Earlier this week Dennis Howlett posted on ZDNet a fairly scathing attack on poor analysis and its creators – be they traditional firms or people with a different approach. In his post (in which I came in for a lambasting myself) Howlett makes a call for a change in the trenches of business IT analysis, he asks those in the know to;
step forward and push aside the fashion driven marketers masquerading as analysts. It is time to squish the idea that media is analysis and ask the question: Did you really think that or were you gaming Techmeme? Do you truly believe what you are saying or chasing the latest buzz phrase? Tell me, where is the evidence of which you speak so boldly and with such paper thin conviction?
The truth of the matter is that everyone is finding some balance between self-promotion, the creation of quality content and identifying (or as he put it, chasing) the latest buzz phrase. One only needs look at the traditional analysts who make extensive use of new media to see that personal brand (albeit backed up with substance) is a non-negotiable requirement these days. Howlett himself is a voracious user of Twitter and has created for himself a compelling (if somewhat abrasive) online presence. Is this not a tacit admission that content needs exposure in order to surface, and that in return, exposure create opportunities to create content?
In critiquing the new breed of commentators/analysts, Howlett takes the line that:
pretty much anyone with a half baked opinion and a skill to write catchy headlines gets to call themselves an analyst. It has come to the point where anyone with a following of more than 10 people gets to spout whatever they wish with a good chance they get some attention
He drives home his point by giving the example of Quora, the rapidly growing question and answer site which he dismisses in the post as little more than a hangout for “the latest crop of attention seeking anal-ysts”. In taking this line however, Howlett seems to dismiss the very notion that collaborative platforms can build a meritocratic system that can allow the quality content and quality practitioners to rise to the surface. I’ve been using Quora for a short period of time and already it has become obvious that it’s a remarkably effective way to rapidly get a crowd sourced, crowd qualified and crowd moderated take on a particular issue. Many would argue that this beats the conflicted view that traditional analysis creates. Interestingly in a subsequent post all about Quora itself, Howlett said that
I like that because it either forces you to be smarter or it drives you away until you become smarter. In theory that should mean we all get a bit smarter at what we do. Or, as someone said: there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers and on Quora I get to decide.
I don’t want to get into an extensive critique of the MQ results, but there are some glaring issues that one can only put down to commercial imperatives (more course commentators would call it “rampant pay for play”). To get some completely neutral feedback I spoke with a global systems manager from a major enterprise (who asked to remain anonymous) to get some end-user critique of the report. At an initial glance he criticizes the following;
- They’ve created some kind of hybrid IaaS with contract-based hosting – very much apples with oranges
- Despite a partial focus on colocation, many colo providers are missing from the report
- Amazon web services is included as a visionary which in Gartner’s own words means they are “new and unproven” – Huh?
- Gartner have entirely ignored security and accreditation issues in their advice to customers section
Contrast this if you will with this two part series from James Urquhart (Part 1 and Part 2). Without wanting to sound too much like the Urquhart fanboy that I am, the difference in quality, insight and, most importantly, neutrality between these two works is stark. Urquhart may not have Gartner’s Analyst’s combined centuries of experience and he may not have private briefings with execs from the particular companies he writes about but if I was a betting man, I’d put money on his predictions long before I do those of Gartner.
And what modus operandi does Urquhart utilize in his day to day work with the cloud? Those same meritocratic, noise-filled and low-brow channels that many would dismiss. And those same channels allow Urquhart’s content to rise to the surface – surely analysis or commentary – call it what you will, is in good heart, despite the noise. The great thing about meritocracy is that it self corrects, as a friend pointed out to me, if this new breed of self-serving “spouters” are nothing but attention seekers then they will soon be cast into obscurity by the audience (those who are the real consumers of the commentary).
And lastly, and in a nice closing-of-the-circle. So long as the analysis is fair and without prejudice, the personal brand that gets built from meritocratic kudos can give companies what has recently been coined the “Scoble effect” – a benefit of being given approval by those whose opinions count.