Monday, 28 November 2005

Are Outsell and Gartner’s blogs real blogs?

As blogs move out from the early adopters community into mainstream, what had to happen is is happening. The spirit of blog is being perverted from the ideal of a participative forum enabled by tools into something which is in fact just a "diarised web" page as as "pseudo-bloggers" do not enable comments on their "blogs". We’ve posted on this before at Gartner’s expense (see Symposium Blog and Gartner Ombudsman Strives for Control) but discovered today another example: Outsell Now does not allow comments either. Shame.

We thought James Governor may have an idea on the question, now that he’s back into action…

Friday, 25 November 2005

79.7% of all Gartner RAS statistics are made up

Gartner RAS analysts are constantly spouting off very authoritative sounding statistics, but is there anything behind those pronouncements?

It’s important to distinguish between the analysts who generate market share number for the Dataquest services and those that primarily deal with end users, AKA IT buyers at corporations and government. The analysts supporting Dataquest services, go out and do the hard work of getting the numbers from vendors and doing their best to validate the information. Dataquest analysts might not always be right, but at least they are making the effort.

On the other hand, the traditional RAS (research advisory service) analysts that deal with end users do very little systematic research. The RAS analysts count on their informal conversations with a statistically small and invalid population of self-selecting clients for much of their information. Most of the rest of the information then comes from vendor briefings. In both cases, none of the data points gathered goes into a knowledge management system or a data warehouse for systematic analysis – it all resides between the ears of individual analysts. Long time Dataquest analysts when discussing their RAS colleagues say “For those RAS guys one data point is a trend, two is confirmation and why bother with three?”

After a few beers, Gartner RAS analysts will tell you that many of their statistics and numbers are DRE – direct rectal extraction. Should end users and vendors be making critical decisions based on recommendations pulled out of some analyst’s behind?

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Ovum seeks intelligence head, Gartner Watch in quest of integrity

Not a very good title, we agree. Nevertheless, those two posts caught our attention today:

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Gartner rediscovers price benchmarking

Tekrati reports here that Gartner just expanded its “IT Outsourcing Price Benchmarking Service”. This was a service that META Group used to offer and it’s, hem, interesting to observe that it took the Borg 8 months to discover it. Many vendors liked this approach better than the cost based benchmarking Gartner still offers. The Borg may finally have come to realise what META Group Consultants were up to? Shame it decimated the lot though…

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Ex. Quocirca founder launches Freeform Dynamics

We planned to post on this earlier but Dave got there first: read [Analyst Insights:] Quocirca analyst starts new firm.

Dale Vile has sent us an email to describe this new venture he formed with Helen (Vile) and his web page advertises the following:
"The company was founded on the principle of adopting a more freeform approach to analysing the business impact of developments in the IT and communications markets. As boundaries come down, lines between solution categories blur and convergence takes place at both a technology and a business level, this approach provides more accurate insights into industry dynamics than the traditional category driven research model."

Still confused? Here are the coverage areas:

  • "Communication and collaboration: Convergence, mobility, service provision, information sharing, collaborative working
  • IT infrastructures and application architectures: Virtualisation, utility / grid computing, Web services, SOA, enabling middleware
  • Customer Relationship Management: Call centre solutions, field service automation, sales force automation, best practice
  • Resourcing / Outsourcing: Professional services, outsourcing, off-shoring, platform hosting, application hosting

All this at a business level. Sounds like Dale's getting into an already crowded train...

Our point of view is that the independent analysts marketplace is a very fragmented market with few strong brands. It makes them more difficult with and leverage for vendors (their main clients). However, they balanced this with low overheads enabling them to undercut larger research firms. We however think there is a space for collaboration ; this may be what James is calling Open Source Research?

Seen the release about her silver frequent flyer card?

A friend of mine just sent me a press release to about Absolutely PR’s Maggie Chamberlin Holben. She now has certification as an Industry Analyst Relations Practitioner. Take a look.

I really know the meaning of a slow news day but this is the very opposite of news. The IARP multiple choice quiz is simpler than some hotels' hang-on-your-door-knob breakfast order forms.

