If you have been reading these pages you know I was at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference last week in Scottsdale, AZ (you can find my video review here and written trip report here).
This is the first time I had attended the event since Gartner acquired AMR in 2010. AMR had started the conference a decade or more before that. I had attended them sporadically in the 2000s, usually finding them worth the trip out West.
The conference has been Gartner-rized, now conforming to the standards of Gartner’s huge IT-related events business. That means frankly more commercialization (now a trade show and paid vendor presentation slots, for example, something not found in the AMR days), but Gartner has also grown the size of the event up to something like 1100 attendees, with about a 60-40 mix of regular supply chain folks versus vendors.
I have found in the past that the analysts don’t at all like to be analyzed themselves, but I am going to do so here nevertheless. To do that, I will quickly note here is what has happened at Gartner/AMR since the merger, or not long before the merger.
The comparative "heavy weights" of the old AMR are all gone. That includes founder Tony Friscia, right hand man Bruce Richardson (now at Salesforce.com after a stay at Infor), Kevin O’Marah, Roddy Martin, John Bermudez (who left several years before the merger, now at Infor) and perhaps a few others.
There are some senior holdovers. Greg Aimi, Jane Barrett, Mike Griswold and others are still there, but they tended not to be the "main tenters," in the AMR days, in large part because either their research was more focused and thus less "high level" supply chain stuff the leaders usually covered, and/or just because that even more senior team was in place at AMR and simply kept the lead.
It appears that Gartner has decided to build a new team rather than buy one. What I mean by that is that there is clearly in the new combined Gartner a cohort of mostly younger, promising but less experienced analysts taking major responsibilities for research and presentations, folks like Simon Jacobson, Matthew Davis, William McNeil, Stan Aronow (I am just picking out names from presentations I attended) and others, who all had major face time at the 2013 event.
Most of these analysts were the more hard core researchers that in part supported the "big boys" at the old AMR. It is also worth noting that Gartner’s own supply chain team in 2010 was very small (Dwight Klappich - my successor at META Group - Tim Payne and a few others) - the Gartner analyst ranks were swelled enormously by the AMR team upon the acquisition.
So, while I enjoyed the conference very much, there was a bit of a feeling that I also heard shared by others that what was missing at times was a sense of "gravitas," to use a word from the 2000 presidential election.
Gartner, it appears, has decided to operate like my beloved Cincinnati Reds and build from within, with younger players, rather than play like the Yankees or Red Sox and go out and buy some high priced supply chain talent in the free agent market.
Nothing wrong with that strategy, but it needs to be very well executed. It will take some time for the new generation to develop that more senior style and perspective that executives can best relate too.
Now I discussed a bit of this with some Gartner analysts at the event, and they pushed back hard on my perspective, saying the full supply chain team is deep with lots of industry experience. The feedback was also that the "heavy hitters" I referenced from the past were also perhaps in some cases good showmen more so than being known for doing real research that was productive for clients.
I won't comment on that, and will note I was referring only to the event experience itself, not the written research, which as always is voluminous and in my experience usually quite good.
But, if I was Gartner, I would adopt a hybrid strategy, and focus on the talent development, but make a couple of free agent signings to help carry the load through the transition. Either that or take some of the existing more senior analysts and broaden their research horizons.
The analyst world is an interesting one - I was one for three years at Meta Group, which was later acquired by Gartner a few years after I left in 2000. From time to time, I enjoy sharing some of this "inside" baseball stuff with SCDigest readers.
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