If you read my books Secure Cloud Transformation and Security Yearbooks 2020 you probably noticed that I am exploring a new path in my writing journey. I am asking experts to contribute. Both books include interviews I conducted with industry leaders. In Secure Cloud Transformation it was CISOs, CIOs, and Chief Digital Officers of some of the largest organizations in the world. In Security Yearbook 2020 I interviewed pioneers in our industry like Gil Shwed, founder and CEO of Check Point Software, and David Cohen, partner at Bessemer, who formed Verisign and took it public.
While interviewing, transcribing, and editing the spoken word is challenging, these stories ensure that even if my thoughts on a topic do not lend value, the contributors’ thoughts do.
Writing Curmudgeon: How to Succeed as an Industry Analyst, was much easier. Instead of interviewing most of the contributors I sent them a list of questions to follow and they submitted their own written words. Of course, they did, because industry analysts are without exception accomplished writers and many of them have even published their own books.
Thanks to being on lock down during a pandemic I found these seven analysts remarkably responsive. Like me, they had the time to compose their thoughts. Bob Hafner, the Research VP who hired me into Gartner twenty years ago was particularly generous. He wrote 14,000 words in two weeks. I included everything he related because I learned from so much from him.
Here are just a few excerpts from the contributors to Curmudgeon.
Duncan Chapple is a consultant on the optimization and valuation of analyst relations. He is the only analyst of industry analysts I know.
“One of the key differences between market research firms and industry analysts is their bias for action. Market research quantifies the world, in several ways. For industry analysts, however, the point is to change it. “
Tom Austin was one of the most senior analysts at Gartner when I joined in 2000. He spent a total of 26 years at Gartner building the practice and sharing his insights to a worldwide audience. After retiring he brought together The Analyst Syndicate, a group of 24+ independent industry analysts.
“Take the untaken path. Thought leadership comes from hard work and open ears. Clients (both users and vendors) have provided the crucible through which everything I’ve done has been shaped and reshaped over the years. Take away something from every interaction you have.”
Jon Oltsik began his analyst career at Forrester. After a stint back in industry he helped form Enterprise Strategy Group and is Senior Principal Analyst there. He blogs at CSO Online.
“I think it’s important to determine what you’re interested in. What’s fascinating to you? What do you love to read about? What do you love to study? What do you love to talk to people about? If you have that passion and you can develop that understanding, then I think you can be successful.
Greg Young first worked in Gartner’s consulting organization. He came back to Gartner just as I was preparing to leave. He was at Gartner for 14 years.
“Curiosity, collaboration, principles, intellectual honesty, and pragmatism are the traits of a good analyst. I don’t think experience has as much bearing except that it really helps to have some foundation in an end user organization so that there isn’t any detachment between analysis and reality of how the sausage is made.”
Anton Chuvakin is one of the most prolific bloggers on his topic area: security. His career at Gartner culminated in the title of Research Vice President & Distinguished Analyst. He joined Google in June of 2019.
In response to: Is the life of an industry analyst a good one?
“Yes, I would say so, definitely. As an example, I think I’ve practiced this pitch to new candidates for my former team. Here is what I usually liked to highlight: good work-life balance, very few (if any) work emergencies, only planned travel and interactions with really smart people—both clients and other analysts.”
Mark Bouchard was an analyst at META Group for nine years. When META was acquired by Gartner, he opted to go out on his own. Through hard work and consistency, he has grown the AimPoint Group into a valuable source of high impact content for the cybersecurity industry.
“Let’s not forget that the product being delivered here is research advisory services. So, for heaven’s sake, do some actual research! Merely pushing tasty nuggets of information back and forth between the vendor and enterprise communities doesn’t cut it.”
Bob Hafner spent 28 years as an industry analyst. At first he worked for a Canadian distributor of Gartner but quickly joined as an employee. I had the great fortune of learning the analyst business from Bob.
“The perfect industry analyst is actually three equal parts in one, each is as important as the other.
First, they must be an analyst. They need to have detailed expertise in a specific area or topic and be sufficiently logical to be able to analyze and see trends in that portion of the industry. They look into their segment and understand the issues the end users face, vendors face, the direction of technology, the trends in the industry and how their research fits into adjacent sectors and the overall industry. An analyst needs to be able to see through the marketing material and industry hype to understand the real opportunity for the industry. Remember this is only a third of what they are.
The next third: they need to be a writer. It is of no value to have amazing insight and not be able to clearly write it down to share with people. Telling one client at a time will never get your ideas out. I cannot stress the importance of writing. In fact, we used to have a saying “if you didn’t write it, you didn’t say it.” In other words, new concepts and ideas are not attributed to you unless you write them down, somewhat like copyright. I have seen more than one analyst upset when they saw a research paper with a concept or insight they had been talking about for some time written by another analyst. Simply write it down when you think of it, and then you know it’s yours.
For the final third, the analyst needs to be an entertainer. As an industry analyst you will need to make presentations to share your ideas and to entertain people. I have seen extremely smart people get on stage, share amazing information, and put people to sleep. We used to call that the professor syndrome. I have also seen “analysts” get on stage and say almost nothing new and get the highest score at the conference. It wasn’t about what they said; it was how they said it.
An industry analyst who has a deep knowledge and understanding of a specific topic is of little value if they can’t write clearly in easy to read terms about that topic. They need to be able to get on stage and get excited as they eloquently share their enthusiasm about the topic.”
You can tell from reading these quotes that these veterans of the analyst world have a lot to share. I am grateful to them for helping to finish a work I started eight years ago. I hope their words help guide future industry analysts and prevent the commoditization of the business.
About Richard Stiennon
As one of the foremost industry analysts in cybersecurity Richard Stiennon has presented on the topic of cybersecurity in 33 countries on six continents. He is the author of Stiennon on Security: Collected Essays, Security Yearbook 2020: A History and Directory of the IT Security Industry, Secure Cloud Transformation: The CIO’s Journey, and Surviving Cyberwar (Government Institutes, 2010) and Washington Post Best Seller, There Will Be Cyberwar. He writes for Forbes and The Analyst Syndicate. Stiennon has been a key influencer in the industry as a former vice president of research at Gartner, Inc. and in executive research, strategy and marketing roles at a variety of public and private cybersecurity technology companies. He has a BS in Aerospace Engineering and his MA in War in the Modern World from King’s College, London.