Guest Post from Frank DiPerna, Ombudsman Specialist, Gartner
When research analysts leave Gartner for any reason (a well-deserved retirement, to start a completely new career, or to join an IT end-user or vendor organization), our office at times gets outreaches, usually from IT vendor organizations with which that analyst has interacted as clients. Here are a few things they ask:
- What happens to all of the upcoming client interactions scheduled?
- Are various stakeholders notified of the analyst’s departure?
- What steps does Gartner take to ensure client-confidential information is protected?
All valid questions, which I will answer. Before I do that, I’m going to start before an analyst—or any other Gartner associate—is hired. Prior to joining Gartner all associates must agree to, among other things, protect all client-confidential information they learn while at Gartner and even after they leave the company. There is no time limit on this obligation, and Gartner takes it very seriously. You see, our business is built on trust. The free flow of information between client and analyst is essential for clients to get the most out of their relationship with Gartner, which is why Gartner goes to great lengths to ensure analysts understand their obligations regarding confidentiality. And, beyond the policies and the training that occurs when associates join Gartner, there are yearly updates to the training and annual affirmation programs to ensure that our analysts understand and comply with those obligations while at Gartner and after they leave.
Even with all of that training, you might wonder, “How can someone just ‘unlearn’ or ignore confidential information they have acquired?” That is a tricky question – and one addressed in a previous blog post. Understanding what we reasonably can and can’t expect of departing employees has lead Gartner to the conclusion that consistent training and continual reinforcement makes it clear to every employee that we expect nothing short of total compliance. It is part of our culture.
Some vendors have asked why Gartner doesn’t take it a step further by not allowing analysts to join IT vendors when they leave Gartner. Remember, we don’t only receive confidential information from vendor clients. We have clients from all industries. That would essentially mean having to stop analysts from going just about anywhere. As you can see, this approach may sound ironclad, but it would make it all but impossible for an analyst to work anywhere after they leave Gartner.
Now back to the matter at hand: an analyst has given notice. Then what happens? First and foremost, that analyst is reminded of his or her post-employment confidentiality obligations with a letter from his or her manager. Then, the analyst’s manager shifts into “knowledge transfer” mode, identifying the most likely person to take over and bringing that individual up to speed. All upcoming interactions on the departing analyst’s schedule are transferred to others (including client inquiry and vendor briefings). The analyst is removed from all active and planned research projects. If the analyst covers an IT sector, the relevant vendors in that market are alerted that the analyst is leaving Gartner. All of this is designed to ensure that the process of delivering world-class insight to our clients proceeds as smoothly as possible, while removing the analyst from any new interactions in which he or she would be exposed to client-confidential information. Finally, Gartner’s Employment Counsel sends an additional letter to the analyst just before his or her last day, reinforcing the confidentiality obligations initially outlined by the analyst’s manager.
I hope this bit of detail was helpful. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1(203) 316-3334.