IT managers use analyst inquiry much differently from vendors

One of the sources of disconnect between vendors’ perception of the advisory analysts (e.g., Forrester and Gartner) and the reality is how very differently vendors and end users (usually enterprise IT managers) make use of the phone-based inquiry that comes with annual subscriptions.

IT managers frequently use analyst inquiry to manage the risk of buying a technology product or service. In addition, IT managers will call upon the analysts to give them intelligence and insights when they are negotiating a contract with a vendor. Often this information and advice is provided over many short phone calls touching on very specific topics, e.g., “Vendor X came to present to the team yesterday and said they could…” or “Vendor Y appears to have better support and should I…..” As a consequence, IT managers see the analysts as allies when it comes to making the best purchasing decisions and paying the right price. In fact, many IT managers think that rather than an expense, a Gartner or Forrester contract is an investment because they end up saving so much on their vendor contracts.

Vendors just do not have the same experience with analysts. First, vendor clients of analysts rarely use inquiry with the same frequency as end users. Furthermore, the typically vendor client never calls an advisory analyst to get advice on how to save money on purchase. So for the vendor executive, the only thing s/he sees is an expensive contract that is rarely used and provides no tangible value. No wonder vendor executives are befuddled by why end users continue to sign up for advisory analyst contracts.

We bring this up because a SageCircle strategist was talking to two senior and savvy vendor executives who normally understand the analysts. The executives were completely amazed to hear about Continue reading

Bill of Rights for industry analyst vendor prospects

SageCircle has addressed the never ending myth that large advisory firms like Gartner and Forrester require vendors to pay in order to be included on research in posts such as You don’t have to be a Gartner client to get a good “dot” on the Magic Quadrant and Analyst integrity issues – the urban legend that won’t die. In addition, Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Tom Bittman (bio, blog, Twitter) has addressed the issue in A Rant – My Integrity as an Analyst along with Gartner Client Ombudsman Nancy Erskine who posted It’s Still True: Gartner Opinion is Not for Sale. A final point is that large firms explicitly make it part of their policy to state vendor briefings are not contingent upon being a client. For instance, on Gartner Vendor Briefings page there is the statement in the first paragraph “Gartner analysts schedule briefings at their discretion based purely on an interest in the vendor, its technologies and its marketplace, not because of any fee or contractual relationship.”

So why does this myth still persist? One reason is that there are still “white paper for hire” firms that will generate papers favorable to the client. So these “white paper for hire” firms taint the perception about all analyst firms. In addition, there some unscrupulous sales representatives at major firms like Forrester, Gartner, and so on that have played the research placement card when they desperately needed to close a contract or risked being fired. So part of the problem is that a few rotten apples at the major firms spoil the reputation of the entire firm. Finally, while analysts have policies against pay-to-play on their websites, has anybody ever read them? 

Killing the myth

So what can analyst firms do to drive a stake through the heart of this pernicious perception? They can create a “Bill of Rights for Vendor Prospects” that clearly states the policy and that every firm sales representative is required to give to a new prospect or existing clients working on a contract renewal. By explicitly stating the policy, which would include a provision that the firm would deal harshly with any sales representative that crossed the line, the firms would stand a better chance of stamping out this myth.

 While the focus of this proposal is on vendors who are (or are not) clients of the advisory firms the concept plays well to the end-user clients who are purchasing services.  They expect the advice they are receiving is objective and not tainted by undue influence.  A more public statement of the policy might be of value in selling to those clients as well.

To get the process started, here is an outline of what a “Bill of Continue reading

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 Continue reading

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 Continue reading

Gartner’s updated Vendor Research Escalation Process (part 7 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 six-part series to highlight details and provide commentary. See below for links to all six posts.

Logo - GartnerOn the Gartner AR call, Nancy Erskine, Gartner Ombudsman (Twitter, blog) announced an updated process for escalating vendor-analyst disagreements (click Research Issue Escalation Process For Vendors to get a PDF of the process document). It is a straightforward process with good, common sense suggestions. 

In our webinar Dealing with Problem Analysts we counsel that escalation, whether with Gartner or another firm, should always be a last resort for AR. While some analysts will consider an escalation as nothing more than the normal course of business, there is always a chance that the analyst will react negatively. Damaging the relationship is even more likely if the vendor’s representatives are belligerent.

