Vendors need "strong, united, universal feedback mechanism" aimed at Gartner

The latest ARmadgeddon post is an article by Bill Hopkins. I just saw it on my way out for lunch with one of Gartner’s competitors – who had already been discussing the article to see if it suggests any opportunities for them.

Hopkins seems to feel that the role of analyst firms is to meet clients’ needs. On the vendor side, AR is a major stakeholder. Gartner wants to build deeper relationships with other parts of the business. As a result, it’s felt to be selling over the heads of key stakeholders, including AR, in order to conect to these new customers. However, the process can annoy those key stakeholders who feel that Gartner is trying to get behind them, and to map the whole environment of influence inside the firm which affects spending on Gartner’s services. This an important discussion for the AR community, and it’s a shame that neither ARmadgeddon nor Bill’s site are open for comments (which seems to be a change of policy for ARmadgeddon).

Hopkins sees AR at the centre of this process:

“Right now, we estimate that as many as 70% of all vendors centralize analyst purchasing through AR. Trying to marginalize the role that AR has in managing and optimizing the value that a vendor gets from their relationships with analysts, let alone the research buying process, is futile and can permanently damage these relationships.”

Over lunch today, my companions outlined general support for Bill’s view, but with some caveats.

  • They have found that very few vendors centralise their buying from analysts in AR. Some, such as Oracle, have found that effective. However, their feeling was that the percentage of buyers centralising analyst purchasing in AR is closer to 0% than to 70%. Almost everywhere, AR is an important influencer. At some firms (especially the mid-market, where most of Bill’s clients are) AR, PR, business intelligence and other communcations functions often sit under the same VP of marketing, who is often the buyer of analysts’ services. They have found that AR is rarely the central buyer.
  • Mapping the network of influence inside a firm will often annoy AR, especially if analyst relations managers tend to pay a gatekeeping role. However, every analyst firms needs to do this to some extent, regardless of the AR managers’ preferences. Often, the analyst firm’s account manager will be able to understand better than the AR manager what needs to be done to help the AR manager to get corporate buy-in for services the AR manager would like the firm to buy.
  • Even where the AR manager or some other central buy is the purchaser, often not they are not the primary beneficiary of the contact with the analyst firm. Sometimes, they are simply aggregating purchases funded from other units of the business. In that context, the analyst firm needs to be able to sell to the business unit where each purchasing decision is made, and not just to the single signers of the purchase order.

These seem reasonable comments, and one of my own occurred to me: Bill seems wise in concluding it’s a great idea for AR managers to develop a common mechanism to feed back to analysts. Some groups do exist (such as the IIAR, its German equal DARA and SPAR) and the relationships between those groups get steadily warmer. That’s a major change in the environment from a few years ago, when Bill’s firm would have ruled out such a development as a quango. The time is right for us to worth together to give the AR community a voice.

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