Category Archives: Analyst Life

Yet more reasons to work at Gartner with me

The TL;DR: My team at Gartner has an open position for someone who has a strong understanding of cloud IaaS — someone who has experience architecting for the cloud, or who has worked on the vendor side of the market (product management, solutions architecture, engineering, consulting, etc.), or is an analyst at another firm covering a related topic. If you’re interested, please email me or contact me on LinkedIn.

The details:

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post on “Five reasons you should work at Gartner with me“, detailing the benefits of the analyst role. I followed it up last year with “Five more reasons to work at Gartner with me“, targeted at women. Both times we were hiring. And we’re continuing to hire right now.

We’re steadily expanding our coverage of cloud computing, which means that we have multiple openings. On my team, we’re looking for an analyst who can cover IaaS, and if you have a good understanding of cloud security, PaaS, and/or DevOps, that would be a plus. (The official posting is for a cloud security analyst, but we’re flexible on the skill set and the job itself, so don’t read too much into the job description.) This role can be entirely work-from-home, and you must work a US time zone schedule, which means candidates should be based in North America or South America.

Previously, I noted great reasons to work at Gartner:

  1. It is an unbeatably interesting job for people who thrive on input.
  2. You get to help people in bite-sized chunks.
  3. You get to work with great colleagues.
  4. Your work is self-directed.
  5. We don’t do any pay-for-play.

In my follow-up post for women, I added the following reasons (which benefit men, too):

  1. We have a lot of women in very senior, very visible roles, including in management.
  2. The traits that might make a woman termed “too aggressive” are valued in analysts.
  3. You are shielded from most misgyny in the tech world.
  4. You will use both technical and non-technical skills, and have a real impact.
  5. This is a flexible-hours, work-from-anywhere job.

I encourage you to go read those posts. Here, I’ll add a few more things about our culture. (If you’re working at another analyst firm or have considered another analyst firm in the past, you might find the below points to be of particular interest.)

1. People love their jobs. While some analysts decide after a year or two that this isn’t the life for them, the ones that stay, pretty much stay forever. Almost everyone is very engaged in their job, works hard, and tries to do the right thing. Although we’re a work-from-home culture, we nevertheless do a good job in establishing a strong corporate culture in which people collaborate remotely.

2. We have no hierarchy. We are an exceptionally flat organization. Every analyst has a team manager, but teams are largely HR reporting structures — a support system, by and large. To get work done, we form ad-hoc and informal groups of collaborators. We have internal research communities of interest, an open peer review process for all research, and freewheeling discussions without organization boundaries. That means more junior analysts are free to take on as much as they want to, and their voices are no less important than anyone else’s.

3. We have no hard-and-fast coverage boundaries. As long as you are meeting the needs of our clients, your coverage can shift as you see fit. Indeed, to be successful, your coverage should naturally evolve over time, as clients change their technology wants and needs. We have no “book of business” or “programs” or the like, which at other analyst firms sometimes encourage analysts to fiercely defend their turf; we actively discourage territoriality. Collaboration across topic boundaries is encouraged. We do have some formal vehicles for coverage — agendas and special reports among them — but these are open to anyone, regardless of the specific team they work on. (We do have product boundaries, but analysts can collaborate across these boundaries.)

4. We have good support systems. There are teams that manage calendaring and client contact, so analysts don’t have to deal with scheduling headaches (we just indicate when we’re available). Events run smoothly and attention is paid to making sure that analysts don’t have to worry about coordination issues. There’s admin and project manager support for things that generate a lot of administrative overhead or require coordination. Management, in the last few years, has paid active attention to things that help make analysts more productive.

5. Analysts do not have any sales responsibility. Analysts do not carry a “book of business” or any other form of direct tie to revenue. We don’t do any pay-for-play. Importantly, that means that you are never beholden to a vendor, nor do you have an incentive to tell a client anything less than the best advice you have to give. The sales team understands the rules (there are always a few bad apples, but Gartner tries very hard to ensure that analysts are not influenced by sales). Performance evaluations are based on metrics such as the popularity of our documents, and customer satisfaction scores across the different dimensions of things we do (inquiries, conference presentations, documents, and so on).

