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The old grey analyst ain’t as important as he used to be

For as long as I can remember experts have pointed to inexperience and poor judgement as the reasons so many young people are involved in road accidents. Certainly experience does count in all walks of life, but perhaps most measurably in business. The longer you do a task the better you become at it. You can draw on past events to help with current problems; you have a more rounded perspective on issues you encounter, and you have a more realistic appreciation of what is achievable.

Why then is it that the IT industry pays, at best, lip service to the value of experience? We may be seeing the greying of Australia, but — and I must admit here to being a member of the Boomer generation — it appears that the IT industry is experiencing a "youthing" of its analysts. Research shows that the average experience of IT analysts over the past decade has shrunk from more than 10 years to about three. This is a figure that certainly reflects my own experiences in the IT analyst industry. In my 10 years with a global research company a large number of the people I worked alongside were in their first job after graduating from university.

No one comes to this type of knowledge easily. It comes from — dare I say — experience

How can you be an industry expert if you don't have the scars of experience? The role of an analyst is to guide and advise. If you are a CIO you are looking for insights as to where you should spend your time and money and the tactics that can make these investments a success. If you are a marketing manager at an IT supplier you are looking for information and research that can help you optimize the time of your sales force and increase your company's revenues.

For analysts to provide this type of advice they need a few grey hairs. No one comes to this type of knowledge easily. It comes from — dare I say — experience. I have witnessed a growing trend in the major IT research companies to replace older analysts on higher salaries with younger staff on smaller ones.

I believe that this short-termism is increasingly proving counter-productive. I am encountering more and more industry executives who are questioning the value of what they get from research and industry analysts. Several have told me that their chief complaint is the lack of value-add they get from increasingly younger analysts. Certainly, several of the experienced industry analysts who have been displaced have sensed an opportunity. In the last five years a number of them have established boutique research companies in Australia.

It seems that what many of these boutique companies have going for them is an ability to tailor their research to the specific needs of their clients. I believe this is timely to the current research requirements of CIOs and IT suppliers, which are increasingly tactical. Few people need to know the market size of various technologies at the end of this decade. Instead they need to understand how to address their immediate challenges. The result is that the research sale is becoming more and more a consulting assignment that requires extensive experience.

My own view is that these trends will benefit the major research companies in the long run. Today we are currently witnessing the "consumerization" of the IT market. In consumer markets research is critical. These smaller, more nimble IT research companies will open up new products and services that will eventually influence what their bigger rivals deliver. The transition for the larger research companies may be a painful one but over time, I suspect, they will be able to "chalk it up to experience".

Peter Hind is a freelance consultant and commentator with nearly 25 years experience in the IT industry. He is co-author of The IT Manager's Survival Guide and ran the InTEP IS executive gatherings in Australia for over 10 years

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