I haven’t worked at Gartner for over six years now, so I’m not surprised that many people still think vendors can pay to move up the rankings in a Magic Quadrant. I mean, just look at them. Big vendors almost always show up in the top left or right, so they have to be paying for play.

Vendors can’t buy Magic Quadrant ratings.

Let me say it again: vendors cannot directly buy MQ ratings.

I don’t expect to change any minds here, but that isn’t how it works. Not that money can’t influence the process, which I will get into.

Analysts are totally walled off from the financial side of Gartner. They are not compensated, at all, based on how much a vendor spends. Many analysts have a very negative view of the vendor community, which can actually be destructive. It doesn’t matter how much a vendor spends – the analyst makes the same. In the seven years I was there I never saw management ask an analyst to adjust an MQ because a new client spent more money. Really, the anti-vendor attitude is so deep that an analyst is more likely to reduce a rating if a vendor tries to play those games.

There used to be a loophole. Analysts used to get paid more for participating on strategy days with vendors. Some unscrupulous analysts effectively used blackmail to get vendors to buy more days. Gartner cut that off around the time I became an analyst, sometime around 2001 I think. It pissed off some analysts who were basically doubling their salary with strategy days. Today, all a strategy day does is keep an analyst away from their family – they don’t get paid more.


Gartner clients get to talk with the analysts more. Anyone can brief an analyst once a quarter or so, but paying clients get longer calls, more frequently. Strategy days mean the vendor gets face time with the analyst and can build a personal relationship (there are guidelines limiting gifts, meals, and such to reduce influence there). This can subtly influence an analyst over time, even though it isn’t explicit buying. Smart vendors can do much the same thing without spending a dime, because most analysts don’t care about contract value, but paying up can definitely be used as an advantage.

So why do all the big companies score better, especially in ability to execute? Because, in many MQs, that’s where a larger, more mature organization will almost always score better. They have mature sales, marketing, and channel programs. Bigger support teams. The ability to support larger clients. As much as we slam them for inefficiency all the time, you can throw enough bodies at certain problems to make them go away. It doesn’t mean the product executes or performs better, but that the company has accountants. That’s why startups tend to do much better on vision (since they, you know, actually innovate).

One of my weirdest post-Gartner experiences was helping some vendors work through the MQ process. All I really did was help them figure out what the analysts wanted (honest answers) and how to avoid getting into trouble (legal threats if your dot moved 3mm, which happens). I even warned them away from trying to schedule strategy days too close to an MQ, which could be seen as trying to cheat.

I wouldn’t say it is a perfect process. And there is a reason Securosis will never engage in vendor comparison research like an MQ, but money doesn’t directly buy results. I have no skin in this game (not even stock) and have been out for a long time, so take it as you will. But if you are an analyst reading this, don’t think for an instant that vendors aren’t trying to influence you every second of every day, and there’s a reason they call it the “Gartner Tax”.