Saturday, 4 March 2006

The 30-minute Briefing Debacle – Amateur Hour by Arrogant Managers

First, it is Gartner’s privilege to set whatever business processes it wants. Second, there is a lot to be said for suggesting best practices and encouraging time discipline by both vendors and analysts. The problem is that Gartner’s Vendor Briefing department managers were not very smart about how they changed the policy.

In the "Clarification of Briefing Policy" e-mail, Pamela Miranda said that the vendors widely misinterpreted the policy change. The vendor community did not “misinterpret” the line item in the AR Quarterly Call e-mail, because it was very clearly stated that there was a change in policy:

“Updates and Reminders … As of March 31: … Standard Vendor Briefings will be 30 minutes long”.

It was not like the agenda item was worded as an open item like “Discussion: Should there be a standard for shorter regular briefings in order to open up more briefing slots?” So please Gartner do not blame the vendor community's reading skills.

Nor was this a case of Gartner “miscommunication” – the managers wrote exactly what had already happened, a change in policy. What took Gartner by surprise was the reaction. It never occurred to them that the vendors would object. It is common after all for Gartner to impose changes in policy by fiat without trying to get buy-in from those stakeholders affected. This is a classic case of a powerful near-monopolist doing whatever it wants. As Lord Acton said “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” and with its influence over vendor revenues Gartner is very, very powerful indeed. This leads to the classic arrogance of people or institutions who have never had their actions questioned.

Oh, did you notice that in the "Clarification" e-mail that the policy was not pulled for further discussion, but left in place? So, the Vendor Briefing managers screwed up and tried to spin themselves out of it, without really changing anything.

Another aspect of the amateur hour is the poor job done communicating the change both internally and externally. The policy change was not and still is not published on gartner.com on the “Vendor Relations” page. Analysts did not know. A small non-scientific study of the analyst community showed that analysts were not told about the policy change.

There is an e-mail being passed around – always with a LOL – where a wag pulled some bullet points from the “Observations on Analyst Relations” presentation that Laura McLellan gave and made only one small change to turn the points back on Gartner:

IT Vendor Perceptions of Gartner Vendor Briefings Department - Negative

* Defensive & suspicious
* Gatekeeper (vendor AR = enemy)
* Self-important
* Territorial
* Roadblock
* Don’t understand how analysts work


Gartner talk with us, just don’t impose your will by fiat. Next time Gartner Vendor Relations is considering a policy change that impacts vendors, it should start a dialog on the Ombudsman blog to get the vendors’ input. You might be surprise that the vendors are more than happy to work with you rather than just scream bloody murder when the next change is imposed on us.

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