How Common is Research & IP Theft in IT?

Executive Summary

  • The vast majority of consulting, analyst, and hedge funds/Private Equity entities that present information do not show references.
  • This, along with our experience, shows that they are stealing much of their IP.

Introduction

I began to notice that companies that present information to their clients have been approaching my research entity, Brightwork Research & Analysis, do not use references. I also found that we receive requests to answer questions for say four or five thousand dollars.

“Research Skimming”

Small research projects are also often an attempt to simply skim off of our pre-existing research by extracting just the research conclusions. Most companies will not fund research. They want someone else to do the hard work, and then they come by and just skim the conclusions. This is why there is only a very small amount of actual research produced in the IT space. Companies will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on IT implementations, often without good information for what they should implement, but they have only a very tiny budget for research, most of which is allocated to three firms — Gartner, Forrester or IDG. None of which produce independent research.

The vast majority of what is called research is simply externally produced marketing collateral. That is vendors or consulting firms can take the material and use it to convince prospects to buy their applications or consulting services.

Not Supporting Consulting, Analyst Firms or Hedge Funds

We don’t do research for IT analyst firms or consulting firms, hedge funds, or Private Equity.

The reason is that the temptation is too strong for them to resist, taking the research, and then remove our logo and present the study as their own. Having seen this several times, we stopped working with any of these firms. A consulting firm can bill a customer 6x what we are paid and relay our research to not just one customer but multiple customers.

When consulting firms or analyst firms contact us, we have learned they are typically interested in stealing our IP.

In the research field, the vast majority of those entities that do research, do not show references. For instance, this is why you don’t see references at the end of a Gartner report.

The idea promoted by Gartner and virtually all IT analysts, hedge funds/Private Equity, and consulting firms (notice the lack of reference in consulting presentations) are that all knowledge is created internally to that firm. That is, the consulting, analyst, and financial analyst space is about presenting the work of others as your own.

Pretending You Invented Everything

While working as a subcontractor for a consulting firm, I was told to remove references to the author of a forecasting book I used in the presentation. I was told that the client was

“Paying to hear what the consulting company thought, not what the forecast book author thought.”

This was stated even though the only person who knew anything about forecasting that worked on that project was me. The consulting firm had sold their expertise in forecasting, without having any employees that knew the subject of forecasting. It is considered entirely normal in the consulting market to sell your skills or knowledge as a company — and then go and hire a contractor to perform the work. A director at this consulting firm would interview me as for what we would do, and then go around the corner and explain what I had explained to him, to the client. This may be acceptable if I were working in a non-English speaking country, and translation was required, but both I and the client spoke English.

Therefore, the distaste that the director had for using references, also extended to my IP as well.

The Normalization of IP Theft

This shows the degree to which consulting firms are so comfortable presenting the ideas and IP of others as their own. It is accepted in the consulting field, that you present the ideas and IP of others as you own. If you place a consultant in a subcontract position, you then can try to extract his or her IP that it may have taken ten years or more to create.

Consulting firms exist in a world where all IP is created within the firm, where references are actively discouraged. So, for example, the university system’s research (which they laud in the education of their consultants) basically does not exist. Each consulting firm places itself as to where the real source of truth lies — which is curious because IT consulting firms are run by salespeople who not only don’t understand research, or the scientific method or how to create IP.

Conclusion

In academics and in research, the situations of sources are critical. However, in the private sector, source listing is counterproductive to IP theft and to pretending you did work you did not do.

  • I have had to contact a software vendor to get them to remove material that was plagiarized from the Brightwork website. (Even though it was paragraphs copied word for word, I was told it was an “honest mistake”).
  • I just recently found a person who is well known for covering the ERP space, who presented the Brightwork media/consulting financial bias model, without reference to Brightwork of any kind.

The fact that there are so few references to sources in the vast majority of analyst reports, consulting reports, etc., should tell us that there are a large number of people plagiarizing material and pretending they invented or came up with ideas they did not.

The Inevitability of Relying on Sources

When I produce research, I have a large number of references at the end of articles. Even shorter pieces will tend to have one or two references. How are these reports being written with no references at the end of them? White papers that on so many vendor websites are the same thing. They are bereft of references. However, these companies feel under no obligation to reference anything.

How to React to a Report Without References

This lack of references should cause one to pause.

If a firm produces a long report but has very few references, it means that either the report author or the company they work for are dishonest. (Recall, I was required by my subcontract role to remove the reference to the author. Therefore the offending entity was the consulting firm. I was able to make my point without using a reference, but I would have preferred to have kept the reference).

Dishonest reports, aside from being wrong, are unreliable sources of information. This is because a dishonest author will rig the report to whatever is in their financial interests. And the majority of private-sector research is rigged — like the Gartner Magic Quadrant. What is generally little discussed is that private companies have a history of producing very rigged research. Academic research developed its reputation for reliability — because authors were protected from the financial implications of their research conclusions. However, this has fallen apart in medical research and increased political correctness, as well as the reduction of the percentage of university’s budgets that are paid for by tax dollars, indicates that academic research is very likely to further decline in independence in the coming years.

Extreme Research Rigging

This occurred with KPMG, which supposed to deliver a report on corruption to the South African government, and they falsely implicated individuals who were fighting corruption, but who were following up with corruption perpetrated by KPMG as we cover in the article The Falsified KPMG Report on Corruption in South Africa.

KPMG, for example, has such a history of producing fake reports, of signing off on deceptive accounting books, that it is curious why anyone would either pay KPMG or bother reading KPMG’s reports — except as a form of research for how to identify false information. (This was exactly how KPMG functioned internally when I worked for them several decades ago.)

A Lack of References as Part of IP Theft

It is completely foreign to me to not use and show references, but to companies that don’t produce IP, but like to pretend they do, they view every reference as a possibility that the audience will think they know less than they do.

This also gets into the topic of ghostwriting. Some of the content these company’s websites are not written by their employees. Ghostwriting is extremely common in the are of celebrity books. This is where a person has an established brand and interest, but is not a writer and could never write a book. When a person becomes well known, they have a built-in audience for a book. Ghostwriters interact with the celebrity, but normally the celebrity will just give the ghostwriter notes. Some of the best selling books are not written by the celebrity, but instead by a ghostwriter.

In the past, I have taken ghostwriting contracts for a few vendors. This is where an author is hired to write material that is then presented as if it was created internally by the company. While this is an accepted practice, I have stopped doing it. I have concluded that this also a dishonest presentation. There is also something very odd about reading one’s own material on another site, where that entity pretend they wrote it.

No one has ever paid Brightwork to publish any material on the site, but some of our material is published on the sites of vendors that those companies could not have written themselves, and that looks like they did write it. That means they are pretending to have knowledge that they do not have.

Conclusion

If you can’t trust the entity to include where they got ideas, then that source itself is a problem. That is you are being lied to — and this means the research conclusions are also most likely not reliable.

In the case where I was pressured to remove a source reference, the consulting firm I worked for was untrustworthy, and they should not have been listed on other topics.

Of all the companies I worked for as a permanent employee, there was not a single one that could be trusted to deliver a non-rigged report.

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References

Here is a related type of theft. Idea and business model theft. The following video explains.