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Why I Don’t Assess Vendor Products

by Hank Barnes  |  November 5, 2019  |  2 Comments

It often seems strange to people when I talk to them that I work for Gartner, but don’t cover any product categories, technologies, or market segments.  And I like it that way.

Yes, I have a long history in the technology industry.  I spent a lot of time in some interesting areas (Web Content Managment, BPM, Customer Interaction and Experience, Networking, and more), but those days are gone.   I don’t want to pretend to be an expert when I don’t focus there on a daily basis.  There are plenty of other analysts at Gartner that have that deep focus.

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Instead, I (and others like me) play a different role.   We focus on broader issues around how providers grow–looking at issues surrounding marketing, sales, and strategy.   I personally spend most of my time trying to understand how enterprises buy technology—any technology.   I dive deep into their frustrations with confusing and contradictory messaging or their inability to discover what sets various vendors apart.

And then I use that to work with vendors, aka technology and service providers, to improve.   To really help, the vendors need to be comfortable being open with folks like me–sharing not just why they are great, but the challenges they are facing.  There is some aspect of admitting weakness to get stronger.

This aspect of working with Gartner is often not well understood.  Sure, savvy AR teams have encouraged analyst collaboration to shape product plans and strategies, but often that is done with a veil of concern about the impact of those efforts on how those analysts will assess the vendor in formal research.

Personally, I think most of these concerns are unfounded as these analysts really are focused on trying to help enterprises be more successful with their technology investments–something everyone in the industry should care about.  They aren’t trying to find reasons to “ding” vendors.

But whether there is reason for the concern or not, I don’t even want anyone working with me to worry about that at all.   My only goal is to help.   I trust the vendor to make claims that are true, then help them figure out how to make them pop more clearly and then how to adapt strategies to win more deals.    It is not my place to question the quality of their products; the scope of their market opportunity; or if their differentiation claims are true.  Again, others can do that–and savvy customers work with folks like me and also those who cover their technologies.  I make it clear that the interactions with me that are designed to “help” are not shared with the analysts that “evaluate” (unless there is a clear and open desire and engagement that drives that integrated approach–that the clients wants).

The folks I work with seem to value this approach and separation.  Initially, it can seem strange to get help from someone not deeply involved in the technology area.  But most (I think) find value in that independent opinion that is built upon a broad technology foundation and frequent interactions that are different than most of what they do.

Gartner has been doing this for awhile, but I continue to meet with clients who tell me (and others on my team), “we had no idea we could work with you that way.”   Being a best kept secret may mean there are marketing issues, but it also relates to long standing brand perceptions that are hard to overcome without experiencing it.

My only advice is to give us a try, I do feel confident in saying that our team has collectively helped many, many vendors get better, grow faster, and get a tremendous return on their Gartner investment that far exceeds what they can achieve by narrowing their focus to “traditional Gartner interactions.”

As I regularly tell my clients, I really don’t influence any technology selection in any significant way.  That is not a value I bring.  But I do try to influence change in vendor approaches that are better for them and their customers.


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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: analyst-relations  gartner  go-to-market  strategy  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Why I Don’t Assess Vendor Products

  1. Doug Bushee says:

    Very well said Hank.

  2. Kevin Suitor says:

    Hank, I fully agree with you on this post. I have to thank our account rep for suggesting that we engage you and your team; it made a world of difference.

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