AR Classics: Don’t panic if a competitor hires your Gartner analyst

French Caldwell, Chief Evangelist, MetricStream (PRNewsFoto/MetricStream)

After Gartner’s French Caldwell retired he joined MetricStream, one of the GRC vendors he followed for Gartner. Folk are often surprised when top analysts move over to the supplier side. Howard Dresner, one of the best known analysts in any field, surprised  a lot of people when he left Gartner to join Hyperion. While it’s only human to be worried, there’s no cause for panic. Former META Group SVP Christian Byrnes (@cbyrnes), now Managing Vice President at Gartner, wrote to me saying:

every employee of Gartner is subject to our Confidentiality Agreement. And, in the case of analysts, we are very aware of the trust given to us by vendor clients during inquiries, SAS and briefings. As such, analysts are trained in the proper handling of such information. When an analyst leaves Gartner, they are reminded of that fact and they must acknowledge that they understand that their responsibility concerning confidentiality goes with them. This even includes when analysts retire. I realize that this is a very sensitive issue for any client who has entrusted Gartner with its strategic plans. You should know that this is something that we take very seriously at the highest levels of the company.

Analysts often cross over onto the vendor side, especially because firms like Gartner are enthusiastic about non-competitive clauses in its employment contracts.  They prevent employees from continuing to work as an analyst for a period if they leave Gartner. Someone like Richard Stiennon, formerly a top Gartner security analyst, for example, is possibly worth more to another analyst firm than to a vendor. However, he could only take employment on the vendor side for a certain period of time.

But this forces Gartner’s analysts into a difficult position: to leave ethically, how can they start flagging up to their clients and colleagues that they intend to leave, without the risk that some vendors will stop talking to them, and thus make it impossible to work during their notice period?

What Gartner does, where possible, is to start that process several months in advance. In Dresner’s case they were able to tell people about the intended move.  Several months is a long time, during which things could change a lot, either in an analyst house, in a vendor, or in an analyst’s life. Both the analyst and the analyst house have to accept a substantial downside in the analyst’s ability to gather knowledge and advise clients during that period if they announce where the analyst is going. The alternative is to restructure the research without flagging up the analyst’s departure, but using the restructure as a way of bothering the information that the outgoing analyst has in a more systematic way. Although it did not know Caldwell’s plans, Gartner started that process eight months in advance, by announcing a total overhaul of GRC coverage project managed by Candace Hugdahl. It replaced Caldwell’s MQ with other reports delivered by a team of analysts. That allowed vendors to get weaned off French, and comfortable with the new team.

Clearly, from Gartner’s point of view, the down-side of reorganisation and the calls from anxious clients that Candace might have gotten are not only in their clients’ objective interests, but are also worth much less than the risk of allowing its competitors to offer a home to analysts who want to move on and up in the analyst industry.

Duncan Chapple

Oct 21, 2014

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