff

  3. July 10th, 2008 at 18:05 | #3

    Richard, Richard, Richard not sure if your mom beat you with a NAC stick when you were young, hence your disdain for it (and your good looks), but I think you are the one whining. Let me remind you that the federal government has also proven a fertile ground for NAC sales. In fact with 3 of the 4 armed forces using StillSecure NAC, you sleep under the blanket of our NAC protection. Think about that before you go run off at the mouth about NAC not being adopted.
    As to Hoff's point on analysts, preach on brother! I am contemplating how vindictive they will be if I join in on Hoff's rant with my own two cents!

  4. July 10th, 2008 at 18:50 | #4

    You want the truth, you can't handle the truth!

    I am not sure what it is with Richard Stiennon. Maybe his mom beat him with a NAC stick when he was young. Hence his Jack Nicholson looks (more like the Joker in Batman, than Col Jessep in A Few

  5. July 10th, 2008 at 20:04 | #5

    To Alan's point. While at InformationWeek, we tried a number of times, see Who Owns Gartner at http://tinyurl.com/5q7eka . Most vendors and big customers who so afraid of upsetting the analysts houses that they didn't want to go on the record, at all. They were "contemplating how vindictive" they'd be that they just kept their traps shut.
    It's not whining when you point out an obvious power imbalance.

  6. Antonopoulos
    July 11th, 2008 at 06:39 | #6

    Rigid analyst taxonomies are certainly stifling innovation. I have an ongoing discussion with many vendors on how to squeeze what they do (which is often very innovative) into an ill-fitting and misleading category because otherwise they are lost in the wilderness.
    David Weinberger makes the point well in his book "Everything is Miscellaneous". The most innovative things defy categorization. Their innovation is the fact that they are outside existing categories.
    Hoff is right to rant about this. But I'd like to hear a solution. Should analysts not categorize? Should analysts cease to exist (there must be some value to what we do!) Is there a way to inject innovation into rigid taxonomies?
    I'd love to hear some ideas!

  7. July 11th, 2008 at 07:14 | #7

    Clearly, they need an emergent chaos category! I wonder what would be in the magic quadrant?

  8. July 11th, 2008 at 08:06 | #8

    @andreas:
    I don't think categorization is inherently evil, but as you mentioned, the rigidity of the categorization yields the industry as we have it today. Now I will be the first to admit that by categorization we gain definition and consensus of what products do and how they fit, which is good.
    What is bad is the way in which products make it into those categories, how easy they are to manipulate and who places them there.
    Further, I *do* think that folks like the big G try and account for emerging technologies with their hype cycles, but nobody gives a shit about those when purchasing decisions are being made; if you're not in the quadrant, you don't exist…
    It gets even worse when we have different analysts battling for acronym claiming where we have multiple markets monikers being used to describe the same sets of things — with wildly differing TAMs…depending upon what you're trying to accomplish, folks simply pick and choose for whatever fits the agenda.
    To Andreas' point, I think that what we need is similar to what Alan suggested (I'm not holding my breath) in that we need a common framework, set of standards and set of ethics for how coverage is "done." I don't see how you'd lose any secret sauce of differentiation in your actual analysis even if we used the same framework…
    Let me noodle on this some more.
    /Hoff

  9. July 11th, 2008 at 10:23 | #9

    Man, how this post resonates with me! It's a tough road to hoe when the category you fit in doesn't exist yet. And the innovators don't necessarily have the endless funds to recruit analysts into creating a new one.
    Or maybe you need to wear long sleeve shirts when meeting with the analysts :-D
    Nice post, Hoff!

  10. rmogull
    July 11th, 2008 at 14:48 | #10

    I won't deny there are crappy analysts out there, but having made the sausage that isn't what it's really like.
    Blame the end users for the MQ garbage more than the analysts. 90% of my end user calls they wanted an MQ for whatever market they were buying something in, and they only wanted to know who the top right was, not what was best for them. Most analysts hate how MQs are used (and usually writing them).
    Good analysts fully recognize the problems with market categorization like that and try to work with clients, but the less eduacted clients don't like to hear it. Even some of the smarter clients (and a ton of end users are smart, I'm *not* calling them all stupid) are forced into having an MQ to back their buying decision due to idiots above them in management that would rather play golf with the vendor sales rep than actually evaluate.
    The niche market thing is rough- some analyst firms, including the big G, have tried many ways to better highlight and cover those technologies. From "cool vendors" to marketscopes and hype cycles. In the end, it rarely matters.
    Bad analysts get some of the blame, bad analyst firms get some, but it's nearly impossible to get users to look at something other than the 4 boxes most days, no matter how hard you try.

  11. July 12th, 2008 at 04:47 | #11

    Though I have never been an analyst, I can say that being a consultant / VAR gives me the "privilege" of dealing with what comes out of the analyst mill on just about a daily basis. As an engineer, I agree with Rich that so many management types (and even some technical types who don't like their job) would rather just look at some piece of paper to decide so they don't get their ass in a sling by choosing a product that doesn't fall neatly in some category. Our sales people practically have to carry a folder with every quadrant of every product type we sell just in case the client wants to see it (and they do).
    But also questioning Rich, this begs the ol' chicken and egg question (and I am asking because I don't know). Did the MQ come BEFORE the clients asked for it, or did the MQ come FROM the client asking for it (and I am using MQ in the general sense of whatever a particular analyst firm uses). There was obviously a need for the analyst, and the need for categorization is fairly easy to figure out. But how did we get to this point?

  12. July 14th, 2008 at 07:49 | #12

    Security Blogger Sausage Machine Quashes Security Analyst Innovation

    [I am an analyst.]

  13. July 14th, 2008 at 09:41 | #13

    Well, I am saddened to say that in SOME known cases the "missing in Gartner materials" and "not solving any real problem" are the same…
    If nobody asks Big G about it, then maybe the problem that the vendor claims to solve does not exist.
    Just being contrarian for a change :-)

  14. July 15th, 2008 at 07:17 | #14

    Read Nick Carr's The Big Switch a couple of weeks ago. Maybe IT is becoming less strategic at many firms and new technology is thusly facing more scrutiny. Analysts are responding to this trend. Pubs also like categories, for obvious reasons. Maybe a larger backdrop are the committees in place at companies that evaluate new innovations with a wider base of inputs, which extends sales cycles and adds friction.
    G

  15. August 15th, 2008 at 10:24 | #15

    I'm on the vendor side, but many moons ago, I was a pseudo-analyst (did tech strategy and architecture consulting for a bunch of fortune 500s).
    I generally agree with the frustration, but I disagree with the specific target (analysts). My opinion is that this is an overall market dynamic and comes from the very strong herd instinct humans seems to have when it comes to technology and innovation (it's also very common, IMO, in investing…thus the phenomena of things like the tech bubble). In fact, my interpretation of Innovator's Dilemma is that it points to market dynamics as the "culprit" for this, not just the part of the market dedicated to "analysis."

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