The real quiz is this: did Maggie think she was helping KCG? Or did KCG think it was helping Maggie? It looks pretty lame either way.

Monday, 21 November 2005

The inside track of Borg vs. Vendors

We have received this email from Silicon Valley Guy:

“I heard over in Orlando at various receptions, bars and other functions where alcohol was flowing, that one of the companies Gartner lists as a “Powerhouse Vendor” has not renewed its annual contract with Gartner. Evidently it was not related to research or any analyst commentary. What I heard – don’t know how accurate – is that this vendor’s market researchers thought that Gartner was not delivering much value for all the money being spent with it.
Wow, what a novel concept, expecting an analyst firm to deliver value and not just use the contract as a bribe!
I would never let my company do that for fear that the analysts would punish us. I admire this vendor for its stand, but I wonder how much retaliation it has already suffered. The Gartner Sales reps are always telling my company that the contract is important for the "relationship" -- which as near as I can figure out is some kind of code word for something.”

ARmadgeddon commentary: selling RAS (research and advisory services) and other products to vendors as a means to gain access to analysts is always tempting for sales. To their credit, the Borg do not sell white papers to avoid being seen retailing influence and in fear to compromise their brand. However, as they are now in a monopolistic situation, every move to exploit their situation will be scrutinised closely. For vendors looking to purchase market sizing or published research, there are numerous competitors in this space and we recommend to implement a dual vendor policy -at least for the quantitative research. IDC is a strong alternative to Gartner Dataquest in this area and each of them have different strength and weaknesses. Make sure to evaluate carefully those two players as well as specialist players (e.g. Canalys, Analysys, etc...) with a balanced research portfolio in sight. On the product evaluation side, look at Forrester, Evaluator Group, Ideas International, Ovum and other niche/regional players...

“I also heard – amazing how booze loosens peoples’ tongues – that Gartner Sales is playing hardball with other vendors as well. Gartner is doing such client-friendly actions as:

  • Accusing clients of violating the contract and that Gartner might take legal action – but this only occurs during tough contract renewal talks, not during the year when the so-called violations are occurring and Gartner could have raised it earlier

  • Raising prices without adding value

  • Telling clients to cut back on the number of research notes downloaded or the number of inquiries even though the contracts states that there are no limits to these services

In addition to the vendor mentioned above, I heard that other major vendors have had enough with the G-men. Some went without a Gartner contract for weeks or months. Other vendors have severely cut their contracts. Guess what? All these vendors have survived and even prospered without having access to the Gartner analysts”.

ARmadgeddon comments: smaller vendors in particular tend to be bullied with these sorts of ttactics. We recommend suggesting the Borg you may go public or hint you're evaluating competitors.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Weekly digest

The AR blogging community has been busy this week:


Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Is Gartner going Symposium frenzy? Part 2/2

Following our previous post on the Gartner Cannes Fall Symposium (Is Gartner going Symposium frenzy? Part 1/2) on the content side this time, we would start with agreeing with Joe that there was no real news (read Does Symposium have a future?) and he may have a point as the Borg picking up noise and no real trend (read also Does size implies relevance?). His analysis leads him to predict Symposium the same fate as Comdex.

Gartner’s CEO, Gene Hall introduced the event. He evidently got himself a presentation coach after the nervous and wooden spring performance but was still reading from the prompter. We advise the Borg to purchase a W magic jacket and matching earpiece. The opening keynote was rehearsed OTT, long and not bringing much to the theme (Faster ROI) launched by Gene in the introduction. We suggest the Borg to make an effort to actually follow-through the theme during the whole event and to apply Fast ROI to their vendor clients, for instance by making sure the EXP crowd actually sets foot on the show-floor…

As for the rest of the content, it was not very different from the Barcelona gig and they obviously kept some in store for the Amsterdam Data Centre Summit.

