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Book Review: UP and To the RIGHT 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes "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." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence
author Richard Stiennon
pages 186
publisher IT-Harvest Press
rating 9/10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 0985460709
summary Definitive guide on Gartner and their 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 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 publicly available. Some examples of the freely-available are the MQ for:Secure Web Gateways, Security 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 markers; completeness 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 forewarn 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, it is a book well worth reading.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Book Review: UP and To the RIGHT

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  • by davidoff404 (764733) on Friday July 20, 2012 @03:49PM (#40717063)
    Back, and to the left... Back, and to the left... Back, and to the left...
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday July 20, 2012 @03:56PM (#40717125)

    It's staggering to think about: this company has 5000 "associates", 1200 of which are "analysts", and manages to pull in $1.5 billion a year, all while doing absolutely nothing of value to the human race.

    • How dare you! Making 'Magic Quadrants' is vital to the continued existence of the human race!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's a pretty harsh assessment. I mean, think about it. Where would all those analysts be if they didn't have a job at Gartner? Probably managing bank loans or on the street managing the finances of petty drug empires. No, much better that they be at Gartner where their harm to society will be slightly less. Think of it as welfare to keep them from doing more serious crimes.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I disagree, because they're making way too much money, meaning other industries are wasting all that money on their bullshit "analysis", and that results in higher prices for everything. All these analysts could be doing far more productive jobs in other industries, such as cleaning toilets, picking up trash, stocking shelves, or busing tables, or best of all, picking fruit and vegetables.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Obviously, you haven't accepted the new paradigm.

  • Are we sure that Gartner is an independent company?

    • Gartner is a whore to anyone that pays it.

      • but the book seems to say, as per the review, that the pay to play notion, is a myth.
        • People also lie.

        • What else would an 'ex-Gartner' analyst be able to say? His ass is so packed with NDA's its not funny anymore, and he would certainly expect to get sued out of existence if he dropped any bombshells about how they worked internally if it was anything the company didn't want ["it's a trade secret that our analysts reports are written by the companies that pay us to publish them, after assigning the copyright of the documents to us"].

          • I do not think that is necessarily so. There is plenty of things he could have said which is revealing, yet not in contempt of the NDA.
      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        Yeah, pretty much. And a high priced whore at that. Ever see the prices for some of their studies/reports? I really can't believe anyone takes them seriously anymore.

    • by PPH (736903) on Friday July 20, 2012 @04:17PM (#40717401)

      I've heard this supposition in places like Slashdot. And given Gartner (and other analysts) public statements, I might believe it as well. Except I have spent some time working at one of Gartner's larger subscribers (Boeing). And I was on the CC list for their internally circulated, proprietary reports. While all you little people were reading the pro-Microsoft 'drivel' that Gartner (and others) put out, we were getting reports from them that basically said, "Drop Microsoft garbage and run like hell! Not ready for the enterprise." And other similar things.

      I suspect that most analysts have several tiers of subscribers. The more you pay, the higher quality your reports are. Microsoft is most assuredly a big customer as well. So if your company falls somewhere below them on analysts' income rank, you'll probably get the reports engineered to make their desirable clients (MSFT) happy. But if you are a big player, the analysts don't want to risk your business by helping others unload crap on you. So your reports will have a different slant to them.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        While all you little people were reading the pro-Microsoft 'drivel' that Gartner (and others) put out, we were getting reports from them that basically said, "Drop Microsoft garbage and run like hell! Not ready for the enterprise."

        Not only are their findings seemingly always in favor of who paid for it, but their opinions and recommendations also change depending on who signed the check!!

        So again, what part of anything Gartner publishes or says is believable? Why would anyone pay these people? Its not like they are fooling anyone anymore.

        • by PPH (736903)

          Its just like Goldman-Sachs in 2007. They were talking up mortgage-backed securities to their little clients while they were clearing them off their own books and advising big clients to run like hell.

          In this world, you have to either make sure you are a big client or you have to read between the lines when anybody 'gives' you advice.

      • little people were reading the pro-Microsoft 'drivel' that Gartner (and others) put out, we were getting reports from them that basically said, "Drop Microsoft garbage and run like hell! Not ready for the enterprise."

        oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh.

        That clears up 15 years of disbelief.

        So, the service is not only that you'll get IT advice from them, but that they'll fool your competition into following bad advice. Now it completely makes sense.

