A question from Gideon Gartner

Researching something completely other, I came across a six-month-old post from Gideon Gartner which, in turn, refers to a post I can’t find from Tony Greenberg. So this is third hand, but here is an excerpt from what Gideon quotes:

We buy too much from big companies that  lock us in by hiding detail and complexity. Then we happily reward dubious value by never shopping around even as the rift between market and BigCo’s rates grow.

RFP’s are what most [many?] companies use to show how little they know about what they really need and who to buy it from. Vendors use any little bit of weasel room to sell you their value proposition.

We think that we can’t change our contract mid-term even when business need and market conditions change. So we endure the 3 or 5 or even 10 years  when we could have used that same business need  to realign even the most onerous deals real time.  And no contract is non-negotiable even when it’s closed.  In reality, you never get what you deserve – it’s always what you negotiate. Razor sharp guardrails and multi-vendor relationships are where success lies.

All you need is the upper right quadrant? 9 times out of 10, if you pick the generic “best” recommendation, it won’t be the right fit.  Sure, it’s better than the 99% chance of screwing up if selecting randomly, but no quadrant will replace an analysis of optimal fit.

Gideon then asks if this applies to what I call the Insight Services sector. Here’s an expanded version of my response which as I write is waiting his moderation.

Gideon – I only just found this post, but sure it applies to insight services and (as in so many areas) particularly to the market leader. IT strategists don’t always understand how to use these services and the tools that they offer.

For example: there are two global market leaders in this space. One – Gartner – has taken a strong direction towards identifying, supporting and working with key individuals in an IT organisation. The other – Forrester Research – is still up for providing services which can be opened up to most or all of IT staff.

Then there are other next-tier providers such as Ovum Butler who may be more limited in the markets they support, but offer good expertise within those areas at a lower price. And there are specialists: some of them such as Mike Rasmussen’s Corporate Integrity or Charlene Li’s Altimeter Group spin-offs from the majors; others like IDC covering a specific range of market sectors. There are different delivery models, All in all, over 400 potential providers.

Just as in any other space, a proper needs analysis is a pre-requisite to the procurement of an appropriate portfolio of services. Who are the potential users for the service, what are their needs, what will encourage them to actually use it? What’s the value you expect and how will you demonstrate that you’re achieving it?

It isn’t just about information content and price. Are you “just” buying content, are you aiming to develop a strategic partnership with your insight provider, or are you buying in panic mode because something’s gone wrong in your estate? Will your users identify and engage with specific analysts? Will you be able to share strategic thinking so as to get advice before your decisions are shaped, rather than just to confirm (you hope) a decision that’s already made? What are the additional values in the relationship, such as events, analyst interactions, and so on? Can you shape their research directions at the same time as they influence your strategic thinking? Different providers respond in different ways to these drivers.

I’m not entirely in agreement about multi-vendor strategies in this space. Conflicting advice from different insight providers in the same space can lead to problems. But it’s a useful strategy in the evolution of your portfolio, and likely you will use different providers to meet different needs.

And finally, of course, you use G***r or F***r (or someone else) to advise you on IT. But who advises you on buying these insight services, which influence the whole IT strategy and budget? Analyst Relations aims to develop skills among those who influence the providers on behalf of IT vendors. But there’s almost nothing to develop informed buyers and users of insight services.

Naturally I wouldn’t be posting this if I didn’t believe that InformationSpan fills that gap. We have the market model, the needs analysis framework, and the database of potential providers.

I need to remind people that Gideon Gartner no longer has any direct connection with the insight firm which he founded and which still carries his name.

• Sharpening Instincts: Review of an IT post, Gideon Gartner, 1 Mar 2011
• Tony Greenberg (maybe you can find the original post; if so please let me know!)
InformationSpan; click “Enterprise IT”

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