Seasonal summary and greetings

Briefly …

To all occasional and regular readers: I hope you have had a very happy Christmas (that’s yesterday, as I write) and will have a good and successful New Year.

A couple of the year’s highlights were the Satyam debacle, mid year, and the announcement of Gartner’s acquisition of AMR Research, a month ago. The Satyam post on this blog still regularly tops the list of most active blogs and is by some distance the most read post in the last year. It’s followed by the article discussing the attempt to create a national directory of cellphone numbers, which fell at the privacy hurdle; and by my note on reCaptcha, which I use to protect the email address on my main website. Interesting what catches people’s attention!

And our coverage of the Gartner-AMR acquisition has been running at a high rate although it’s only had one month to rack up hits. Best wishes in particular to AMR clients, who are welcome to review our webinar; I’m away right now but I’ll update with the link in the next day or two.

Happy 2010!

• Satyam: an analyst case study (5 Feb 2009)
• Cellphone directory project pulled before launch (11 Jul 2009) – is still off the air
Recaptcha uses one problem to crack another (27 Nov 2008 but still of interest in 2009)
AMR clients: action needed!

Google’s CIO: creating user choice

CIO Insight features an interview with Ben Fried, CIO of Google, where he talks about his role in today’s iconic IT company.

This isn’t a summary of the article; go read it (or you can see the video version). I’ll just pull out one thing.

Fried talks about the way many enterprises try to take cost out of IT by rigid standardisation. The principle is that if you only have one flavour of, say, development environment or Office suite, then support is easier and your front line staff only have to learn one product.

Fried disagrees with the principle. Creative people, he says, aren’t at their most creative if they’re constrained to work with a tool they don’t like. And he has experience to back up the assertion that today’s new generation workforce know they have better IT at home than the office standard provides – and they’d prefer to use it.

At Google, he sees his role as giving people choice. They support MacOS, Linux and two versions of Windows. They like people to use Google Apps, but they have Microsoft and Open Office as well. And so on. And, unlike many of his peer CIOs, he sees this not as a problem but as a cost advantage.

Why? Because the environment is interesting, and higher-calibre people want to work in support there. So more problems get fixed on the front line. And when something gets turned off (this is a real case, not hypothesis) there’s limited need for a big change programme. Users adapt, and those that have problems get immediate and effective front line support. “Yes,” he says, “you do have to invest in having more expertise in more operating systems, etc. But virtually all of our applications are Web-based, so we don’t worry about desktop installs and supporting native applications and clients.”

There’s a difference between complexity and choice. As some of us have been saying for years, and organisations like Google are proving, offering users choice can drive up effectiveness and drive down overall cost at the same time. For competitive advantage, naturally.

• Google It: IT`s Competitive Advantage, CIO Insight (text version), 10 Dec 2009
• Google CIO on ITs Role in Corporate Culture, CIO Insight (video), 10 Dec 2009, with a few glimpses of the inside of Google’s Silicon Valley campus
• Or go to the full digital version of CIO Insight, Dec 2009

Gideon Gartner: no-one knows if analysts give value for money

Thanks to a contact at Ovum (ex Butler Group) for sending me this link.

As part of the launch sequence for the newly rebranded Ovum family of services, Ovum have a series of videos out and one of them is a “fireside chat” with the patriarch of the insight services industry, Gideon Gartner (who I met a number of years ago when he was still at the helm of his second company, Giga, later acquired by Forrester Research). The IIAR have posted the video on their blog, or you can see it in one go from Ovum themselves.

The conversation between Gartner, Jonathan Yarmis of Ovum, and David Rossiter of the IIAR centred on the future of the insight services sector. It’s a rare chance to see Gideon Gartner in the (recorded) flesh, and worth watching just for that.

About five minutes in to the second part of this video (it’s split in two on the IIAR site) the talk turns to value-for-money. Gartner points to the fact that fees have risen at a steeper rate than the market has grown.

He reckons eighty or more companies are paying Gartner (Inc.) a million dollars or more a year, and says simply: “No-one knows if they are getting value for their money”.

Gideon Gartner’s solution is an alternative model: a form of payment by results where the clients use every firm there is; and vote retrospectively how to apportion their fees, based on perceived value delivered.

Apparently it works for Wall Street financial analysts. But remember that most of most insight firms’ income is from vendors not enterprise users, and I guess that’s where most of those $1M spenders come from. I can’t see Gartner (Inc.) being willing to work that way. Or most of their competitors. It seems a highly subjective process, and one that would be open to challenge in many ways.

