[updated on December 2, based on comments received internally and externally]
I have been blogging for about a year now and I should thank all those who have been reading and commenting on my posts, providing me their valuable viewpoints and encouraging me to put the extra effort needed to blog at a regular pace in spite of the many other demands for my time.
The quantity and quality of comments to this particular blog as well as the overwhelming response to our online survey to identify priorities for our research agenda in 2010 indicate that it may be time to step to a new level for those among our IT user clients who are available and willing to engage more. My rationale for choosing “IT user clients” is that (1) clients are those who pay for accessing Gartner research services and take precedence on anybody else in shaping our research to get the most value and (2) engaging IT vendors would require extra caution to ensure that we retain the necessary independence. .
I am currently considering three, non-exclusive options, for some of my government research, and I’d love opinions and suggestions about these as well as others I’ve not listed here.
Please note that – as usual – the content of this post is my personal view and does not represent in any way a Gartner view.
The first option is to increase the use of online surveys on specific topics, to get data points that would improve our fact-based research. This is relatively straightforward, and could engage both Gartner clients and non-clients. We could issue mini-polls about specific issues (e.g. how many government IT users are planning to use cloud-based infrastructure over the next 12 to 24 months?) but also ask questions about some of our positions as well develop them (e.g. how many agree with a draft strategic planning assumption about adoption of cloud-based services in government over the next 12 to 24 months?).
[UPDATE: A broader use of on-line surveys is something that is definitely worth considering, and those surveys will always be linked to from this blog. The challenge with on-line surveys, as usual, is that the sample is self-selected, but they can provide additional data points for our fact-based research]
The second option is to engage clients in one of our internal (and indeed quite interesting) processes, which is peer review. The way it works today is for analysts to review and critique each other draft research notes: notes cannot proceed to publication until when authors have answered to each comment, indicating whether they agree or not, and why, and detailing where they have amended their draft note to take those comments into account.
One way could be to create something like a LinkedIn group (or equivalent) where we could share draft research notes with clients who are available and willing to comment. We would respond to their comments as we do today with our colleagues’ comments, and we would also import all this into our internal systems, so that client comments would have the same impact as analyst comments.
[UPDATE: Gartner peer review process is quite rigorous and has been at the basis of the quality of our research for many years. Modifying it is not a decision that can be taken lightly and certainly not as a single analyst's initiative. Further, even the suggestion of trying this out on a small scale, with selected clients, raises issues about the transparency and effectiveness of doing so: one of the points I've often raised in this blog about crowdsourcing is "what is it the crows anyhow?", i.e. how can one ensure that viewpoints expressed by few clients are sufficiently representative of our whole client base.? In my original post I alluded to the possibility of involving only "IT user clients", but this would raise all sorts of issues about how I would define IT users (e.g. IT vendor organizations are also users of IT). On the other hand, some of the discussions taking place on our blogs already constitute very valuable input to our research, and we have often taken a post as a starting point for a fully-fledged research note]
The third option is to engage clients in research meetings, where Gartner analyst debate a particular position or strategic planning assumption. This may happen with an ATC, a webinar, a chat group or a combination thereof.
[UPDATE: This is something we may explore in the future, most likely as an extension of our current webinars For instance, at the end of a traditional session with presentation and Q&A, we may leave room to socialize some draft research positions that relate to the topic of the session and clients would find of interest]