Gartner’s Research in 2016: Will Gartner Become Even More Dominant? Or is it Actually Playing Catch Up?

In my previous post, I highlighted some of the key changes Gartner is making to its research – launching a new CEO focused service, increasing its categories for its peer review tool and expanding IoT coverage. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these aspects.

the-strategy-1080533_960_720From CMO to CEO: Sondergaard didn’t give much away in the recent Gartner AR newsletter on the new CEO offering: “We are looking at introducing a new offering dedicated to CEOs under the leadership of John Kost, and a new offering for CMOs under the leadership of Yvonne Genovese.”

Gartner’s clearly paid close attention to its own C-suite research which has shown that CEOs are looking to their CMOs to drive growth. In this context it’s logical for Gartner to sell to both audiences. It’s a smart play – if traditional IT organizations (the majority of Gartner’s clients) fail to adapt then the temptation for CEOs and CMOs is to build new organizations that are fit for purpose, using non-IT approaches. It’s important that Gartner can speak to these new IT budget holders as well as traditional customers.

Targeting beyond core IT isn’t new for Gartner – it has been chasing adjacent markets for some time. Marketing is just one example. Among the big three firms Forrester has had the strongest grip on the marketing audience. Since launching its Gartner Marketing Leaders practice, Gartner has clearly been angling for Forrester’s marketing clients. It also recently hired two analysts Augie Ray and Charlie Golvin, both of whom are Forrester alumni. With a head count of 17 analysts, GML seems to be growing at a steady rate. Its digital transit map is a smart way of educating clients (while also cross selling its own research). Gartner’s been aggressively hiving off anything remotely marketing related behind its GML paywall for some time now (something that I’m less than pleased about as a Gartner seat holder). So, Gartner’s clearly having some success in monetizing this space – although it’s difficult to gauge if this success is taking business away from Forrester directly.

Gartner’s clearly been working hard at evaluating how its research products need to change to appeal to a more business focused, less technical audience in general. This is something that Forrester’s also been tackling with its positioning around mobile moments and the age of the customer.

I wouldn’t bet against Gartner carving out a successful business with its CEO offering. But it’s certainly not going to have the CEO/C-Suite or LOB audience all to itself either. Other firms are aggressively targeting marketing and business audiences – Digital Clarity Group is grabbing its fair share of attention, while Constellation Research, HFS and Altimeter Group have all successfully focused on digital disruption opportunities beyond traditional IT. And of course there all the management consultancy firms to consider – the likes of Deloitte, Accenture and others. These are formidable players.

The Rise and Rise of Peer Influence: BearingPoint’s Ludovic Leforester previously raised the question of whether crowdsourced vendors are forcing traditional analyst firms to change their approach to sourcing insights – taking a more peer orientated approach. Certainly crowd sourced product review sites provide end-users with some fresh data points to consider as they select technologies. And our own research has shown that peer driven feedback has the highest influence – alongside industry analyst advice – when it comes to sharping buyer decisions on which technologies and vendors to short list and ultimately buy.

Gartner’s clearly not been ignoring this challenge as it matures its peer review offering. Sondergaard was candid that Gartner clients have been asking for change, specifically that they “need to know what their peers are doing, and they also need to have access to more data to help them be successful and make strategic business decisions.” Gartner’s ongoing investment in the peer review tool shows that Gartner recognizes there’s a gap in its traditional approach. We know from our conversations with clients, peers and friends in the AR community that it’s becoming a growing focus for vendors as well.

If Gartner succeeds in cracking open the CEO market and grabs greater influence in peer driven recommendations – does this make Gartner too powerful in the tech world? Or is it actually playing catch up?

‘Potentially’ and ‘yes’ would be my responses.

Gartner’s a multi-billion dollar firm which is highly proficient at monetizing segments – and when it decides to invest in a new area it’s historically done well. You wouldn’t bet against Gartner being very competitive vs. newer players (less marketing resources and brand presence) or traditional competitors (smaller scale, less breadth of research). But really – it ultimately depends on what value it offers CEOs, how different the service really is from competitors and how it goes to market.

And let’s not forget that scale brings its own challenges when it comes to executing consistently. Gartner’s been candid with the AR community in past Symposia that it’s struggled to scale to meet all the demands and opportunities it faces from clients, so this is an area where smaller, nimbler firms can continue to differentiate from it. Gartner is huge, so much so that its various analysts sometimes give out contradictory advice to larger vendors. For many vendors, staying on top of which analysts are appropriate is an ongoing challenge. Gartner will be internally challenged to ensure that even more focus areas – and ever growing volumes of content – does not lead to added complexity for end users who want actionable advice. Insight without a clear recommendation is a burden.

So…what should you do about Gartner’s new approach to research in 2016? Here are some starting questions that your communications and marketing teams should be discussing:

  • Reassess your Key Gartner Analysts Based on Your Target Customers: If you are targeting new types of end-user then be ready to reassess whether it makes sense to continue briefing all of your traditional Gartner analysts (and yes – this also applies to other firms as well). There may be new Gartner analysts who should be on your radar, familiar ones may be changing their focus areas as well. If you’re a seat holder, talk to your Gartner account executive and ask for org charts. If you don’t subscribe to Gartner then reach out to a seasoned AR team for advice on which analysts you should be briefing (hint: our door is always open)
  • Know Thy Gartner Peer Insights: Get smart quick on the various rules of this Gartner product. AR, sales and marketing should all work together to ensure positive customers are using the tool to share their POV on why your solution rocks. Have a peer driven reviews strategy in place to maximize your products positive visibility
  • Separate Your IoT Wheat From Your IoT Chaff: IoT is a major focus for Gartner. With great attention, comes great scrutiny – and great levels of fatigue. So don’t brief a Gartner analyst on IoT unless you’re going to tell them something genuinely new and/or useful. Put your content marketing hat on and take a fresh look at your briefing content for analysts. Oh, and if you are based in the Bay area then be sure to check out Gartner’s local briefing on Machine Learning and IoT next month.

Are there aspects of Gartner’s research that you are curious about? Drop me a line and let’s discuss.