July 30, 2010

Advice for some non-clients

Edit: Any further anonymous comments to this post will be deleted. Signed comments are permitted as always.

Most of what I get paid for is in some form or other consulting. (The same would be true for many other analysts.) And so I can be a bit stingy with my advice toward non-clients. But my non-clients are a distinguished and powerful group, including in their number Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and most of the BI vendors. So here’s a bit of advice for them too.

Oracle. On the plus side, you guys have been making progress against your reputation for untruthfulness. Oh, I’ve dinged you for some past slip-ups, but on the whole they’ve been no worse than other vendors.’ But recently you pulled a doozy. The analyst reports section of your website fails to distinguish between unsponsored and sponsored work.* That is a horrible ethical stumble. Fix it fast. Then put processes in place to ensure nothing that dishonest happens again for a good long time.

*Merv Adrian’s “report” listed high on that page is actually a sponsored white paper. That Merv himself screwed up by not labeling it clearly as such in no way exonerates Oracle. Besides, I’m sure Merv won’t soon repeat the error — but for Oracle, this represents a whole pattern of behavior.

Oracle. And while I’m at it, outright dishonesty isn’t your only unnecessary credibility problem. You’re also playing too many games in analyst relations.

HP. Neoview will never succeed. Admit it to yourselves. Go buy something that can. 

Smaller BI vendors. Analytic DBMS evaluations commonly include BI strategy and tool selection as well. If an analytic DBMS expert tells you he needs to learn more about your product line, don’t blow him off. In fact, you should be particularly embracing anybody who’s shown a fondness for small DBMS vendors; maybe he or his clients will like small BI vendors as well. That means (among others) Jaspersoft, Endeca, and Tableau.

Information Builders. Is there anything about your BI products that is in any way technologically differentiated? If so, you might want to mention some examples to somebody some time.

Kalido. I’ve said this to you before, but it bears repeating — your positioning translates to “I-CASE for analytics,” and that’s not a good thing. If your product is not as cumbersome and entrapping as that sounds, you need to do a much better job of explaining why not.

SenSage. You are what you are. Sell out while the selling is good. You don’t have the corporate personality to make it into the analytic DBMS mainstream on your own.

Ingres. You need to be more engaged with analysts than you are. Ingres navel-gazed too much 25 years ago, and evidently you haven’t outgrown it yet.

TIBCO. You probably have a lot of cool analytic technology, but I don’t know of an influencer who has much relationship with or trust in you. Rethink how you’re approaching influencer relations top to bottom.

Tableau. You had a lot of mindshare, but it’s fading. Do something.

MarkLogic, graph DBMS vendors, etc. You’re clinging too hard to the NoSQL label. Nobody is out there deciding among Cassandra, neo4j, and MarkLogic. They might be deciding between MongoDB and MarkLogic, I guess, but if you admit to yourself that’s all it is you’ll probably change your messaging somewhat.

Objectivity. Get real about marketing. Infinite Graph is a cool opportunity. But I didn’t even ping you for a meeting when I’m in your area next week, because I wouldn’t have known who to reach out to.

Everybody (especially Objectivity). “First X deployed in the cloud” is almost surely an inaccurate claim. Don’t make it. And by the way, even if it were true, it probably wouldn’t be interesting.


46 Responses to “Advice for some non-clients”

  1. Todd Fin on July 30th, 2010 1:53 pm

    Great post Curt. They will not like to see it, hope at least will listen to you 🙂

  2. Curt Monash on July 30th, 2010 3:39 pm

    Well, if Oracle keeps up that level of deception, I’ll keep raising the heat on them. It’s pretty shameful. And it casts my profession in a bad light as well.

    As for the rest — we’ll see. 🙂

  3. Navel Gazer on July 30th, 2010 4:19 pm

    No mention of Ab Initio….thought they might have been high on your non-client list? Or are they secretly a client

  4. Curt Monash on July 30th, 2010 4:29 pm

    They’re so secretive I had forgotten they existed. 🙂

    Seriously, I ran out of energy before getting to anything ETL-specific.

  5. Disappointed reader on July 31st, 2010 7:13 am

    I think there is confusion between “Research”, “Consulting”, and “PR service”. The title of your page is a Monash “Research” Publication, you correctly identify a portion of your client service as “consulting”, but you leave out the other part of your service which is “PR”. In order to provide the “PR” you necessarily compromise on the “Research” – you admit as much in this post. Therefore….perhaps a “Monash Consulting” publication would be a more accurate description?