If this sounds like something that’s of interest to you, please get in touch!

Shooting squirrels from the roof

I’ve been spending the last week revising the combined service-provider survey for our Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, and the new regional Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting.

With every year of revision, the way I ask questions becomes lengthier and more specific, along with the boldfaced “THESE THINGS DO NOT COUNT” caveats. These caveats almost inevitably come from things vendors have tried to claim count as X, with varying degrees of creativity and determination.

I consider my behavior part of a category I’ll call “shooting squirrels from the roof”. It comes from a story that a friend once told me about a rental agreement on a house. This rental agreement had all the usual stipulations about what tenants aren’t allowed to do, but then it had a list of increasingly specific and weird directives about what the tenant was not allowed to do, culminating in, “Tenant shall not shoot squirrels from the roof.” You just know that each of these clauses came from some previous bad experience that the landlord had with some tenant, which caused them to add these “thou shalt not” behaviors in great specificity to each subsequent lease.

So, I use the phrase “shooting squirrels from the roof” to denote situations in which someone, having been burned by previous bad experiences, tries to be very specific (often in a contract) to avoid being burned in that way again.

When I look at customer contracts for managed hosting and indeed, for services in general, I sometimes see they’ve got “shooting squirrels from the roof” contract clauses, specifying a list of often-bizarre, horrible things that the provider is not allowed to do. Those customers aren’t crazy (well, at least not entirely); they’ve just been burned before. No doubt if you’re in the services business (whether IT or not), you’ve probably had this experience, too.

Five more reasons to work at Gartner with me

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Five reasons you should work at Gartner with me“. Well, we’re recruiting again for an analyst to replace Aneel Lakhani, who is sadly leaving us to go to a start-up. While this analyst role isn’t part of my team, I expect that this is someone that I’ll work closely with, so I have a vested interest in seeing a great person get the job.

Check out the formal job posting. This analyst will cover cloud management products and services, including cloud management platforms (like OpenStack).

All of five reasons that I previously cited for working at Gartner remain true:

  1. It is an unbeatably interesting job for people who thrive on input.
  2. You get to help people in bite-sized chunks.
  3. You get to work with great colleagues.
  4. Your work is self-directed.
  5. We don’t do any pay-to-play.

(See my previous post for the details.)

However, I want to make a particular appeal to women. I know that becoming an industry analyst is an unusual career path that many people have never thought about, and I expect that a lot of women who might find that the job suits them have no idea what working at Gartner is like. While we have a lot of women in the analyst ranks, the dearth of women in technology in general means that we see fewer female candidates for analyst roles.

So, here are five more good reasons why you, a woman, might want a job as a Gartner analyst.

1. We have a lot of women in very senior, very visible analyst roles, along with a lot of women in management. We are far more gender-balanced than you normally see in a technology company. That means that you are just a person, rather than being treated like you’re somehow a representative of women in general and adrift in a sea of men. Your colleagues are never going to dismiss your opinions as somehow lesser because you represent a “woman’s point of view”. Nor are people going to expect a woman to be note-taking or performing admin tasks. And because there are plenty of women, company social activities aren’t male-centric. There are women at all levels of the analyst organization, including at the top levels. That also means there’s an abundance of female mentors, if that matters to you.

2. The traits that might make you termed “too aggressive” are valued in analysts. Traits that are usually considered positive in men — assertive, authoritative, highly confident, direct, with strong opinions — can be perceived as too aggressive in women, which potentially creates problems for those types of women in the workplace. But this is precisely what we’re looking for in analysts (coupled with empathy, being a good communicator, and so on). Clients talk to analysts because they expect us to hold opinions and defend them well.

3. You are shielded from most misogyny in the tech world. You may get the rare social media interaction where someone will throw out a random misogynistic comment, but our analysts aren’t normally subject to bad behavior. You will still get the occasional client who believes you must not be technical because you’re a woman, or doesn’t want a woman telling him what to do, but really, that’s their problem, not yours. Our own internal culture is highly professional; there are lots of strong personalities, but people are normally mature and even-keeled. Our conferences are extremely professionally run, and that means we also hold attendees and sponsors to standards that don’t allow them to engage in women-marginalizing shenanigans.

