A few days ago, James Governor, prompted by a Carter Lusher’s post and the subsequent response from Stephen O’Grady, tried to find out if Redmonk (one of the insurgent analyst firms) was becoming just as influential as the established analyst firms, so he wondered in Twitter if they have some kind of influence on me (change me with the name of any other budget holder). Rather than answer James’s question with a yes or a no, I would like to elaborate my answer.

A few years ago, when we needed to look for a solution on the SDLC space, the first thing we did was to look at the reports from Gartner, Forrester, Meta Group and/or Ovum. For two reasons: first, because there was not so much information on the Web, except from the vendors websites, and if you wanted to analyze vendors or products in depth the effort and time required was too big, so in most cases we were forced to turn to some independent analysis; second, because when we showed our decision to our CIO, it was a guarantee of approval if these analysts firms placed the selected product in a good position. CIO’s trusted these reports more than our own analysis.

Nowadays, the scenario is considerably different. First, because CIO’s no longer rely on these analysts in the same way that they did before. I am not saying that they don’t take them into account, but they don’t give them the same importance as before. Secondly, because management rules have changed and now organizations give more confidence to the bottom of the command chain, including developers (a survival strategy if they want to innovate). Third, because a new actor has appeared on stage: open source. A subject that traditional analysts often do not cover so good (if they do). And fourth, because now you can find and share lots of information on the web, in form of white papers, articles, opinions, tips or successful and unsuccessful implementations, and not only from analysts or vendors, but also from the users of these products.

My opinion is that the last argument is the biggest change in the scenario, and forces the rest of the arguments I mentioned before. CIO’s now know that there are more sources of information than the traditional analyst’s reports. CIO’s now knows that their workers can access to these sources of information (they become knowledge workers), it is no longer information reserved for the upper management. CIO’s now knows that some information is only available or it is better described or analyzed in other sources. You can call it Web 2.0, social computing, or whatever you want, but the reality is that now there are lots of information flowing free on the web, inside and outside the firewall. And most importantly, now, I, you and the CIO can share this information with other colleagues.

At this point, someone could disagree saying that you can not trust these new sources as much as you did with the traditional analyst’s reports. For me, this is an obsolete discussion (just ask the PR people about their recently interest in the blogosphere). It is again the Social Media versus Traditional Media flame war. I usually read 5 traditional newspapers. Why? Because I want to hear all points of view and form my own opinion. So I act in the same way with blogs, online communities and dinosaur and insurgent analyst firms. All of them shows me a different point of view, and that helps me to determine the quality of the source of information and to have a complete vision. I want need to be open-minded, so I must read all of them before forming my own opinion.

But returning to the original question, what it really matters about what I said earlier is that the insurgents have been able to see and to apply this new scenario better than traditional analysts. Just a few examples from what Redmonk is doing (and contradicting Carter’s statement “The insurgents are using blogs, but making relatively little use of other forms of new media that I can find“). The core thesis that guides Redmonk is “technology adoption is increasingly a bottom up proposition“. Michael Coté is doing a spectacular job with RedMonkTV videos, where the main argument is always a conversation between two colleagues. The links imported from del.icio.us that they post daily on their blogs are a gold mine, not only for the links, but also for the comments they make (this is something that I have copied from them in my blog). Twitter conversations are invaluable (yes, updates are not only about what we are eating at the moment).

And I would also comment one specific example about Twitter (I hope James will not bother). I twittered that we were analyzing some software development platforms and we had doubts about one of the selected products. After a few minutes, James asked me privately if we have considered company X (one of their clients). I told him that we have heard about them, but they were not in the selection process. Then he asked me if I did not care if they contact me. Now, I have an email from the president of the company X with some relevant information for us. James did not only pass my email address, but also he explained them which was our environment and what we were looking for. Is this influence or not? Who has benefited from this silly Twitter update? We, Company X, Redmonk, or all of us? Are the insurgents really innovative users of new media?

I am not going to wander much more, I think I have already answered James’s question, but summarizing the above: yes, you have influence on me, but I think is reciprocal. You influence the community and the community influences you. You learn from the community and the community learns from you.

I don’t know if Carter is going to read this post, and if he does, what would be his opinion. My intention is not to convince him, but my advice is that rather than ask analysts, he must ask their customers, from CIO to developers, anyone who is involved in the selection process, if he wants to known who’s who in the influence game.

OK, and here ends my open letter to James Governor and Carter Lusher. I recognize that this is a long and bored post, and although James prefers brevity, I believe in this case it deserved.

Disclosure: this is my humble and personal opinion and doesn’t mean any endorsement, position, strategy or opinion from my company.