It is the beginning of 2010 and of a new decade. But before we shift our focus completely forward, it’s worth a last look back to consider all that was learned in 2009 by those individuals who took the initiative to drive change and improvement in their organization and industry.

This was not easy to do. It was a year fraught with daily challenges. We all learned a lot from witnessing how many organizations had to stabilize their business processes with fewer resources and investments available for improvement. In that context, I’d like to congratulate those organizations that took the initiative to engage with Ventana Research and those that we evaluated and recognized in our recent Ventana Research Leadership Awards. These latter were organizations like Nationwide and Welch Foods that reaped the benefits of using business technology for a range of financial and operational performance improvements. If all organizations had individuals driving improvement and change like those that were finalists in the awards process, then the performance and value of all of our industries would be significantly higher.

On the technology vendor side, there were many that took the initiative to brief and interact with our firm throughout 2009; a tip of the hat to each of them. Doing this made a large difference by providing us with insights into the value of their approaches, which in turn enabled us to deliver advice and guidance to our clients. These vendor briefings are critical to ensure that we can guide buyers about the proper scope of the suppliers and how to assess the value of investment in them for their business and IT priorities.

On the other hand, there were some vendors that lost sight of the basic tenets of marketing and did not bother to take the initiative to brief us, leaving them with one less channel available for educating a broader audience. Unfortunately for them, we do not follow such companies and so have stopped research coverage of them, which eliminates them from our recommendations.

Many in the technology vendor community think that engaging solely with the large IT analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester will magically make their company more successful. I’ve been in this business for a long time and I can assure them that these are unrealistic fantasies. I never worked quite that way, and the landscape of buyer influence has changed dramatically over the last five years. Buyers today can get information from dozens of sources, and now are looking for more bite-size and timely but still trusted answers to their questions about satisfying their needs.

This ongoing change in channels and approach for getting trusted advice and information will lead to a new approach to our services in 2010 as well. But what won’t change is our commitment to researching and evaluating process and technology issues in business as well as IT terms. Serving only IT, as virtually all of the large analyst firms do, and approaching the market with only that perspective will continue to bias the advice offered.

Another factor I think is important for trust is openness. Ventana Research has operated for almost ten years with an open and transparent approach to research coverage and listing. This makes us very different from all the rest of the analyst firms, which keep hidden the lists the vendors they cover in research. This is unfortunate, as it makes it far more challenging to know where to get information about specific vendors and products.

We will continue to promote validated vendors and products and make listings of and information about them freely available to our community on But it’s worth noting that we couldn’t do it without those progressive technology vendors that recognize the value of industry firms like Ventana Research, and I thank them and congratulate them on their foresight. The approach we take is one of the reasons why our firm was recognized as the analyst firm you can most trust in enterprise software for 2009. Two others, of course, are the depth of our research-based insights and the fact that you can get access to them without having to pay exorbitant fees to an analyst or consulting firm – for access to, for example, our “2009 Business Technology Priorities in Review”.

But enough of backward-looking. 2010 will be a year of focus, one in which we will continue to promote forward-looking vendors (see our briefing and vendor coverage policies), and in which we search out technologies that can add value to an organization’s requirements, no matter how large or small the vendor that markets them. It will, in short, be one in which you can be certain our recommendations will continue to be objective and trustworthy.

Thanks to all of you to all who have voted for, cited or referred someone to Ventana Research. We plan to bring many new innovations and disruptive approaches to the analyst industry with our fact-based research and coverage of technologies that can make a difference. For those Vendors Dropped from Coverage in 2009 you are more than welcome to come back, follow our policies and be part of our recommendations.

Mark Smith also blogs at