Lies, Damn Lies, and Research Reports

Microsoft’s PR group sent out this research note this morning and while I don’t normally respond to such outreach this one caught my attention. IDC prepared it and makes some pretty bold projections like technology spending will grow at 3x the rate of GDP growth for 52 countries surveyed (no word on who those 52 countries are… if Zimbabwe, the Johnston Atoll and the Vatican are included, I guess this forecast would be plausible), and then there was this gem:

IDC predicts that between now and 2013, IT and software spending in the 52 countries it surveyed will help create nearly 5.8 million new jobs and 75,000 new IT companies.

[From Software Investment Drives Continued Growth in Local Economies: IDC estimates that Microsoft’s partners worldwide will generate US$537 billion in 2009 despite global economic turmoil.]

Does anyone really believe that IT and software spending will create 6 million new jobs in 4 years? If you parse the statement you could conclude that a rather liberal definition of what entails new software and IT spending could in fact create that kind of growth, but I don’t think organic business expansion is a consequence of IT spending but rather the other way around. This is like that well worn talking point about “jobs saved” that the Administration is using to justify the Stimulus bill… nice try but it’s not a real metric.

Research reports from esteemed groups like Gartner Group and IDC are great fodder for company marketing initiatives but does anyone really put much stock in them? If not, which I suspect is the case, why do vendors continue to support these relationships when even their staunchest supporters relegate reports to the circular file and Powerpoint bullets? If you are a marketing or public relations professional, how do you deal with skepticism when you are promoting positive research about your client?

Lastly, I do want to commend Microsoft on their communication about this report for focusing so much attention on their partner network. More than any other company in IT, Microsoft understands and lives by the idea that when their downstream partners make money, they make money.