What I can envisage, and InformationSpan knows how to deliver, is measurement of the usage, quality and perceived value of services among the enterprise user community. End users – the IT team members who actually use the research to define their strategy and shape their decisions – have an instinctive feel for value, and there are a fistful of questions that can be systematically asked to turn this into more objective metrics. And if you truly know how the service is performing then you can drive usage and shape your buying decisions directly.

Gartner (Gideon) is of course right that few clients understand what they mean by “value” from an insight service, and even fewer know how to measure it. If you want to know more: ask us!

• WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Gideon Gartner on the IIAR Blog! Institute of Industry Analyst Relations, 4 Dec 2009
• Gidon Gartner at Collaborative Intelligence launch event, Ovum, Sept 2009 in London (reviewed above); there was a repeat in New York with Carter Lusher in place of David Rossiter
• InformationSpan for enterprise IT

Avoiding solutioneering

Solutioneering is a term invented by a New Scientist writer many years ago. It describes the process of applying a pre-determined solution to a problem which doesn’t really exist, or not in the form the solution expects. A Google search on the term shows that it’s now in quite wide use.

One classic example from that original article was the installation of fire doors in London schools, to mitigate the consequences of potential fires. Sounds sensible, except that in the preceding fifty years or so there had not been a single instance of a child being injured in a fire in a school. After the doors went in, there was a spate of injuries due to trapped fingers and so on. The “solutioneers” actually made things worse.

I shared this with my friend Nigel Harrison of Performance Consulting and he’s spotted a great example of how to avoid solutioneering. I hope he won’t mind if I reproduce his email in full.

Last week on Radio 4 I heard a representative from the NHS reporting on the findings that one out of ten prescriptions by hospital doctors were written incorrectly. He said that it was thought that the reason must be inefficient knowledge in prescribing amongst new doctors.

Thank goodness they took a diagnostic approach and looked for the real reasons before implementing a training solution. The investigating team found that there was no difference between new and experienced doctors. They both had the knowledge required. It was only that mistakes occurred in highly stressful situations: not helped by the fact that the prescribing sheets were all different.

The NHS is now implementing a standard prescription form across all hospitals, something they did in Wales five years ago! When I heard this I thought it was a good example of avoiding solutioneering.

Happy consulting

Regards, Nigel

  • Click here for Performance Consulting
  • Gartner+AMR: free webinar Monday 14th Dec [update]

    The hot news this week has been the decision of AMR Research to allow itself to be bought by Gartner, per my preceding blog post.

    If you’re an AMR client you will already be aware of this, and be thinking about your action plan. If you’re a Gartner client in the ERP and Supply Chain space, there will be direct consequences for your service too. But even if you are a client of neither, you should be thinking about it if ERP and Supply Chain are in your area of responsibility.

    This is urgent! AMR and Gartner say they intend to operate as a single service from January 1st. In the three weeks to the holiday break, you need to decide your strategy and take some important actions.

    Join InformationSpan and Lighthouse Analyst Relations for a webinar which is focussed specifically on your needs as enterprise users. We will explore the likely consequences for the two services, and for you as enterprise users. You will take away a list of clear actions for the immediate future and for the coming year, and you will learn how we can help.

    Date: Monday 14th December 2009
    Time: 3pm UK time (7 am Pacific, 10 am Eastern, 4pm European)
    Who should attend: AMR clients; Gartner ERP/Supply Chain clients; SC and ERP IT leads; those responsible for insight service portfolios; IT procurement leads looking after insight services and/or ERP and SC systems
    How to register: link to follow; in the meantime, send email to us at InformationSpan

    AMR clients: action needed!

    Today’s news: AMR Research has agreed to be acquired by Gartner. The news is up in a note on AMR’s and Gartner’s websites, and thanks to Sage Circle and Lighthouse for blogging it fast!

    AMR (and Gartner) clients: your action list is further down! Contact InformationSpan for insight in your own specific case. Attend our webinar, now on Monday 14th December: see following post for details.

    There will be plenty of comment in the coming days but as someone who’s worked with both providers in the past, and understands the user’s point of view, I offer some immediate reactions.

    Most importantly and most clearly, Gartner have decided they needed to acquire expertise in supply chain research where AMR are an acknowledged leader. This doesn’t look like a deal to buy up the competition, as the META Group acquisition was late in 2005.