While there are some legitimate reasons why a vendor should escalate a problem, a simple difference of opinion (e.g., the placement of a dot on a Magic Quadrant) and typical analyst arrogance are not good candidates for escalation. Remember, the analyst firm management will give the benefit of the doubt to the analyst if that analyst has done her homework and has not violated the research process or code of conduct. Just because the vendor thinks it should further up and to the right on a Magic Quadrant does not mean that Gartner’s management will agree. In addition, if the vendor has been inept or tardy in its response to the analyst’s documented research requests or has not conducted regular AR outreach, then there will be little sympathy from analyst management.

If AR does decide to escalate an issue – following the process in the PDF – then the first step before contacting the analyst’s manager or the Ombudsman is to create a document with a solid argument and lots and lots of supporting information, data, and customer stories. The more proof points a vendor has on paper the greater the likelihood of success. If the vendor cannot muster the proof points or invest the time to document them, then SageCircle’s recommendation is not to go the escalation route.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Develop relationships with your top analysts’ managers before you need to escalate a situation. For example, try to have a 1-on-1 or a cup of coffee with analyst managers at Symposium
  • Develop relationships Continue reading

Evidence Sidebar – Gartner needs to cover the role of information from end-user inquiries (part 6 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.

One of the announcements at the Gartner Q3 AR Calls was the rollout of the “Evidence Side-bar” for written research. During the presentation the Evidence Side-bar was described as “a description of the evidence behind the written research” and it will be “positioned on the front page of each document.” This is a welcomed development as increased transparency can only enhance the credibility and usefulness of Gartner’s research. Additional detail about the Evidence Side-bar taken from the AR Call presentation includes: 

  • Methodology
    • A high level view of the methodology  …or…
    • A link to the Methodology Document  …or…
    • A pointer to the Methodology Statement
  • Source
    • Primary research, e.g., “Gartner Survey”
    • Secondary research
    • Reference to another Gartner note, etc – with appropriate details
  • Notes
    • Additional information or commentary
    • A description of models used
    • Criteria or inclusion of technologies or technology
    • Include forecast assumptions.

This is all well and good. However, there was a glaring omission in the discussion of sources so SageCircle submitted the following question:

Question from Gartner AR Call

Frankly, we did not think that the Gartnerians would respond to the question. Much to our surprise, they did. Here is VP Mike Anderson’s reply:

“Inquiry is a great source of the evidence that a lot of analysts use for those results. I do not believe that we have standardized on the content of how inquiry be presented or how inquiry was used.

Instances where there were substantial numbers and quantities or where particular demographics have become important in the analysis that is being presented, those will be the things that analysts will be putting into the Side-bar. We’ll see feedback to them to ensure the Continue reading

Managing Your Gartner and Forrester Expenditures – A SageCircle Webinar

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgThe largest analyst contract commitments by enterprises, vendors and PR agencies often go to the Big Two advisory analyst firms: Forrester Research and Gartner. Unfortunately even during this recession, the two firms are not displaying any flexibility in contract negotiations – even though vendor clients are experiencing budget cuts.

To help analyst contract managers (e.g., AR, market research and procurement managers) take a strategic approach to dealing with the need to manage spending with Forrester and Gartner, SageCircle has a public webinar focused on providing the tools and intelligence needed to make the best decisions and deal with the firms’ sales representatives. 

In this SageCircle Webinar we provide insights and actionable advice on how to manage what you spend with Forrester and Gartner to ensure that you have the access you need without spending more than necessary. Key Issues to be addressed in this webinar include:

  • Is it possible to negotiate discounts with Forrester and Gartner?
  • What are the best practices for identifying expenditures that can be safely cut?
  • What are the repercussions with analysts at the Big Two if contracts are cut or even eliminated?
  • What are the best practices for handling angry and even threatening analyst firm sales representatives?

In this SageCircle Webinar, our strategists will provide a succinct analysis of why the Big Two are not being flexible and how vendors need to respond. Participants will come out of the webinar with best practices and tools that will help them manage their expenditures without adversely impacting their ability to Continue reading

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