Gartner Research

Understanding Gartner’s Enterprise Technology Adoption Profiles

Published: 26 September 2018

ID: G00368724

Analyst(s): John-David Lovelock , Hank Barnes , Heather Colella , Derry Finkeldey

Summary

An enterprise’s attitudes toward planning, control and pace of change influence how it approaches technology decisions. Gartner’s ETA Profile relies on an algorithm that categorizes enterprises to understand behaviors that impact CIOs and the vendors that serve them.

Table Of Contents

Analysis

  • What Is the Gartner ETA Profile Framework?
    • Gartner ETA Profile Descriptions
  • How to Use Gartner ETA Profiles
    • Value to CIOs
    • Value to Technology and Service Providers
  • How ETA Profiles Are Determined
    • Can ETA Profiles Change Within an Enterprise?
    • The Seven Questions Behind the ETA Profile
  • Frequently Asked Questions

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Overview

Key Findings

  • Enterprise Technology Adoption (ETA) Profiles are based on rigorous multidimensional cluster analysis of over 10,000 enterprises, including government organizations, based on responses collected in more than five years of surveys.
  • ETA Profiles assess each enterprise across three axes based on its approach to technology planning, control and pace of change.
  • There are seven archetypical ETA Profiles. Like other personality-oriented approaches, enterprises within a cluster are likely to have some variances across each attribute.
  • ETA Profiles are proven to be more predictive of technology purchasing patterns than traditional firmographics: industry, country or size of business.

Recommendations

To exercise leadership in strategic innovation, CIOs should take the following steps:
  • Beyond comparing to others with similar firmographics, such as size of business, vertical industry or region, use this analysis to understand enterprises with ETA Profiles similar to yours in order to uncover new ideas and opportunities.
  • Schedule a Gartner analyst inquiry to discuss ETA Profiles and how they impact your business initiatives.
  • Obtain leadership support, and be prepared for challenges, before advocating a big change that is in conflict with your ETA Profile.
  • Use ETA Profiles to understand the technology context of your enterprise, your business partners or your customers, and its impact on technology-driven change efforts.

Analysis

Gartner’s proprietary model for profiling enterprise technology adoption attitudes and preferences was developed from more than 10,000 surveys taken worldwide. The analysis resulted in the emergence of seven profile groups that exist in varying ratios across every industry, country and size-of-business classification.

What Is the Gartner ETA Profile Framework?

The ETA Profile Framework captures an enterprise’s attitudes and preferences that influence technology-related decision making across three dimensions: planning, control and pace of change.
  • Planning identifies the propensity for companies to adjust their plans. In this category are the following profile attributes:
    • Flexible — The enterprise is willing to adjust plans continuously, if executives believe the adjustments can be advantageous.
    • Accommodating — Plans are typically adjusted only under certain situations.
    • Strict — The enterprise has a strong preference for standardized planning with little deviation.
  • Control identifies the locus of power for driving the technology agenda. In this category are the following profile attributes:
    • IT-led — The IT organization and a strong CIO drive the technology agenda.
    • Collaborative — Business and IT work together to determine the technology path.
    • Business-led — Leaders from the business largely guide the agenda.
  • Pace of Change explores receptivity to introduce new ideas and technology approaches. In this category are the following profile attributes:
    • Measured — The enterprise prefers to observe the impact of events and new technology before acting.
    • Responsive — The enterprise looks for technology to help it react and respond to external events.
    • Dynamic — The enterprise aggressively pursues new technologies and reacts quickly to external events in pursuit of competitive advantage.
Figure 1 shows the skeleton diagram for ETA Profiles. The three axes are shown along with the section names for the endpoints of the axes. Each of the three psychographic axes is a linear approximation of the multidimensional analysis. Each is broken into three sections or groups. When depicted on this framework, each ETA Profile creates a uniquely shaped triangle. This triangle represents that ETA Profile’s location along each axis.
Figure 1. Dimensions of the ETA Profile Framework

Source: Gartner (September 2018)

Dimensions of the ETA Profile Framework

Gartner ETA Profile Descriptions

The ETA Profile has many similarities to other profiling methods, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), 1 for assessing individual personalities. For each of the three dimensions in ETA, there are three possible values. As with any profiling approach, there are also ranges of fit within one profile.
Two companies fit in the accommodating group for planning could have different levels to their accommodating approach. One may be much closer to being strict, the other to being flexible. And while there are 27 theoretical profiles, the clustering analysis revealed that this could be reduced to seven archetype profiles based on the collective responses, albeit with some varied alignment on each dimension for each category. The table below presents the archetypes from most commonly found to least. The acronym is based on the first letter of the profile categorization in each dimension. The nickname is an alternative way to remember and describe the archetypes.