Monday, 14 November 2005

Is Gartner going Symposium frenzy? Part 1/2

Starting with the good news, the event production team as usual did a top job (those guys can really run a large show neatly) and the James Bond party at the Carlton hotel was impressive, with its ice scultpted artefacts, a casino room and even oysters… Quite an improvement over previous years, although some say Florence was still the nicest one. We wonder how the Orlando do was in comparison? Miller Lite, chicken wings and Mickey Mouse till 7:30 pm? Just in case you were wondering where your platinum sponsorship package went, we scientifically guesstimated the party budget to $200+ a head (.2 probability).

The estimate we have on attendees numbers vary (we won’t get the final numbers until the event sales team has finished massaging them) between 3500 and 4000, which seems down at lest 500 on last year -a similar in proportion as for the Orlando event. About 60% of those are users (in Europe at least). The unfortunate choice of dates (November 11th is a bank holiday in France and most like to be home early on Fridays) might be one of the causes explaining this audience drop. We also think budgets are tights and events drag less attendee nowadays.

Going on about numbers, we heard some vendors commenting on the number of events: in Europe, Gartner will hold a spring and a fall Symposium, the new Data Centre Conference that will take place in Amsterdam in 2 weeks and other specialists events. Would that symposium frenzy be a good illustration of the law of diminishing returns? This would mean a logic of more events, less attendees for each and decreased ROI for sponsors. BTW, that gala party was quite useful to pickup the exhibitors’ mood (those rich enough to buy stands and vendor sessions) which was quite bleak. After a few glasses of Moet champaign, most of them confessed on being disappointed by the poor audience showing up on the ITxpo show-floor.

As a side comment on Stephen from KGC who was probably high when he accused Gartner to have moved the Symposium dates to kill KGC’s event (read Gartner Disconnects KCG Connects). We agree with SGV that they had to cancel either due to low audience or careless planning this on a Sunday. Or both. But that business of blaming Gartner for having to cancel, even if they’re now becoming a monopoly… tsss…. Side note two: the reason for starting on a Tuesday was that the Palais des Festivals was booked till the WE, which also had a knock-on effect on the show-floor build –ITxpo was not accessible during Tuesday’s lunch.

Bottom line: we recommend vendors to use this year's Symposium shortfalls to negotiate a rebate for 2006.

To be continued tomorrow...

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Strategically monopolistic

Joe (Guralnick) seems to have woken up this week, as he did commit quite a few Gartner Watch posts. In Good debate on price hikes he relates a discussion with Fred Abott from Valley View Ventures on whether Gartner is a monopoly who has freedom to push its prices up. Fred seems to think Gartner is up for sale. ARmadgeddon’s long stated opinion is that Gartner is indeed increasing prices (see (Distant) Echoes from the Barcelona Symposium) and that, while we agree with Fred that their competition is diverse and morphing, Gartner with about 40-50% share is behaving as a natural monopoly. For more on this subject, see Gartner, a natural monopoly (Analyst Equity and Gartner Watch and also Revealed: why Gartner took over META!!!.
Tipping in some more kerosene, Silicon Valley Guy tipped us with the following: “In the October 27th Q3FY05 earnings call, Gartner CEO Gene Hall told the Wall Street analysts that on November 1, Gartner will be doing an across-the-board price increase of 3% to 5%.”

SVG also wrote us about the new industries research & advisory services, which he presents as a “new premium fee-based research services from its core research offering as well as the old GartnerG2 and META standard research. So what use to be included in the core syndicated research, now people have to pay additional to obtain. The premium services run from $25k to $35k. What is really outrageous is that to get access to the Industries services, a client also has to have core research seat, so the real price of Industries access is $35k to $55k depending on your discount for a core Advisory Seat.”
The information we have received so far is that the Industries RAS will be separate deliverables though very similar in form but more business issues focused. However SVG points out an interesting “improvement” over G2: the inclusion of tragic magic quadrants and Marketscopes (a dumbed down version with just a 1 to 5 rating) which of course should prompt vendors to subscribe to get what is said on them and buy reprints. We’ll reserve our judgment on Gartner Industries but based on initial conversations our expectations are low.

