In Memory: Gideon Gartner—Visionary IT Market Research Entrepreneur and Leader
Gideon Gartner, an unparalleled pioneer in innovating IT industry market research and analysis services and products passed away on Saturday, October 12, 2020. He and his wife Sarah have been extremely supportive of CBI’s research and archives programs, for which we are tremendously grateful. Our thoughts go out to the Gartner family.
I had the honor and pleasure of conducting a 6-hour oral history interview with Gideon in August 2005 over two days at their Aspen, Colorado home. The Gartner family had the edited transcript published as a book. A version of the full interview transcript is also available in CBI’s collections on the University Libraries’ Digital Conservancy.
My time in Aspen was also the start of discussion about our unequaled archives infrastructure and program, and Gideon and Sarah worked with CBI archivists to donate the incredibly rich and diverse Gartner Group Records to CBI. The collection, fully processed and available to researchers for the past half-decade, has already been used by many researchers. Among other publications, material on IBM and its competitors was important to CBI Senior Research Fellow Jim Cortada’s monumental and influential recent book IBM: The Rise, Fall, and Reinvention of a Corporate Icon.
Gideon Gartner was born in 1935 in Mandatory Palestine and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he attended Midwood High School. After graduating, he attended MIT, completing a BS in Mechanical Engineering, which he followed by earning an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He then entered the computer industry joining IBM and becoming a marketing manager within the corporation’s Data Processing Division. He also served as a Systems Engineer and manager at IBM and IBM World Trade Corporation.
Gartner continually honed his exceptional technical, analytical, and leadership skills through his years IBM and other computing firms/enterprises such as Philco and System Development Corporation. His broad knowledge, intellect, and contacts helped him become the leading analyst focused on IT on Wall Street, working for Oppenheimer in 1970s.
Having analyzed information technology firms, divisions, products, and services for years, Gartner insightfully saw an entrepreneurial opportunity and founded Gartner Group in Stamford, Connecticut in 1979. While there were a few noteworthy competitors such as IDC, in terms of innovation, Gartner and his company seemed steps ahead of all others. While known for the tremendously influential Magic Quadrant and for one page (front and back) rich analytical reports meant for busy decision makers in industry and government, the innovations with research products/reports and advisory services were many. Unlike consulting (limited time scope designated by a shorter term contract), Gartner Group and the advisory services field he advanced so greatly was about longer-term, open-ended relationships with client firms and organizations for a wide range of products and services from report subscriptions and events to ongoing strategy advice. Serving the clients and helping them to make more informed managerial and investment decisions was always paramount. Gartner Group CEO and Chair Gideon Gartner was central to its incredibly broad and impressive client list and building and mentoring a talented team. In 1992 the company was acquired by London based Saatchi and Saatchi for about $90 million. Later in the decade, Gartner executives would purchase the firm back. With the name Gartner no longer his own to use for a firm, he took the first two letters of his first and last name and launched a new market research and IT advisory firm Giga Information Group, Inc. in 1995. As with his prior Gartner Group, it thrived.
Beyond just learning important context to Gartner’s many achievements, what struck me most in interviewing Gideon a decade and a half ago was his great eloquence and the depth of insight in each of his responses. He had an unrivaled commitment to excellence within his work, products, management, and service to his clients. It set the tone for his companies that established cultures of excellence and allowed his companies', Gartner Group and Giga Information Group, to excel. Gideon told me that one of the most rewarding aspects of his career was teaching at UCLA’s Andersen School of Management. He would bring invaluable and highly instructive real life experience from his firm and perspective on IT broadly to graduate students. This opportunity to give back to the younger generation, and mentoring future leaders at his firms, was so important to him—he touched and inspired so many.
We are incredibly grateful to Gideon for the oral history, and especially for donating his company’s records to us. The Gartner Group Records is a true gem of collection with so many rich research opportunities on not just his firm but the many IT industries and companies it covered/researched. The collection fully documents the organization, work, and strategy of his pioneering firm, Gartner Group, as well as what the firm covered with research and analysis: the key IT industries, companies, their products, services, and applications (in business, government, and society). Materials in the collection focus on Gartner Group, but also there are substantial materials on Giga Information Group, all in the critical 1980 to early 2000s timeframe as IT went through a broadening and renaissance with personal computing and the internet.
We extend our deep sympathy to Sarah, and the rest of Gideon’s family and friends. We so appreciate the honor of curating the Gartner Group Records, documenting a visionary leader and the far reaching and deeply impactful enterprises he created and advanced with exceptional vision, eloquence, and excellence.
Jeffrey R. Yost