This is an important consideration to keep in mind when working with research and consulting firms. After all, you want to know that the information and guidance you’re getting is as unbiased as possible. And when making a purchasing decision, you’re counting on a recommendation based on your needs, not one influenced by any sort of financial relationship.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen other analyst firms that seem to be suffering from an identity crisis – instead of sticking to objectivity and neutrality as an analyst firm, due to whatever internal challenges they may have, these analyst firms are becoming more consultancy than unbiased analyst firms.

At Brandon Hall Group, we grapple with objectivity every day. My colleagues and I talk with hundreds of insiders every month. We must continually monitor and filter what we say and write, so as not to disclose private information, market rumors, or personal opinions (unless asked). We do our best to weigh research data so that results aren’t skewed or misleading. For sure, it’s not easy, and we find ourselves in frequent, but healthy debates over the issue.

It’s no secret that as analysts in the space that we – and virtually every other research and consulting company on the planet – work with solution providers. On a tactical level, they leverage us for directed research and to share our research in their hosted webinars. We offer insight and perspective that can guide their strategies and product plans. We also work on deeper strategic issues with providers in the Learning, Talent, Sales, and Marketing spaces, such as due diligence M&A projects and are part of the due diligence process based on our expertise as an analyst firm.

As an analyst and research firm, if we’re to maintain a healthy level of objectivity, we cannot enter into any kind of relationship that may be perceived to obligate – or even set expectations – of recommendation or favorable treatment of specific products or companies no matter how lucrative such a partnership might be. It’s what makes us a true analyst firm and it’s what has enabled Brandon Hall Group to thrive for 20 years in the business.

Before you engage any research and consulting firm, we recommend that you do some homework to ensure a level of objectivity that meets your expectations and comfort. Ask pointed questions! Do your own due diligence!

Just as any reputable media company will disclose up front all advertising and business relationships that could be construed as having influence, any analyst firm should be willing to honestly discuss any vendor relationships relevant to your engagement. You should be comfortable asking for a list of current and recent solution provider clients. Get details about the work performed. Understand what kinds of ongoing partnerships may be in place. When reading research – any kind of research – you should question the methodology, the credentials of the writer, and how the research was funded.

I’ve personally been in the research business since 2004 and I’ve been in the learning industry for 20 years. I know the value of a reputation built on objectivity – as well as the risks of compromise. Please know that Brandon Hall Group encourages your questions and welcomes any discussion around this important topic.

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company's growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company's global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike's tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.