Table 1: Gartner’s Enterprise Technology Adoption Profiles

ETA Profile
Description
FCM
(Practical)
FCM enterprises are flexible planners, take a collaborative approach to the technology agenda and are measured in their pace of change.
They observe carefully before taking action. Technology budgets are typically set in the one- to two-year range, with special projects considered cooperatively between IT and business. Short-term goals are based on what is possible to achieve with reliable technology. New technology that adheres to existing infrastructure is strongly preferred for its reliability; however, adherence to the current technology standards in use is not a hard requirement. As a result, these enterprises are flexible in their plans and consider technologies from both an IT and business perspective. They will react to external events in their decisions, but they prefer to stay within the boundaries of the standards they have established, as this allows them to bring on more technology in a short period of time. When a technology is proven to work and provide value, FCM enterprises will act quickly to adopt.
FID
(Adaptive)
FID enterprises are flexible planners, take an IT-led approach to the technology agenda and are dynamic in their pace of change
They are the most agile and quick to react to new technology or business opportunities. Technology budgets are typically set annually, usually from a zero baseline, and are generous enough to accommodate special projects that occur during the year. The CIO and his or her team are usually highly empowered to make technology decisions with little oversight, provided the enterprise maintains an ability to implement new technology and business processes. Speed to market is of greater importance than risk, stability or adherence to existing standards. Of all the personalities, they are the most open to the widest variety of technologies, architectures and approaches to both business and IT.
ACR
(Judicious)
ACR enterprises are accommodating in planning, take a collaborative approach to the technology agenda and are responsive in their pace of change.
They are balanced and reasoned in their approach to IT; budgets and business goals guide decision making. Technology planning tends to be in the two- to three-year time frame, with goals and objectives regularly reviewed. The CIO is usually given full control over strictly IT and infrastructure issues and has a seat at the table for business-led technology planning. Disruptions to business plans are more easily accommodated than disruptions to technology plans. However, given sufficient cause, both are possible.
ABM
(Business-Focused)
ABM enterprises are accommodating in planning, take a business-led approach to the technology agenda and are measured in their pace of change.
They can be characterized as “business first, technology second.” The majority of the budgets for new projects reside within business units. The role of IT is to support business functions, rather than leading or enabling new business possibilities. The central IT budget is typically small but predictable compared with industry norms. For new technology to be considered that has not been in the long-term plan, it must have a clear near-term business impact. If so, special budgets are usually made available within the appropriate business unit. The central IT function is tasked to provide reliable/mature technology that will enable a “rock solid” infrastructure.
SIR
(Disciplined)
SIR enterprises are strict planners, take an IT-led approach to the technology agenda and are responsive in their pace of change.
They are pragmatic in their approach to technology adoption. They are usually led by a strong CIO with a lengthy tenure in IT. They are very strict and long-term in their technology planning. This level of control and planning does not put them behind in technology, but their goal is to achieve a balanced response to new technology and reliable infrastructure.
ABD
(Opportunistic)
ABD enterprises are accommodating in planning, take a business-led approach to the technology agenda and are dynamic in their pace of change.
They can be characterized as “business first, whatever it takes.” They differ from the Business-Focused enterprise in that they will drive new business opportunities by using bleeding-edge technology that carries with it some risk of failure. Existing technology standards, practices and implemented processes are not a barrier to striving for a desired business outcome. These enterprises are most likely to have technology capabilities embedded within business units, and the central IT function is most often at the center of a whirlwind of new implementation demands and the break/fix of previously installed systems.
SCD
(Grounded)
SCD enterprises are strict planners, take a collaborative approach to the technology agenda and are dynamic in their pace of change.
They are long-term planners that want technologies that help them lead the market. These enterprises eschew technology fads. They are strict in their planning and execution of the enterprise’s technology goals, but open to new technologies that fit their plans. Technology budgets are generous, predictable and set for the longer term. These enterprises expect that their infrastructure will support new business opportunities with minimal rework. As a result, conformity to standards is high. At the same time, they will adopt new technologies readily — as long as they fit within their leadership’s plans and do not overly disrupt their existing infrastructure.
Source: Gartner (September 2018)

How to Use Gartner ETA Profiles

ETA Profiles provide an organized approach to deeper understanding of why enterprises pursue particular technology paths. They help CIOs and their teams, as well as the vendors that serve them, to work more effectively.