The logical outcome of monopolistic position is usually arrogance and fall. Research is commoditizing and Gartner has to make it more relevant to IT buyers. Unfortunately we doubt of their ability to move up the value chain to compete with BCG, system integrators and others. Finally, we know their consulting business is not getting traction (see Gartner ≠ Consulting?).
With all this in mind, it would be nice to get an update on Gartner’s strategy but it is interesting to note that the Borg hasn’t bothered to organise a meeting for the AR profession during the Cannes Symposium…

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Back in the high life again?

Stephen England's just written his balance sheet of Gartner's Symposium. His verdict: "Last week saw a significant milestone for the tech industry – the return of one of the most reliable bellwethers in the business -- Gartner’s annual Fall Symposium -- to the state it was in before the bubble popping tech crash and the dreadful events of September 11th 2001."

Okay, with a name like ARmadgeddon no-one expects this blog to be optimisitic. But we think Stephen has sniffed one yellow rose too many. He comments that "8,500 people attended the Orlando event (netting out 1,000 odd vendor attendees and a similar number of Gartner team members that’s 6,500 end user technology buyers or ETB’s)." That is a long way short of where Symposium was in 2000, when the conference center was packed solid. I seem to remember being told that there were well over 10,000 there that year.

But Stephen's estimate of the attendance this year also seems a little high to me. 6,500 attendees from end user organizations is 50% higher than the figure Gartner cited in the 'come back soon' packet given to departing firms that had exhibited at Orlando: and not all of those end users are end user buyers. Every year the ITxpo is filled with an increasing percentage of human locusts who seem to be there only for free pens, t-shirts and chicken wings. Indeed, his estimate of Gartner having 40% market share also seems high. My Gartner account manager claimed a much lower percentage.

Of course, since Stephen's biggest asset is a former Gartner analyst, it figures that he and his colleagues want to emphasise Gartner's leadership. But the reality is that Gartner's revenue is smaller now than it was at the peak of the boom; and that is remarkable considering that Gartner acquired META Group.

And that leads us to a rather different conclusion from Stephen: that Gartner's market share is probably lower than at the peak of the boom, and attendance at Symposium seems unlikely to return to the peak before the crash. Indeed, Gartner's recent choices, such as those to sell its custom research wing and to effectively cancel the first full day of the Symposium in Cannes, are signals that it expects hard times ahead.

Monday, 7 November 2005

Symposium Blog

Whether visiting the Gartner Symposium or not, make sure to have a look at the Symposium Blog. The analysis there is pretty dismal (looks like Dell and Microsoft purchased a sponsorship package), but you’ll find menus (we’re looking forward to the food in Cannes :-) and why Disney places toilets strategically. Oh, and yes it’s a moderated blog

Friday, 4 November 2005

Gartner Disconnects KCG Connects

Last month I mentioned how Bill, wearing a Texan flag, hosted a day of discussion for analyst relations professionals attending Symposium in Florida. Gartner's CEO, Gene Hall, was the guest speaker - and did not have the best day of his life there. I've just heard that, thanks to Gartner, the KCG Connects event at the Symposium in Cannes has just been canceled.

KCG says that Gartner has suddenly moved the first full day to Tuesday from Monday, meaning that many people are delaying their arrival, and that a falling number of sign ups for their Sunday event makes it unprofitable for them to fly over to France.

We have to admit that even though it sounds very unlikely that a whole day of the conference was junked at the last minute, we don't think KCG could be making this up. Of course, Symposium always opens with an half day -- for registration and tutorials. And as far as we can see, the tutorial day in Cannes was always scheduled to be the Monday [in contrast, it was the Sunday last year]. Either way, it's certainly easier blame Gartner than to suggest that most Europeans think they have better plans for Sundays.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Vinnie shoots at Forrester!

Great post from Vinnie Mirchandani on Forrester in his blog [deal architect:] Forrester's Fortitude. He describes them as bold and taking risk on analysis (i.e. headline research). The SAP case (stock fell 10%) is scary.

What impact has Forrester on European AR professionals?
Headline research, or bold claims with little substanciation, is difficult to deal with for AR people, as getting a retractation from an analyst is difficult. That is unless of course the relationship with the analyst is good and makes him/her more predictable. On the the other hand, Forrester's presence in Europe is far from what it should be (they don't cover hardware for instance).