Berlind has turned his focus to the industryanalysts/researchers in his analysis of transparency. He offers some good advice:
First, any pitches by vendors or public relations personnel to the press, analysts, or customers that cites research must absolutely disclose any relationship that those entities have with the provider(s) of the research being cited. Second, there needs to be a review and consensus of what language can be used when in these pitches. In the aforementioned pull-quote from the press release, the Tolly Group's tests are characterized as "independent." Now, perhaps everyone who signed off on the press release including the folks at the Tolly Group have their own definition of independent and they're certainly entitled to believe that. But, in my book, when the cited reearch is commissioned by the vendor that's pitching me, it doesn't pass my test for indepedence. It doesn't even come close. Third, as I said earlier, all published research should be accompanied by the disclosure of client relationships that are relevant to that research. If such relationships exist, then I think that calls for an additional layer of transparency -- one that discloses whether the vendor was exposed in anyway to the research methodologies prior to the start of the testing or research. If so, then the nature of that disclosure must be detailed. Was the vendor allowed to provide consultative input? Was the vendor given any veto power over evaluation certain criteria? If a comparison was involved, did the vendor have any influence over the competitive set? I'm sure there are other questions to ask -- questions that make it possible for consumers of any research to make their own judgements about the results being shown to them (very often to help turn a prospect into a customer).
I agree that there is an enormous problem in this industry. I have ranted about it before (although not recently). I am happy to see Berlind paying attention to it.