Richard Stiennon, a former colleague of mine (he was a security analyst at Gartner from 2000-2004), has just written a book, “UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence“. It’s a good guide to analyst relations in general, but it’s focused on Gartner, and especially the Magic Quadrant. If you’re someone who deals with analysts, I highly recommend it.
Chunks of the book were laugh-out-loud funny to me (and I read parts of it aloud to my husband, who works for a vendor and whose commentary on the MQ process once led to me posting on How Not to Use a Magic Quadrant with a three-frowny-quadrant graphic). Although almost a decade has passed since Richard worked here (a lot has changed since then, not the least of which is the MQ process), he’s done an excellent job in doing the research to reflect how things have evolved here — it’s still the best bit of writing I’ve seen that reflects the way that Gartner analysts work. I don’t agree with him 100%, but I think that as a broad reflection of the company, its analysts, the Magic Quadrant, and what we’re influenced by, it’s pretty much right on the money, right down to the desperation for a break in the 1-on-1 room at conferences.
(Side note: Unlike Richard and many of my current colleagues, I actually love doing 1-on-1s at Gartner conferences. You talk to a different sort of buyer at conferences — lots of mid-market CIOs, especially. They’re great conversations. However, the sheer volume is exhausting. I can end up taking 16 to 18 meetings a day at a conference — starting at 7 am and ending around 11 pm, only to go back to my hotel room and still need to answer emails. If I’m really unlucky, I will be up before 7 am to take a phone inquiry or briefing. And at Symposium especially, with the bathrooms 10 minutes away from the 1-on-1 tent, any break time vanishes quickly, and good luck getting lunch. Much like Richard writes, though, I assure you that anyone who didn’t take every last minute, or didn’t mind me getting in a few bites of food while they were talking, I remember fondly. I also clearly remember the folks who complained when I had to take an emergency bathroom break, shortchanging them five minutes of their 1-on-1 slot.)
Richard does an excellent job of emphasizing that the process of analyst influence is a long-term, year-round thing. If you’re starting it only when the MQ cycle is formally initiated, it is too late. (I’ve noted this before in my blog post about effective Magic Quadrant briefings.)
One important thing that Richard has missed, I think, is the importance of Gartner’s acquisition of the Burton Group back at the end of 2009. Gartner now calls that product “IT Professionals” (ITP), and its analysts are still a separate cadre but part of the larger research community on any given topic. ITP focuses on practitioners, and their analysts tend to be very hands-on. Many of Gartner’s recent hires into the general analyst cadre are also practitioners (i.e., folks who were in architect roles, rather than IT directors). That means that you can increasingly expect that at least one analyst involved in an MQ will work with the products hands-on to some extent, although that’s not likely the case with anything that really requires a complex implementation (like ERP, for instance).
The guerilla tactics that Richard describes are clever. I don’t know how well they work, but I suspect they exert a subtle mental tug. I can tell you that the more deeply I am acquainted with a vendor and the more frequently we interact — which does not, by the way, even require being a client — the more meaningful their Magic Quadrant write-up (although that doesn’t necessarily reflect dot placement).
Magic Quadrants are always going to be a subjective process, because in the end, rating and reviewing products, services, and companies is a subjective process. What’s important to one person is not necessarily important to another; the market viewpoint represented will reflect the consensus opinions of the analyst team involved but may also heavily tilt towards the lead analyst’s perspective on the market. In the end, even the most pedantic approach to quantitative scoring still requires judgment to award points — if five vendors all implement the same feature in slightly different ways, someone has to make a judgment call that stack-ranks them. Having experimented previously with Magic Quadrant spreadsheets that had ninety rating aspects per vendor, I can say that it was mostly a waste of time to get super-granular, as well. The Magic Quadrant is ultimately a graphical representation of a thought process; it is not a function-point analysis.