Posted by: Jack Santos
By now you may know that Gartner has purchased Burton Group. This post is a perspective on that purchase, and not meant to be any way, shape, or form an official announcement of intentions, or any type of inside information. So take it as such.
That said, the behemoth in the analyst/2nd opinion space has, to some extent, validated the business model and market approach that Burton Group has taken. That is heartening. As briefed to me, the Burton Group brand will live within Gartner, Burton analysts will continue as a group, and the emphasis on in-depth, technically-oriented, front-line targeted research will continue to be a focus.
Given my role as a technology officer, CIO, and within the industry for thirty odd years, my relationship with Gartner (and Gartner EXP) has been a long and intensive one. It will be hard to not say “Gartner Group”, Gartner’s original moniker.
These are Zelig-ian perspectives. I’ve sat down face to face with the heads of Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Novell - sometimes cordially, sometimes in negotiation. I’ve been in arms length contact with just about everyone who’s who in the tech industry.
The same path crossing is true with Gideon Gartner. Still have some of the earliest Gartner Group analysts on my rolodex (or the 21st century equivalent: Linked In) from when the company was less than 20 people. I have vivid memories of Gideon’s swagger in the room in those early years, and my admiration for his grasp of the big picture – and his business acumen. He sold the company, and bought it back (in a flip of the classic maxim) by “selling high and buying low”. Smart guy. After his Gartner Group years he moved on as a serial entrepreneur – creating similar firms (like Giga).
Gideon has been well known for his support of the arts in the New York area, another admirable quality. Somewhere in his DNA is nurtured the fact that life is not all “work”, but “play” as well, and that sometimes “work” is “play”. The ancestral (and current) Gartner home base of 56 Top Gallant Drive was ostensibly chosen so that one could dock a boat out the back.
The argument can be made that Gideon is the father of the IT analyst industry, and that all analyst firms owe a debt of gratitude to him. Most businesses do, too. If there is one thing that the information age has made clear is that information about information (the “meta” layer) has value as well, and Gideon Gartner’s progeny have proven that. Google, in later years, would prove that point through its search engine. In some ways, manufacturing, services, day to day commerce becomes a commodity, and understanding that commodity and how to plan for the future and react to events has value beyond the basics. It’s not all about how quickly you get that information (stay glued to twitter if that’s how you feel), but the quality and thoroughness of the interpretation of information – the analyst industry has proven that over and over. It’s the difference between a day trader and Warren Buffet, one-night-stands and long-term commitment.
I stand with the latter, and I hold my practitioner badge proudly; 30 years in the business of managing technology for financial services and healthcare firms, That gives me (in many ways) an edge over folks that have been analysts their whole career, or have worked solely in the vendor space. There is a joke somewhere about the similarity between analysts and priests with regard to marriage and sex. The fact is, over that time I have relied heavily on the analysis provided by the likes of Gartner, Forrester, Giga, and Burton (kind of like pastoral counseling). It’s all about perspective, and ideas, and firing new synapses to solve problems in different ways.
Burton has an approach that works well for technologists. Gartner’s approach has always been technologist based, but over the years has grown to emphasize technology management. My role at Burton is to bridge that, especially with senior level IT and business management. The combination of Burton Group and Gartner (Group) is a good thing, even if it means one less analyst firm in the landscape. No doubt there are many of Gideon’s children that will take this as a business opening and opportunity, just like Gideon did. And Burton Group will be there as part of Gartner to compete on quality, independence, and thoroughness.
So in that sense, we are all Gideon’s children.