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NewsForge: IT analysts' credibility gap

Jun 15, 2001, 12:57 (19 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jack Bryar)

The pundits turn on the analysts in this column, a post-mortem on the large gap in figures presented by Gartner, which claimed Linux holds 8.6 percent of the server maket, and IDC, which claims 27 percent. Mr. Bryar is fair to IDC's analyst but cautions that there are factors at work in the analyst business that have less to do with getting the best numbers and more to do with marketing the results:

"As early as 1999, Kusnetzky admitted Linux was "a market that has been really difficult for us to get our arms around." He told CNN, "We have no real way to track the number of copies of Linux that are installed." Coming from an analyst who has generated some fairly precise numbers and percentages, that should be a concern. Kusnetzky has said himself that all "we can keep track of is the money generated by commercial shipments." These are precisely the numbers that Hewitt claims to be following.

So what to make of all this? I'd suggest caution and lots of it. While IDC has made a real effort not to tell businesses what they want to hear, nearly all commercial market research firms spend far more time marketing their research than collecting it. Many of the survey designers are young and not very experienced. Research information has a short shelf life and only rarely do market research firms get confronted with their errors. This makes for a very sloppy research environment.

Further, many companies are too deeply involved with their clients to provide stiff analysis. Most companies shopping for market research are looking for good news, not bad. It's a rare marketing firm that goes broke telling clients what they want to hear, and many times analysts depend heavily on the firms they claim to analyze. For example, Dataquest been very heavily involved in promotional events such as one held last year that plugged data storage systems. The conference was underwritten by storage vendors who heavily promoted Dataquest "research." The company's "analysts" dominated the list of speakers at that event. If you believe that the "research" presented at that show was objective, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you."

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