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.
- 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?
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.