Office of the Ombuds

Our Assurance of Impartiality

Did it pass the “Wall Street Journal” test?

October 29th, 2008 · No Comments

An analyst called and said she’d been asked by a vendor client to attend its “user group” meeting and present an award to the end user that this vendor had determined had the most advanced implementation of its product.

My team declined this request, as it could have looked like an endorsement by that analyst and therefore Gartner of this vendor – even if she hadn’t said anything about the vendor or its product in this presentation. The mere act of presenting an award “on behalf of” a vendor aligns Gartner too closely with that vendor. We’d give the same response if asked whether an analyst could participate in a press conference alongside a vendor.

Then why, you may ask, is it acceptable for a Gartner analyst to make any presentation at all at a vendor’s user group meeting? For one, there’s tremendous value for those users. And Gartner has got some pretty strict guidelines around what our analysts can present at these meetings: their materials must be based completely on content that has already been presented at a Gartner conference, and it must be industry-focused (that is, not focused on specific vendors or products). They can’t even answer questions from the audience that are specific to a products, vendors or competitors.

So what? Sometimes even the appearance of possible impropriety is enough for us to draw hard lines – even if no one intends anything inappropriate. We often invoke the “Wall Street Journal” test, where we ask whether we would feel comfortable if something we are considering doing or saying appeared on the front page of the Journal. If our answer is “Maybe not” or “No,” we decline.

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