by Rob Enderle

Are Apple and Gartner Afraid of Analytics?

Mar 21, 20146 mins
AnalyticsBig Data

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 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 ]

[ More: Forget Big Data, the Value Is in ‘Big Answers’ ]

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 ]

[ Case Study: How Little Debbie Used Predictive Analytics to Survive Snack Industry Shakeup ]

What’s particularly interesting about the firm’s reaction to Haunted Empire is that, the harder Apple tries to kill it, the more people seem to be reading it — and liking it. Yes there are a ton of negative reviews, but they appear to be fake, and there’s an increasing number of positive ones as well. Plus, more of us are writing about it now than would have been the case had Apple not attempted to sweep it under the carpet.

Like Jack Nicholson Said, You Can’t Handle the Truth

That’s my favorite line in the movie A Few Good Men, and it’s an excellent point. There are three components that have to be addressed with analytics: The quality of the data that goes into the system, the integrity of the analytical process and the bias of the recipient of the answer. If any part of this breaks, then the result will be invalid and any decision made from it will be wrong.

There should be little doubt in Gartner’s mind that it should lead in the use of analytics, given that it’s an IT analysis firm. Gartner not using analytics is like a sommelier not drinking alcohol (and with an allergy to grapes to boot).

[ Related: Facebook, the NSA and the Screwy Ethics of Corporate Analytics ]

For Apple, analysis of its customer base would be critical is finding out why it’s losing so much share to Android, while analysis of its employees would likely show that many of the conclusions in the book they are trying to kill are in fact accurate. But Apple doesn’t want to know either answer. Besides, anyone who found the book accurate would be dismissed, so there’s no real motivation to do that investigative work — even though, if Haunted Empire is true, Apple’s on a path out of business.

This should be the first question you ask when considering an analytics solution. If the product provides answers that executives don’t want to hear, you’ll likely be replaced by someone who will manipulate the results to support executive decisions already made or simply let the analytics tool languish.

If Gartner can’t handle the truth about analytics and Apple can’t handle the truth that Steve Jobs was both critical to the success of the firm and irreplaceable, then what hope do you have unless your executives are willing to be open-minded?

Apple doesn’t want to know that Tim Cook was selected to fail by Jobs, who believed he had to be irreplaceable. Gartner is just afraid of change. I don’t blame them; change generally kills the dominant company, and we’re clearly moving to an era of analytics and social tools that should make the firms’ models obsolete unless they make major changes.

Rob Enderle is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance and Security. Currently, Enderle writes on emerging technology, security and Linux for a variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.

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