Value to CIOs

Understand the Attitudes Toward Planning, Control and Pace of Change Within Their Organization
CIOs can use ETA Profiles to understand the attitudes toward planning, control and pace of change within their enterprise and how those attitudes influence their approach to technology decisions. This can help them accelerate progress on projects that align well with their profile, or recognize the potential hurdles for projects that don’t.
Recognize Fundamental Changes That Need to Be Made in Planning Practices or Preferences With Regard to Pace
CIOs with change mandates can use the ETA Profile to recognize fundamental changes that need to be made in planning practices or preferences with regard to pace in order to be successful. For example, they may recognize a need to be willing to make bets in technologies that are not fully proven.
Adapt Their Communications to Put Their Ideas Into the Context of the ETA Profile for More Acceptance
They can also adapt their communications to put their ideas into the context of the ETA Profile for more acceptance. For example, a CIO driving change in an FCM enterprise could say, “While we as an enterprise prefer the lower risk of proven technologies, we have to look for areas where we can take sensible risks to improve our competitive position. We’ve already moved to a more flexible planning approach; now let’s add some flexibility to how we approach technology change.” Conversely, a CIO in an FID enterprise might say, “We’ve established our leadership position by being on the forefront of cutting-edge technologies. Now is not the time to slow down. Instead, let’s find ways to move even faster with technologies that have the potential to further our lead.”

Value to Technology and Service Providers

Refine Their Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Approaches
ETA Profiles provide additional insight for TSPs to refine their ABM approaches, with a particular focus on targeted messaging, as well as account prioritization and qualification. Marketing teams can tailor messages and campaigns to specific ETA groups. Sales teams can try to determine the ETA Profile of accounts and adjust their strategies to align to them.
For example, a common provider mantra is, “We have to sell to the line of business and not IT.” This may seem appropriate, given the growing influence of business buyers (see “Survey Analysis: Business Buyers Continue to Gain Power in IT Purchase Decisions” ). However, it may not prove to be as effective when targeting SIR and FID enterprises, where IT drives decision making. In fact, a business-focused strategy could meet with substantial resistance in these situations. As a result, go-to-market efforts that target business buyers (to the exclusion of IT) should consciously reduce the focus on those IT-led enterprises early in the life cycle of the product. This can be done, for example, by encouraging sales to deprioritize efforts within enterprises that they determine to rely on IT heavily for decision making.
Accelerate Time to Growth Opportunities
ETA Profiles also provide the basis to accelerate time to opportunities by enabling “look-alike” profiling and targeting of accounts based on strategies for product offering and positioning that have proven effective within a given profile.

How ETA Profiles Are Determined

Gartner’s methodology for assigning an enterprise to a specific ETA Profile group involves deep quantitative analysis, but it is straightforward to use and understand:
  1. Every answer to every question influences your position within each attribute group.
  2. Gartner assigns your profile based on a “best fit” across all three attribute groups — you may not exactly match the archetypal position for any ETA Profile group.
This is easiest to understand graphically. Figure 2 depicts an enterprise that falls into the SCD (Strict, Collaborative, Dynamic) profile.
Figure 2. Enterprise 1 Profile Versus the SCD Archetype

Source: Gartner (September 2018)

Enterprise 1 Profile Versus the SCD Archetype
Each of the three axes represents an attribute group. The closer to the center of each axis reflects tendencies toward IT-Led, Measured and Flexible attributes. Moving farther to the edge reflects Business-Led, Dynamic and Strict attributes, respectively.
The dotted triangle shows the archetype or “standard” SCD profile. The specific profile overlaps substantially with the standard. The variances from the standard show that this enterprise, represented by the blue triangle:
  • Is a little less Dynamic
  • Has more flexibility in its planning approach
  • Closely aligns to the standard in terms of control of IT decisions
A second example, illustrated in Figure 3, shows an ABD enterprise with different results. This enterprise is more uniformly inside the standard, meaning that it:
  • Has a higher level of IT involvement
  • Is more Flexible
  • Is less Dynamic
Figure 3. Enterprise 2 Profile Versus the ABD Archetype

Source: Gartner (September 2018)

Enterprise 2 Profile Versus the ABD Archetype

Can ETA Profiles Change Within an Enterprise?

