This not the first time that Gartner has been sued nor will it be the last

Software vendor ZL Technologies has sued Gartner, Inc. about the impact of the firm’s research on its business (see the court documents on its website). Needless to say, this has gotten the attention of twits and bloggers. Here are two example blog posts 

There are legitimate criticisms about any particular firm’s research methodology, whether a standalone piece of research or a recurring research deliverable like IDC’s market share models or Aberdeen Axis. SageCircle, vendors, and others have certainly given Gartner suggestions for improving the Magic Quadrant in private meetings, on blog posts, and in public forums like the Gartner Quarterly AR Call. And to be fair, Gartner has tweaked its methodology a little for the Magic Quadrant over the years, but probably more in response to the Forrester Wave than what they hear from the vendors.

ZLTI v Gartner in logos

There is also the issue that many technology buyers who use the Magic Quadrant as an input to decision making do not know how to […]

You don’t have to be a Gartner client to get a good “dot” on the Magic Quadrant

One of the continuing myths in the IT industry is that Gartner demands payment from vendors for placement on its research. This even came up in a comment – anonymously posted of course – on a blog post written by Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Tom Bittman (bio, blog, Twitter) called A Rant – My Integrity as an Analyst.

SageCircle knows this is not the case from personal experience, but also because we get collaborating evidence from our clients. Just last week we were on an inquiry with a client, a small software company, who was included on a Magic Quadrant in the Visionary square months before they even considered signing up for a Gartner contract. The reason for the inquiry with SageCircle? In the draft update of the Magic Quadrant their dot had moved to the left. Yikes. However, the reason for the less favorable position had nothing to do with their client status or the size of their contract. Rather it was because they had not noticed that the lead author on the Magic Quadrant had changed. Once we figured this out, they understood that their problem was that they had never briefed the new analyst.

We also know of large vendors who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with Gartner year in and year out only never to get onto a Magic Quadrant on which they wanted to be included.

However, in the past it has also been true that some unscrupulous Gartner sales representatives have played the research placement card when they desperately needed to […]

How AR used analyst inquiry to help an end user make a decision leading to a $1.2m win (Case Study)

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThis post is one in a series of case studies on analyst relations teams have worked with their sales colleagues to grow the company’s top line. Readers that have AR-sales stories they would like to turn into case studies are encouraged to contact SageCircle. We will do the work of creating a case study at no charge. 

About the Company: The IT vendor in this case is a multi-billion dollar server and storage hardware company that sells to large enterprises with a direct sales force. The analyst relations (AR) team consists of one director and three AR managers. There is a formal but early stage AR-Sales Partnership program in place.

Situation: This project was kicked off by an email from a sale representative to the analyst relations (AR) lead on the AR-Sales Partnership program requesting assistance. The email read in part:

“…IT shops in large healthcare organizations are very project driven.  They get funding for special projects, approved by the Board of Directors, which are unpredictable at best.  …

Recently, we were approached by <prospect> to provide a hardware quote for about $1.2Million of servers and storage.  They have been tasked to present the platform solution to the <prospect> Board of Directors and one of the issues they need to address is server and storage life cycle.  In support of their ROI analysis they needed an unbiased 3rd party statement on server refresh.  That is where this request is coming from. …”

Action:  The AR manager worked with the sales representative to arrange an inquiry with an advisory analyst to discuss server refresh decision methodology and how to create a business case to present to the Board of Directors. The steps that AR took were: […]

Insights from Forrester’s CEO presentation at an investor conference

This analysis does not look at areas of interest to investors, but seeks to pull out insights that are relevant to clients and prospects of Forrester Research, the number two advisory analyst firm, as well as communications and IT vendor analyst relations (AR) teams.

logo-forrester.gifForrester Research (NASDAQ: FORR) Chairman & CEO George Colony (Twitter, blog) and CFO Michael Doyle presented (replay available for approximately 90 days) at the William Blair & Co. Emerging Growth Stock Conference on Tuesday, October 6, 2009. Because the presentation was oriented toward investors that might not know much about Forrester, instead of the usual Wall Street analysts on quarterly earnings calls, there were some tid-bits of intelligence useful for clients and AR. 

A large number of diverse data points but spread thin: One of the advantages that a large analyst firm has is that its analysts can – not always – have access to a large number of formal and informal data points to include in research and use with end user clients during inquiries. Forrester revealed that its analysts conduct 3,500 vendor briefings, 16,800 inquiries, 250,000 consumer survey responses, and 10,000 large company survey responses.

Sounds like huge numbers, right? Actually these numbers might not seem so impressive when the average per analyst is calculated. Forrester currently lists 193 analysts, not including research associates and researchers. That means that the average number of inquiries per analyst is only 87 per year or seven (7) per month. Of course that is the average, which means that some analysts will be doing much less than the average, maybe as little as three (3) per month or less than one a week.

