Office of the Ombudsman

Our Assurance of Impartiality

Analysts Attending Meals or Cocktail Receptions with Vendors

September 30th, 2010   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

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 · No Comments

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 · No 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 · No Comments

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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Want to quote a Hype Cycle?

July 31st, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

You might know we’re in the middle of “Hype Cycle season,” where we publish 80 or so Hype Cycle documents in a short period of time. Clients often ask if they can share the graphics and/or quote from the content externally – for example, paste the graphic on their web site, quote from the document in a proposal, or publish the fact that they’re listed as a sample vendor of a technology in a press release. This year we’ve seen some shall we say “creative” uses of this content already, and it’s still early. These prompted us to look again at the policy.

And we made a couple of changes to the Copyright & Quote policy around Hype Cycles:

  1. Clients that want to display a hype cycle graphic externally (that is, not within their own organizations) now need to provide a link to a reprint of the entire research report. The reason for this change is that the graphic by itself lacks all the explanatory content, including market term definitions and even what labels like “trough of disillusionment” mean. It could therefore be misinterpreted if presented without context. So just as with the Magic Quadrant, Vendor Rating and MarketScope, we now require this reprint link.
  2. Clients that want to share externally that they were listed in the report as “sample vendors” of a particular technology may now do this, as long as they comply with the Copyright policy. We didn’t used to allow this, but as we looked at this rule we realized it wasn’t necessary.

Just as always, if you’d like to quote a Hype Cycle, just contact the Quote Request team and they’ll process your request. They all know these updates.

So what?  We’re always looking for ways to improve Gartner’s external-use policies – wherever possible making it easier for clients to quote us. We got some interesting feedback and suggestions from the Analyst Relations survey earlier this year (where we asked AR professionals what they thought about Gartner’s external-use policies), and we be sharing that with you shortly.

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Not Ready for Prime Time

July 10th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

I’ve noticed lately that a number of vendors have taken draft documents they were sent during the Fact Check process and shared them (sometimes liberally) with people inside and outside of their organizations. We don’t allow this and push back strongly when we find out about these — I think for good reason.

A draft is just what that word implies — not ready for publication. It may change dramatically before it’s published: the opinions may change, even the backup data may change. Indeed, that’s why we ask vendors to review documents that include information about them: to make sure we’ve got all the facts right. And if you’ve read enough of these drafts you know they’re not copy-edited before we send them. So even if the content doesn’t change when they’re published, the wording and even structure might.

So what? You can probably tell we’re really sensitive to ownership of our IP — I’ve blogged about it, and we have a department of folks who work hard to ensure the rules are followed. But distributing drafts is worse than just breaking our external-use rules because the content isn’t even ready for the “external” world yet. So please, even if sorely tempted, resist the temptation to share until it’s been published… then follow these rules: http://tinyurl.com/lnubxs!

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Gartner External Use Policy: We Mean It

May 6th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

Gartner published research is copyrighted material. The Gartner Copyright and Quote Policy exists to protect this material when referenced in the public domain. We don’t allow indiscriminate, unauthorized distribution of research, and we also do our best to prevent anyone from misrepresenting or misusing Gartner opinions by taking them out of context. For example, we don’t allow vendors to say, “Gartner says we’re number one!” And we don’t let them disparage their competition by saying, “Gartner says they’re going out of business!” Most vendors respect our copyright and external use policies, as they wouldn’t appreciate companies abusing their intellectual property.
 
Riverbed Technologies has ignored multiple requests to respect our policy and our intellectual property by allowing their sales associates to distribute a Gartner published report in its entirety on more than one occasion, and by quoting excerpts from the same report to disparage their competition. Despite our repeated requests to stop, Riverbed continues to violate our external-use policies.
 
So what? We’re naming names to let everyone know that we do actively monitor use of our research, and will not ignore the unauthorized use of our name and redistribution of documents.

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Gartner Client Status is Irrelevant to Research Positioning

April 14th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

Yesterday a vendor tweeted, “New Question, how many Software Vendors in the Wave and Quadrant are not clients of Gartner and Forrester?”

We can’t speak for anyone else, but Gartner’s answer is that usually most, but not all, vendors in Magic Quadrants are Gartner clients in one way or another – such as exhibiting at our events or accessing analysts for advice to help them run a more successful business. But client status (or even the amount a client spends) is not a factor in determining inclusion or positioning in research reports. Research analysts cover vendors that, based on end-user requirements, are significant players in the product and service sectors we cover. Gartner analysts determine if vendors are relevant to the clients in their area of coverage; the vendors don’t decide if they want to be covered or not. All Gartner analysts are strictly governed by our Code of Ethics to ensure our research is independent and objective, and it’s my job to enforce it.

Do some vendors buy Gartner services expecting to be included in Gartner research or to improve their position in Magic Quadrants or Marketscopes? If they do, they quickly find that becoming a client doesn’t guarantee either of these. The main reason vendors buy Gartner services is to get access to our analysts – to bounce ideas off them, learn from what they see happening in the market, or get specific reactions to potential product or service plans. While any vendor can brief our analysts on new products or services, regardless of whether or not they are a client, the key missing ingredient is feedback, which only clients get. 

