Contentious conversations in analyst relations
Contentious conversation 1 – integrity of analysts and the future of AR
Blog my Tom Bittman from Gartner – A Rant – My Integrity as an Analyst
Summary: Gartner analyst angry that he has to justify his integrity
My view: Edelman trust barometer consistently shows that over the past few years analysts are the most trusted
Key comments: Vinnie Mirchandani questioning whether Gartner’s reliance on large vendor subscriptions means that their reports are truly representative
What this means:
There is an ongoing fight regarding how independent an analyst can be if they receive money from vendors. Whereas some firms in the past have been ‘White Paper for hire’ houses, they tend to lose industry respect very quickly and go bust. What can not be in doubt is that in subscribing to an analyst house, you have the ability to pay for more time in front of the analysts leading to a greater chance to educate them – often this will result in a more favourable position. I am not saying that to be successful in AR you need to have subs, it is more a case of – it helps.
The secondary argument (and possibly more important) is by having a look at who the key participants in this debate are. On one side we have the analyst and the other we have the IT advisor. The latter group frequently comes from an analyst background (see Vinnie Mirchandani, ex-Gartner; Ray Wang, ex-Forrester) but in their current role do not have a research agenda. By default this does not make them (in their mind) an analyst.
However, I believe we are playing semantics. Our view in AR needs to be simple: if they affect IT buying then they are an influencer and need to be dealt with accordingly. AR most closely deals with these individuals – we may need to adapt a different name so that they don’t get upset by being labelled analysts but they will remain a key audience for us to engage with and should continue to enjoy the same disclosure benefits that traditional analysts enjoy. With the growth of firms like Altimeter Group, this fundamental shift towards a larger influencer group will become more important than ever over the next few years.
Contentious conversation 2 – analysts liable for ‘incorrect’ positioning
Article in IT Knowledge Exchange – Email archiving vendor sues Gartner over Magic Quadrant
Summary: Claiming that Gartner’s MQ constitute “disparaging, false/misleading, and unfair statements” about its email archiving product that have done damage to its sales prospects, ZL filed suit for damages of $132 million to account for lost sales.
My view: This fight has caused great PR for ZL but someone’s position in an MQ should not be a surprise. If a vendor believes they are unfairly positioned the time to argue this point is before the quadrant is published.
The power of a positive ranking in Gartner is immense because it is often the case that large purchases of technology are based exclusively on the MQ Reports…For instance, the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently conducted an investigation into the use of the Gartner’s MQ reports in connection with the VA’s $16,000,0000 purchase of certain leases and services from Dell. The Office of Inspector General reported that the VA made this large purchase based solely on the leadership rankings in the relevant Gartner MQ report. (source: initial complaint)
In Mark Logic’s excellent analysis of this case, he makes the following comment about whether having the best technology means that someone should be positioned superior to another company who simply has better sales and marketing.
While Ingres arguably had the best database technology in the 1980s, Oracle’s sales and marketing prowess caused it to win the market and any analyst who — focused solely on the technology — would have recommended Ingres at that time would have done his customers a disservice.”
What this means:
Like it or not, Gartner are the original 800lb gorilla. Whether it is right or wrong, the fact remains that their MQ inherently has an influence in IT buying behaviour. What AR pros need to do is work with the analyst ideally six months prior to any publication to fully understand what success criteria are to be better positioned as a leader and work towards those goals. A great way to understand how to work with an MQ can be seen in the great IIAR White Paper.
We have to accept that the firm with the best technology does not always win (see Betamax vs. VHS) – for a company to be successful, they will need to have a great product that is complemented by a sound go-to-market strategy. Luckily for us this is where AR can help.
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