ARC Advisory Group, Moneyball, and Coverage That Matters

I've always been fascinated by the interdependencies of vendors and analysts firms, the slightly inefficient "chicken and egg" model that forces analysts to get interested in an area just ahead of attempting to realize revenue and business from it. Back when analyst coverage nearly dried up in the Spend Management sector two years ago, it took significant prodding by vendors and this blog to get AMR, among others, to invest the time in rehiring focused analysts to cover the sector. But hire they did, and now vendors are now once again interested in working with a voice that is both heard and respected in the market because, above all, AMR has an opinion and a perspective, love it or hate it.

One analyst / consulting firm which has always been on the edge of covering the Spend Management sector is ARC Advisory Group. But unlike AMR, ARC is afraid to have an opinion in their writing. Traditionally, they have been focused on the supply chain and manufacturing sectors, but I came across them recently in the broader Spend Management context when I saw they did a write-up on Procuri.

Historically, I've known ARC as more of a consultancy than an analyst firm. And judging by the lack of analysis in their brief on Procuri, one might even call them more of a new type of trade press when it comes to writing. But it's still a good thing to see them have at least some interest in the sector. Still, it's a shame that ARC is wasting good minds writing such un-analytical puff-pieces following vendor briefings. I know ARC does these things to gain visibility in the market and as a sales-tool, but in the age of blogs and in a sector with significant analyst coverage already, I would urge them to take out their objective lens rather than simply restating what vendors and service providers spoon-feed them in the 45 minutes they have on the phone or in person.

ARC's coverage style is nothing new. This is a pattern they've followed historically, and provides limited value to the market, other than offering ARC visibility to the broader technology and media worlds. And of course it gives AR (analyst relations) professionals another checkmark in their coverage box for the quarter, but just as the Oakland A's found in analyzing baseball statistics -- as explained in Moneyball -- there are numbers that matter when it comes to winning, and those that do not. For vendors, a write-up from ARC might look good from a marketing perspective, but given the fact the firm is not known for having any influence in recommending technology providers in the space -- I say this based on a study my consulting firm conducted of end-user influence in 2005 -- and the fact that they are not willing to take a stand in their writing, I'd probably not spend too much of my time if I were still on the vendor side chasing coverage. Like Billy Beane, if I were a vendor, I would care about number of wins (i.e., analyst deals tied to revenue) not statistics like number of briefs written.

Jason Busch

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