  6. Curt Monash on July 31st, 2010 7:24 am

    I try not to debate my research integrity with anonymous commenters. Have a nice day.

  7. Curt Monash on July 31st, 2010 7:25 am

    And, as always, if you are disappointed in our free publications, we’ll gladly give you a 100% refund on everything you paid us for them.

  8. Donald Farmer on July 31st, 2010 12:54 pm

    I’m so dismayed to see this post. You’re such a smart guy, Curt, but bashing Merv Adrian for his ethics is surely a lapse of judgement. To point only to what you see as a flaw without setting it in the context of Merv’s widely-held and deeply deserved respect is unfair and unworthy. I know no one in the BI world who look to you rather than to Merv for ethical advice.
    Please, please stick to your excellent technical insights, that *are* valued highly.
    Donald Farmer

  9. Shawn Rogers on July 31st, 2010 2:22 pm

    I take issue with your attack of Merv Adrian. He is highly ethical and transparent in his coverage of our industry. You need to read his site disclaimer at http://itmarketstrategy.com/2010/07/12/disclosure-policy/.

    His decade plus service to our industry warrants a much higher level of respect.

  10. Curt Monash on July 31st, 2010 5:54 pm

    Shawn, Donald,

    What the hell is that all about?

    I’ve already discussed this with Merv, and am not aware of any disagreement between him and me on the matter.

    Companies spin. Where they can, they distort what analysts say. If an analyst lets what he says be distorted too easily, he made an error. Not putting in a sponsorship notice is a pretty clear error. Never mind the website; a lot of Oracle salespeople will leave behind that white paper one prospect at a time, and try to let the prospect believe it was an unsponsored analysis.

    If the white paper in question weren’t sponsored, it WOULD read differently. (Specifically, it wouldn’t omit all the “on the other hand”s, and it wouldn’t omit any mention of Oracle’s competitors.) We all know that, and saying it is not an attack on Merv’s ethics.

  11. Curt Monash on July 31st, 2010 6:47 pm

    And by the way, Donald — if you think it’s your place to say what analysts should or shouldn’t post, I’m REALLY glad that Microsoft isn’t a client of ours right now.

    Your whole idea that companies can lie and analysts don’t have the right to call them on it is a steaming pile of nonsense.

  12. Curt Monash on July 31st, 2010 8:31 pm

    And Shawn — I’ve made my respect for Merv clear multiple times. There are a lot of reasons to hold him in high regard. I DISCUSSED THIS INCIDENT WITH HIM BEFORE I EVER POSTED ABOUT IT. And I’m quite sure that his views on shilling, inadvertent or otherwise, are similar (even if not identical) to my own.

    It’s possible, however, that you and I have greater disagreements as to what does or doesn’t constitute serious, responsible analytic work.

  13. AnnMaria on August 1st, 2010 1:55 am

    Tibco does seem to have some cool stuff. It’s been on my list to learn more about for quite a while, but some of the other products have much more widespread use so there is more incentive to get up to speed on those. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy or vicious cycle where people don’t learn to use your software because there isn’t a broad user base.

    As for Merv (who I do not know at all), I can give anyone the benefit of the doubt, as it seems you did also, and assume leaving off the sponsor was a mistake. I just did that this month and am kicking myself that the article will go to press without the sponsors listed. Now, the sponsors of the research were USDA and the Department of Ed, but I feel like an ungrateful heel not recognizing them. My point is simply that, as you said, I can see how this could happen inadvertently with anyone.

  14. Curt Monash on August 1st, 2010 4:04 am

    Ann Maria,

    I do have the pleasure of knowing Merv; indeed, I invited him to come along to a couple of analyst visits I’m doing Wednesday, something I’d do for almost no other analyst. And knowing Merv, I gave him the benefit of the doubt as soon as I saw the error. His response when I called it to his attention leaves me sure that I was right to do so.

    My technique, by the way, is to turn sponsorship forced-disclosure into marketing lemonade, and put the sponsors’ logos prominently on the paper’s front page. The sponsors don’t seem to mind. 🙂

    I haven’t done white papers for a while, but I’d probably still follow that approach if I wrote a new one.

