Meta Group: Winning Hearts and Minds

By Joshua Weinberger  |  Posted 2002-12-01

Looking to differentiate itself from market monolith Gartner, Meta Group has chosen specialized customer service as its defining trait. Meta calls this "cultivating client intimacy"—but it means sacrificing smaller accounts for deeper relationships, and it has yet to lead the firm back to profitability.

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While the company's had reorganization hiccups this year—cutting U.S. staff by 7% and juggling executives—clients seem to have weathered the disruption.

Agway's computer-services director Russ Feltus says Meta not only helped negotiate a three-year communications contract, but also "gave us guidance relative to contract terms and provisions we should expect." With Meta's advice, Agway saved $2 million. And where other clients—such as Connecticut Chief Technology Officer Mark Bannon—are swayed by Meta's niche offerings like Executive Directions, software vendors value Meta's reputation in the field.

Plumtree Software spokeswoman Laura Nusbaum points to Meta's qualitative approach: "After deployments, Meta talks to our customers and dispatches on-site analysts—a time-consuming process many analyst firms weren't willing to undertake." BEA Systems head of analyst relations Mike Hulme says when he's looking at potential analysts, he asks, " 'Does that firm speak to our customer base?' Meta does." Since, as James Thomas, head of analyst relations at information management firm Crystal Decisions (CD), notes, "customers use Meta to short-list vendors," CD wanted analysts influential in its business. One Meta analyst CD selected was high on that list. When that analyst left Meta, Thomas says, the firm "set up a call with us right away to reaffirm its commitment." That kind of special attention, and the presence of a local account rep, helped secure CD's loyalty.

Still, Thomas is "frustrated with Meta's inflexible pricing model." Where Gartner has more of a buffet, "all-you-can-eat" price structure, Meta's is essentially à la carte, and clients pay extra for additional material or services. Agway's Feltus, for one, is thrilled with that setup. "I designed the package I wanted based on the amount that fit my budget," he says. Catering to that singular need just might help Meta shine even from within Gartner's long, dark shadow.

Connecticut's Bannon says META's Executive directions provides "an analyst on the phone whenever I need one."

Reference Checks

Executives listed here are all current or former clients of Meta Group. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Russ Feltus
Director, Computer & Communication Services
(315) 449-7401
Project: Relies on Meta's evaluations of various software vendors.

BEA Systems
Mike Hulme
Director, Analyst Relations
(408) 570-8885
Project: Software company hired Meta Group Consulting to help plan strategy. Used Meta research report as a marketing vehicle.

Crystal Decisions
James Thomas
Product Manager, Analyst Relations
(604) 647-8036
Project: Information management company subscribes to strategy services for Web, Collaboration, and Application Delivery.

Emory University
Peter Day
Emerging Technologies Specialist
(404) 727-7678
Project: Used Meta's Enterprise Planning & Architecture Strategies for guidance in tailoring Meta's architecture process model to Emory's environment.

Bob Harrington
Former VP, Marketing
(858) 259-0905
Project: Meta helped define product and market strategies, from concept through solution.

Plumtree Software
Laura Nusbaum
Group Manager, Corporate Communications
(415) 263-8900
Project: Portal software company collaborated with Meta on ROI tools for multiple deployments in 2001, and on new-product strategies.

State of Connecticut
Mark Bannon
Chief Technology Officer
(860) 622-2422
Project: Subscribes to Meta's Executive Directions service.

Company Profile

Meta Group
208 Harbor Drive
P.O. Box 120061
Stamford, CT 06912-0061
(203) 973-6700


Fred Amoroso
President, CEO
Before joining Meta in July 2002, founded CompuTech Corp. and worked at IBM and Price Waterhouse.

Dale Kutnick
Chairman, Co-Research Director, Founder
Worked at both Gartner Group and Yankee Group before founding Meta in 1989. Has a reputation for taking stands against authority.

Howard Rubin
Executive VP, Chief Strategy Officer
Responsible for the Worldwide IT Trends and Benchmark Report, Meta's analysis of trends, performance, and economics.

Advisory services, published research products, and consulting focusing on technology and transformation strategies. Divisions include Enterprise Planning & Architecture Strategies (EPAS), Executive Directions, Predictive Cost Modeling, SPEX Software Evaluations, MetricNet, Meta Group Infusions, Meta Group Conferences, and Meta Group Consulting.