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Gartner + Burton Group = ?

It was with a certain measure of dismay that I viewed Gartner's January acquisition of The Burton Group. Non-GAAP financial measures aside, I felt like Burton was being marginalized just a little bit because -- even though I'm sure Gartner stressed the importance of Burton remaining objective and independent in its views -- now there is just a slight possibility that Gartner might want to stick its hands in Burton's cookie jar. Sooner or later, it's bound to happen, and when it does, maybe a Burton analyst will quit, followed by a big brouhaha, followed by a return to normalcy, until it happens again. At that point, it won't seem like quite such a big deal, and nobody will get all that exercised. Why bother?

Let's face it: Gartner paid for the Burton Group, and they can do anything they want with it.

It's fashionable to trash Gartner in some industry quarters. Some people think they're too big, too old-school, too inbred to keep a careful watch over what's happening out there -- especially if it involves their clients. These critics don't think Gartner still has the fire in their bellies, or the will to take on the big boys out there in conflict-of-interest land. In the course of my many dealings with them, I have found that they tended to tell it like it is -- or at least how they think it is -- without any obvious taint. I know they get real cranky real quick if you doubt their integrity, and I also know they are more likely to risk upsetting a client than are some other firms I could mention.

This situation is a little like what happens when a two-newspaper town suddenly becomes a one-newspaper town -- you feel a little less informed, a little less looked-after, a little less safe. Here's hoping Gartner lets The Burton Group make or break their own future.

Do you think the big analyst firms get it right more often than not? Do you trust their research? Let me know at bhoard@1105media.com or comment here.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 02/18/2010 at 12:48 PM


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