Wednesday, 12 April 2006

It's time to cut Rob Enderle some slack.

I never thought I'd say this. It's time to cut Rob Enderle some slack.

As his resume reminds us, Rob Enderle is one of the most referenced analysts (according to analysis of the US media by long-dead Kensington Group, whose data reflected his years with Giga). He will comment to the media on almost anything. He is the analyst industry's answer of the Hollywood star who turns up if she's invited to the opening of an envelope.

An article in 'The Register', Sun zinged by rent-a-quote analyst, mentions that Enderle is not only critical of Sun, but is also paid by Sun's competitors. The Register's premise is the idea that Enderle's comments are swayed against Sun because his customers include competitors of Sun. The article describes Enderle as a 'rent-a-quote' analyst: they feel Enderlie has been rented by Sun's competitors to be critical of that fim.

Here on the ARmadgeddon campus we take a neutral view towards Sun and its fortunes. We know that many of its customers have remained fans of the firm for good reasons. However, it's a bit like being a fan of the Seattle Seahawks. There are few victories that attract fairweather friends. Indeed, even rehirings are seen as a victory -- a sign that things are at least not as bad as they were recently.

It has to be admitted that you don't need to rent analysts to get them to criticize Sun. It's a technical and evangelical organization, facing an analyst community that is increasingly disinterested in technology - almost to the point of naïveté. Sun sells to tech-savvy companies more easily than most. Analysts increasingly dismiss strong technology as 'speeds and feeds', sometime for good reasons, sometimes for bad reasons

On the same Register web page was an advert for one of Sun's competitors. It seems unfair for 'The Register' to not judge others by its own standards. How can it assume that Enderle has been 'rented', when we are sure they they would say that they have not been. How come analysts' are corrupted by vendor money, in their view, when The Register is not?

Of course, these are ridiculous standards: analysts are able to comment on technology vendors partly because they are paid by multiple competitors, without being corrupted. Many analysts are paid by Sun's competitors -- and by Sun. The idea that are 'rented' simply by being consulted by these organizations is lazy and untrue.

If 'The Register' was to make these charges against a large analyst house, like Gartner, then lawyers would be involved right now. Rob and his partner don't have in-house legal staff, but they must surely be considering it.

P.S. The comments on this post have encouraged us to clarify our views. Our criticism is that The Register assumes that Enderle is biased against Sun because his clients include competitors of Sun. In our opinion, this is not the right basis on which to be critical of Enderle (Perhaps this is the right basis. We also point readers to the fourth comment here). Other analysts are also hired by Sun's competitors and, of course, The Register also has those firms as clients. In our opinion it is unfair, if not fatuous, for The Register to assume that Enderle is corrupted simply by these commercial links -- especially since The Register has the same links (and presumably feels that it is not biased by its advert revenue).

Fox News certainly is biased. However, the right does not need to pay Fox for it to criticize the left. Fox would do that for free. Similarly, Enderle does not need to be paid to criticize Sun: Enderle will do that for free.

The Register's article aims to discredit Enderle simply because of his commercial ties, and not because of the correctness or falsehood of his views. In our opinion, that is a red herring. It is also dangerous for analyst relations professionals. If analysts are discredited simply because their clients include vendors, then this will make it harder for both users and vendors. Like it or not, analysts are less biased than other sources. That is why businesses trust them. Analyst houses would be not more or less independent if they did not have vendors as clients: but they would be smaller, less economical, more expensive and less effective. That is is no-ones' interest. Specifically for AR professionals, The Register's baiting of analysts also obstructs our work. We want our colleagues to be less anxious towards analysts: The Register simply throws more trash into the sea of putrid cynicism.

Of course, this does not mean that Enderle is right with this -- or any -- comment he gets into the media. However, we do feel that any errors in analysts' views are as much despite close relationship with vendors as they are because of those relationships.


Anonymous said...

Rob Enderle sues for being a called a 'rent a quote'......

Well, OJ was found not guilty, so he must have a chance

Aric said...

Ok, you are all over the place here. First, you compare Rob Enderle to Gartner. Hmm, would Gartner go on the record as saying, “[Sun is] like a soccer team that suddenly shows up in the Super Bowl against an [American] football team." Not likely.

Then you compare The Register to Gartner, by saying, “It seems unfair for 'The Register' to not judge others by its own standards.” Why? The Register is a news source, not an analyst house. Do you consider Fox News unbiased? The Register is biased and doesn’t hide it. In general they like Unix, Linux, Sun, Doctor Who, seem to kind of like Apple, and often point out Microsoft’s foibles.

I don’t personally know Rob Enderle so I am not biased, and can’t really take sides here but will say by posting his letter in full they at least gave his side a voice. As for double standards, you seem to be comparing apples to oranges.

theARpro said...

Aric makes some good points here. I will add a PS to the post to clarify...

Anonymous said...

Legitimate criticism of Enderle is not based on WHO pays him, but rather WHAT they are paying him to do. Look at the Enderle Group's service offerings and you will quickly see that Enderle is no longer an analyst. Instead he is offering services whereby he will provide positive quotes to the press on your behalf, if you pay for his services. See his "Certified Reference Account" practice. You can also pay him to criticize analysts who publish negative research about your company. See his "Counterpoint service."

Enderle is indeed being paid to speak to the press about his clients. He's a quote machine. Say what you will about the objectivity of the major analyst firms, but no legitimate analyst would sacrifice his/her credibility (the thin ice upon which the success of the industry stands) by taking payola for press quotes.

Anonymous said...

Poster No.3 is correct: Enderle is a quote machine who provides platitudes to pad-out column inches. Enderle is not Gartner, this is payola, and Enderle is fortunate not to have Eliot Spitzer investigating his operation.

Instead of criticizing The Register for shining a light on the murky world of analyst-press relations, you should be encouraging more articles like this.

Dennis Howlett said...

There is always a tension between editorial and publishing - something The Register knows only too well. It is very clear about its bias. Can the same be said of Rob E?