UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence

Anyone who has worked in information technology knows of Gartner.  They are one of the leading information technology research and advisory firms.  Most of their clients are CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, high-tech and telecom enterprises. Gartner is huge with over 5,000 associates, over 1, 200 research analysts and consultants and clients in 85 countries.  Their revenue in 2011 was nearly $1.5 billion.

While Gartner is the world’s largest, there are over 650 independent analyst firms worldwide.  Barbara French’s Directory of Analysts provides a comprehensive list.

With all that, very few people understand how Gartner works and what makes them tick.  In UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence, ex-Gartner analyst Richard Stiennon takes the mystery out of Gartner.  In particular, a good part of the book deals with Gartner’s vaunted Magic Quadrant.

The Magic Quadrant (MQ) is Gartner’s proprietary research tool that according to them provide a qualitative analysis into a market and its direction, maturity and participants, thus possibly enabling a company to be a stronger competitor for that market.  Every, and I mean every tech vendor strives to be recognized by Gartner and be on a prominent post on the MQ. 

Today there are hundreds of different MQ’s for sectors from firewalls, cloud services to web hosting and everything in between.

For those not Gartner clients, buying a specific MQ can be expensive. But vendors often use the MQ to tout their product and pay to make them publically available.  Some examples of the freely-available are the MQ for: Secure Web GatewaysSecurity Information and Event Management and Web Fraud Detection.  A Google search of the term with the PDF format will also reveal numerous free versions.

The book derives its name based on the best place for a company to be on the MQ.  Up and to the right is where Gartner places market leaders which is nirvana for a tech firm.  The other locations on the quadrant are: niche player, visionary and challenger. But for a tech firm, there is only one location, and that is up and to the right.

The MQ itself has two markerscompleteness of vision, which defines features and innovative enhancements.  The other is ability to execute, which is determined by revenue, number and quality of resellers and distributors, number of employees and their distribution between engineering, sales, and support and other business issues.

If up and to the right is the desired location, how does one get there? For many tech firms, they often are clueless.  In the book, Stiennon provides clear direction on how to get there. For those looking to make the expedition to the land of Gartner; this book is a veritable Berlitz Guide on how to safely make the journey.

A Gartner myth that will never go away and that Stiennon deals with on page 2 is the notion that getting on the MQ is simply a matter of paying for the privilege.  He calls the notion of MQ pay to play completely false.

Chapter 2 is The Magic of Magic Quadrants and Stiennon details what it is and why vendors aspire for placement.  Irrespective of its value, he notes that every time a new MQ comes out, the vendor has an opportunity to issue a self-congratulatory press release about it.

In chapter 6, Stiennon makes the somewhat depressing observation that the senior analysts at Gartner have not had hands-on experience with products for many years.  Yet these same analysts often have huge influence on the very products they often don’t understand in minutia.

In some ways, the book is akin to How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  The only difference is that one is attempting to influence a Gartner analyst in the vendor’s favor.  In chapter 7, the book details how to find the influencers.  Stiennon is a big fan of social media and gives a number of valuable methods to find the Gartner analysts in your sector. 

One approach I think Stiennon is mistaken is with the use of Klout. He writes that Klout is a great tool for measuring relative influence, at least on social media of an analyst. That may be somewhat true, but for a large part is irrelevant.  As I wrote in Some Observations on Klout Scores, Klout can and should be applauded for trying to measure this monstrosity called social influence; but  their results of influence should in truth, carry very little influence.

I based this on the fact that Klout scores Funny One Liners and the legendary Tim O’Reilly as being equal; which is utterly absurd. You can do your own Klout analysis for similar irrelevant and meaningless Klout scores.

The MQ is not the only service Gartner offers.  In chapter 8, Stiennon writes of SAS Day.  SAS is the Gartner Strategic Advisory Service, where a vendor buys the services of an analyst for a day.  He notes that the pay to play myth may arise from SAS; but observes that you are not buying the analyst’s opinion, rather their time.  Vendors can get a lot out of a SAS day, as it is a day-long bottoms-up analysis of their products, markets, sales strategies and more with an analyst who has a deep awareness of that sector.

Stiennon also provides a lot of pragmatic direction on SAS on how to prepare for the SAS day.  Given the expense of the analyst and the need to have all of the key staffers there, he notes that getting an agenda planned, good conference rooms, nutritious meals and much more are key to getting the most out of the day.

Back to the MQ; Stiennon writes that every organization of size needs a dedicated analyst relations (AR) staff member.  The AR person will be the conduit between the vendor and the analyst firm.  While the AR person is critical, he writes that a firm should never pin the responsibility for missing a target of MQ placement on the AR person.  Executing on the MQ strategy is the responsibility of the entire organization.

The book provides more pragmatic advice in chapter 12 where it details the use of Gartner conferences.  Stiennon writes that firms invest huge sums to attend and sponsor Gartner conferences in the hope to get in front of and sell to leading CIO’s.  In many cases a single sale to a CIO that arises from a Gartner event will justify the huge expenses.

But even with that, many firms make the mistake of manning their booths at the conference with junior staffers and marketing people that can’t speak to the CIO, while the CEO of the vendor firm is in the back of the booth on their cell phone.  That is just one of a few major faux pas the chapter details and how then can be obviated.

The chapter also details a common sales mistake in staffing the booths with booth babes.  He notes that the concept is gross and misogynistic.

Towards the end, the book closes with what not to do when dealing with Gartner.  He gives two examples of firms that were on their negative side.  After Oracle Under Fire was written, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison went on a tirade against Gartner. 

In another case, ZL Technologies, an email archiving firm sued Gartner for over $1 billion in damages (even though it was worth a fraction of that) when an analyst said their products was not up to par. 

The book closes with the observation that buyers need industry analysts, as the analysts see that changes that are coming in the industry and are able to foreworn their clients.

The book is an easy read, yet highly informative and insightful. Every chapter has Stiennon’s real-world experience at Gartner and post-Gartner. 

While Stiennon is ex-Gartner, never in the book does his disparage his former employer or denigrate their MQ methodology.  Rather he shows ways in which the vendor can maximize the potential Gartner relationship and exposure.

Any technology executive, investor and everyone in their PR and marketing departments who are looking to be on the MQ, deal with Gartner or any advisory service, should make certain that UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence is on their absolutely required reading list.  The book provides myriad superb advice on everything you need to know about dealing with and being successful with Gartner.

Given the extraordinary costs involved with analysts and the preparation for analyst meetings, the books $22 price tag is an absolutely bargain combined with its indispensable content.  Whether you are a niche player or leader, UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence is a book well worth reading.

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