4. You will use both technical and non-technical skills, and have a real impact. While technical knowledge is critical, and experience beings hands-on technical is extremely useful, it’s simply one aspect of the skillset; communication and other “soft” skills, and an understanding of business strategy and sales and marketing, are also important. Also, the things you do have real impact for our clients, and potentially can shape the industry; if you like your work to have meaning, you’ll certainly find that here.

5. This is a flexible-hours, work-from-anywhere job. This has the potential to be a family-friendly lifestyle. However, I would caution that “work from anywhere” can include a lot of travel, “flexible hours” means that you can end up working all the time (especially because we have clients around the globe and your flexibility needs to include early-morning and late-evening availability), and covering a hot topic is often a very intense job. You have to be good at setting boundaries for how much you work.

(By the way, for this role, the two analysts who cover IT operations management tools most closely, and whose team you would work on, are both women — Donna Scott and Ronni Colville — and both VP Distinguished Analysts, at the very top of our analyst ranks.)

Please feel free to get in contact privately if you’re interested (email preferable, LinkedIn okay as well), regardless of your gender!

The meta-info of my OpenStack note

I’ve been reading the social media reactions to my recent note on OpenStack, “Don’t Let OpenStack Hype Distort Your Selection of a Cloud Management Platform in 2012” (that’s a client link; a free public reprint without the executive summary is also available), and wanted to respond to some comments that are more centered on the research process and publication process than on the report itself. So, here are a number of general assertions:

Gartner doesn’t do commissioned research. Ever. Repeat: Gartner, unlike almost every other analyst firm, doesn’t do commissioned resesarch — ever. Most analyst firms will do “joint research” or “commissioned whitepapers” or the like — research where a vendor is paying for the note to be written. About a decade ago, Gartner stopped this practice, because management felt it could be seen as compromising neutrality. No vendor paid for that OpenStack note to be written, directly or indirectly. Considering that most of the world’s largest IT vendors are significant participants in OpenStack, and plenty of small ones are as well, and a bunch of them are undoubtedly unhappy about the publication of that note, if Gartner’s interests were oriented around vendors, we certainly wouldn’t have published research practically guaranteed to upset a lot of vendors.

Gartner earns the overwhelming majority of its revenue from IT buyers. About 80% of Gartner’s revenues come from our IT buyer clients (we call them “end-users”). We don’t shill for vendors, ever, because our bread-and-butter comes from IT buyers, who trust us for neutral advice. Analysts are interested in helping our end-user clients make the technology decisions that are best for their business. We also want to help vendors (including those who are involved with free or commercial open-source) succeed in better serving end-users — which often means that we will be critical of vendor efforts. Our clients are asking about OpenStack, and every example of hype in that note comes directly from client interactions. I wrote that note because the volume of OpenStack queries from clients was ramping up, and we needed written research to address it.

Gartner analysts are not compensated on commissions of any sort. Many other analyst firms have incentives for analysts that are tied to revenue or publicity — be quoted in the press X times, sell reports, sell consulting, sell strategy days with vendors, etc. Gartner doesn’t do any of that, and hasn’t for about a decade. Our job, as Gartner analysts, is to try to offer the best advice we can to our clients. Sometimes, of course, we will be wrong, but we try hard. It’s not an academic exercise; our end-user clients have business outcomes that ride on their technology decisions.

Gartner doesn’t dislike open source. As a collective entity, Gartner tends to be cautious in its stances, as our end-user clients tend to be mid-market and enterprise IT executives who are fairly risk-averse; our analysis of all solutions, including OSS, tends to be from that perspective. But we write extensively about open source; we have analysts devoted to the topic, plus everyone covers the OSS relevant to their own coverage. We consider OSS a business strategy like anything else. In fact, we’ve been particularly vocal about how we feel that cloud is driving OSS adoption across a broad spectrum of solutions, and advocates that an IT organization’s adoption of cloud is a great time to consider replacing proprietary tech with OSS. (You’ll note that a whole section of the report predicts OpenStack’s eventual success, by the way, so it’s not like this a prediction of doom, just an observation of present stumbling-blocks on the road to maturity.)

