Remember Who Built Aberdeen

The author of this post, one of the many Aberdeen Alumni, wishes to remain anonymous.

Despite being described as a "whitepaper for hire" chop shop for a period, Aberdeen had redeemed itself in recent years and can be credited as having published some truly compelling analytical insights across multiple business process management disciplines. But underneath the surface of this transformation, lurks an unprecedented tale of turnover on the employee side.

Indeed, what has not been said so far in the analysis of the Harte-Hanks Aberdeen deal is the recent history of Aberdeen’s talent drain. It is most intriguing that Aberdeen has been a veritable revolving door over the last several years of truly remarkable minds, especially in the analyst ranks. Amongst the analysts who will not follow Aberdeen as assets to Harte-Hank include Christa Degnan Manning (currently at AMR), Stan Elbaum, Brian Sommer (a frequent contributor to Spend Matters), Paula Rosenblum (now Vice President Research and Content, Retail Systems Alert Group), Jane Biddle (now CMO of Equos), John Fontanella (who excelled in his previous leadership role at AMR Research), Richard Waugh (co-founder of B2EMarkets), Chris Selland (VP Bus Dev, SoundBite Communications), Jim Hurley, Chris Jones (former founder of Gartner’s SCM practice, now Executive Vice President, Solutions & Services, Descartes Software), Katherine Jones (expert in Human Capital Management), and one of the most talented analysts in the procure to pay/spend management space ever, who has defected to Procuri, Tim Minahan.

And this list does not mention the stints of Vinnie Merchandani, Kevin Fitzgerald, William Mougayar, Brian Wood (now at SAP) and Jeff Pikulik, who also deserve to be recognized for their contribution to the firm. All of these folks were not only extremely talented analysts, but well respected by Aberdeen's clients who sought them out for advisory services.

Given the size of this list, one wonders what the deal multiples would have been if these incandescent minds had been nurtured rather than allowed to escape.

But most important, these names are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of defections from Aberdeen in the last 24 months. The turnover has included sales, sales management, senior and middle level financial staff, operations staff and marketing executives. An unflinching lens will reveal that this trend of departure begs the question: how could such a talented roster of professionals across the entire organizational structure have been pushed out / allowed to leave / not encouraged to flourish? It's clear to me that Harte-Hanks missed this in their due diligence. But more important, one wonders what Aberdeen leadership might have been able to pull off if they hadn't spurned the very expertise and talent that gave them the client relationships to build their new business model in the first place.

The author of this post, one of the many Aberdeen Alumni, wishes to remain anonymous. Spend Matters agreed to publish this contribution because of the critical role Aberdeen Group has played historically in covering the Spend Management movement, and our respect for the contributor.

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