What Gartner Symposium/ITxpo meant for AR managers

Most analyst relations managers can’t get to Gartner’s Orlando Symposium, but it’s one of the most important events for observers of Gartner, alongside its annual investor day. It’s the best possible opportunity to compare Gartner’s execution with the vision it shared with the IIAR and DARA earlier this year.

Reflecting on the Symposium, there are four key points of significance.

Gartner wants to deflect criticism.

Monday’s AR Forum was very different from the same event last year. Then Gene Hall had taken an open Q&A session in a room overflowing with AR directors and their anxious account managers. The room this year was three times larger. Gartner tightly controlled the agenda.

There were two principle presentations that focused on how the research process works at Gartner and how the database summarizing the firm’s 100,000+ end-user client inquiries can be used. To say the least, many AR managers had more pressing and topical issues they wanted to discuss. The hosts, however, had little interest in discussing pricing and other disputed issues in the Forum. Gartner’s agenda successfully controlled the meeting, but in the brief Q&A it was clear that AR managers wanted to be able to shape the agenda and have more time to discuss their concerns.

Gartner wants to reduce criticism.

However, Gartner realises that it has to respond in some way to concerns, especially from its most strategic accounts. It’s had a major success over the last year in reducing one major bugbear: the time taken to respond to inquiries by half. Gartner was able to use a lunch on Tuesday with 16 or so AR magnates to test and discover ideas and options for how it can move ahead.

One real pressure on Gartner is the ambitious pace at which new role-based services are being rolled out. There would have been internal difficulties if the launch of Gartner for Analyst Relations had been delayed beyond the first quarter, despite the potential business benefits of taking more time to refine the offer.

Perhaps the same pressures are at work regarding third-party surveys of analysts? Gartner has the same concerns as vendors about surveys: how to estimate and limit the effort involved; will responses be represented as official positions or not; will the data be presented in too granular a way? However, the firm has executed quickly, gathered some negative feedback and now finds itself rapidly moving towards a policy that will meet its clients needs.

Another challenge arising from internal pressures is how to meet demands for expertise on new topics, such as virtualisation, Green IT and the consumerisation of IT. Gartner seems likely to add staff to these areas, while the total number of analysts and consultants at the firm will probably fall. Even within the core research business, it was to be remembered that Gartner now has 650 analysts, down from a peak of 1,000.

KCG is now calling for an AR professional association.

Perhaps the best news for the AR community is that KCG is, I hear, encouraging its customers to develop an AR professional association. Over the last year it has surveyed its clients to see if forming an AR professional association should have been one of the topics for discussion at KCG Connects.

Over the last year the IIAR has made particularly astonishing progress in Europe but, although one KCG colleague has joined the IIAR, KCG has so far not brought the Institute to the attention of its subscribers. One reason might be the lack of momentum generated by SPAR, the Silicon Valley-based AR network. Perhaps KCG is now sensing the possibility to bring together SPAR, the IIAR, DARA and a broader community of AR professionals? That should be encouraged.

The Orlando Symposium has lost its dominance.
According to this Gartner chart, the end-user research market is now mainly outside the Americas (the shaded portion shows Gartner’s share of the end-user research market today). Around 45% of the market is there, but over 15% is in Asia-Pacific and almost 40% is in EMEA. Not every vendor ‘gets’ that: I still hear some vendors saying that 70% of the research market is in the US. That’s not the case.

That clearly reflects a long-term bull market outside the US: Last year China overtook the USA as the world’s second-largest exporter (Germany is top). Manufacturing is growing fast in the BRICK (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Korea) which, for example, already accounts for half of world steel production.

Recognizing that long-term trend, Gartner aims to replicate its events in other geographies (especially in Asia) and to develop niche events for specific countries and hot topics. In its core geographies, we can also expect organic growth in events revenues through “price actions”.

The bottom line is that the Orlando Symposium is now a mature, low-growth “cash cow” for Gartner, producing the profits to allow the firm to extend.

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