Gartner research notes are Gartner opinion, not an individual analyst’s opinion. Everything that Gartner publishes as a research note (excluding things like blog posts, which we consider off-the-clock, personal time and not a corporate activity) undergoes a peer review process. While notes do slip through the cracks (i.e., get published without sufficiently broad or deep review), our internal processes require analysts to get review from everyone who touches a coverage area. My OpenStack note was very broadly peer reviewed — by other analysts who cover cloud infrastructure, cloud management platforms, and open source software, as well as a bunch of related areas that OpenStack touches. (As a result of that review, the original note almost quadrupled in size, split into one note on OSS CMPs in general, and one note on OpenStack itself.) I also asked for our Ombudsman’s office, which deals with vendor complaints, to review the note to make sure that it seemed fair, balanced, and free of inflammatory language, and they (and my manager) also asked questions about potentially controversial sections, in order to ensure they were backed by facts. Among other things, these processes are intended to ensure that individual analyst bias is eliminated to as large an extent as possible. That process is part of why Gartner’s opinions often sound highly conservative, but when we take a stance, it is usually neither casual nor one analyst’s opinion.

The publication of this note was not a shock to the vendors involved. Most of the vendors were aware that this note was coming; it was a work in progress over the summer. Rackspace, as the owner of OpenStack at the time that this was placed in the publication pipeline, was entitled to a formal review and discussion prior to its publication (as we do for any research that covers a vendor’s product in a substantive way). I had spoken to many of the other vendors in advance of its publication, letting them know it was coming (although since it was pre-Foundation they did not have advance review). The evolving OpenStack opinions of myself and other Gartner analysts have long been known to the vendors.

It would have been easier not to write anything. I have been closely following OpenStack since its inception, and I have worked with many of the OpenStack vendors since the early days of the project. I have a genuine interest in seeing them, and OpenStack, succeed, and I hope that the people that I and other analysts have dealt with know that. Many individuals have confided in me, and other Gartner analysts, about the difficulties they were having with the OpenStack effort. We value these relationships, and the trust they represent, and we want to see these people and their companies succeed. I was acutely careful to not betray any individual confidences when writing that report, ensuring that any concerns surfaced by the vendors had been said by multiple people and organizations, so that there would be no tracebacks. I am aware, however, that I aired everyone’s collective dirty laundry in public. I hope that making the conversation public will help the community rally around some collective goals that will make OpenStack mainstream adoption possible. (I think Rackspace’s open letter implicitly acknowledges the issues that I raised, and I highly encourage paying attention to its principles.)

You will see other Gartner analysts be more active in OpenStack coverage. I originally picked up OpenStack coverage because I have covered Rackspace for the last decade, and in its early days it was mostly a CMP for service providers. Enterprise adoption has begun, and so its primary home for coverage is going to be our CMP analysts (folks like Alessandro Perilli, Donna Scott, and Ronni Colville), although those of us who cover cloud IaaS (especially myself, Kyle Hilgendorf, and Doug Toombs) will continue to provide coverage from a service provider perspective. Indeed, our coverage of OSS CMPs (CloudStack, Eucalyptus, OpenNebula, etc.) has been ramping up substantially of late. We’re early in the market, and you can expect to see us track the maturation of these solutions.

UP and to the RIGHT

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.

Corporate culture and women in IT

So, I want to start this blog post by stressing that, like all of my posts, according to Gartner’s policies, it is strictly personal opinion. But I feel like this issue is important, and that I can say something constructive in the conversation around the role of women in technology and the culture of technology as it relates to women.

Last month, Dell held a customer and partner summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. During that event, keynoted by CEO Michael Dell, “entertainer” Mads Christensen delivered a set of comments throughout the afternoon that began with, “The IT business is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out. The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy,” (and asking the women, “What are you actually doing here?”) and ended with telling all the men in the room to promise him they’ll go home and say, “Shut up, b*tch!”