  • Then why does Gartner's output look like marketing drivel?

  • by icebike (68054) * on Friday July 20, 2012 @04:02PM (#40717211)

    For those not Gartner clients, buying a specific MQ can be expensive.

    But paying clients can always seem to end up Best in Class [gartner.com] even if the class consists of precisely themselves and carefully selected (and obviously inferior) products.

    I've always felt that, like Alice's Restaurant, you can get anything you want at Gartner's Restaurant. (excepting Alice). It will have circles and arrows and color glossy charts. But I won't find any of it convincing.

    I have grown suspicious of any company that advertises a Gartner award, immediately skeptical of any Gartner study, and completely discount anything they publish to bolster one trend or product over another. Maybe it's just me, but I've been bitten too many times by studies, ratings, and products carrying Gartner awards.

    • by yagu (721525) *
      I'm going to jump off-topic here, but gawd, I wish I had mod points to mod parent up. Knocking Gartner down a peg (hurray) and an Arlo Guthrie cameo in the same post. Love it. Okay, mod me down.
    • Re:Confirmation... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday July 20, 2012 @04:29PM (#40717599)

      I'm highly suspicious of them as well. I tend to follow MQs for my niches (if for no other than our execs like to show them to clients), and I have to say that it mostly is a fairly arbitrary ranking. The ability to execute is entirely predicated on staffing metrics, which is ridiculous on the face of it: 1000 badly equipped sales people do not allow a company to execute its R&D vision. Similarly, the vision axis is mainly driven by how closely a company (I think that I initially misspelled company as campaign was a Freudian slip that says something about what I think of vision in general...) aligns itself with the most recent buzzwords.

      In other words, a Gartner MQ tells you how big a company is and how buzzword-compliant it is. It might also correlate with the performance of the actual products and services, but I found that to be more an accident than a result of Gartner's methodologies.

      Personally, I would stay away from a company that is trying to sell me on their MQ position.

    • I have grown suspicious of any company that advertises a Gartner award, immediately skeptical of any Gartner study, and completely discount anything they publish to bolster one trend or product over another. Maybe it's just me, but I've been bitten too many times by studies, ratings, and products carrying Gartner awards.

      But that's because you exercise what is known in the industry as, "Common Sense." I have never known a Gartner prediction to be anything even remotely close to accurate, yet Gartner has found a way to make people stop exercising, "Common Sense", and to take what Gartner says seriously.

      If only the world were populated with more people like you.

  • Anyone who has worked in information technology knows of Gartner

    No. Never heard of them.

    Gartner is huge with over 5,000 associates

    I never work for a company that refers to its employees as 'associates'.

    • by kiriath (2670145)

      Yeah... to state that everyone who works in IT has heard of these guys is a lie.

    • Came to say this.

      Been in the IT industry for 20 years done everything from help desk support to programmer to sys admin.

      Never heard of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everything I've ever read from Gartner has been complete shite. I doubt that anyone in the IT community takes them seriously. Their customers are elsewhere.

  • Why the hell should I care? This sounds like little more than Markov-chain new-agey management drivel.

    This is News for Nerds, not news for "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".

  • That's where it belongs, along with other business-promotion self-wank jobs.
  • by dskoll (99328) on Friday July 20, 2012 @04:53PM (#40717981)

    A long time ago, my tiny company (via a rather aggressive PR consultant) managed to convince a Gartner "analyst" to look at our email security product.

    The analyst didn't really understand email and as soon as she heard our annual revenue number, she immediately discounted us and probably put us in the bottom-left of the MQ.

    Ten years later, we're still around, doing fairly well (though still very small) with lots of very happy customers who obviously don't take advice from Gartner.

  • Why is this on the front page and not in slashBI?

  • by dgharmon (2564621) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @05:15PM (#40725697) Homepage
    "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"

    Company hires Analyst to write report on their particular sector. Analyst writes positive report on Company. Analyst writes negative report on Companys competitors.

    "Friday October 23rd will see Gartner argue a motion to dismiss a complaint by ZL Technologies Inc about the famed Gartner Magic Quadrant [zdnet.com].

    According to court papers, Gartner will argue to dismiss based on First Amendment rights citing that the Magic Quadrant is not meant to represent statements of fact but is based on pure opinion
    ".

    See also: MS-Gartner in tangle over Linux-knocking reports [theregister.co.uk], and 'paying the analyst tax' [enterprise...eforum.com]

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