The changing face of industry analysts – taking on the management consultancies

A recent report from the FT confirms it: technology analyst firms are gaining in importance and becoming increasingly influential in the UK tech scene.

The report, which looks at the UK’s leading management consultancies and ranks them based on recommendations from clients and peers, stood out to me. Several prominent industry analyst firms feature in the ranking, including Analysys Mason, Gartner and Ovum. These firms offer consultancy services and are highly regarded in several fields including telecoms, media and technology, enterprise IT, digital commerce and financial services. But does this ranking also signify a sea change for industry analysts?  

Over the past year there has been much talk around the changing role of the industry analyst. One of the main changes is that the advisory side of the role is growing in importance, sometimes with an even split between research and consulting. Our recent Enterprise Catalyst report supports this shift.

Working with the C-suite on a regular basis means that the value of analysts is being recognised more and more. However, their impact remains hard to quantify, as working on research reports becomes less vital to their role, and confidentiality remains essential to strategic advisory sessions.

Saying that, producing research remains an integral part of the industry analyst role and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

Proving analyst value and showing measurable results is often a hard sell for many AR professionals, but growing evidence suggests that the true ‘value’ and influence of analyst houses goes far beyond research reports, blogs and the various industry forecasts, and into the boardroom. And shows that, if done well, AR programmes can have a great, positive impact beyond reports and into direct advice.

So, what do rankings tell us about where the line between management consultants and analyst firms is really blurring when tech companies are looking for advice?

According to a recent report on Consultancy UK, the UK’s management consulting market has expanded by approximately £1.5 billion over the past three years, with the total industry increasing in size by over a third, over the last five years (Source Global Research).

As such, it’s no wonder that analyst firms are focusing on and getting more recognition for their consulting offerings. So, what happens if consultants and analysts compete? Do they overlap? And, who’s most influential?

It depends who your audience is, and who it is you’re trying to reach.

Industry analysts have the ear of the C-suite and are trusted as being impartial when advising clients. And with analyst firms becoming more significant players in the management consulting space, industry analysts are primed to become even more vital to tech companies.

In my view, an analyst can increasingly be viewed as an advisory consultant. Someone who, as part of the wider analyst organisation, is already primed in an area of technology or sector – and is now being asked to look and advise directly on strategic technology and buying decisions.

In my view, a management consultant or external consultancy’s advice and counsel is often requested at a specific point in time when their consultants are brought in to fulfil a specific requirement or need. In contrast, the relationship with an analyst firm, when done right, is a valued, two way ongoing relationship that needs to be nurtured over long stretches of time to be able to impart the most value to the organisation.

It’s a subtle difference, but a crucial one. How much each is relied upon by senior management can dictate who you draft in when a strategic need bubbles to the surface.

Picture of Duncan Chapple

Written by Duncan Chapple

Over the last 20 years, hundreds of technology and solution providers have worked with Duncan Chapple to develop insight and advocacy from industry analysts. After working as an analyst and consultant at Ovum, Europe’s largest analyst firm, he held senior analyst relations roles in Omnicom, Deloitte, Octopus Group and Kea Company. He has co-authored two books on analyst relations.

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