It sounds so simple: tell me your definition of an industry analyst. In truth, coming up with a viable definition for the tech “industry analyst” is not such a simple exercise. Clear-cut distinctions between industry analysts and other types of influencers have been dissolving over the last few years.
From 2006 to 2008, I helped the industry come to some common understanding by writing and curating the base Wikipedia article on industry analysts. It doesn’t quite do the job anymore.
Today, definitions of the industry analyst role run into trouble on several fronts. You’ve got big differences in the balance of research and consulting revenue streams at the largest to the smallest of analyst firms. There’s also competition from more and more quarters, including diverse businesses, organizations and social media groups publishing “good enough” research and vendor reviews, not to mention decision advice and thought leadership. Then too, there’s the growing number of SOHO professionals who take the label.
Hard and fast rules for what constitutes an industry analyst may work on paper, but they rarely hold up in the marketplace. Behind closed doors, tech decision makers and vendor AR teams alike regularly debate the criteria for what constitutes an industry analyst.
I think the conversation about what’s an analyst — the debate itself — is the answer.
Instead of aiming for one rock-solid definition that fits all analysts all the time, we can make deciding who’s in and who’s out part of an ongoing process. Each of us can make it our own process. Involve our customers and supply chain partners. Involve our salesforce. Revisit our assumptions, criteria and earlier judgements in a fluid never-ending process.
From an execution standpoint, this only works if we ask the tough questions regularly. We can’t wait for a decision event or a crisis to ponder whether someone is, or is not, an industry analyst.