Every technology vendor and investor needs and wants to know the size of their target market and its potential for growth. They can’t run or plan for the future of their business without those numbers. However, there are real numbers and fake, or at best, very optimistic numbers. Take for example the estimated size of the ECM market, depending on which ‘experts’ numbers you believe, it ranges from around $3.5B to over $40B in 2019, and it will grow by a CAGR of between 5% and 17%. Some of these estimates are wildly inaccurate. It’s not just ECM; every software, SaaS, and hardware market has the same market sizing problem.
It is not that hard, though it is time-consuming, to size market sectors, the principals are pretty straightforward. The best and most common way is to do a bottom’s up calculation, you pull together the revenues of all the firms in the sector, that’s your starting point. Those numbers can be hard to find, but experienced analysts know how to find them. From that base calculation, you can factor in many different variables, but the estimate is not going to vary wildly from the original revenue calculation.
Even here, market estimates will vary, as it depends on which revenues get counted. Licenses/Subscriptions only, or do you also count associated service revenues? If you count service revenues, you could add in revenues from companies that only provide services and don’t sell software. If you want to get creative, you can add associated hardware sales to the software and service numbers. In short, the end number depends on what you count, and what you leave out, and would be surprised just how ‘creative’ some analyst firms can be when it comes to counting.
Good analysts are open and transparent in how they calculate markets and undertake their research; they are also open on how they forecast any future growth, sharing the factors they have considered in their analysis. Other analysts are opaque as to how they came to their estimates and shroud the process in mystery. As an analyst for the past 20 years, I have seen it all, and it makes my blood boil when I see crazy numbers thrown around. Those numbers do a disservice to everyone, they sow distrust, result in bad decisions, bad investments, and failed businesses.
The problem goes deeper than market estimates, creativity, and opaqueness is also prevalent in product and company reviews. Of course, it’s the vendor’s job to hype their new product or service to the max; it’s not the analyst’s job to echo or to amplify that hype. Instead, it’s the analyst’s job to tell the truth, to dig deeper, and to find out the whole story. That being said, it is not the analyst’s job to destroy companies and products, even imperfect products and companies can add value at the right place and time. Even so, there are times when whistles need to be blown. Fortunately, those situations don’t occur all that often, most companies, even dysfunctional ones, are reasonably honest and just trying to do the right thing. However, it does happen, the current UK trial of Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch, the imprisonment of Sanjay Kumar, the former CEO of CA and the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal are all cases in point. As we move forward into an ever more black box tech world of cloud and AI, more scandals will occur. Analysts are not members of law enforcement, yet they do have incredible access into the inner workings of these firms and are often the first to spot something awry and have an ethical if not legal obligation to do the right thing. In the cases above, thankfully, some did just that.
We take our work at Deep Analysis very seriously; we are passionate about the things we cover. We do our best to provide ethical and honest advice to our clients. We don’t always get it right, that’s not possible. If we make a mistake, it’s an honest mistake, and we will fess up to it and correct it. So be careful whom you take advice from, and if the numbers or the story told don’t look right, then they probably aren’t. Analysts should never buy into the hype; their job is to bust myths, not create them. That means we won’t always tell you what you want to hear, but we will tell you what you need to hear. There are many good analysts and good analyst firms out there; I have worked with some of them.
Moreover, to be clear, Deep Analysis doesn’t hold the moral high ground, we will only ever work with a small section of the tech world, our influence in the broader scheme of things is limited. Even so, industry analysts, ourselves included are influential and what we say matters. So be careful whom you get your industry advice from. Remember, Flavor Flav once epically said ‘Don’t believe the hype.’