A related question vendors sometimes ask is, “Why doesn’t Gartner disclose which vendors are clients in Magic Quadrants or Marketscopes?” The answer is doing so would violate the confidentiality that Gartner affords its clients.

So what? It’s obvious from the fact that Gartner even has an Office of the Ombudsman that we take integrity and independence very seriously. The Office was put in place to help ensure that Gartner associates play by the rules – but also are able to act free of undue influence.

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What Happens When Analysts Are Hired From or Leave for a Vendor

March 26th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

Recently, a vendor questioned the integrity of a piece of research, claiming that Gartner hired one of the contributing analysts from his competitor. We investigated the issue and didn’t find any evidence of bias, but it is reasonable to ask, “How does Gartner ensure that a new analyst hired from a vendor is not biased?” A related question is “How does Gartner protect the interest of vendors when an analyst leaves Gartner to go to one of their competitors?”

Gartner analysts typically have 10 to 20 years’ experience in their field of expertise so it’s common for Gartner to hire them from a vendor in the space. To ensure that the new analyst is able to deliver objective, balanced advice to Gartner clients, several safeguards are in place:

  1. Analyst candidates go through an extensive interview process which includes individual interviews with other analysts and Research managers. There is also a grueling group interview where the candidate is required to prepare and defend a position. In the course of these interviews, the Gartner associates are looking for signs that the candidate is able to think broadly, has a balanced view of the marketplace, and can see both sides of an issue. A candidate who rants, derides or disparages vendors is not likely to get an offer.
  2. New analysts don’t take on a full workload day one. It takes time (some say a year) to do research and gain perspective on current activities and trends in a particular market. New analysts follow a detailed on-boarding roadmap that teaches them about Gartner’s methodologies and processes, and introduces them to analyst activities in a measured, step-wise fashion. The roadmap takes the analyst through the first six months, and during that time the analyst’s manager and select peers help the analyst learn the ropes and become increasingly self-sufficient. So you won’t see a new analyst, freshly hired from a vendor, working on a Magic Quadrant in a substantial way without strong supervision.
  3. As I covered in an earlier post, Gartner analysts have to abide by a strict set of ethical behavior rules. These prohibit the analyst and the analyst’s family from financial investments in vendors in their coverage area. They also include written acknowledgement that the analyst will not divulge trade-secret or other confidential information that is owned by previous employers.

On the back end, when an analyst leaves to go to a vendor in their coverage area, a specific set of actions takes place immediately, which includes:

  1. Stopping the analyst from taking client inquiry calls, fulfilling vendor briefings or consulting related activities, or participating in any related e-mail distribution lists;
  2. Reminding the analyst of client confidentiality obligations; and
  3. Informing other vendors in the space that the analyst is leaving.

So what? While there’s no doubt that Gartner analysts can have very strong opinions, Gartner’s business processes strive to ensure that those opinions are the result of observation, detailed research, and collaboration — not the result of bias, experiences at a past employer, or some other purely personal interaction.

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Checking References Provided By Vendors

January 6th, 2009   by Nancy Erskine · No Comments

A vendor asked if we had a formal procedure that analysts follow to check user references provided by vendors and was specifically interested in whether analysts are obligated to contact the companies that the vendors provide as references.

Analysts are not obligated to ask for references when creating any type of document, but they often do because they believe that feedback will enrich their research findings and advice. When references are requested, Gartner has an established policy around checking them. Here are a few key highlights from the policy that were shared with the vendor:

If an analyst requests references from a vendor, that analyst is required to contact those references or advise the vendor which of the provided references will not be contacted. References are considered “contacted” once the analyst attempts to reach them (usually via phone, web survey or email), whether they respond or not. Analysts are encouraged to make more than one attempt to contact a reference if they don’t hear back, because anyone can forget to respond to a call or email.

If one or more references for a vendor does not respond, this would reflect negatively on the evaluation of the vendor and there is sufficient time, analysts generally give the vendor the opportunity to provide additional references. Note: The analysts are not required to reveal which references did not respond.

Here’s another relevant question we sometimes get: Why doesn’t Gartner contact references once a year, and in a more general way, so the answers can be shared between research teams? While that would certainly be easier for both parties, here’s the hard part: analysts strive to ask references questions that will give strong insight into how a product or service “really” works – or not. You can’t get at this information by asking generic questions, so the more specific the questions are, the more relevant the answers are to the research.

So what? Providing a list of high-quality references is hard work for vendors; it takes effort, skill and finesse. Knowing this, Gartner Research crafted its reference policies so these efforts are not wasted (and maintains them to ensure this, as well). It isn’t perfect, of course. How can it be improved? Let us know what you think. We’ll be sure to share your ideas with Research, who manages these policies.

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