Bulletin 25 January 2019: On insight, opinion and defensibility of industry analysis

Two analysts walk into a bar…


It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between an industry analyst and someone you might meet down the pub. Not only because analysts do tend to enjoy the conversations, surroundings and other accoutrements of that great, British watering hole (though always in moderation, naturally). But also, it might be said that some of the opinions, recommendations and other pronouncements could just as easily come from the old soak at the end of the bar, as someone who makes a living from so-called ‘insights’. 

Before anyone takes affront at this clearly goading statement, I’ll make a comment of my own: I am guilty as charged. I can claim that, while I have in-depth knowledge about some things, I have on more than one occasion been asked about something I know less about. What to do? Through experience I’ve learned to back up most views with a data point or two (“Make it defensible,” as my old colleague Dale might say), but I haven’t always adhered to this rule. 

Despite this clear need to put fact before, during and after opinion, a second point is that we, or at least I, don’t always know why we/I know things. Analysts have the luxury of spending an awful lot of time looking into what’s going on and as a result, can start to get a smell, a frisson or an uneasy feeling about something that is going on. Add that to having seen a certain pattern taking place in the past and, well, before you know it you’re keynote speaking and putting ‘futurist’ on your twitter handle. 

Okay, I haven’t done the futurist thing. But case in point is where we are with technology platforms right now. ‘Platform’ is a great term as it means everything and nothing, defined more by what people do with it than what it is. The past couple of decades have seen open source, cloud, mobile, agile processes and a whole bunch of other things driving ‘the platform’ which have enabled success just by using them — pretty much every one of them there startup companies has benefited from both of these, just by using them even as older companies have been slow to do so. 

That’s just a thing, a well-documented one at that (indeed, you can read several books about it. Chances are you won’t, nobody does, they just buy them and read the first chapter. But that’s another story). But back to my point: my tummy is telling me that the Pareto principle is done with, and the point on the law of diminishing returns curve is kicking in, where it is no longer enough to just do the thing. Symptoms abound, from Amazon opening (robotic) shops to Uber testing out (robotic) cars. 

Can I prove it? No, of course I can’t, not with hard evidence — we’re talking about things that haven’t quite happened. But, like the bloke in the pub, I have been talking about it with peers, testing it, finding out whether it holds, ahem, water. Maybe with a splash of lime. Evidence will emerge, one way or another, at which point your normal analytical service will resume. 

Extra-curricular: Super-Awesome – The Musical

Nothing to see here other than the fact we are moving to a ‘reading’ stage. Watch this space and let me know if you want more information. 

And now, my next task is to work out what has gone wrong with the layout for Smart Shift. Gotta love technology!

Thanks for reading and all the best, Jon

Also published on Medium.

Bulletin 25 January 2019: On insight, opinion and defensibility of industry analysis

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