Are Apple and Gartner Afraid of Analytics?

In theory, analytics should help firms make key business decisions. In practice, companies ignore analytics because it's likely to tell them the bad news they don't want to hear. This week, the actions of Gartner and Apple illustrated this point to CIO.com columnist Rob Enderle.

One thing that concerns me about analytics is that so few people seem to understand it. They say the word, they can talk to the benefits in abstract, but I don't really think they get how much this one tool could massively improve their businesses. As a result, I expect most to misuse the tool — and the result will be the empowerment of a different group of idiots than the ones currently screwing up your company.

Gartner Seemingly Unwilling to Give Analytics a Try

Last week I reviewed a Gartner report, thought it was crap and told Gartner so. Gartner then executed a series of ad hominem attacks to have my comments pulled.

At the core of my comments was the report's conclusion that vendors should "market" more to their customers without any real depth as to type of product or industry. The report then ranked the type of marketing by success rate generically across industries. To me, it looked like the report said, "use Gartner more" — which, had it come from any vendor, Gartner would have said, "use with caution."

I then pointed out that Gartner could afford to use analytics, with which you could provide every Gartner vendor customer with a detailed list, by product, of what was working to promote and sell the product and what wasn't. This would have been far more actionable and valuable. More important, once in place, it would have been nearly impossible to duplicate. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Gartner's own analytics expert had likely said something similar internally.

[ Counterpoint: How Analytics Can Help IT Vendors Sell Actual Solutions ]

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Gartner's response was to position me as a competitor who was trying to disparage them — even though I don't do reports anymore, nor, to my knowledge, have I ever competed with them for a bid since leaving Forrester more than a decade ago. This gets to my point: If anyone should be using analytics aggressively, it should be an analyst firm with the funding to buy an analytics tool. So why hasn't Gartner done it?

Apple, Haunted Empire and Ignoring the Truth

Meanwhile, Apple is doing a rather impressive (though misguided) job to get people to not read Haunted Empire, a book showcasing how Apple without Jobs is nothing like Apple with Jobs and why we haven't seen a compelling new product from the company, but a lot of mistakes, over the last couple years. According to the book, Apple executives actively avoid information on Apple's problems and publicly cover them up. This is different than covering up known problems; this is more like hiding from them and pretending they don't exist.

This is the exact problem that many analytics systems, and particularly IBM's Watson, could solve. Using analytics, you can see that, if you refuse to look at an answer to a question you don't like, it doesn't matter how accurate the tool is: You'll still make the wrong decision.

[ Commentary: Dell, EMC and IBM Aren't Afraid to Use Analytics ]

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