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8/13/2014
09:30 AM
David F Carr
David F Carr
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Gartner Magic Quadrant: NetScout Says Secret Is Green

After Gartner analysts rank NetScout only a "challenger," Netscout files lawsuit alleging Gartner's rankings involve pay for play. Let's examine both sides of this street.

his own analyst reports never prompted a lawsuit but it was not uncommon for unhappy vendors to try to get him fired.

"Any vendor which finds itself contemplating going to the mat with Gartner should (as NetScout says it did) raise the issue with Gartner's ombudsman. If they still feel they are misplaced they should carefully analyze what has been written about them and take measures to address the perceptions of the analysts," Stiennon advises. "True, that process is easier if you are a paying client. You can bring the analysts in for a day-long strategy session. You can meet with them at Gartner conferences. You can schedule inquiries to get nuanced views on the market. All are options open to paying Gartner clients. Unfortunately, a lawsuit closes the door on that approach."

This defense implicitly acknowledges that it helps to be a Gartner client, but he argues it's far worse to get in a fight with an analyst firm.

Dennis Howlett of the IT analysis blog Diginomica is more sympathetic and thinks (as a technology observer, not a lawyer) that Netscout's case "looks to have a better chance of success" than the failed suit by ZL Technologies because of NetScout's allegation that factual corrections were ignored. A longtime critic of the way the industry analysts play their game, he also got treated to seeing his writing quoted in NetScout's complaint.

Gartner Headquarters (Image: Coolcaesar, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Gartner Headquarters (Image: Coolcaesar, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

I found the Benjamin Franklin quote at the top of this story through a search for quotes about critics and criticism. I was actually thinking of the plight of the movie producer who spends millions to produce a work that craters at the box office after dismal reviews. Consider a work of art like the Eddie Murphy sci-fi comedy "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," which cost $120 million to make and paid back $7.1 million in revenue. Total loss, presumably after the cost of marketing this turkey: $145.9 million according to a ranking of the most expensive movie flops. Reviewing movies is an entirely subjective business, where a bad review could be driven as much by bad popcorn and a reviewer's bad mood as by a bad script or bad acting.

Haven't you ever enjoyed a movie that all the critics panned? One you thought was better than others released that year, by any objective criteria?

NetScout did not get a Pluto Nash review from Gartner -- more like it got a four-star review and is arguing it deserved five. It's as if Eddie Murphy made a drunken speech at the Academy Awards, claiming he was robbed. Arguably, the difference is that the movie critics (presumably) didn't apply any implicit pressure on Pluto Nash’s creators to pay up in order for them to give the flick a thumbs up.

Not to be dismissive of NetScout's complaint about factual errors in Gartner's report, but the dividing line between fact and opinion is not always so sharp. I don't know NetScout's product line well enough to judge its claim of having moved beyond a "hardware-only" model, but if Gartner's analysts thought its newer products weren't worth mentioning, that was their judgment, right or wrong.

Enterprise clients are paying to find out what the analysts really think, and that also means the subjects of its analysis should not be able to alter a report, no matter how much they pay or how loudly they complain. Gartner clients know the firm is working both sides of the street, and they wonder how far they should trust its rankings. But a whole lot of them renew their subscriptions every year anyway, which is the only real measure of how much they believe its opinions are worth.

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David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and ... View Full Bio
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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 2:06:32 PM
Re: Cloud Magic Quadrant reflects changing fortunes, not who has a fortune
The cloud service providers certainly debate their placements with vigor -- and often snarky humor.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 1:37:00 PM
Cloud Magic Quadrant reflects changing fortunes, not who has a fortune
I wouldn't say this for all Magic Quadrants because I don't know enough, but I think the Cloud MQ is done with rigor, changing from year to year as the fortunes of different service providers rise and fall. If I were looking for the influcence of money in analyst activities, I wouldn't question the MQ. I'd look to the analyst comments often cited in company product announcements. Gartner's business status is tied up in high profile MQ and it would lose value if it weren't related to merit, with so many jealous and zealous eyes watching.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 11:55:27 AM
Re: or Gartner consulting
Exactly, Rob. I edited plenty of those reviews, and let's be clear, the model was a good one that the vendors whining about paying Gartner didn't support with their advertising dollars or, often, by taking part. I often hear IT pros on both sides of the vendor/buyer aisle wax nostalgic for the days when publications like NWC could support labs that produced unbiased reviews by experienced technology journalists, not paid analysts. 

