Thursday, 04 April 2019 15:06

The Agony, the Ecstasy, and the Irony of the Independent Industry Analyst

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I first discovered things were going to be different for me as independent analyst courtesy of Nortel. In early 1999, when I was still the communications Group Director at Cahners In-Stat Group in Scottsdale, I was attending Nortel’s annual analyst conference in Canada and was invited to sit at the CEO’s table for breakfast on the final day. What I remember most about that breakfast conversation was listening to the CEO as he talked first about his collection of Corvettes and then, about how nervous his daughter was because she was getting married soon and Martha Stewart would be attending the wedding.

On November 1, 1999, I officially announced my new business, Saddletree Research, and struck out on my own. In early 2000, Nortel was once again holding their annual analyst conference but the difference was, this time I wasn’t even invited. In 1999 I was dining with the CEO. In 2000 I was persona non grata. They did invite one of the junior analysts who worked for me at In-Stat, but not me. It was a real wake-up call for me.


Since that time, we all know what happened to Nortel, and the same thing eventually happened to In-Stat. They’re no longer around, but Saddletree Research still is.


Saddletree Research has always been devoutly ignored by big companies with old attitudes, like Avaya and Genesys, but lately, even newer companies like Five9, which I assumed would have a different attitude toward the work I do at Saddletree, have jumped on the bandwagon. These companies aren’t interested in the research work Saddletree Research does in conjunction with the university-based, not-for-profit National Association of Call Centers (NACC), or our ability to tap into an end-user community approximately 10,000 strong in order to get an accurate gauge on the attitudes and intentions of the industry in statistically valid research work.


On the other hand, the biggest organization in the USA, the U.S. government, is interested in the work Saddletree Research does in the contact center industry. Every two years since 2011, I have received a call from economists at the U.S. government Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These economists spend quite a bit of time on the phone with me every other year discussing important trends in the U.S. contact center industry and the results go into their Occupational Outlook for Customer Representatives, the most recent of which can be found here.


I don’t know if the BLS also calls on the biggest of the big analyst firms for information, but I doubt it. I’m guessing they’d probably want to charge the BLS for the time, but I don’t charge them anything. I’m a naturalized American citizen, a veteran of the armed forces, and grateful for the opportunities this country has provided me so I wouldn’t think of asking for anything in return from the BLS. Maybe that’s why they still call me every two years.


Or maybe they call Saddletree Research every two years because they know they’ll get valid, objective, and useful research that they are confident is timely and accurate.


If you think the view some big companies have toward Saddletree Research versus the BLS’ attitude is a bit ironic, consider this. Last week I got an e-mail in my NACC mailbox from an emerging technology analyst at one of the Big Three analyst firms. This analyst told me in his e-mail that he was researching customer service call centers and how companies are routing customer calls to their agents and asked if I would take the time for a brief call with him to discuss this further. At first, I thought it was pretty funny, maybe even a joke, but now I feel sort-of flattered.


Has being ignored by big companies and even some relative newcomers hurt Saddletree Research? November 1, 2019, will mark Saddletree Research’s 20-year anniversary, so you be the judge. Saddletree also has many wonderful clients, some of whom have been clients for 18 years, so we’ve managed to muddle through. These clients represent the people and companies who still, to this day, ensure that the agony of being an independent analyst is nothing compared to the ecstasy of being able to call my own shots, work with companies I truly admire and determine my own destiny.


As for the irony of being an independent as I’ve shared in this blog, that’s something that I still haven’t been able to rationalize in my 30-year career as an analyst.

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