Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And We Like Sheep

Back in the early 1990's I had the opportunity to see management guru Tom Peters several times. At one presentation, he talked about Saturn Motors and how they had discovered that a lot of cars are bought by women. He went on to say that they had devised a brilliant marketing and sales strategy for selling to women - “don't insult them!”

I was thinking about what Mr. Peters said while reading the defamation complaint that ZL Technologies has filed against analyst firm Gartner and analyst Carolyn DiCenzo. Several folks have already written summary and analysis about this suit, one of the better ones coming from Dave Kellogg of Mark Logic.

There are a lot of obvious problems with this suit. The claims of superior product by ZL are, to some degree, subjective. No one truly believes the metrics they get from vendors or the people vendors pay to report on them. The complaints about Gartner not wanting to reveal how it calculates its Magic Quadrant are also quite silly. Why would Gartner reveal its most treasured trade secrets to anybody?

What stands out for me is the assertion that the Magic Quadrant is so influential that it can seriously damage a product and company. That's absurd. To suggest that IT managers follow Gartner like sheep is insulting. And as Tom Peters reminds us, insulting customers is a terrible marketing strategy.

No responsible IT organization makes a decision regarding something as crucial as email archiving by relying on a Gartner report. Even assuming that you bother to pay for Gartner's services, it is but one data point in many and rarely the make or break one. Instead, most IT organizations, large and small, will develop matrices based on performance, price, features, service options, TCO, reliability, and a host of metrics important to the organization.

Being called a Niche player in the Magic Quadrant is unlikely to knock you out. Not having an extensive service network might. No one wants to find out that the field technicians can't get there when the system is down before the audit. Not having local sales people might push you to the bottom of the list. Companies don't want to wait on your next trip out to see the demo. For many customers, questions about your long term viability as a business are more likely to influence their decision than Gartner is.

No offense to Gartner but to suggest the level of influence that ZL claims they have is outright silly.

Part of the suit calls out Gartner's own claims of influence. That is also insulting. Doesn't ZL know that IT managers can separate marketing hype from real value? If they don't, then that might be a bigger part of their problem than Gartner's Magic Quadrant.

Shakespeare said it well in “ Julius Caesar”. Cassius tells Brutus that “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” Sage advice from the Bard. If you are not so successful as you would like, don't blame the analysts. Don't blame your competitors. Certainly don't blame your customers for being stupid. Look to yourself and see what you could do differently.

And stop insulting your potential customers and find out why they are really not buying your products. Then you might be able to fix your problems rather than just whine about them.

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