Journalist Christiane Vejlo live-tweeted and blogged the event, and it’s since started something of a growing firestorm on the Internet. Dell acknowledged in a tweet that the remarks were “inappropriate”, and today has issued an apology — in the relatively private confines of Google+.

I find the entire incident to be appalling. I’ve attended conferences in Copenhagen in the past, and indeed, all over the world. I cannot imagine another global technology company which would have scheduled this speaker for an event. (VMworld Europe is in Copenhagen. Can you imagine VMware hiring that guy to entertain?) I’m somewhat surprised they actually allowed him to continue speaking once it was clear that he was going to be offensive — or for that matter, not issuing an official apology from the stage at the time, or even stopping the “show” early. These are not borderline-offensive remarks. These are outright hostile, and I imagine that any line manager at Dell caught uttering them to his staff would be promptly escorted out the door by HR. Given that, the apology should have been issued in Dell’s normal press release channels, and not in the limited-viewership world of Google+.

However, in reading the comments threads on the various news articles about this, I’ve been struck by a lot of the commentary — from the doubting this-is-a-feminist-lie “show video or it didn’t happen”, to “women are biologically less fit to be in technology”. It makes me reflect upon my career in technology, the conferences I’ve been to, the client organizations that I’ve seen, and the way that I’ve been treated.

This is a shortened form of the much longer post that I originally wrote, in the interest of not writing an epic; I may post the rest separately at some later date, but for this, I’ll focus on just one observation.

Corporate Culture Makes a Crucial Difference

I’ve spent over a decade at Gartner, and I’ve dealt with an incredible array of IT organizations, and in each of those organizations, you’ll find a different attitude towards women — and therefore a different proportion of women, especially at the mid- and senior levels. (Note that I’m talking about the IT operations and development, excluding the admins, procurement, non-technical project managers, etc.)

However, in most of the IT organizations I’ve dealt with, there are either plenty of women, or there are a handful of women (maybe even zero or one woman in a technical role); there’s very little in-between. Note that this can be different in different parts of the organization; you might have a team that for whatever reason is particularly good at hiring and keeping women, but in general, if it’s just a team, that team is anomalous in an otherwise male organization.

For instance, there are a huge number of successful women in US federal government IT — and, for that matter, minorities historically severely underrepresented in IT (i.e., non-Asians). Rigorous nondiscrimination, along with the availability of successful mentors, leads to hiring and promoting women — in technical and technical management roles that require ‘hard’ skills as much or more than ‘soft’ skills. This includes places that you would normally expect to be male bastions, like the 3-letter agencies — and in traditionally enormously male-dominated specialties like InfoSec. Teams are mixed-gender and mixed-race; the balance suggests that these organizations attract an enormously disproportionately high percentage of qualified women and underrepresented minorities. My experience is that those people are just as competent, if not more so; quality is not being sacrificed, probably because they get a better hiring pool.

On the other hand, I’ve also visited a Fortune 500 company where the Gartner salesperson was explicitly told that they weren’t comfortable with a woman telling them what to do, and that we shouldn’t bring any more female analysts by to visit them — they said would rather deal with a man, even if that man did not have the same level of subject-matter expertise. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t meet a single woman in IT there. (That’s not an isolated incident; I have many more stories of this sort, although that one is notable because they had dealt with multiple superbly-expert female analysts.)

But most corporate cultures aren’t so blatant. Instead, there are subtle and not-so-subtle indicators about the degree to which women are welcome and respected; these messages come from the top, but may also be reflected in the culture of an individual team, especially given the attitude of a line manager, technical lead, or influential engineer. These things generally directly correlate to the probability of hiring, retaining, and promoting women.

I find it to be an interesting indicator of a company and individual’s assumptions when they’ve read my official Gartner bio (which emphasizes my background in operations and engineering) and how much they ‘talk down’ to me technically nevertheless — particularly when I frequently also had a male analyst colleague on the phone without a technical background, despite having the bios, there were still plenty of people who would de facto assume he was technical and I wasn’t. (Note to AR folks: I hate this.)

