There's an old joke about old industry analysts. When they're tired of being overworked, underpaid and underappreciated, they close up their office and move over to the dark side of the force -- the vendor world. Back in the .com era, this choice was easy for many of the top analysts who could walk out of the elite coast analyst door, maintain or increase their base compensation and treble or more their total package over just a few years thanks to bonuses and stock options. While this equation changed slightly after the B2B heyday came to an end in 2001, top analysts, such as Aberdeen's Tim Minahan, continued to bid sayonara to their old firms, joining the dark side. In our sector, the latest in this march to add brainpower, panache and general affability to the vendor side occurred when Phil Fersht departed AMR Research and announced he was joining Cognizant just a few weeks later. But Phil is in a special class of analyst -- or former analyst for that matter. He's also a blogger, authoring the ever popular Horses for Sources site.
Is it possible for an analyst to join a vendor or services provider and maintain his neutrality and credibility? I'm not sure, but Phil is going to try, or so he suggests in a recent post where he mentions that "blogs and other social media have been a major game-changer with how we engage with issues, market dynamics -- and each other ... We live in a different world today, where the rules are changing and we are constantly seeking out new and innovative ways to reach our industry. To sum up the new constant in a nutshell, credibility is in the eye of the beholder." I would suggest to Phil's readers that I have no doubt he can maintain a sense of objectivity, provided he refrains from commenting directly on his new firm in direct measure or relation to competitors.
Moreover, I agree that blogs are capable of delivering, in his words, greater and greater amounts of "fresh banter" regardless of whether or not a vendor hosts the forum (or one of its employees or spokesmen). Indeed, whether it's Phil's blog or another in a different industry, blogs should be forums and "industry resource to share our views, insights and experiences... with a grin ;)". All of this begs the question: in the sourcing and supply chain world, is there room for a vendor blog that can generate the same amount of banter, influence, discussion and traffic as Phil as done -- and appears poised to continue to do -- in the outsourcing world? Yes, but the challenge is in the importance of maintaining a blog voice.
A great example is Supply Excellence, a blog that I continue to read every day and that delivers great sector and category intelligence. But it lacks a unified voice and personality going back to the time that Tim Minahan ran it when he was at Procuri. For vendor blogs like Supply Excellence to create the same stature and traffic of Phil's past -- and hopefully future -- site, they'll need to create and maintain personality and fresh thinking vs. just bringing expertise and analysis. I'm still waiting for that vendor blog to breakthrough in our sector to the same levels as the best independent ones. And I don't think it will be long before one does.