Thursday, September 17, 2015

Gartner: Trusted Vendor Consultant or Pure Research Firm?

If you’ve ever been in the market for a new solution for your datacenter, chances are high that you’ve attended at least one sales presentation from a vendor that touts their membership in the elite ”Gartner Magic Quadrant.“ In my experience, this is one of the first things mentioned or focused upon in the intro PowerPoint slide of any C-level presentation on why you should consider that vendor better than its competitors.

But what does it really mean? Are you supposed to be impressed, and immediately consider that vendor to be part of an exclusive club? Should you immediately introduce your Accounts Payable Team and declare, “Shut up and take my money!” and save yourself from the rest of the sales presentation? Let’s find out.

So who is Gartner?

Since 1979, Gartner, Inc. has been providing objective third-party market analysis for technology corporations, government agencies, and investment communities. They’ve grown to over 5,300 employees across 85 countries, and employ over 1,000 expert analysts whose “…rigorous research process and proven methodologies provide the foundation for unbiased, pragmatic, and actionable insight.”  

What the heck is the Magic Quadrant?

The Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) is the brand name for a series of market research reports that Gartner publishes every 1-2 years across several specific technology industries. According to Gartner, the Magic Quadrant aims to provide a qualitative analysis into a market and its direction, maturity and participants. They first rate vendors upon two main criteria, which are ”completeness of vision” and ”ability to execute.“ Then, they use an undisclosed proprietary methodology to create vendor scores across four quadrants which include Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries, and Niche Players. 

Sounds great! I’m a technology vendor. Count me in!

Well, it’s not that simple. First of all, vendors cannot choose to opt-in or opt-out. Gartner chooses you, and not the other way around.Vendors are included in the research only if they meet the market definition and inclusion criteria established by the Gartner Analyst. A vendor may choose not to participate in the process or respond to research requests for information, in which case, the analysts will gather as much current information as possible from publicly available sources and will indicate this in the disclaimer in the published document.  

Well, that sounds fishy.  

You’re not alone. Gartner has been criticized on the lack of disclosure of vendor's component scores and the lack of transparency in Gartner's methodology used to derive the vendor's position on the Magic Quadrant map.  However, to ensure consistency in their ratings and placements, a formal process is used. Research Proposals go through several internal review levels, and eventually a review from a senior research board. If you’re still not convinced, remember that that Gartner employs about 1,280 R&D Analysts that are probably much smarter than you.

Hey, I got an e-mail from a Gartner Analyst! I’m somebody! 

Maybe, but now you’re on the hook to provide them with information – and you had better be ready to provide lots of it. It is said that a typical "landscape report" can take up to 150 to 200 hours to produce for each vendor. Unless you have a dedicated Analyst Relations team, you’ll be working through some holidays.

Sweet! We’re mentioned in their report! But wait a minute… I vehemently disagree with where we are ranked.

Though Gartner assures us that their data collection and review process is the exact same for all vendors, contention does occur. The first point of escalation is the analyst who created the research being questioned. The second point of escalation is the analyst’s manager, whose role is to verify that all required methodologies and processes were followed by the analyst(s), and that all research positions have been appropriately supported. The third is the Office of the Ombudsman.

Ombudswhat?

Sure, the Office of the Ombudsman. It’s a Department of State Governmental Agency whose principles pride themselves in Independence, Neutrality and Impartiality, Confidentiality, and Informality. Your tax dollars at work – the Department of State has employees that span 200 Countries, 178 Embassies, 86 Consulates, and 9 Missions.

Johnson, get that PowerPoint slide deck ready! Let’s go sell!  

Fine. Just be sure to include this disclaimer, which few vendors do:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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