Conferences are one of those places where the company’s hidden attitudes come to light. Does the company make use of booth babes? Does the company respect a code of conduct that ensures that presentation material (including from outside speakers) doesn’t contain unprofessional imagery and examples? Is the entertainment particularly targeted towards men? (Note that yes, IT demographics encourage targeting men, but perpetrating this also ensures that it will remain men.) There are comfort things for women, as well — for instance, does the conference provide adequate security and response to harrassment?

And of course: Does your company CEO witness your company-hired entertainer make grotesquely offensive remarks, and not apologize instantly on behalf of your company, to your partners, clients, and employees, for having been party to this?

If you work in technology, regardless of whether you’re male or female, ask yourself: What do I really think about women in technology? And the lack of women in technical roles? How do my attitudes influence my actions, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways?

The Tip of the Spear

So I caught an interesting Horses for Sources blog post via Twitter — Phil Fersht of HfS called out a blog post of ISG’s Stanton Jones discussing the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting that I published earlier this year.

Stanton Jones’s argument seems to be that analysts sit in ivory towers, theorizing about suppliers, and making broad general statements about the market, whereas sourcing consultants actually get down and dirty with clients who are buying stuff. He says, “Analyst research is not at the tip of the spear, where buying and selling is actually occurring.”

However, that’s not actually true at the end-user-focused research firms like Gartner and Forrester. As an analyst at Gartner, I can do over a thousand one-on-one (or one-on-client-team) interactions in a single year. Each of those interactions represents a client who is considering what to buy (or build), and then going through the procurement cycle. They’re short-listing vendors, writing RFPs, wanting to discuss RFP responses, negotiating contracts and prices. It is absolutely the tip of the spear, and critically, over the long term, you also get feedback from the client as to the success of their initiative, so you’re hopefully not throwing out advice that turns out to fail in the real world.

So yes, something like a Magic Quadrant provides broad, generic advice (although I do try to orient my advice towards specific use cases). But that’s all that written research can get you. However, nearly every Gartner client buys access to inquiry, so that they can get those one-on-one, freewheeling entirely-custom interactions — so they can say, this is my exact situation, and get to Stanton Jones’s “I’m a multinational company who wants a company that can support a transformational infrastructure sourcing initiative” and ask which of these vendors I’d recommend.

By the way, if a client asked that question, I’d tell them, “You don’t want a managed hoster for this. Try discussing this with our strategic sourcing analysts, or with our data center outsourcing analysts.” (And it’s not improbable that this would be caught at the level of our client services organization, which would look at that question and say, gosh, this doesn’t sound like managed hosting, maybe you’d like these other pieces of more appropriate research and a discussion with these other analysts instead. For negotiating that kind of deal, by the way, Gartner has a consulting division that can do it; analysts don’t do the kind of work they, or a competitor like TPI, do.)

One more note: If I published in an MQ the feedback, good bad and ugly, that I’ve gotten from clients using service providers “on the ground”, I would never ever actually be able to get the research out, because it would undoubtedly be caught in a zillion Ombudsman escalations from the vendors. But if you talk to me on an inquiry, I might very well tell you, “In the last six months, every customer I have talked to of Vendor X has been unhappy, which represents a big swing in their historical quality of customer service,” or even “Customers who use Vendor X for Use Case A are happy, but those who have Use Case B think they lack sufficient expertise with the technology”. Client inquiry volume at a big research house like Gartner gets you enough anecdotal data points to show you trends. Clients want the ground truth; that’s part of what they’re paying an analyst firm for.

Wanted – Cloud IaaS Expert

Back in December, I blogged about five reasons you should work at Gartner with me, and I’ve pleased to announce that Doug Toombs (formerly of Tier 1 Research / 451 Group) has joined my team.

However, Ted Chamberlin, my long-time colleague, has decided he’d like a change of pace, and has just left us for the vendor universe, and so we’re now seeking to backfill someone into his job. You can find the formal job listing here: IaaS and Managed Hosting Analyst.

