The Social Study of the Information Technology Marketplace

The Role of Industry Analysts


Today the market for complex IT is undergoing radical changes in nature and operation. It is increasingly shaped by new kinds of specialist intermediary organisations that link technology supply and use through offering a commodified form of knowledge and advice.

Industry analysts and IT research firms have been increasingly successful in exploiting the uncertainties that exist in technology procurement through generating highly influential assessments of the relative location and standing of individual vendors and the efficacies of their products.

The demand for such advice is large and growing (with the bigger firms spending annually up to £1 million on IT research). These assessments have proven to be extremely effective in swaying procurement decisions and influencing vendor product strategies.

Yet, despite the growing importance of industry analysts not much is currently known about this specific form of expertise, the precise characteristics of knowledge produced, the kind of influence analysts exert, or their role in organising the IT marketplace.

It is hypothesised that, because of the increasing range, escalating complexity and rapid evolution of IT products, the knowledge produced by these kinds of organisations is gaining relevance. They are analysed here as '*Promissory Organisations*' to reflect the fact they are highly successful in mobilising promise and expectations amongst supplier and user communities alike. These and similar types of complex market shaping phenomena can be seen in a wide range of sectors (especially those dogged by high levels of uncertainty).

In order to characterise the role and influence of Promissory Organisations there is an urgent need for the Social Study of Technology and Innovation to develop the analytical tools and frameworks to allow researchers to carry out a systematic and sophisticated study of these actors.

To this purpose, this fellowship will investigate industry analysts through an innovative and interdisciplinary enquiry that, while remaining rooted in Science and Technology Studies, also draws on exciting developments in Economic Sociology and the Sociology of Finance.