I was at an event recently organized by Sage software in Johannesburg. This was an event to promote Sage’s independent software partners to other consultants and customers in it’s large community. I spent a lot of time talking with various people, many of whom operate fairly small businesses but are very knowledgeable of their area of business. It was only afterwards that I realized I was never asked how analysts rate our platform, rather we were asked what we did and how we might help. In other words, none of the attendees cared, or even knew, about Gartner.
How important are SMBs and are they ignored?
Talking recently about SMBs(small and midsize businesses), Stephen Kelly, global CEO of Sage, made a comment about Davos 2017.
Davos is not representative of the real world and I am calling them out … Two-thirds of jobs created in developed economies are by small-to-medium enterprises (SME). SMEs are the powerhouse of the economy but at Davos they are under-represented and close to zero.
In another media report, Mr Kelly said:
It’s crazy when you consider that small businesses create two thirds of all the jobs in most economies, and represent over 98% of all businesses.
I think its fair to say that many business conferences only really cater for large and multi-national businesses, especially the ones that are organized by tech analyst groups. I’ve never heard of a cheap analyst conference that SMBs can afford to attend, or would be interested in.
I realize that there are (some) government initiatives that are aimed at creating and growing a thriving SMB sector, however from the stories in the news and business press you wouldn’t think SMBs are all that important. Think of recent company news, it’s all about big multi-nationals.
How relevant are tech analysts to the SMB sector?
There is no shortage of criticisms of tech analysts. The most recent one was in a LinkedIn article – Will Gartner go the way of the dinosaur? This article points out a number of faults and weaknesses in the analyst model that businesses should be aware of when engaging them, but it focused on large organizations.
SMBs are a big and important group, as the numbers above indicate. But the tech analysts don’t seem to know or care.
Am I right in thinking that the tech analyst community – Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc – only talk to, and get paid by, large enterprises and government? So how relevant is the tech analyst sector to SMBs?
Gartner are trying to appeal to the SMB sector with their Software Advice site. However, are the Gartner or Software Advice brands generally well-known to SMBs?
I’m drawn to the conclusion that the SMB sector doesn’t have the high profile for journalists, or analysts, to take notice, and they definitely don’t have the money that analysts require to work with them.
Tech analysts and the software industry
Another issue with the tech analyst industry is the coverage given to software vendors. Almost exclusively, Gartner and others cover software vendors in the US, and sometimes in other developed countries. Furthermore, the coverage is almost exclusively limited to vendors with significant financial backing. Fifteen years ago this was probably understandable, but nowadays that is becoming an outmoded and almost “colonial” attitude.
I’m not sure how the Software Advice gets its software vendors to review. It was only while I was planning this piece that I discovered the website.
You would think that with the number of startup companies coming out of developing markets that tech analysts would be giving more attention to those markets, but it’s rarely the case. For example I don’t know of a single analyst at Gartner or Forrester whose responsibility is Africa.
Overall, tech analysts don’t address SMB issues, and they cover developing markets very poorly. Does that therefore make them irrelevant to most businesses? Almost certainly. However, as revenues from Gartner show, the tech analyst business model works, even though it only addresses less than five percent of businesses, and only a few countries in the world.
There are tech consultants to SMBs, but the ones I’m familiar with are either single individuals or very small teams. Could an SMB-focused tech analyst company scale to get even one tenth the size of a Gartner or Forrester, let alone become a global business? If someone has a business plan for that, contact me.