Right to reply

ACN Editor Eliot Beer's October 7 comment (‘Who needs information?' available on ITP.net) sparked an e-mail debate with IDC's CEMA marketing manager, Mark Yates, over the availability of Middle East specific research data and critical insight. This is the complete exchange.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  November 4, 2007

ACN Editor Eliot Beer's October 7 comment (‘Who needs information?' available on ITP.net) sparked an e-mail debate with IDC's CEMA marketing manager, Mark Yates, over the availability of Middle East specific research data and critical insight. This is the complete exchange.

Dear Sirs,

I am writing in response to Eliot Beer's October 07, 2007 Column: Who needs information?

Mr Beer claims there is a dearth of information on the Middle East IT markets and that what is available lacks insight. Perhaps he is not familiar with IDC's press releases, methodology, and full reports.

News articles and press releases generally quote data points from IDC studies, which provide considerable insight and depth. Studies lists all assumptions underlying each forecast, include detailed analyses of market drivers and inhibitors, provide big-picture overviews, and give essential guidance to IT vendors about the future of the markets.

The detailed market breakdowns are based on more than 3,000 meetings each year with IT vendors, distributors, CIOs, IT managers, and end users as well as dozens of surveys done at IDC events all over the Middle East and Africa.

The next time Mr Beer or any other "impecunious student and cheapskate journalist" - doubts there is insight on the region's IT markets, he might wish to check our websites www.idc.com and www.idc-cema.com.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mark Yates,
Marketing manager, IDC CEMA

Dear Mark,

As discussed, I would like to come back on some of the points you raised in your comments to my opinion piece on ITP.net.

As indicated in the original piece, I am fully aware of IDC's work ("... And while IDC in particular produces a fairly large number of reports on the market size of certain segments in certain regions...).

However, I have to disagree with you entirely when you state that IDC reports offer depth and analysis, in my experience, the reports most often consist of a lot of raw numbers, from which basic extrapolations are drawn.

In speaking to IDC analysts, my colleagues and I have not found significant in-depth analysis or understanding of the markets under discussion, especially here in the Middle East.

IDC analysts themselves have admitted this much, and suggested that we speak to Gartner or other analyst firms for this kind of analysis.

This is also a viewpoint that has been put to me by vendors and end users from the region. In fairness, this was in reference to many analyst organisations, including IDC.

I was also extremely confused by the following statement you made:

"The next time Mr. Beer - or any other "impecunious student and cheapskate journalist" - doubts there is insight on the region's IT markets, he might wish to check our websites www.idc.com and www.idc-cema.com."

My original comment suggests that journalists and students are unlikely to pay the thousands of dollars required to purchase analyst reports. If by your comment you are suggesting that these can be obtained for free, please let me know how I might go about this.

Otherwise, there is very little that can be seen on the IDC websites without paying a fee.

I would welcome your comments on the above - please do get back to me ASAP.

Eliot Beer

Hi Eliot,

Thanks for the email and for asking for our comment.

A question: What IDC analysts did you speak to? In what context?

And a clarification: While you acknowledge IDC and Forrester have studies, you wrote:

"This may be a mistake. Because it's not only impecunious students and cheapskate journalists - the two least likely groups ever to pay for a research paper - that are after market data. Over the last month several vendors have suggested that they would be willing to pay hard cash for hard facts, if only someone could produce the hard facts.

"At the moment, there is no one with this kind of information, so for now we're all going to have to keep on waiting."

The last sentence of the first paragraph and the transition to the next clearly imply that you believe there is no market data out there. Your last email suggests you are changing this position. Is this the case?

Mark Yates

Dear Mark,

Regarding your comment, from my conversations with vendors and end users, IDC reports are not considered to provide the type of data that these parties are looking for - this is the same for other analysts as well.

As to what exact data is desired, that's a conversation for another day - and an in-depth one at that. But I would stand by my point that - while organisations such as IDC are supplying data - no one is supplying the type of data that regional industry figures want.

Regarding the IDC analyst's comments, that's not information I am able to disclose, as it was a comment made off the record. The context was an interview done for one of the IT titles.

Eliot Beer

Hi Eliot,

I am again confused by your comments. I wrote in because the column does not define terms or cite specific examples. You do the same thing below ("no one is supplying the type of data that regional industry figures want"). If vendors have told you what type of data they want, you should be able to tell me. For a proper reply, I really need to know.

Otherwise you can dismiss anything I write with the same type of general statement.

Mark Yates

Hi Mark,

Regarding your confusion on my comments: I believe it would be naive to think that working out what vendors or end users want from research and analysis can be done in a brief exchange - or described in a short column.

What I am reporting is the headline news - that regional industry figures do not believe they have access to the information that they want.

I would suggest that it should be IDC - not journalists - that is working out what its customers want, the same as any other business.

I would also suggest that, with respect, you are reading too much into my column - it was not, and never pretended to be, an in-depth analysis of the Middle East research scene. It was instead a short opinion piece, inspired directly by a particular request from a student.

I will be coming back to research this as a in depth topic - and will definitely be approaching key players such as IDC for this piece. Until then, though, I won't be embarking on a detailed deconstruction of any comments you make on this subject, as it wouldn't be fair on either of us.

Eliot Beer

Note that this exchange has been edited for space requirements. The only content removed was discussion of deadlines for receival of the final comment from IDC, and other extraneous matter.

The following is the final official response from IDC on the original comment piece, as requested by ACN:

The crux of the issue for me is the column's lack of specifics and definition. Mr Beer makes a series of general statements but supplies no examples, comparisons, or numbers to support his claims. He also fails to define his terms, allowing them such broad definition that they could essentially apply to anything and everything.

For instance: "market data". Mr Beer says IT vendors want "market data" and would be willing to pay "hard cash" for it. His column essentially claims that the type of IT market data and insight vendors are after does not exist for the Middle East. It does. IDC produces it. Our studies and quarterly trackers give total IT market size in units and revenue and track IT market growth. They also break down IT markets into detailed segments for product rollout and strategic planning purposes.

Take PCs and systems as an example. We segment volume and value by everything from operating system, price band, rack factor (for servers), and processor type to form factor, distribution channel, vertical market uptake, end-user size, and user installed base. We also include vendor share information for all these segments and SWOT analysis of the market leaders.

Mr Beer implies that he is talking about a different type of IT market data though he does not define what it is. If vendors have told him what they want, he should be able to tell readers how it is different from what we and other research houses offer.

"Insight" is the other poorly defined word. In his column he writes "[IDC data] does not deliver much in the way of real insight into how the market operates, where it is moving, or what the drivers are behind purchasing decisions." This displays little knowledge of IDC's annual studies. Each study is based on hundreds of vendor interviews and includes an all-inclusive table of assumptions that details how the markets operates, five-year forecasts that say where the market is going, and a comprehensive list of drivers and inhibitors that help explain purchasing decisions. If Mr Beer is talking about a different kind of insight, he does not define what it is.

IDC does not claim to do everything, but we do claim to have information and insight. It may be that Mr Beer is confusing what is available with what is accessible, as we respect the privacy of those who provide us with data and do not make it readily accessible to the media or academics except as press releases, which generally contain only top-level numbers.

IDC speaks with vendors, channels, and users every day in the region; we understand what they are after, and we have created a portfolio of research and services that covers nearly all aspects of the IT markets. Again, I leave it to readers to visit our web sites, review the fact sheets for market trackers and report series, look at the tables of content, and determine for themselves what is available.

Mark Yates

What are your views on the availability and quality of analysts and research material in the Middle East, whether it be research companies such as IDC, or the media?

Write with your views to eliot.beer@itp.com.

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