Monday, 27 March 2006

Does Gartner podcasting from IBM events reveal a pro-IBM bias?

Gartner has done multi-analyst podcasts from two IBM events so far this year:

Why does only IBM get such coverage? Other major vendors like Oracle, Sun, HP, Cisco and Microsoft have held significant events in the last six months, but no dedicated coverage for them.

What is striking about both podcasts is that the analysts were overall very positive about what they heard. Yes, there was some perfunctory skeptical commentary, but the analysts were mostly cheerleading IBM’s positions and announcements.

So, two questions: a) why does Gartner podcast only from IBM events, but not other vendors’ events, and b) why is the commentary so positive? There are both innocent and sinister explanations for these two questions:

a) Innocent: IBM is simply more effective at putting on events that attract the analysts and has an AR function that is more effective than other vendors.

Innocent: Dave Cearley, Gartner's IBM lead analyst, is more effective than his colleagues about getting his topics covered as podcasts. For Cearley is a matter of intelligent self-promotion.

Sinister: IBM is paying SAS fees to Gartner to guarantee analyst attendance.

Sinister: IBM is likely Gartner’s largest client and the analysts did not want to annoy Gene Hall by not showing up at IBM’s events.

b ) Innocent: IBM has an excellent plan and messaging for Websphere and innovation, so as a consequence the analysts are positive with only token skepticism. In addition, superior IBM AR execution means that the analysts were used as consultants on strategy and message creation so that they had an emotional buy-in to IBM’s success and were already very knowledgeable before they arrived at the events.

Sinister: IBM is likely Gartner’s largest client and the analysts did not want to annoy Gene Hall by dissing IBM.

Semi-Sinister -- Sloppy research: Any person can be seduced by a well-run event with razzle dazzle. Perhaps the analysts were razzled and dazzled by what they saw at the event and turned off their critical thinking. Maybe if they waited a week or two, they would not have been as positive.

What do you think? Are there are other reasons to explain this potential bias? Please vote on the various innocent and sinister options.


Anonymous said...

I agree with all you say - this sounded like a paid commercial. Even the comments from Dave were half-hearted in being critical.

You would think they would understand that even the "appearance of bias...."

Anonymous said...

My votes:

a) Why IBM events
Both innocent (Cearley self promotion) and sinister (IBM largest client of Gartner -- kiss up)

b) Why so positive
Semi-sinister (sloppy research due to razzle dazzle)

Anonymous said...

Interesting. It's not necessarily pay for play, but even I can guess that IBM's AR budget probably is huge in contrast to some other vendors so they can afford the SAS. (non-sinister, although I'm jealous). But I've heard from other analysts being dazzled by IBM - without really having the supporting substance. IMHO, some vendors are generally liked by Gartner, some are generally disliked. Gartner would of course deny this.

ARonaut said...

Not sure about the IBM bias, they don't seem to invite IBM to pitch a keynote at the Symposium -or do they?

Silicon Valley Guy said...

Gartner does invite IBM's CEO to be a Mastermind, it's just that IBM keeps turning them down -- yes, somebody does turn Gartner down. ;-)

IBM uses its CEO very carefully as a public speaker. For instance, I'm pretty sure that neither Sam Palmisano or Lou Gerstner participate in the quarterly earnings call, leaving that to the CFO. Yes, the CEO is usually quoted in press articles but it is always via "in a statement" not as an actual participant.

The answer is 42. said...

As a former IBM AR person, I vote for all of the above. IBM is a great, ethical organization, but its size (place oil tanker analogy here) makes coordinated activity difficult. Still every-now-and-then, give them credit, they achieve excellence in execution.