The profile of an enterprise is not fixed. It can change or evolve over time. But these changes usually occur at the speed of other organizational changes: slowly for large enterprises and more quickly for smaller. “Overnight” changes do occur, but these are usually brought on by large disruptive external events, such as mergers and acquisitions. New CEOs, new boards or new staff with a “new direction” often wish to execute a quick change in ETA Profile, but usually find that it takes much longer than expected.
The general rule is that one enterprise has one profile. However, not every person or business unit within that enterprise needs to agree or align with that profile. In fact, the source of frustration for CIOs and other business leaders can be traced to having personal goals that are misaligned with the enterprise’s ETA Profile.
Similarly, there can be business units fully aligned or misaligned with the enterprise’s ETA Profile. Misaligned business units can be successful at getting through initiatives that don’t align with the enterprise’s profile, but it usually takes more effort on the part of all interested parties. However, it is possible.
In some rare cases, one enterprise can have more than one profile. When an enterprise has two CEOs or two fully distinct general ledgers or geographically dispersed operations, it is possible for them to have different ETA Profiles. But Gartner believes these cases to be rare. Therefore, they warrant inclusion in the methodology description, but do not warrant inclusion in any use-case work as they are outliers.

The Seven Questions Behind the ETA Profile

Below are the seven questions and responses that make up the ETA questionnaire. An individual’s responses are run through Gartner’s proprietary algorithm to determine the enterprise’s specific ETA Profile.
(Q1) Every business is dependent upon technology to some degree. Which of the following statements best describes how your enterprise uses technology?
  1. Technology underpins our business operations but does not differentiate us.
  2. Technology is a business enabler and a mechanism to drive efficiency.
  3. Technology plays an important and increasing role within the business.
  4. Technology touches every aspect of the business and adds significant value.
  5. Technology is critical to the success and growth of the business.
(Q2) Which of the following best describes how your enterprise’s business units and IT department work together?
  1. The IT department has a leader role in defining IT strategies across the enterprise.
  2. The IT department and business units define IT strategies and make decisions together.
  3. Business units define their IT strategies and expect the IT department to support them.
  4. Business units define IT strategies with the IT department’s knowledge but no support.
  5. Business units define and implement IT strategies autonomously without the IT department’s knowledge.
(Q3) Which statement best describes how your enterprise balances short-term business opportunities against its longer-term business objectives?
  1. We are first to market with new opportunities.
  2. We sometimes take commercial risks in order to achieve competitive advantage.
  3. We make changes when the time is right.
  4. We avoid being distracted by passing fads to maintain focus on executing our plans.
  5. We are prepared to sacrifice near-term profits in order to reach our strategic goals.
(Q4) When you think of the frequency and size of technology projects undertaken within your enterprise, how would you best describe the typical approach?
  1. We rarely implement “net new” technology projects as the business does not believe that IT can be used as a competitive differentiator.
  2. We periodically focus our resources on small technology projects to ensure we are successful.
  3. We sporadically invest in major technology projects, focusing the necessary attention and resources to deliver the business value we need.
  4. We regularly implement numerous small technology projects to ensure there is a continuous flow of value to the business.
  5. We have an ongoing program of major technology investment projects that are designed to underpin the business and drive future growth.
(Q5) When it comes to new technology, what is your enterprise’s typical approach?
  1. We avoid the cost and disruption of replacing existing technology.
  2. We rely on technology that is mature and proven in similar environments before we adopt it into our own.
  3. We wait for the first service pack or dot release before deploying.
  4. We accept the risk and costs of new technology and deploy as early as possible.
  5. We aggressively pursue vendor beta programs and co-development opportunities.
(Q6) How does your enterprise typically approach the implementation of new technology capabilities?
  1. We develop custom stand-alone solutions in-house that meet all business requirements.
  2. We design an extension to our proprietary custom-built application infrastructure to seamlessly integrate the specific business needs.
  3. We select solutions based upon the prevailing mood of the business, resource availability and the preference of the project sponsor.
  4. We leverage our pre-existing applications to fulfill business needs while maintaining the end-to-end integrity of our IT environment.
  5. We look for the best-in-class, out-of-the-box solutions that fulfill business needs irrespective of whether it conforms to IT policies.
(Q7) Which statement most closely reflects how your enterprise responds to major external events, such as economic shocks, new market entrants or game-changing innovations from your competitors?
  1. We take sufficient time to see the full effects before taking action and committing resources to respond.
  2. We pause long enough to see how events will play out before changing our strategy or processes.
  3. We respond as well as we can while reworking our tactical and strategic plans to account for the new projected normal state.
  4. We recognize the need to respond to changing circumstances quickly in order to avoid falling behind the market or missing new business opportunities.
  5. We react as fast as possible as we recognize that delay and procrastination can be fatal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did Gartner get the data?
Gartner performs an “Annual Enterprise Survey” of enterprises from around the world. The ETA questions have been included in every Annual Enterprise Survey since 2013. To date, we have over 10,000 responses to the ETA Profile question.
Where can I find a company’s ETA Profile?
Gartner has published an ETA Profile web-based tool that allows anyone to complete the ETA Profile questions and receive an evaluation of their ETA. However, Gartner does not track nor publish a list of enterprises and their corresponding ETA Profiles.
Are companies with the same ETA Profile basically the same?
Yes, but, as with any profiling approach, there are ranges of fit. Two companies that fit in the ABD (Opportunistic) profile could have different levels to their accommodating approach to planning. One may be much closer to being strict, the other to being a little more flexible.
Will two companies with the same ETA Profile make the same technology decisions?
No, there are many other factors that influence decisions. Gartner research shows that companies with similar ETA Profiles are more likely to pursue common technology paths, but that is not guaranteed.
Can an enterprise have multiple ETA Profiles?
In some rare cases, one enterprise can have more than one profile. When an enterprise has two CEOs or two fully distinct general ledgers or geographically dispersed operations, it is possible for them to have different ETA Profiles. But Gartner believes that these cases are outliers and do not warrant inclusion in any use-case work.
Additional research contribution and review: Jon Hardcastle

