Gartner is a leading IT company that provides analysis, market research and product advisory. Their mission is to support strategic decisions by helping their customers with advice and reports that can provide an “impartial” point of view about the overall state of a marketplace, a company or its products. All vendors queue up to be included in Gartner reports, and for many customers, the results of these researches are fundamental in defining corporate IT strategies.

transparency and Reputation

The biggest problem at Gartner, in recent years, has become their transparency and credibility. Gartner, as is the case for other analysts in the financial environment, is a provider for both end-users and vendors! This means that all (or most) vendors pay Gartner for information on the market and competition or advice but at the same time they’re “scrutinized” by them. This creates a clear conflict of interests that undermines the very role of “trusted advisor” Gartner states in its mission.

This problem is not only specific to Gartner. Just think about large American investment banks issuing credit ratings (positive or negative) on firms, markets and countries without specifying anything about where their interests/investments actually are. Often these reports make the fortune or misfortune of the company concerned and can even destabilize the market, generating large share movements but it is very difficult to discern whether the banks are speculating or is a real advice from a “trusted advisor”.

the magic quadrant

One of the most interesting reports produced by Gartner but also the more questionable (and contested) is the Magic Quadrant (here is one published yesterday by a vendor concerning “Midrange and High-End Modular Disk Arrays”). From a purely technical point of view, the MQ is very easy to understand and go straight to the point, it allows the customer to get a clear idea of the market players in a few minutes.

However in my opinion, the MQ must be interpreted with care as it is always accompanied by a document that details the rationale behind the vendor positioning. Sometimes you can find questionable reasons or feedback that is of little influence on the choices that the customer has to make in the end. The fact is that the Magic Quadrant is always in plain sight in sales pitches from vendors who are in the top right corner (the area of the leaders) or, at least in the lower right corner (the area for those who have the best technology vision). It ‘s also great tool to do a bit of subtle FUD (to instill a bit of fear, uncertainty and doubt about vendors in other quadrants).

my take

Customers are not fools, many of them started to evaluate with more suspicion the information coming from the traditional advisors and are looking for alternative opinions, less institutional, but often more realistic and down-to-earth. Internet is helping a lot in this: blogs, forums and social networks are quickly removing many old preconceptions and habits. Who would not do a Google search before buying a product? Advisors much less famous but certainly a lot less “mercenary” are growing. The independent bloggers, for example, have a different ethic and are much more careful to specify in advance their interests, their customers or relationships they have with a particular vendor before writing an article on it. Customers appreciate and reward transparency much more than you might think.