In plain language, this analyst is going to spend their time assisting our clients who are trying to adopt cloud IaaS and hosting (especially managed hosting) solutions. The ideal candidate is someone who has real-world expertise with building solutions using cloud IaaS (and preferably has tried multiple cloud IaaS offerings and can intelligently discuss the pros and cons of each), or has been involved in building a cloud IaaS offering for a service provider (and is knowledgeable about the competing offerings). They’re sharp technically but also understand the needs of the business — someone who is currently in an architect role, or is working for a cloud provider, is probably the most likely fit.

If this sounds like you, please get in touch with me — send a resume in email, or ask me privately for more information. (If you applied the last time around, please feel free to get in touch again; the requirements for this role are somewhat different.)

Five reasons you should work at Gartner with me

Gartner is hiring again! We’ve got a number of open positions, actually, and somewhat flexible about how we use the headcount; we’re looking for great people and the jobs can adapt to some extent based on what they know. This also means we’re flexible on seniority level — anywhere from about five years of experience to “I have been in the industry forever” is fine. We’re very flexible on background, too; as long as you have a solid grasp of technology, with an understanding of business, we don’t care if you’re currently an engineer, IT manager, product manager, marketing person, journalist, etc.

First and foremost, we’re looking for an analyst to cover the colocation market, and preferably also data center leasing. Someone who knows one or more other adjacent spaces as well would be great — peering, IP transit, hosting, cloud IaaS, content delivery networks, network services, etc.

We could also use an analyst who can cover some of the things that I cover — cloud IaaS, managed hosting, CDNs, and general Internet topics (managed DNS, domain registration, peering, and so on).

These positions will primarily serve North American clients, but we don’t care where you’re located as long as you can accomodate normal US time zones; these positions are work-from-home.

I love my job. You’ve got to have the right set of personality traits to enjoy it, but if the following five things sound awesome to you, you should come work at Gartner:

1. It is an unbeatably interesting job for people who thrive on input. You will spend your days talking to IT people from an incredibly diverse array of businesses around the globe, who all have different stories to tell about their environments and needs. Vendors will tell you about the cool stuff that they’re doing. You will be encouraged to inhale as much information as you can, reading and researching on your own. You will have one-on-one meetings with hundreds of clients each year (our busiest analysts do over 1,500 one-on-one interactions!), and get to meet countless more in informal interactions. Many of the people you talk to will make you smarter, and all of them will make you more knowledgeable.

2. You get to help people in bite-sized chunks. People will tell you their problems and you will try your best to help them in thirty minutes. After those thirty minutes, their problem is no longer yours; they’re the ones who are going to have to go back and fight through their politics and tangled snarl of systems to get things done. It’s hugely satisfying if you enjoy that kind of thing, especially since you do often get long-term feedback about how much you helped them. You’ll help IT buyer clients choose the right strategy, pick the right vendors, and save tons of money by smart contract negotiation. You’ll help vendors with their strategy, design better products, understand the competition, and serve their customers better. You’ll help investors understand markets and companies and trends, which translates directly into helping them make money. Hopefully, you’ll get to influence the market in a way that’s good for everyone.

3. You get to work with great colleagues. Analysts here are smart and self-motivated. There’s no real hierarchy; we work collaboratively and as equals, regardless of our titles, with ad-hoc leadership as needed. Also, analysts are articulate, witty, and opinionated, which always makes for fun interactions. Your colleagues will routinely provide you with new insights, challenge your thinking, and provide amazing amounts of expertise in all kinds of things. There’s almost always someone who is deeply expert in whatever you want to talk about. Analysts are Gartner’s real product; research and events are a result of the people. Our turnover is extremely low.

4. Your work is self-directed. Nobody tells you what to do here beyond some general priorities and goals; there’s very little management. You’re expected to figure out what you need to do with some guidance from your manager and input from your peers, manage your time accordingly, and go do it. You mostly get to figure out how to cover your market, and aim towards what clients are interested in. Your research agenda and coverage are flexible, and you can expand into whatever you can be expert in. You set your own working hours. Most people work from home.

