Gartner is perhaps the most influential analysis organization in the technology and communications sectors. Its seal of approval is worth a lot in this industry.
So of course, an organization such as this lives and dies by its reputation. Any aspersions on its fairness and basic honesty are serious matters. Thus, a lawsuit such as the one brought by NetScout last week is a big deal.
The network and performance management equipment vendor sued Gartner in Connecticut Superior Court over its placement in the “challengers” instead of “leaders” category in the latest network performance management (NPM) Magic Quadrant report. According to Network World, the vendor is charging that Gartner is running a “pay-for-play” scheme:
NetScout, a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of network performance management products, says in court documents that companies that pay for Gartner’s consulting services are ranked above those that do not, and that this is the reason for NetScout’s inclusion in the “challengers” category of the most recent NPM Magic Quadrant, instead of among the “leaders.”
Carol Wilson at LightReading pulled out a particularly damning assertion from the complaint. It is important to note, however, that there is no guarantee it can be verified, particularly because the statement only implies something unethical. Indeed, proving what somebody said, and what actually was meant and whether what one analyst said really represents company policy, is difficult. It still is an inflammatory comment:
According to the complaint, a Gartner analyst -- who is not identified by name -- told NetScout's president and CEO, Anil Singhal, ‘NetScout is not going anywhere because it does not spend enough on marketing.’ The conclusion that Singhal drew from this was that NetScout needed to spend more with Gartner.
The rumors are not new. And, indeed, the story notes that a similar lawsuit was filed in 2009 by email archiving software firm ZL Technologies. ZL lost, according to Den Howlett at Diginomica, because the court found that the statements by Gartner were opinions and not being represented as fact. Howlett covered the ZL case. He suggests that there is more meat to NetScout’s suit, though, and feels that it has a better chance at succeeding than ZL did.
A few deeply related issues are at play here. Is there, in fact, a pay for play de facto reality at Gartner? Does that actually break the law? Can NetScout prove its case? Conversely, is NetScout simply putting its sour grapes on display for its clients and blaming the messenger for its product failings? Is there justification for its classification by Gartner?
Finally, one question goes beyond the legalities: Can an analyst shop reasonably judge vendors, some of whom they sell products to and some of whom they don’t, without the appearance of favoritism? Ironically, the answer to that question is clear at the outset: No.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.