Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Is Gartner subtly going pay-to-play for briefings?

Gartner is making a number of interesting moves that seem to edge it toward a de-facto policy requiring vendors to pay one way or another to brief its analysts.

  • Vendors are being told that during briefings analysts will only give their opinion and advice if all the participants on the vendor side are Advisor seat holders. Because executives rightly see the back-and-forth with analysts during briefings as a critical part of the influencing efforts, vendors will be forced to buy Advisor seats for executives just for briefings, even if they never use seat for any other purpose.
  • Vendors are being told that executive buddy calls are allowed only if the executive buddy holds an Advisor seat. Because executive buddy programs are a great tool for briefings, relationship building and influencing, vendors will be forced to buy Advisor seats for executives just for buddy calls, even if they never use the seat for any other purpose.
  • Vendors are now being encouraged to pick up analyst travel expenses to vendor analyst summits – implication is that no paying for travel means no Gartner analysts will attend.
What will be next? It’s already an established policy that only clients can use analyst quotes in press releases and so on. What other “goodies” will only be available to paying clients?

  • Only vendors that pay SAS fees will have analysts attend a vendor analyst summit?
  • Only Advisor seat holders can attend a meal with an analyst?
  • Only Advisor seat holders can request a longer than 30 minute briefing?
Gartner should be concerned that this evolving pay-to-play policy will feed the perception that its analysts have to be bought and paid for. If executives see their companies buying Advisor seats just for influencing purposes with no other business value derived, then it will be nearly impossible for Gartner to change the perception.

Another issue that Gartner will need to address is the ethical underpinnings of a de-facto pay-to-play policy. What does the pay-to-play approach mean for equal access (small vs. big vendors) and what does it do to research fairness and accuracy? Will Gartner be shortchanging its end-user clients if vendors give up or significantly reduce the amount of briefings done because they do not have the budget to pay the perceived toll to access the analysts.

A potential outcome is executives will not want to participate in briefings with Gartner. This could be negative for Gartner analysts because executives are the people analysts most want to talk with about market trends and strategy. Another outcome could be an overall decrease in all types of briefings done with Gartner. This would also be negative for Gartner analysts as vendor briefings are an important source of information. There could also be a marketing downside as Gartner analysts will not be able to name drop top executives like they love to do. However, this could be a boon for the other analyst firms as vendors start doing more briefings, have greater access to vendor executives and pick up additional contracts because the firms have a more enlightened policy on briefings.

Forrester, IDC, AMR, Yankee and others should make it a point to contrast themselves with Gartner’s emerging pay-to-play policy in press releases, on their websites and in contract negotiations with end users in order to burnish their reputation while subtly taking Gartner down a notch.


Anonymous said...

In the past 12 months, I've had at least one Gartner analyst tell me that he wouldn't attend a briefing unless travel expenses were met. No other excuse. He was willing to come if we'd pay expenses but not otherwise. We declined.

There has to be some give and take. As you say, without access to vendors, Gartner analysts will find it harder to do their jobs. Most of those I deal with tell you this.

Anonymous said...

Not sure of the context for the word 'subtle' - sounds like a pretty direct pay to play move from what you have written!

theARpro said...

Would he pick up the check for lunch if you visited him, instead of him coming to you?

Stiennon said...

In four years at said firm I only attended one analyst event.

There are probably 100 or so analysts that are truly so busy traveling that 1. they can't get excited about another trip to an all day analyst event. 2. Every day not on the road for paid engagements is a lost revenue opportunity.

Silicon Valley Guy said...

Richard has a very valid point about the opportunity costs of attending a vendor's analyst day that requires significant travel. However, they should come right out and say they are not interested for whatever reason and not make it sound like "Oh, pay me and I'll come." That drives the perception that Gartner is pay-to-play.

Silicon Valley Guy said...

The reason why I used "subtle" is that Gartner has not explicitly said that briefing their analysts requires payment. For the vendor community, it might feel like Gartner is screaming it in our faces, but the reality is nowhere can you find something in black-and-white that says that. Thus, Gartner maintains "plausible deniability" that it is charging vendors to brief the analysts.

Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder how much value Gartner analysts will be able to deliver (to end users and vendors) when people stop talking to them. Gartner seem to think they are number 1 because of the calibre of the analysts - not sure that will be the case if they get there information from websites and press releases!!

Silicon Valley Guy said...

Good point about "value...deliver" because Gartner analysts will continue to position themselves as authorative even if an important source of data is eliminated. Clients -- end users, vendors, reporters -- need to ask analysts about their sources of information and the last time they were briefed by particular vendors. Only then will it become apparent to the market what a house of cards Gartner's research methodology really is and force Gartner to change.

The answer is 42. said...

This is all so self-defeating. As a new product guy who has taken many, many start-up to the industry analysts, I like to think that the analysts are interested in what’s new. To use an analogy of poor taste, the start-ups are the insurgency to the entrenched like Cisco & IBM. (Dien Bien Fu) How are the analysts, battered daily by the big guys with AR budgets, going to know where the next attach is coming from.