  15. The ethics of white papers | Strategic Messaging on August 1st, 2010 4:23 am

    […] a recent post, I made certain assumptions about what is or isn’t ethical in vendor-sponsored analyst research. I’d already discussed the triggering incident briefly (i.e., in Twitter direct messages and […]

  16. Curt Monash on August 1st, 2010 6:47 am

    An anonymous comment happens to have been held for spam moderation. I deleted it because I’m not up for being called names by anonymous people right now. But the gist of that and some earlier comments just appalls me. Apparently, there are people who EMPHATICALLY think that Oracle should be allowed to get away with egregious deception, because the alternative is calling attention to Merv’s innocent error.

    What the hell??? One of our core jobs as analysts is evaluating what companies say, and calling them on BS when appropriate. To suggest otherwise is to lose sight of the way, in my opinion, our world is supposed to work.

  17. Curt Monash on August 1st, 2010 11:38 am

    OK. It occurs to me that the three people who have actually flamed me for bringing up ethical issues are a vendor, a [whatever Shawn is], and an anonymous coward. From that standpoint, things don’t look quite as bleak.

  18. merv adrian on August 1st, 2010 12:00 pm

    A quick note in response to the discussion of me here: I don’t believe Curt was questioning my ethics. He and I had indeed talked by message about the labeling (or not) of my white paper.

    I want to thank the folks who leaped to my defense, but I don’t believe my honor was at stake; Curt asserts (correctly) only that I made an error. His other comments are directed at Oracle.

    I’ll have more to say on my site soon. As I write this, it’s Sunday morning and I have some other things to do.

  19. Curt Monash on August 1st, 2010 12:06 pm

    Thanks, Merv. There are people who, when I message them privately about something like that, go “Uh, what’s wrong with that?” You most emphatically were NOT one of those, and I would have been shocked if you were.

    We don’t all have to follow exactly the same rules. You’re more thorough about, for example, disclosing an exact list of clients than I am. (And I think Redmonk is even more thorough than you are.) I’m more thorough than you are in some other ways. But fundamentally we operate from the same ethical playbook.

  20. Colin White on August 1st, 2010 12:57 pm

    For the record Shawn Rogers is a respected analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. Also, it would be tough to find a more ethical person than Donald Farmer. Don’t dismiss their feedback just because you don’t like it.

  21. Curt Monash on August 1st, 2010 1:29 pm

    Perhaps, Colin, you don’t look all that hard for ethical people.

    Shawn accused me of something he knew I didn’t do (assuming that he’s able to read, which seems like a fairly safe assumption given that he’s able to write), which is accuse Merv of unethical behavior. Donald made unspecified and unsupported accusations against me, as well as doing a lesser form of what Shawn did.

  22. White Paper Sponsorship and Labeling on August 1st, 2010 5:20 pm

    […] friend Curt Monash has taken Oracle to task for the way it labels its web pages that contain download links for analyst reports, and I took […]

  23. Curt Monash on August 2nd, 2010 1:12 am

    And Colin,

    It’s quite hypocritical for you to try to police what people say about each other, but do so by passing out slaps yourself. Nobody that I know of appointed you as the keeper of propriety.

  24. Ajay Ohri on August 2nd, 2010 1:37 am

    I think Curt was calling out Oracle (which didnt respond) and not Merv ( whose subsequent blog post does much to clarify). I interviewed Merv here at http://www.dudeofdata.com/?p=2505

    As a comparative new /younger blogger in this field,
    I applaud both Curt to try and bell the cat ( or point out what everyone in AR winks at) and for Merv for standing by him.

    In the long run, it would strengthen analyst relations as a channel if they separate financial payment of content from bias. An example is credit rating agencies who forgot to do so in BFSI and see what happened.

    Customers invest millions of dollars in BI systems trusting marketing collateral/white papers/webinars/tests etc. Perhaps it’s time for an industry association for analysts so that individual analysts don’t knuckle down under vendor pressure.

    It is easier for someone of Curt, Merv’s stature to declare editing policy and disclosures before they write a white paper.It is much harder for everyone else who is not so well established.

  25. Business Analytics Analyst Relations /Ethics/White Papers « DECISION STATS on August 2nd, 2010 2:01 am

    […] Curt Monash, whom I respect and have tried to interview (unsuccessfully) points out suitable ethical dilemmas and gray areas in Analyst Relations in Business Intelligence here at http://www.dbms2.com/2010/07/30/advice-for-some-non-clients/ […]

  26. Further notes on ethics and analyst research | Strategic Messaging on August 2nd, 2010 5:10 am

    […] 3.  In particular, I stand by the following views from the post and comment thread that set this all off: […]

  27. Curt Monash on August 2nd, 2010 6:06 am


    Sorry about that!