Calculating the number of briefings per analyst is a little trickier because a single briefing can have multiple analysts in attendance. For this discussion let’s say three analysts per briefing, which then calculates to each analyst getting about six (6) briefings per month. Again, this is not an impressive number when taking into consideration how important vendor information is for advisory analysts.

Of course, inquiry and vendor briefings are not the only sources […]

Stop playing Whac-a-mole by moving from firefighting and reactive to proactive and preemptive

Analyst Relations PlanningToo many analyst relations (AR) professionals spend too much of their time seemingly playing Whac-A-Mole. They rush from one emergency to another, respond to one request after another (from colleagues and analysts), and always seem to be in catch-up mode. The problem with this state is that AR gets in the rut of being tactical and does not have time to be strategic. Thus, the image of AR merely being meeting schedulers gets ingrained in the company. 

To get out of the firefighting/reactive rut, AR should focus on becoming proactive and eventually preemptive. Firefighting-Reactive-Proactive-Preemptive are what SageCircle calls styles of AR. A quick set of definitions are:

Firefighting: The firefighting style of AR is one where a vendor deals with the impact of analysts as opposed to dealing directly with the analysts. Typically, the vendor’s sales force is trying to do damage control because analysts’ research either ignores the vendor or gives the vendor a very negative description or rating. A vendor with a firefighting approach, because they do not interact with the analysts themselves, is doomed to be defined by the uninformed analyst. This allows the vendor to be characterized by the disgruntled customers, competitors, prospects, and partners who do interact with the analysts. Often a vendor in permanent firefighting style is there because it really does not have an AR program and maybe not even a real PR organization.

Reactive: The reactive style of AR is one where a vendor answers questions initiated by the IT analysts, but does not actively reach out to IT analysts. Because the IT analysts do not necessarily contact every vendor for every piece of research they publish, vendors are constantly fighting ratings and recommendations based on old information. In addition, AR is reacting to […]

Rapid Response by AR saves a $35 Million Deal (Case Study)

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThis post is one in a series of case studies on analyst relations teams have worked with their sales colleagues to grow the company’s top line. Readers that have AR-sales stories they would like to turn into case studies are encouraged to contact SageCircle. We will do the work of creating a case study at no charge.

About the Company: The IT vendor in this case study is a $6 billion per year IT professional services and outsourcing company that sells to governments and large corporations. The AR department consisted of one AR director and one AR coordinator.

Situation:  AR was notified by Sales that a bid for a $35m services opportunity never materialized because a major analyst firm had not included the company on the short list. This was puzzling because the AR department had recently developed a good relationship with the analyst in charge of research for this market.

Action:  The AR director did an inquiry with SageCircle to develop an appropriate course of action. After the inquiry, the AR director contacted her colleague in Sales to obtain more information. The underlying cause of the short list exclusion was that the prospect had outsourced several components of the vendor selection process to a major analyst firm’s consulting group. The analyst firm consultant’s job was to create the request for proposal (RFP), set up the vendor short list in collaboration with the client, send the RFP to the selected vendors, and then evaluate the responses. The client was to make the final vendor selection decision based on the work the consultant had done.

The key item found during the investigation was that the analyst firm employee was a consultant not an analyst. A follow-up inquiry with a SageCircle strategist provided the AR director with the critical insight that analyst firm consultants do not always work with the analysts, even though a close relationship between analyst and consultant is often implied when analyst firms sell consulting engagements. Quite often, consultants refer to written research and do not actually talk with analysts, even from their own firm. Exacerbating this situation, consultants often […]

Don’t bring your CEO to Symposium and expect to brief the analysts (part 2 of 7 about Gartner’s Q3 AR Call)

Gartner’s Analyst Relations team holds a quarterly conference call for the analyst relations (AR) community. SageCircle occasionally will post about the call, but for this particular call there was so much information that we have a seven-part series to highlight details and provide commentary. See below for links to all seven posts.

Logo - Symposium 2009One of the questions at the first of the Gartner Q3 AR Calls was something along the lines of “I am bringing my CEO to Symposium and want to meet with six analysts. In addition, my CEO wants to give an overview presentation. When can I expect confirmation?”

The Gartnerians were incredibly patient and diplomatic in their response. We will be somewhat more frank in our response:

  • There is a snowball’s chance in Hell that you can set up a meeting of this nature with six analysts because schedules are already getting booked
  • It would be a waste of time to do an overview briefing (see part 1 of this series for why)
  • Your CEO would likely be insulted by an analyst’s lack of interest in his overview should you actually corner one to meet with him, for instance during a 1-on-1
  • Not correctly setting the CEO’s expectations about Symposium could be a career-limiting move for the AR manager

First and foremost, vendors need to realize that Gartner Symposium is end-user centric. While vendor ITxpo sponsorships contribute significantly to Symposium’s revenue stream, it is the end users that account for at least 70% of Gartner’s overall annual revenue. So everything that Gartner is doing is focused on maximizing the experience for enterprise CIOs and IT managers. This includes giving end users priority access to […]