Office of the Ombudsman

Our Assurance of Impartiality

“Forget Everything I Told You …”

February 7th, 2014   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on “Forget Everything I Told You …”

Is it possible to purposefully forget something you’ve recently been told? I would argue no — it’s close to impossible to purposefully “unknow” something. It stands to reason that everything you learn, in one way or another, ultimately contributes to the opinions you form.

Let’s take it one step further: What if you were expressly told that certain information was to be treated as confidential? Could you guarantee that the information shared with you in confidence would never influence your opinion?

Now it gets tougher, right? Lawyers have long debated the definition of “confidential” when it comes to forming opinions. And this uncertainty is probably responsible for the miles and miles of disclaimers written in tiny font and buried at the foot of contracts. That text exists because it’s not a simple question to answer.

This ambiguity around the meaning of “confidential” is at the crux of a discussion I had recently with a client. To summarize, it’s this: If a client shares confidential corporate information with an analyst during an inquiry call or meeting, can the analyst keep that information confidential, or will the very act of receiving the information influence the opinions s/he forms and shares with other clients? The short answer is yes to both.

This is how I responded: If specific information is expressly identified as confidential during analyst inquiry, our research organization has a documented process to ensure those specific details are not divulged outside of Gartner.

But the high-level concepts and ideas inherent in the information shared during inquiry may — together with other external sources of information — be leveraged and shared with other analysts, because it helps to inform our analysts’ point of view. The Research organization operates in a collaborative environment, where the open sharing of information and ideas leads to better analysis, predictions, findings and advice for clients.

A simple analogy would be a visit to the doctor. The doctor applies the high-level knowledge she has gained from other patients to help diagnose and treat you. She may even say she saw someone with a similar issue last week, but obviously never dream of sharing the specifics of the encounter- for example, telling you that it was your neighbor! Afterwards, she might consult with a colleague to get a second opinion and raise awareness within her practice of a recurring or common health issue in the community. The doctor will subsequently use the experience of treating you to help treat others. As a result, the doctor’s knowledge and overall effectiveness increases and awareness is raised in the greater medical community, all without ever compromising your confidence.

There are two key takeaways here:

First, confidentiality is and has always been a critically important issue at Gartner. It forms the foundation of our business model because we know trust matters. And we practice what we preach by rigorously training our analysts annually on how to treat our clients’ confidential information.

Second, because we respect and understand the meaning of confidentiality, we also provide guidance to our analysts about when to decline confidential information. When a client offers our analysts information that is classified as for “strictly personal and private use,” we instruct them to decline the offer, for the simple reason that once they “know” something, they cannot “unknow it.” We will agree to keep your confidence, but we can’t agree to something that we can’t uphold.

If you have any questions about how confidential information is handled by analysts in our research process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

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Important Updates to Gartner External Use Policy

December 11th, 2012   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Important Updates to Gartner External Use Policy

Gartner is known for our independence and objectivity, and our Copyright and Quote Policy is one way that we reinforce these qualities. With this in mind, we frequently look for ways to improve the policy; our latest look highlighted a few areas where we could increase consistency and further reinforce our independence and objectivity. This update focuses on both of these.

What’s changed?

Now permitted in the policy:

  • The word “Gartner” may be used in titles/subtitles of press releases and newsletters, and the subject line of e-mail communications (exceptions: you may not say, “Gartner Says” or “Accordingly to Gartner”).
  • Retrospective wording is permitted. This means you may use words such as “consecutive” and “again”. For example, “ABC Company has received a ‘strong positive’ rating for three consecutive years.”
  • Comparative wording is permitted. This means you may use words such as “only” or “sole”. For example, “XYZ Company is the only vendor in the leaders’ quadrant.”

Now no longer permitted in the policy: Custom analyst quotes. If it hasn’t been published, vendors may not quote a Gartner analyst as having said it in their external communications.

Timing: We will hold all requests to quote from newly published Magic Quadrant, MarketScope and Cool Vendor research for 24 hours after publication, to provide a level playing field for all requestors.

Why the change?

The update addressed some confusing aspects of the policy; for example, we had not allowed the word “Gartner” in titles, so vendors would have to say “analyst firm” and readers would have to look further to find out that this firm was Gartner. Readers shouldn’t have to do this. Our policy allowed retrospective and comparative wording for some document types, and not for others. This change makes the policy consistent.

The Copyright and Quote policy has long prohibited quoting from non-syndicated research. Custom analyst quotes were essentially non-syndicated research positions that had not gone through the rigorous research process that is Gartner’s hallmark. The updated policy lets our published research speak for our analysts.

The Copyright and Quote Policy on gartner.com reflects these changes. If you have questions about this updated policy, contact ombudsman@gartner.com, as the Office of the Ombudsman maintains this policy. Please continue to send all quote requests (including reports of potential external use violations) to quote.requests@gartner.com.

