Is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for PPM tools an objective analysis or a “pay for play” scheme?

If your company is in the market for a PPM tool, and you’re the person responsible for leading a team to identify and select the best one, no doubt you’ve consulted the most recent Magic Quadrant from Gartner. According to their website  “Gartner’s Magic Quadrants depict markets in the middle phases of their life cycle by using a two-dimensional matrix that evaluates vendors based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute.” Gartner has developed multiple Magic Quadrants; one of those is for PPM software.

How does it work? According to Wikipedia-

Gartner rates vendors upon two criteria: completeness of vision[1] and ability to execute.[1] Using a methodology which Gartner does not disclose, these component scores lead to a vendor position in one of four quadrants:

  • Leaders are said to score higher on both criteria: the ability to execute and completeness of vision.
  • Challengers are said to score higher on the ability to execute and lower on the completeness of vision. 
  • Visionaries are said to score lower on the ability to execute and higher on the completeness of vision. Typically smaller companies.
  • Niche players are said to score lower on both criteria. Typically new additions to the Magic Quadrant.
Gartner's Magic Quadrant for 2010

Gartners Magic Quadrant for 2010

Ideally any company rated wants to be in the “Leaders” category and when they’re not there’s a general sense they will lose revenue as a result. You can see this in the advertisements and press releases from companies touting how they are “Leaders” according to the Magic Quadrant. The way I read this is if you’re not a “Leader” you’re a “Loser” (although that’s not an official category!) And some companies believe that their exclusion from this category is not based on an objective analysis but because they have not “played ball” with Gartner. Let’s look at one of these examples.

NetScout sells software to manage the performance of applications and networks. Just this past week it filed a lawsuit against Gartner in Connecticut Superior Court alleging corporate defamation and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Reason? NetScout alleges that Gartner has “a ‘pay-to-play’ business model that by its design rewards Gartner clients  who spend substantial sums on its various services by ranking them favorably in its influential Magic quadrant research reports and punishes technology companies that choose not to spend substantial sums on Gartner services.” 

Gartner, as one would expect, contends that the suit is without merit. In fact, Gartner has been sued, unsuccessfully, in the past over these kinds of rankings. Gartner has a strong reputation. Organizations spend millions to receive its reports and advice. Is this just a matter of “sour grapes” or will this be the suit that uncovers certain behavior that, if not downright illegal, might call into question Gartner’s business practices? How close are these Gartner analysts with these providers, many of whom are Gartner’s clients and does the suit actually have merit?  I don’t know, but I bet the court will rule in favor of Gartner.

Gartner’s been around a long time. Seems like if it was engaged in these kinds of shenanigans it would have been caught a long time ago. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to follow the suit as it wends its way through the process.

The one thing I do know is that the next time I review a Magic Quadrant it’ll be hard to read it without having some question way in the back of my mind about its objectivity. How about you?


Return to to read Sharon Florentine’s article: 3 Ways To Spot A Bad Boss Before You Take The Job

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