When Tim Minahan left Aberdeen to head to Procuri five years ago, the average tenure of procurement analysts at the firm dropped from years to quarters -- and in some cases, mere months. As some predicted at the time, Aberdeen would never be able to regain the research bench strength that Tim and his team once had. But Andrew Bartolini, who came in a couple of years ago, finally created some stability in the ranks. Earlier this week, however, Andrew quietly left the firm for a new venture that he is in the process of launching. Even though I don't know the details yet -- I am hoping to catch up next week at the Procurement Leaders event in Chicago -- I am sure he'll continue to build on his relationships and work in his previous endeavor. But where does this leave Aberdeen?
The answer is: most likely shopping for yet another analyst to scrape together benchmark reports that quite often seem to blend together. First, they'll need to remove Andrew from the website. More important than Aberdeen, however, is what Andrew's departure signifies for the analyst and advisory community -- the importance of placing as much emphasis on the individuals as the firms you deal with. If you're contracting with AMR, for example, to gain research intelligence specifically in procurement and supply chain, you might try to negotiate a contract that stipulates an out clause if key analysts leave in the wake of the Gartner acquisition (my bet is that no more than 50% will remain after a year). In the analyst world, the individual is what counts, unless of course, they're subsumed by the Gartner research Borg (they are currently in the process of assimilating AMR).
Increasingly, the Internet is helping individuals create brands that transcend those of established firms in niche areas. It's as much about the credibility of the personal brand as it is the firm where someone decides to hang their shingle. The quick rise of new firms and analyst models like Altimeter Group and Horses for Sources (which are filled with top former analysts from Forrester and AMR, among others) suggest that this previously risk-averse profession, where top players would "take one for the firm," is quickly becoming a market where top talent views itself as fluid and mobile. In the case of Aberdeen, I wish Andrew all the best in his new endeavors. I would encourage all those who had a positive working relationship with him at Aberdeen to follow the individual rather than the brand. Moreover, given his departure from Aberdeen, I would be cautious about the veracity of Aberdeen's forthcoming research and benchmarks in the area, and would encourage companies interested in leveraging benchmarks to not go halfway, but rather work with pros like Hackett Group, who've been able to keep top notch advisers like Pierre Mitchell and Chris Sawchuck for years. This is a case where you really do get what you pay for (or don't, for that matter).