I recently previewed excerpts from a book my former Gartner colleague, Bill Hopkins is writing titled "Influencing the Influencers". It is chock full of data on the analyst industry (Gartner, Forrester, AMR, Yankee etc) and should be a great read when it comes out. Bill's company KCG advises vendors on that art of influencing analysts.
What struck me was an episode which "made" Gartner in its early days.
... Indeed, the goodwill that Gartner created with end users during this period arguably set the stage for its rapid growth in the 1990s and continues to be reflected its dominant – deal making and breaking – position today."
So, made me wonder would Gartner (or Forrester or any of the analyst firms) do that for a buyer today, given their much larger vendor revenue stream? And if they did, would they proudly talk about it like David does above?
The analyst firms do have negotiation advisory services. But they are relatively small compared to their vendor revenues - and often hidden away to avoid conflict with vendors. Trust me the negotiation groups are small - only scratching the surface of price leverage being opened up in different technology spend - from the impact of Open Source, SaaS, third party maintenance, offshore delivery, rural staffing, VoIP, hardware as a service. Gartner could be saving many of its clients $ 4 m a year in each of these areas
Of course, economics are not everything. But stretch the analogy - how likely is a Gartner analyst to call a client back and say our report said neutral things about a certain vendor's new product - actually here's the skinny - DO NOT SIGN THAT CONTRACT.
And vendors are clients too. They need advice, they need TLC. But many analysts will quietly complain that vendors watch them like a hawk and use their client privileges for influence more than intelligence. Most analysts I know try to stay independent, but the sales people in the analyst firms have little incentive to and subtle pressure invariably seems to apply. Add to that the fact that vendors are individually much bigger clients for the analyst firms than even the much larger user organizations - the GEs and Wal-Marts and it makes for a complicated world when you need the revenues to keep the Street happy.
But it is a slippery slope. Buyers are turning to peers, specialist advisers, even blogs for more independent feedback. As buyer influence shrinks steadily, why would vendors keep paying the big bucks to the analysts?
When you have delighted buyer clients like The Hartford above, vendors may not always like it, but they have to respect that influence. They did in 1980. They do even today.