    Hit me up w/ a few questions again if you want to.

  28. Ajay Ohri on August 2nd, 2010 1:48 pm

    Hi Curt,

    Sent you some questions. Please answer as per your time etc.

    Great series of posts in this. I have always wondered why you dont write a book on these topics.


  29. Curt Monash on August 2nd, 2010 2:15 pm


    Not much money OR audience in books, in most cases. An industry history book is a big temptation even so — but if I don’t find the time to write history blogs, where would I find the time to write the book?

  30. Greg Rahn on August 3rd, 2010 8:39 am

    It’s very unfortunate that you to refer to the omission of the disclosure of sponsorship in Merv’s paper as a “screw-up”, not just once in this post, but also a second time in the Further Notes post on Strategic Messaging. By using such emotionally charged language you have left a very negative attitude about your feelings toward Merv with your readers, intended or not, as shown by the comments. All this despite the fact that both of you refer to each other as friends and you say you respect him. It reminds me of when someone says “I don’t mean to be insulting, but [insert insult here]”. One set of words doesn’t really negate the other. The comments of your readers clearly convey they feel the chosen language was disrespectful and unwarranted despite probably agreeing with you about disclosure. IMHO it would have been more professional to just simply state the fact as such – Merv omitted a disclosure statement in said paper and in hindsight he felt it was an oversight. This would have allowed readers to place more focus on the topic of disclosure of vendor-sponsored analyst papers and not just one person’s “screw-up”. Food for thought…

  31. Curt Monash on August 3rd, 2010 10:53 am


    I didn’t see “screw-up” as being particularly accusatory at all. It’s a word I’d easily ascribe to myself, for example, for smaller mistakes than that.


  32. Greg Rahn on August 3rd, 2010 4:59 pm

    I don’t think “screw-up” is accusatory at all, but most feel it carries a fairly strong negative connotation and IMHO probably not the best choice of words given the context of the situation. Consider the following:

    • a screw-up
    • a mistake
    • an accident
    • an oversight

    These all could be used in this case to describe the situation but they surely don’t all contain the same feeling or emotion and they certainly don’t contain the same level of respect toward the person whose action they would describe. I’d say screw-up contains the most emotion and the least respect of the bunch, hence, why I’m not surprised at the comments.


  33. Todd Fin on August 4th, 2010 1:53 am

    I understand the good cause behind of this post (not comments) to help customers. Why many comments concentrate on selected word or two that were taken out of context instead of look on entire post. Curt – my guess they try to diminish your message to vendors using a straight psychology attack. That a known tactic switch it to personal and you bought it this time 🙂

    Greg, people can understand you are protecting your team from Curt’s criticizing your PR guys. Anyone following this could see Merv forgiven Curt for word “screw”, you don’t have to chew on this over and over again. Yawn… boring.
    Better raise the issue with your marketing team for their misleading practices 🙂

  34. Paul Johnson on August 5th, 2010 7:30 am

    “Neoview will never succeed. Admit it to yourselves. Go buy something that can.” …like Teradata!?!?!

    LMAO anyhoo 😉

  35. Greg Rahn on August 6th, 2010 9:50 am

    @Todd Fin

    Given the subject of this post is related to disclosure, would you mind sharing your employer and job title (or a LinkedIn URL) so we’re on the same page. You obviously know my employer so it seems reasonable for me to ask for yours.

  36. Greg Rahn on August 6th, 2010 10:16 am


    After looking at a number of other prominent vendor analyst reports webpages (including several of your currently listed clients), I’m unable to find a single site that clearly notes which papers are sponsored. Since you are quite critical of Oracle’s site, what vendor sites clearly distinguish sponsored works?

    Also, in my research I stumbled across one of your named clients, Vertica, who’s whitepaper webpage not only fails to distinguish between unsponsored and sponsored work, but also contains a paper that was sponsored, but I’m unable to find any disclosure within the paper stating such. I guess now you have some advice for one of your clients also. 😉

  37. Curt Monash on August 6th, 2010 2:09 pm

    Good find, Greg!

    Since you’ve appointed yourself as my vocabulary adviser, let me ask you this:

    Assuming your extremely plausible assessment is correct that Vertica sponsored Neil Raden’s paper, would it be more appropriate to say that Neil “erred” in not disclosing sponsorship of that paper, or that he “screwed up”?