At this point, if vendors feel they are under the thumb of analyst firms, they ought to look in the mirror before affixing blame.
irish1
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irish1,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2014 | 10:19:43 AM
Pay for Play? Really?
All of us in the industry understand the iinfluence Gartner has with buyers. It is a high stakes process for sure, but I frankly always find this "pay for coverage" argument annoying. I have been in multiple start-ups and mid-size software companies that have been fairly evaluated by Gartner, Forrester, and others - and I can guarantee you that in none of these cases we had the funding to spend a "material" amount of money with Garnter. I have always found that independent of spending level, if you have a good product, customers, value proposition, and process to work with Gartner, you will be fairly recognized in their research. The spend level too often is used as an excuse IMO.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 9:35:03 AM
Re: or Gartner consulting
When I was an editor at Network Computing, back when NWC did comparative product reviews, we gave lots of vendors/products poor grades after doing rigorous product testing. I was always impressed with those poorly rated vendors who used it as a learning opportunity: They came back to our product testers and asked what could they do better and how. We didn't charge them for that advice, of course. 
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 9:17:41 AM
Re: Gartner Magic Quadrant: NetScout Says Secret Is Green
Re: "don't get involved in the MQ process in the first place," NetScout actually discovered that it couldn't just opt out of being included in the report because Gartner considered it too important a player in the market sector. Maybe smaller firms could simply avoid inclusion by not volunteering themselves.
brudowitz070
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brudowitz070,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2014 | 9:12:42 AM
Gartner Magic Quadrant: NetScout Says Secret Is Green
The MQs are simply a tool for customers to use to get some perspective on prospective vendors or products. Our company is in two MQs and we land in the Niche space which is exactly where we belong. We see the Strengths and Cautions as very approrpriate and we understand we are not ever going to be in the upper right because we compete against major global firms in our spaces who have the wherewithal to be leaders.

We do not spend consulting dollars with Gartner but have used their research for a number of years. I have used it in previous positions. I find it helpful in narrowing down my searches and useful in making decisions about the vendors we choose to interview. However, I would never solely base any purchase decision on anyone elses research. This seems to be another frivolous lawsuit brought by someone who simply did not like where they were placed.

If you're unsure about what will happen, don't get involved in the MQ process in the first place. Sour grapes if you ask me.
ron.cleaver
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ron.cleaver,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2014 | 8:43:32 AM
Re: Opening Doors
I have read many of the Magic Quadrant reports.  While I find some of them useful for identifying potential vendors to evaluate, it many cases I happen to have intimate knowledge of the vendor because my team evauated them in the past.  I find the Gartner reports to be very superficial.  I also find their approach questionable at best, as if the key to success is marketing.  That's like saying whoever tells the biggest lies wins.  I don't accept any marketing claims at face value,  Hence the need for a detailed evauation, as well as a trial evaluation, no matter which vendor your choose,
thunter296
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thunter296,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2014 | 7:21:15 AM
or Gartner consulting
When I was CEO at ConnectYourCare, we scored in the top right hand quadrant twice if I recall correctly. We didn't spend a penny for Gartner consulting...but we did listen to their observations and addressed these both in our product offerring and in the way we marketed our cloud-based SaaS product.

In a former life at The Hunter Group, we went through a rigorious evaluation to earn top ranking. In fact, Gartner hired us for their enterprise software implementation.

I've always found their analysts fair and really knowledgeable.

Terry Hunter

 

 

 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 5:35:06 AM
Re: Opening Doors
Excellent article about a Catch 22 situation in the IT space, Gartner needs to sell some services in-order to generate revenue to pay their analysts. The greater a partnership, the greater Gartner knows about the vendor and the vendor would gain valuable feedback from a firm that understands a number of players in the market -- helping to improve the vendor's business process -- increasing their revenue. In turn, the vendor would be ranked with 5 stars rather than, 4 stars.

And, all this is in the IT space, meaning, in two years the market would have already shifted towards a new trend.

It would be interesting to see how the law deals with this situation and the timeframe that is required. I feel NetScout has the capital at hand to improve their business. Otherwise, they would have not indulged in a lawsuit. However, I feel, it would have been better if they had taken up the services of a third-party analysis firm and tested it for a year to see if any positive movement was taking place for their firm in Gartner Magic Quadrant.

 
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