Industry analysts – how to conceptualise the distinctive new forms of IT Market Expertise?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Purpose: This paper explores conceptual issues arising in an empirical study of the emergence of a distinctive new form of expertise - of industry analysts and in particular the leading firm Gartner Group that exercises enormous influence over the IT market.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper critically reviews existing analytical frameworks and especially work from the Sociology of Professions. This has largely focused upon groups which have already succeeded in gaining wide acceptance of the effectiveness of their methods and knowledge. For emerging expert groups a key challenge is to create an audience for whom they are expert (Turner 2001). The study contributes to a ‘third wave’ of studies that shift the focus of enquiry from the operation of professional institutions to the conduct of expert work – and how knowledge is produced, validated and consumed.
The paper draws upon an extended ethnographic study of Gartner Inc. and other industry analysts to characterize some key features of their expertise. Data sources include over 100 hours of participant observation of industry analysts and their interactions with vendors and technology adopters at IT industry conferences; interviews with over 20 industry analysts from Gartner (including a telephone interview with its founder Gideon Gartner) and other analyst organisations; a substantial body of interviews with technology vendors and clients (particularly in relation to the Customer Relation Management technology sector); together with a review of Gartner documentation and reports.

Findings: The paper compares our empirical findings of industry analysts with accounts from current literature on management consultants and other groups such as journalists and financial analysts. Industry analysts, like consultants, have not sought to follow a classical professional model. Thus the brand reputation of big (industry analyst or consultancy) firms provides an alternative warrant of the quality of expertise to professional institutions. However Gartner analysts identify differences as well as similarities between their work and management consultants. Gartner’s ability to rank the offerings of IT vendors requires them to adopt formal methodologies and internal review procedures to produce defensible knowledge and demonstrate their independence. Industry analysts need to establish cognitive authority over rapidly changing technological fields. This imparts some ‘public good’ elements to their knowledge.

Originality/value: The paper suggests ways forward for analysing new forms of knowledge intermediary in business and accounting, applying perspectives from the ‘third wave’ of studies, and involving detailed study of the ‘epistemic systems’ through which such knowledge is produced, consumed and validated (Knorr Cetina 2010).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1399
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number8
Early online date19 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2015


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