Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Tom Bittman wrote a passionate rant on his blog yesterday defending his and his coworkers’ integrity as analysts.
In my 14+ years at Gartner, I have never, ever allowed a vendor to influence my opinion with anything but facts. Period. They have certainly tried to influence me with non-facts. I can say this definitively – it has never worked.
Tom’s rant has sparked an interesting debate among current and former analysts, bloggers and vendors in his blog’s comments section. It’s worth reading.
There has been plenty chatter in the blogosphere and elsewhere about whether analysts are offering any value to enterprise clients. Many analyst firms, such as Gartner, count both IT vendors and end user enterprises as customers. It’s hard to serve both masters while maintaining an appearance of integrity. This is probably why Gartner has an ombudsman... the only ombudsman I know of in the analyst industry.
Gartner’s use of an ombudsman doesn’t protect it from attacks on its integrity. James Watters, for instance, suggested recently that IBM’s favorable position Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Hosting and Hosted Cloud System Infrastructure Services was due to IBM being a very important paying client of Gartner. Trapeze Networks came to me after I wrote about Gartner’s last wireless LAN Magic Quadrant and suggested that Gartner had unfairly placed Meru Networks ahead of Trapeze because Meru’s current VP of marketing is a former Gartner analyst and one of the authors of the MQ was very briefly an employee of Meru.
It’s hard to prove your integrity. For some people, there just isn’t enough proof in the world to erase any doubts. Journalists face the same challenge. In my newspaper days people would occasionally accuse me of being a mouthpiece for politicians. I knew I was doing my best to write fair and balanced stories, but the accusations still stung.
Gartner’s use of an ombudsman is significant, I think, although the office would have more impact if the ombudsman’s blog were updated more than once a month. An ombudsman is the voice of the client (or in a the traditional journalism sense, the reader). Clients will have more faith in a an analyst’s advice if the firm has someone on staff who tackles each and every significant attack on its integrity head-on, in full view of the public.
Gartner and other analyst firms should also disclose the nature of their paid relationships with the vendors that they evaluate for enterprise clients. This way, clients can understand the full context of the advice they are receiving. Some firms do this. Others don’t.
If you could talk to the CEOs of the leading analyst firms out there, what advice would you give them to help them establish that they are giving unbiased and independent advice to enterprises?