is there IT guidance without bias?

In the post titled community vs. the analysts I wrote about how I believed IT organizations use social and analyst content.  It’s relatively easy to explain why companies use content from both these sources, however when looking for guidance or answers to IT business questions is there anywhere where an unbiased advice can be found?

Everyone has a list of favorite and disliked vendors and products. A bad experience with a product can taint a vendors reputation and that of their entire portfolio. However, in the world of enterprise computing a bias doesn’t have to be related to a product and can be created because of poor support, poor service or a bad sales engagement.  As an analyst it was common to hear something I’d recommend came under attack just because the client had a historical problem with one of the product or vendors options given.  So IT bias can be towards anything, hardware, software, a vendor, a product, an approach, an organization, a best practice, or even a set standards. So where do you go if you are seeking advice with no bias? The obvious answer is the analyst community but is it possible to be truly unbiased?

opsleuth - bias

There’s no such thing as unbiased IT opinion. 

Analyst companies claim to provide opinion with no bias, social communities opinion is fueled by bias and vendors have an obvious bias. All have bias it’s just that some is out in the open and some is hidden. Vendors and social communities do little to disguise bias whereas analysts do everything they can to hide it.

Analyst bias can take many forms. Analyst firms are not equal – there are very large ‘tier 1′ companies and there are ‘tier 2′ or ’boutique’/'specialist’ companies. For IT operations management tier2 analyst firms their revenue primarily comes from vendors. Beyond basic research services this can take many forms, including paid for product endorsements or sponsoring primary research. This shows blatant bias and few would consider this type of content as more than just interesting.

Tier 1 analyst firms deny any form of bias and as corporations may not overly exhibit any however, they need to demonstrate a complete grasp of the market and this means establishing thought leadership to help to mold how markets are viewed and addressed. This typically results in the creation of best practices, methodologies, terminology and models.  Any vendor wishing to be taken seriously and be positioned correctly must conform to how the analyst company defines and articulates the market.  If they don’t then they risk being described and positioned in a way that may not be to their liking and this will emerge in research, presentations and client engagements.

Bias is normal and should be expected so when it comes to evaluating and understanding content the bias must be factored into your thinking. Vendor content is designed to show their products in the best light, social community bias is driven by the content providers which explains the diversity and analyst company research contains bias based on their belief systems and the individual analyst experience.  As a result analyst research should be taken at face value with the assumption that it’s based on a neutral standpoint supported by facts. Analysts are tweeting and starting to emerge in social communities unshackled from their editorial processes and less policed and protected by their logo.  So when evaluate analyst content with that found in social communities and vendor web sites then I would recommend the following;

1. Understand how each analyst company defines the market and positions the vendors (even if you don’t agree)

2. Read multiple reports written by the analyst to understand their position on a number of related research papers (look for themes/consistencies)

3. Be aware of the analysts history (the author’s resume)

4. Search for the analyst comments in social media (e.g. tweets, facebook, linkedin, blogs)

5. Compare the analyst research with competing analyst firm research to get a different perspective

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