Friday, 7 April 2006

Borg Games

The feedback gathered after the latest AR Club meeting in London is interesting. It shows a growing dissatisfaction with the Gartner/Borg commercial practices, value for money and processes. Long gone are the days where most parts of the marketplace were "balanced" thanks to the META techno-utopians and where vendors could implement effective "dual-vendor" policies.

So it seems like the Borg is trying to sweat as much as possible from the resources they refer to as human by increasing analysts' billable time in several ways:

  • There's been ample discussion, including with the only Borg analyst who should be credited for having the guts to come and discuss on this blog, about the Vendor Police trying to limit briefings to 30 minutes. Some vendors mentioned that Gartner is trying to force clients to use inquiry time for briefings. By decellerating and obstructing the effectiveness of the briefing booking process, vendors who can afford it simply book lots of advisory calls to take the place of the one briefing they and the analyst would have prefered. Furthermore, Gartner now bullies clients to buy an advisory user seat for EVERY participant who wants to speak. This might be great for meeting sales quotes, but it wastes the analysts' time and frustrates our spokespeople.
  • Of course, some suspect the Borg want to monitor useage and divert inquiries to less busy analysts. Forcing briefings to be booked as advisory sessions increases all the usage ratios. It's even better if analysts who don't know very much are used: then one inquiry turns into three or four. That's a massive waste of everyone's time, but it makes all the rations looks great (apart from next year's renewal figure).
  • Others have commented that the vendor briefing process is painful and is slowing down, not only for having to go through the Vendor Police (and having to fill in a form even if an analyst has informally pencilled in an appointment) but also being told in some cases that "the analysts were not available". We suspect that the system diverts requests from busier analysts to slacker analysts, regardless of their relevance. Therefore briefing requests either get declined or are accepted by analysts who want to look busy.
  • The policy seems to be increasingly endorsed and enforced by sales teams.
  • It seems that Gartner is also trying to discourage the use of SAS days for speaking engagements with tactics such as charging for travel time or bundling-in hyperinflated expenses, in addition to having dramatically increased the price. This of course prompts the question of value for money: how many more attendees can a vendor achieve by putting Gartner (or IDC, Forrester, Yankee...) on the speakers list? Will the choice of analysts affect the conversion rates?
  • The expenses figure added on by Gartner really irritates us. It's a random variable that cannot be backed up. If Gartner was an accounting firm, a method like this would have Gene's perp walk on the front page of the Journal.
  • The logic is of course to squeeze the lemon by boosting analyst utilisation rates (Gene Hall used the words "increase leverage").
  • Gartner however have reportedly capped spending to 3% per vendor (which at the present going rate represents a nice $30 million, leaving plenty of progression margin for their largest accounts) and restricted the products offered to vendors (no white papers for instance -with possible exceptions in far flung geographies though?).

ARmadgeddon recommendations: with the Gartner Borg having as much as 40-50% market share, the RAS marketplace is now heavily concentrated. Vendors should strive to balance their RAS portfolio. Unfortunately, other global players such as IDC or Forrester are a far cry under Gartner for product breadth and brand recognition while regional players such as Ovum still fail to achieve the brand recognition they deserver because of poor marketing. Gartner is also hard to match when it comes to user reach and influence. On the events side, the picture is more contrasted, as the Symposia are certainly the largest but maybe not the most relevant/insightful and certainly not the best ROI. Research quality is more subjective (or maybe not?)
Vendors should therefore have a multi-sourcing policy and use the Borg in conjunction with independent analysts on a case by case basis. They should also look at developping other influencers (such as bloggers, academia, etc...)



Vinnie Mirchandani said...

You lament there is little alternative analyst choice yet do not recommend cultivation of other growing influencers - sourcing advisory firms and bloggers. BTW - I was recently at the S/w 2006 conference and both in the CIO and vendor tracks, blogs and wikis got a lot of attention.

Duncan Chapple said...

Do you really think that "IDC or Forrester are a far cry under Gartner for quality"? Mixed metaphors aside, the tendency to produce megamistakes is very similar from firm to firm. Look at this post, for example look at

ARonaut said...

Thanks Duncan, updated post.

ARonaut said...

Thanks Vinnie, updated post as well with your excellent remark (as usual)