    Thank you in advance,


  38. Greg Rahn on August 6th, 2010 4:46 pm


    I don’t know if I’d go that far…perhaps you could say I was just offering some free advice to a non-client 😉 Of course, that comes with a full refund guarantee.

    I actually asked Neil in an email prior to that comment (I wanted to have the facts straight prior to commenting) and he confirmed it was sponsored and there should be a note stating such, but it appears it was it was mistakenly omitted. I kindly notified him as such.

    Have a good weekend.

  39. Neil Raden on August 6th, 2010 4:52 pm

    Greg is correct, there is no mention in the paper that Vertica sponsored. That is an oversight on my part. In the 40+ papers I’ve written, the sponsor is always on the cover page. Also, on my website, the sponsors’ logos are boldly beside each paper. I’ll check with Vertica and have them correct the PDF version. I can’t unlock it.


  40. Mike Ross on August 11th, 2010 11:51 am

    Kurt – Agree with your assessment of Neoview’s chances of success. I was part of an aborted Neoview implementation. It was clear from day one that this ‘dog couldn’t hunt’ though the project dragged on for a year before the inevitable was acknowledged and the project cancelled. I figured Hurd would eventually throw in the towel and buy Teradata since he presumably knew it inside out from his prior life. Do you think Hurd’s departure will have any impact on HP’s RDBMS datawarehouse strategy?

  41. Neil Raden on September 2nd, 2010 4:00 pm

    I don’t mind that Curt noticed I “screwed up” on that Vertica paper. I did. Here is how it works. I submit a draft in Word format and I and the client go back and forth with revisions until we’re finished. I don’t do graphics, formatting or creation on the final PDF. If the vendor decides to omit the “sponsored by” line on the cover, then that’s my bad for not catching it.

    I reatin copyright to every paper, so I am able to post them on my website too, though out of courtesy, I wait a little while before I do. every paper listed on my site has a LARGE logo of the sponsoring company next to it, including the mentioned Vertica paper.

    I am certain that Merv did not take Curt’s “screw up” comment as an attack, any more than I did. Curt is an independent and thus in a position to be clear about ethics in certain areas, much more so than any of the others who complained here, more than myself also.

    -Neil Raden
    Hired Brains

  42. Neil Raden on September 2nd, 2010 4:02 pm

    I didn’t mean “do do” in the comment above, that should have read “don’t do”

  43. Curt Monash on September 2nd, 2010 6:09 pm


    Edited your main comment to reflect the change noted in the second one.



  44. Analyst ethics? « The IIAR Blog on September 27th, 2010 6:07 am

    […] has been deliberately omitted. Indeed you can argue that this practice isn’t limited to them. Which analyst firms disclose the clients mentioned in a report? None of the large analyst firms do that. Can we really say that white papers and commissioned […]

  45. Ethics isn’t just around white papers « The IIAR Blog on March 17th, 2011 12:21 pm

    […] should vendors say so when they post commissionned papers? http://www.dbms2.com/2010/07/30/advice-for-some-non-clients/ #archat […]

  46. Neil Raden on May 3rd, 2013 4:03 pm


    I know this is an old thread, but there is new heat on the subject. The head of a (failing) analyst firm I was previously associated with has gone after me directly to people, like the IIAR group and #archat on twitter, as well as with fake twitter accounts like @Hored_Brains, @Holed_Brains and @sock_puppets as a “white paper whore,” “white paper mercenary,” and “white paper writer for hire” among other age-related, and antisemitic comments. Oh, I forgot, “dirty old man” and ANALyst too.

    I think there are two problems here. The first is that this guy is a sociopath who needs to be committed, but there isn’t anything we can do about that. The second is that the term “white paper” is ambiguous. I strictly follow your August 2, 2010 article on Futher Ethics et al. I never pimp a vendor, I retain copyright to everything, sponsorship is promnent and the edit/review process never results in vendor insertions unless they follow the ethics mentioned above.

    On the other hand, there are tons of “white papers” out there that are entirely different.

    I do my best to be objective and discuss topics or concepts, not products. I NEVER make predictions, which are mostly pure nonsense. I rarely mention the sponsor’s name except on the cover and back page.

    There have been a few occasions where a sponsor did not understand the arrangement and the paper was not published. That’s an unfortunate but workable solution. My approach is to collect a retainer before work begins and a final payment on submission of the complete FIRST DRAFT. this eliminates the coercion of withheld payment – I don’t grant the right to publish my copyrighted material until the final invoice is paid. Consider it a second retainer to complete the edits.

    This works for me.

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