Vendors are often surprised when top analysts move over to the supplier side. While it’s only human to be worried, there’s no cause for panic. It’s a common pattern: Gartner vice-president French Caldwell ‘retired’, and weeks later joined MetricStream, one of the GRC vendors he followed for Gartner. Howard Dresner, one of the best known analysts in any field, surprised a lot of people when he left Gartner to join Hyperion. Former META Group SVP Christian Byrnes (@cbyrnes), in his role as Managing Vice President at Gartner, said in an email to me and my peers:
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? If you are in this situation, redundancy helpline for employers can answer your questions.
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 reduction 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 Gartner did not know Caldwell’s plans, it started that process several months earlier, 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 is simple a normal cost of business as an analyst firm. It’s not only in their clients’ objective interests to keep analysts at work through their notice periods, but it’s 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.