Burton Group uses growth to reach up to the boardroom

Burton Group was the focus of today’s Advisor Spotlight webinar. Recently we’ve been in an interesting discussion here about the rise of new forms of vendor-sponsored research, and the discussion was a useful corrective. It reminded us that end-user organisations (corporates, government, academic etc.) are increasingly turning to non-vendor funded analysts’ research and advisory services.

IT infrastructure consultancy Burton Group is one of the beneficiaries of this trend. The firm grew sharply this year, enough through revenue from vendors is only 10 to 15% of its research and advisory revenues. North-American end users making big-ticket investments in enterprise architecture and networks are increasingly turning to Burton for help (the firm is not so well known outside North America). It is well-know for the cautious long-view that’s needed when balancing architectural strategies with business drivers.

The firm has made some interesting moves forward over the last year. I’m especially interested in its Executive Advisory Program, which provides some free content to senior business managers outside Burton Group’s geeky client-base. If Burton Group acts smartly, it will be able to tap into the growing opportunity with end-user organisations that are frustrated with Gartner (and other firms). But it needs to develop a less technology-driven, more business-based, approach towards IT infrastructure as part of the broad management of technology risks, costs, services and processes.

The early signs look good, especially since Burton Group is focusing on making its current insight easier rather than by developing totally new practices. So that means providing digestible briefs, charts, summaries and tools that time-pressed CxOs can understand, rather than new insight on consumer trends.

If it can expand its readership and advisory base out from the technology silo and into the business management, then they will be able to expand their footprint in their Fortune 500 client base and expand their reach into the Global 2000. An important measure of this will be Catalyst, the firm’s conference. Topics at the conference look notable more topical, business related and friendly this year: ‘Everything wireless’ and ‘New ways of work’ feel pretty different from earlier years where the sesions were on application platforms, network architecture and .NET. But the question is — will they have the business-savvy audience to match?

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