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Analyst squares up against Gartner's magic quadrant

'Whistleblowers' sought amidst defamation suit

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Ferris Research, an analyst firm focused on messaging, compliance and collaboration, is asking IT vendors to let the firm know if Gartner has ever improved any of their magic quadrant positions in return for cash.

Gartner is currently battling a defamation and trade libel claim from an IT company which has not been ranked as well as it may have hoped.

Gartner is a prominent IT analyst company and regularly issues MQs, or Magic Quadrants, for a variety of IT disciplines, such as external controller-based storage.

The four-box MQ places suppliers in one of four boxes plotted against two axes. "Completeness of vision" runs from left to right, and "ability to execute" runs vertically. This provides a bottom left-hand box for niche players, an upper left-hand box for challengers, a lower right-hand box for visionaries and an upper right-hand one for leaders.

It is generally thought that a substantial proportion of customers will only buy IT products and services from suppliers in particular MQ boxes, such as the top-right leaders' quadrant.

In an open letter to vendors, David Ferris refers to a lawsuit by archiving firm ZL Technologies against Gartner, which alleges its lowly MQ position is due to never having bought any Gartner services, and has sued Gartner for defamation and libel. Gartner strongly denies this.

Gartner disputes this allegation, saying:

First, in placing vendors into the Magic Quadrant diagram, the Reports express opinions rather than facts. The diagram maps abstract qualities, Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision, based upon multiple, largely qualitative criteria chosen by Gartner and evaluated by Gartner from customer opinions and other qualitative information.

This highly subjective, value-laden process yields opinions concerning vendors, not facts, and the Magic Quadrant Reports make this crystal clear by informing readers that the Reports contain “opinions” and that the Magic Quadrant diagram in particular is shaped by Gartner's “views.”

Second, even if the Reports did not make it clear to readers that placement in the Magic Quadrant diagram is based upon Gartner's opinions, the placement of vendors in the diagram would be deemed an opinion as a matter of law because those placements are not sufficiently factual to be proved true or false and therefore cannot be treated as assertions of fact.

Ferris makes much of this, saying Gartner normally claims "its findings are based on factual and objective assessment".

Ferris is asking vendors to tell him, openly or in confidence, if Gartner reps alluded to better Gartner reviews if clients bought Gartner services, if their MQ position changed for the better or worse after paying or not paying for services, and if they believe Gartner reports are pure opinion or fact.

He suggests Ferris Research:

may try to testify to the Federal Trade Commission. This in turn would likely trigger e-discovery at Gartner. If this confirms that Gartner’s views can be bought, this would confirm ZL’s assertions, and would be very damaging to Gartner. Your identity would be kept entirely anonymous and no one, including Gartner, will ever know you’ve testified.

Gartner has been asked for a comment but has not been able to provide one. ®

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