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

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

3.40 avg. rating (71% score) - 5 votes

9 thoughts on “AR Classics: Don’t panic if a competitor hires your Gartner analyst

  • Duncan – This is an interesting perspective.
    An analyst can join any firm, peers, customers or vendors. But, should the other players in the segment worry – my view is a resounding ‘Absolutely’.
    The analogy is simple – Its akin to taking a former cop into a security firm, and ensuring getting data on all the elements existing in the ecosystem. The knowledge that the service provider will now have with French on board will be enormous. And this will be across how other players in the GRC segment approach customers, what is the positioning they adopt, who are their top clients, who is aligned to them. Every element on informal relationships will be bare. Should we believe that this data will not be made available explicitly – possible. But, clearly the firm hasn’t hired the analyst just for ornamental purposes. It is difficult to fix a lid on the intangibles!

    Suyog

  • Well, much of that (other than perhaps the names of top customers) is easily obtainable from analysts already. French will, obviously, not share the name of customers that are not in the public domain or otherwise disclose confidential information. But let me share a story: I remember meeting Chordiant in their early days. I think in 2000. They had announced the names of four clients (maybe it was four in Europe, but I think it was worldwide. I had identified 24 of clients, and they were quite surprised. That is a nice illustration of the fact that organisations often feel that they have given way their darkest secrets to analysts, but actually what we find is that those analysts might already have a lot of insight. Honestly, French has relationships, gravitas and an appetite to do that job. But they will get no confidential organisation from him. And a lot of the context that he can deliver, they probably already got a lot of that from him as a Gartner client.

  • @ Suyog As Duncan knows, I work in an adjacent sector. At that level of seniority the credibility of the individual hire is key. To reveal the previous employers Crown Jewels to your new employer might gain some short term kudos. However, if your reputation is the most valuable commodity you have then in the long term and word gets out that you spilled the most precious beans, that could well be professional suicide.

    @ Duncan. Point well made about the view from the other end of the telescope. There is often more open source information out there than we believe. If confidentiality is important in your organisation, then you need to take a look back at yourselves from the outside. OSINT and SOCMINT can sometimes be revealing.

    ….never mind your apps, what are the cleaners taking out in their trash bags each night?

    ..who are they letting in after you leave?

    Sleep tight

    @selyst

  • I worked for Forrester for 6 years. I have heard Analyst tell competitors specific details about their competitions strategy and by name. I have seen confidential consulting pieces used as examples to show competitors what work Forrester had done for other competitors in their industry. Its nothing new.

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