When we need advice in our personal lives, to whom do we turn? To someone we trust, who has our interests at heart and is wise. So why then do we often rely on advisers in our professional lives whose interests are in conflict with our own? If your work involves business intelligence, analytics, data visualization, or the like, from whom do you seek advice about products and services? If you’re like most professionals, you unwittingly seek advice from people and organizations with incentives to sell you something. You either get advice from the vendors themselves, from technology analysts with close ties to those vendors, or from journalists who are secretly compensated by those vendors. That’s not rational, so why do we do it? Usually because it’s convenient and sometimes because we don’t really care if the advice is good or not, for it is our employers, not us, who will suffer the consequences. If we actually care, however, we should do a better job of vetting our advisers.
It should be obvious that we cannot expect objectivity from the vendors themselves. Even when a vendor’s employees post advice from independent websites and claim that their opinions are their own, they remain loyal to their employers. In fact, it’s a great marketing ploy for vendors to have their employees post advice from independent sites rather than from their own. It suggests a level of objectivity that serves the vendor’s interests and multiples their presence on the web. We must also question with similar suspicion the objectivity of consultants and teachers who have built their work around a single product.
What about technology analyst groups, such as Gartner, Forrester, and TDWI, to name a few of the big guys? These organizations fail in many ways to maintain a healthy distance from the very technology vendors that are the subject of their advice. In fact, they are downright cozy with the vendors.
Trustworthy technology advisers go to great pains to maintain objectivity. They are few and far between. To be objective, I believe that advisers should do the following:
Try to find technology analysts and journalists who follow these guidelines.