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

A 2018 report from the FT showed it (and its 2020 report confirms): technology analyst firms continue to gain in importance and are increasingly influential in the 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 featured in the 2018 ranking, including Analysys Mason, Gartner and Ovum. Forrester joined the list in 2020. 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 years 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, that impact remains hard to quantify, as working on research reports can become 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 we can’t see that changing anytime soon.

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

So, what do those rankings tell us? Is the line between management consultants and analyst firms 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 over a quarter since 2015, with the total industry increasing in size by over a third since 2014 (Source Global Research). The market continued to grow even in the challenging times of 2019/2020.

As the consulting market grows, 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? Who’s most influential?

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

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

In our view, many analysts can increasingly be viewed as advisory consultants. Someone who, as part of the wider analyst organisation, is already primed in an area of technology or sector – and is often asked to look at, and advise directly on, strategic technology and buying decisions.

In our 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 analyst firm is relied upon by senior management in your target markets should dictate who you engage 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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