Viva La Difference

When I was fortunate to be asked to launch and lead the insurance advisory service at Financial Insights (an IDC Company) I had the opportunity to meet quite a few of the Insights and IDC analysts. But throughout my early years there seemed to be a confluence of ‘analyst’ and ‘researcher.’ IDC does both, of course, but I could feel there was a difference between the two but just couldn’t articulate what the difference was. (When I began as an analyst in the late 1990s at The Meta Group I didn’t feel that tension between the roles.)

Then one day I had lunch with my mentor from Arthur D. Little. While munching – probably on a salad of some type – I told him about my conundrum. We talked about my trouble differentiating between ‘analyst’ and ‘researcher’ and he suggested what he saw as the difference.

He was right. To capture the essence of the difference:

  • The researcher usually begins his/her investigation with a hypothesis. Then gathers the necessary data to test the hypothesis, does the analysis and reaches a conclusion about the correctness of the hypothesis.
  • The analyst may or may not begin with a hypothesis. If he or she has one, they then gathers as much of the data as they can and does the analysis. But – and here is the difference – while the analyst may or may not prove the correctness of the hypothesis, the analyst jumpsĀ 2, 3 or 5 years in the future. That jump is fueled by experience in the domain space.

My ADL mentor reminded me that it is the jump or leap that clients are paying for when they call an analyst.

From my perspective, it is that jump – much more than merely stating what the data say – that makes being an analyst significantly more fun than being a researcher.

What do you think?

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Published in: on June 20, 2009 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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