5. We don’t do any pay-for-play. Integrity is a core value at Gartner, so you won’t be selling your soul. About 80% of our revenue comes from IT buyers, not vendors. Unlike most other analyst firms, we don’t do commissioned white papers, or anything else that could be perceived as an endorsement of a vendor; also, unlike some other analyst firms, analysts don’t have any sales responsibility for bringing in vendor sales or consulting engagements, or being quoted in press releases, etc. You will neither need to know nor care which vendors are clients or what they’re paying (any vendor can do briefings, though only clients get inquiry). Analysts must be unbiased, and management fiercely defends your right to write and say anything you want, as long as it’s backed up by solid evidence and is presented professionally, no matter how upset it makes a vendor. (Important downside: We don’t allow side work like participation in expert nets, and we don’t allow you or your immediate family to have any financial interest in the areas you cover, including employment or stock ownership in related companies. If your spouse works in tech, this can be a serious limiter.)

Poke me if you’re interested. I have a keen interest in seeing great people hired into these roles fast, since they’re going to be taking a big chunk of my current workload.

Do you really want to be in the cloud?

People often ask me what it’s like to be an analyst at Gartner, and for me, the answer is, “It’s a life of constant client conversations.” Over the course of a typical year, I’ll do something on the order of 1,200 formal one-on-one conversations (or one-on-small-team, if the client brings in some other colleagues), generally 30 minutes in length. That doesn’t count the large number of other casual interactions at conferences and whatnot.

While Gartner serves pretty much the entire technology industry, and consequently I talk to plenty of folks at little start-ups and whatnot, our bread-and-butter client — 80% of Gartner’s revenue — comes from “end-users”, which means IT management at mid-market businesses and enterprise.

Over the years, I have learned a lot of important things about dealing with clients. One of them is that they generally aren’t really interested in best practices. They find best practices fascinating, but they frequently can’t put them to use in their own organizations. They’re actually interested in good practices — things that several other organizations like them have done successfully and which are practically applicable to their own environment.

More broadly, there’s a reason that analysts are still in business — people need advice that’s tailored to their particular needs. You know the Tolstoy line “Happy families are all alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” that starts Anna Karenina? Well, every corporate IT department has its own unique pathology. There are the constraints of the business (real and imagined) and the corporate culture, the culture in IT specifically, the existing IT environment in all of its broken glory and layers of legacy, the available budget and resources and skills (modified by whether or not they are willing to hire consultants and other outside help), the people and personalities and pet peeves and personal ambitions, and even the way that they like to deal with analysts. (Right down to the fact that some clients have openly said that they don’t like a woman telling them what to do.)

To be a successful advisor, you have to recognize that most people can’t aim for the “ideal” solution. They have to find a solution that will work for their particular circumstances, with all of the limitations of it — some admittedly self-imposed, but nevertheless important. You can start by articulating an ideal, but it has to quickly come down to earth.

But cloud computing has turned out to be an extra-special set of landmines. When clients come to me wanting to do a “cloud computing” or “cloud infrastructure” project, especially if they don’t have a specific thing in mind, I’ve learned to ask, “Why are you doing this?” Is this client reluctant, pushed into doing this only because someone higher-up is demanding that they do ‘something in the cloud’? Is this client genuinely interested in seeing this project succeed, or would he rather it fail? Does he want to put real effort into it, or just a token? Is he trying to create a proof of concept that he can build upon, or is this a one-shot effort? Is he doing this for career reasons? Does he hope to get his name in the press or be the subject of a case study? What are the constraints of his industry, his business, his environment, and his organization?

My answer to, “What should I do?” varies based on these factors, and I explain my reasoning to the client. My job is not to give academic theoretical answers — my job is to offer advice that will work for this client in his current circumstances, even if I think it’s directionally wrong for the organization in the long term. (I try to shake clients out of their complacency, but in the end, I’m just trying to leave them with something to think about, so they understand the implications of their decisions, and how clinging to the way things are now will have business ramfiications over the long term.) However, not-infrequently, my job involves helping a deeply reluctant client think of some token project that he can put on cloud infrastructure so he can tell his CEO/CFO/CIO that he’s done it.

Cloud providers dealing with traditional corporate IT should keep in mind that not everyone who inquires about their service has a genuine desire for the project to be a success — and even those who are hoping for success don’t necessarily have pure motivations.

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