Putting Research Firms in Their Place - Wherever That Is

Loraine Lawson

Alex Neihaus, the vice president of Marketing for Active Endpoints, has a few choice words for Forrester and its recent report on "Integration-Centric Business Process Management Systems." In fact, he pretty much posted a smackdown today:

"Despite the great concept, the 'products' Forrester declared the leaders are buckets of bolts..they are very fat, french-fry-fed babies that require as much work as raising children. And these kids are gonna have long-term health problems to boot, as IC-BPMSs as defined by Forrester's Wave look like they were born with bad cholesterol coursing through their veins. In quantity."

Oh, no you didn't! Did you just call other vendors' babies ugly? And fat?




Neihaus acknowledges he's "unhappy" because Active Endpoint's BPM offering, ActiveVOS, wasn't included in the report. He also admits he might be committing the marketing equivalent of disemboweling his company by taking Forrester publicly to task.


He's probably right about that. But as my beloved newspaper adviser once told me after I'd made a huge guffaw in print, "Yes, it was a mistake. But it was so gosh darn funny."


Neihaus' main argument is that many of these solutions were built through acquisition and suffer from bloat. Active Endpoints started out as a BPEL-based engine, but in 2007, added BPM capabilities (BPMN modeling), BAM/BI, CEP and more. Neihaus relayed in an e-mail how he sees Active Endpoint's product:

"We're the next generation of tooling for SOA applications...Our visual orchestration system is about getting apps done, with what you have, in ways that deliver the benefits of SOA without forcing you to pull your brains out through your nose."

Since Active Endpoints wasn't included in the report, and I wrote about the Forrester report (the free download is no longer available, by the way), it seemed only fair I should point out Neihaus' rebuttal.


But there's a bigger picture here than whether one vendor is mentioned in a report, and it's a question I've seen raised in more blogs recently, including those written by in-the-trenches IT workers: How reliable are such ratings and the research firms who make them?


In an e-mail, Neihaus expressed frustration, adding that his firm tried to convince Forrester to include Active Endpoints' product:

"There's a real issue here, IMO, that people should consider: Many analysts aren't really helping customers understand what's next. They stick to the status quo because that's what they know. The irony is that we all know that technology, especially in SOA, moves on at a rapid pace. By coming up with artificial 'rankings'; that simply re-swizzle yesterday's sour milk, they don't do what their clients primarily want them to do: keep them up-to-date on opportunities to improve their businesses."

Research firms have long been a quandary because, ideally, you want unbiased sources and sometimes, research firms are providing analysis on vendors who are also clients. But they also know the industry and can understand these complex technologies. When there is a bias, it's hard to identify and, frankly, analysts are generally knowledgeable, eloquent, and solid in their recommendations.


Bottom line, they're almost always the best we've got when it comes to sources. (Although, my preference is always someone who's actually working in an IT division. Unfortunately, you people are often too busy for interviews!)


It's a tricky question for IT leaders: How much credence should you give these reports? IT Business Edge's Dennis Byron recently tackled this very topic in "IT Research Firms' Focus, Resources Vary Widely." The article looks at the evolution of research firms and gives you an idea of each firm's heritage, focus and sources. It does a great job of putting the firms into perspective.


You might also want to check out the companion article, "IT Research Analysts Are Independent but Stovepiped?" In this piece, Byron looks at how research firms obtain their information, the difference between sponsored research and independent research, and your options for obtaining research.

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