Note 1 Overview of the Technology Adoption Life Cycle Through the Years

The technology adoption life cycle is well-understood by strategic planners. The model, which still guides marketing planning today, first appeared in 1962 in Everett M. Rogers’ book “Diffusion of Innovations.” 2 Rogers depicted a normal (bell) curve distribution for the frequency with which people would adopt an innovation (see Figure 4). Starting from the left side, the number of people adopting, for example, notebook computers, would grow rapidly from a slow start, peak and then slow, decelerating as the market approaches saturation. The logistic curve or “S”-shaped curve shows the cumulative effect of market penetration. Rogers was the first to propose labels for adopters, ranging from innovators for the first 2.5% who adopted the innovation, to early adopters (the next 13.5%), early majority (the next 34%), late majority (the next 34%) and laggards (the last 16% of the market). These labels, which are still in use, were assigned and based purely on the placement on the adoption curve and not on any other personal attributes.
Figure 4. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations

Source: E.M. Rogers. “Diffusion of Innovations.” Free Press. 2003 (Fifth Edition).

Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations
The logistic curve represents the aggregate or sum of the number of adopters over time, while the bell curve depicts how many people are adopting at any point in time.
On a similar note, Gartner introduced the Type ABC classification scheme in 1989, and it became a cornerstone of Gartner research, proving vital to our clients’ self-images and technology adoption strategies. The use of the letters A, B and C to designate whether a company’s attitude is Type A (aggressive, leader, feature-focused), Type B (mainstream, adaptive, benefits-focused) or Type C (late adopter, follower, cost-focused) is well-integrated into Gartner research. In 2004, the use of Type ABC enterprise profiling matured from an analyst’s framework for advising clients to a self-referential model to classify a company’s profile in order to focus beyond spending patterns, technology adoption and propensity for risk.
This work manifested itself in a self-assessment survey that end users took to determine their profile type. This was met with great success as Gartner was able to easily identify a Type A, B or C profile by analyzing the survey responses.
When these categories were created, the definitions were very rich (see “Introducing the Enterprise Personality Profile” ), highlighting characteristics that made a company a Type A, B or C. But over time, the complexity and variety of products and services that fall under the umbrella of information technology have caused them to lose that richness. A Type A adopter of cloud technology is not necessarily a Type A adopter of hyperconverged systems or file deduplication. Their current use is primarily to simplify market adoption behavior into three groups (Type A adopts early, followed by Type B, followed by Type C).
Whether using Rogers’ terms (which were further expanded by Geoffrey A. Moore 3 ) or Gartner’s, the model has shortcomings for market planners. It is not predictive. Specifically, there is no way to tell when a specific enterprise will adopt a new technology using these models. The exact same company may be an early adopter (Type A) of one innovation and a late adopter (Type C) of another.

Evidence

1 The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, first published in 1943, was created by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers and is based on Carl Jung’s conceptual theory. See the   Myers & Briggs Foundation website.
2 E.M. Rogers. “Diffusion of Innovations.” Free Press. 2003 (Fifth Edition).
3 G.A. Moore. “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers.” HarperBusiness. 2006 (Revised Edition).