    None the less, the META acquisition may offer guidelines to how Gartner will handle this (interesting, this, since Dale Kutnick of META is now a Gartner SVP). Gartner will, presumably, merge AMR’s mainstream work into its own ERP and Supply Chain Management portfolio where there are around 20 existing analysis such as Andy Kyte, Jim Holincheck and Thomas Otter.

    I haven’t carefully analysed AMR’s published staff list, but it’s about 60 strong and divided between the analyst side and custom research/consulting business. So clearly there will be some analyst shakeout, initially with analysts who choose to leave AMR rather than move, and then later with those who don’t accommodate well to Gartner’s way of working. AMR’s distinctive podcast style will presumably disappear into Gartner Voice, and the Supply Chain Top 25 awards may or may not continue …

    But the delivery models of Gartner and AMR are somewhat different. Gartner’s focus is on the individual IT manager or executive, and Gartner for IT Leaders doesn’t have a Supply Chain role. Will they use the AMR acquisition as the nucleus of one?

    The press release says that the services will operate as a unity from 1st Jan 2010. But that’s a very short timescale and I’d expect some issues to be unresolved for at least another quarter.

    So if you are an AMR client, here are some must-do actions. Quick reactions are needed, because AMR expect the deal to close this month – that is, by year end. AMR themselves offer “business as usual”:

    If you’re an AMR Research client or prospect, your research, client services, and sales contacts will remain the same. All are being retained by Gartner. There will be no changes to our research agenda or announced roster of webcasts, podcasts, and customer visits.

    But there must be a limit to this before things get aligned to Gartner’s business models, sales processes and delivery mechanisms. Think about what happened with META Group’s excellent and almost self-contained Architecture Strategies service.


    1 – seek an urgent meeting with your account representative. Ask what the future is for your AMR seats in the new Gartner world, both for the duration of your current AMR subscription and, more importantly, beyond it. How does pricing compare? How long will you continue to have access to AMR’s delivery model? Will Gartner suggest that you move your users to GITL seats? Will you get access to Gartner for the unexpired portion of your AMR subscription?

    2 – also, ask what your representative’s own future is. Will they continue as your Gartner representative? If so, where will they be based and what will their reporting line be? If not, who will take over – and how soon can they arrange a meeting to introduce you, before the change happens over your head?

    3 – Of course, if you have existing relationships to particular AMR analysts, you want to know if they intend to stay or move on. Ask them!

    4 – Start to get to know the Gartner analysts in this space. If you’re not a Gartner client, use the blogs – the InformationSpan Analyst Blogs index, with its topic index and our specialised Gartner Blog search, will help

    5 – If you’re a Gartner ERP/SC client, some of the same questions apply. Ask what the impact will be of the AMR acquisition. Will there be new delivery elements, particularly a new focussed GITL service? Will your existing Gartner account manager continue on the job?

    6 – if you have contracts with both organisations, ask for a refund once the integration takes effect.

    7 – take note of Gartner’s and SageCircle’s webinars on 3rd December; these are directed more towards the vendors’ Analyst Relations teams than enterprise users

    and 8 – watch out for supply chain start-up insight services, resulting from the shake-out of the two analyst teams. On past experience (think Giga-Forrester or META-Gartner) there will be some AMR analysts who prefer to go independent than migrate into Gartner’s style, processes and organisation. As Lighthouse comments, there will still be a market for second and third opinions – and, I might add, for global specialists in the AMR mould.

    Both firms also have consultancy and custom research teams; if you have a current project, there may be an impact here too. Check!

    • Gartner To Acquire AMR Research, AMR Research news release, 1 Dec 2009
    • Gartner Buys AMR Research for $64M in Cash, AMR Research, 1 Dec 2009 (longer article by Bruce Richardson)
    • Gartner enters into Agreement to Acquire AMR Research, Inc., Gartner Press Release, 1 Dec 2009 (interestingly, I had to search for this news release. It’s not on the homepage)
    • Gartner & AMR, but in the end its still organic growth vs. the Analyst Cycle, Analyst Equity (Lighthouse Analyst Relations), 1 Dec 2009
    • Gartner hosting special AR Webinar on AMR Research acquisition, Tekrati, 1 Dec 2009 (swith registration link for 3 Dec)
    • Gartner Acquiries AMR Research for $64m, SageCircle 1 Dec 2009, with registration link for 3 Dec webinar
    • Gartner Acquisition History, Gartner website