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Treatment of Company and Product Names in Gartner Research

June 28th, 2012   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Treatment of Company and Product Names in Gartner Research

Guest post by Jackie Ryan, Managing VP of Global Editing, Research Strategy and Operations, Gartner

Occasionally, vendors ask why Gartner has rendered their company or product names differently in our published research than the way they appear on their website. As we’ve all seen, company and product names, spellings and even punctuation can be quite creative — deploying backward letters, italics or bold on certain characters, multi-colored text colors, and more. We do not reproduce these because we need to present Gartner research impartially, especially given that we often analyze multiple vendors or products in one document – like our Magic Quadrants. Having one vendor or product stand out over another could be misinterpreted. Thus, we do what most publishers do — we follow the guidance in the Associated Press Stylebook (see “company names”).

Here are the highlights of our style regarding company and product names:

Company names should be presented in full on first reference, according to the initial presentation on the “About the Company” page of the vendor’s website. When that page gives contradictory guidance on a company’s name, always go by what is used in the text blurb about the company, rather than the company name as presented in logos, addresses and elsewhere.

Generally, follow the spelling and capitalization preferred by the company: eBay. But capitalize the first letter if it begins a sentence.

Do NOT use all-capital-letter names unless the letters are individually pronounced or they represent an acronym: BMW. Others should be uppercase and lowercase. USA Today, not USA TODAY.

Do NOT use symbols such as exclamation points, plus signs or asterisks that form contrived spellings that might distract or confuse a reader. Use Yahoo, not Yahoo!; Toys R Us, not Toys “R” Us.

Use an ampersand only if it is part of the company’s formal name, but not otherwise in place of “and.”

Use “the” lowercase unless it is part of the company’s formal name.

Gartner renders company and product names as current at the time of publication. It is not our policy to update published research after rebranding efforts, mergers, etc.

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A Peek into the Magic Quadrant/MarketScope Process

November 4th, 2011   by Nancy Erskine · 1 Comment

Ever wonder how long it takes to create a Magic Quadrant or MarketScope, what analysts have to go through to establish a new one, or why Gartner doesn’t share specific company ratings? A recently posted FAQ, created by Gartner’s Research Methodologies team, responds to these questions. I can attest that all of these questions have been asked of the Ombudsman’s Office more than once. Let me know what you think, and I can suggest that your questions go into the next update to this FAQ.

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Gartner Technology Choices: What’s the Big Secret?

November 1st, 2010   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Gartner Technology Choices: What’s the Big Secret?

It’s no secret that Gartner uses IT products and services, but we’ve long had a rule against the providers of those products and services promoting Gartner as a customer. Lately we’ve had a rash of requests from vendors to change that rule, or at least bend it. We’ve said no to all of these requests, for the simple reason that as a provider of IT research and advice, Gartner needs to maintain independence and objectivity in everything we do. This includes the IT purchasing choices we make as an organization. If the vendors  we buy products and services from were allowed to promote our relationship, Gartner could be perceived as favoring one vendor over another (as in, “Gartner chose it – they must think it’s the best”).
 
Just as Gartner recommends strongly against picking only vendors in the “leaders’ quadrant” in a Magic Quadrant, Gartner’s IT department uses this advice in all technology decisions and selects what fits Gartner’s specific requirements. But there’s a good chance you will never know whose product or service we’ve chosen.

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Adding Social Media to the Gartner External Use Policy: Context Counts

October 6th, 2010   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Adding Social Media to the Gartner External Use Policy: Context Counts

Did you ever want to quote Gartner research on your personal blog? How about on your corporate one? If you have, check out the update to the Gartner Copyright and Quote Policy on gartner.com. You might say, “It’s about time!” and you’d be right: we certainly have seen an increase in requests to quote research on social media, and we’ve also seen an increase in “violation” reports.

Here is the policy update in a nutshell: If you want to reference the Gartner brand or intellectual property on a corporate platform such as a corporate blog, you need Gartner’s approval in advance. If you want to reference this material on a personal blog or micro-blog, you do not need to seek approval. We differentiate in this way for the simple reason that a corporate blog represents a company’s overall point of view, and a personal blog represents an individual’s personal opinion. That said, Gartner will pursue any gross misrepresentation of Gartner research even in personal blogs and micro-blogs.

Read the full policy update on gartner.com and let me know what you think.

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Analysts Attending Meals or Cocktail Receptions with Vendors

September 30th, 2010   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Analysts Attending Meals or Cocktail Receptions with Vendors

With Symposium season officially underway, we’ve seen an increase in the number of vendors reaching out to analysts with invitations to dinner and cocktail receptions. As you may know, Gartner has some “rules of engagement” for these types of interactions (not limited to Gartner events). I briefly touched on this topic in a previous blog post (http://tinyurl.com/2a69rc8), but it seems timely to issue a reminder. 

Vendor events are a great opportunity for analysts, vendors and end users to get together in an informal setting, but we need to ensure analyst participation does not compromise Gartner objectivity. In other words, there can be no potential perception of vendors “wining and dining” analysts or trying to influence their opinions. Before accepting any invitations, analysts look to confirm the requests are not:

  • For a pricey venue or exclusive event,
  • Purely social in nature, or
  • Only vendor representatives and Gartner analysts attending

Again, while we encourage informal interactions, we want to make sure they don’t cross the objectivity line. If you have a request of this sort, please send it to the analyst in advance so that he/she can work with Research Management (and Ombudsman, if needed) to determine if participation is appropriate.

Here’s a case in point with an issue that just crossed my desk: A vendor was having a 1.5-day analyst event, where multiple analyst firms were invited. The agenda was filled with content; the evening activity, while including a few executives speaking, featured a “5-star dinner” at an expensive restaurant. Could the analysts attend? The answer: If the analysts found research value in the 1.5-day event they could go, but the dinner was over the line so they couldn’t attend that. This is why we always encourage events of this type to be truly focused on the content – so our analysts don’t have to, sometimes awkwardly, say they can only partake in part of the experience.

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Judge Grants Gartner’s Motion to Dismiss Law Suit

November 5th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Judge Grants Gartner’s Motion to Dismiss Law Suit

I have received some questions recently about a law suit filed against Gartner regarding our Magic Quadrant. I want to provide those following the situation with an update.

Yesterday, the judge granted Gartner’s motion to dismiss the case for failing to state a legal claim. While the plaintiff has a limited right to amend and re-file a complaint, we’re pleased with this result and continue to stand behind the research findings that were the subject of the technology provider’s complaint. While the technology provider is clearly dissatisfied with its placement in the Magic Quadrant, we will not compromise our research or be unduly influenced by threats of legal action.

As I have said on this blog many times, we take the independence and objectivity of our research very seriously. Without it, we wouldn’t have a business. Gartner is not “pay for play.” Influence over research content or the amount of research coverage focused on any vendor, sector or topic is not, and has never been, for sale by Gartner. Period.

We have rigorous research methodologies that ensure our clients can trust the insight and advice we provide. Each piece of Gartner research is subject to a peer-review process by members of the worldwide analyst community, and review by research management is required prior to publication. This process is designed to surface any inconsistencies in research methodology, data collection and conclusions, as well as to fully use Gartner collective expertise on any research topic. Anyone can review our research methodologies in more detail here.

I always welcome feedback on how we can improve our research process, what we can do better and, of course, address any issues or concerns from anyone about what we do and how we do it. Here is how to get in touch with me.

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It’s Still True: Gartner Opinion is Not for Sale

October 8th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · 6 Comments

It almost sounds like a joke, except we’ve heard it more than once. Here it is: a number of vendors have told their prospects that Gartner charges vendors to be covered in its research. I’ve even heard specific amounts of up to $100,000 being claimed. Quite simply, if this were true Gartner would not be in business today. I blogged about this six months ago (http://tinyurl.com/cdzgvr) so I’m not going to repeat what I said here, but the point hasn’t changed: All Gartner analysts are strictly governed by our Code of Ethics (http://tinyurl.com/yfkyc7o) to ensure our research is independent and objective.

Anyone, client or not, user or vendor, can come forward if they think Gartner has published content that is inaccurate or misleading, or demonstrates bias or unfair treatment. The Office of the Ombudsman was established over five years ago to handle these very issues. If you’ve got one of these issues, please call us at +1 203 316 3334 or send us an email at ombudsman@gartner.com. We’ll be sure to get back to you.

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Updated Research Issue Escalation Process for Vendors

September 18th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · Comments Off on Updated Research Issue Escalation Process for Vendors

Prepare and have a sense of urgency. Do these and you’ll be on your way to mounting a successful escalation about Gartner Research. But there’s more — lots more. Check out the updated Research Issue Escalation Process for Vendors (http://tinyurl.com/mz6vs6).

Also included in the process document is an FAQ that answers questions you may have about whether an escalation can damage a relationship, when it’s appropriate to introduce new facts, and why it’s important to leave your emotion at home.

I’m going to be talking about this updated process today at the Gartner Quarterly Analyst Relations Webinar at 10:30 AM EDT. That webinar will also focus on Symposium content and a new Research construct called the “Evidence Sidebar.” If you haven’t registered, send an email to arcommunity@gartner.com. They’ll hook you up.

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