How to Understand Gartner’s Similarity to the Devil Wears Prada

Executive Summary

  • Gartner operates more like a fashion magazine than a true IT analytics firm.
  • The similarity between Gartner and the fictitious Runway Magazine.


Gartner presents itself as an IT analyst. However, much of what Gartner does is build up bubbles used to extract money from software vendors (who want various technology trends hyped) and that it uses to sell it is own consulting and advisory to software buyers. This means that in many ways, Gartner is closer to a fashion magazine (declaring what is hot and what is not) than IT or technology analysts. You will learn how Gartner has similarities with magazines that cover the fashion industry.

Our References

If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.

Notice of Lack of Financial Bias: You are reading one of the only independent sources on Gartner. If you look at the information software vendors or consulting firms provide about Gartner, it is exclusively about using Gartner to help them sell software or consulting services. None of these sources care that Gartner is a faux research entity that makes up its findings and has massive financial conflicts. The IT industry is generally petrified of Gartner and only publishes complementary information about them. The article below is very different.

  • First, it is published by a research entity, not an unreliable software vendor or consulting firm that has no idea what research is. 
  • Second, no one paid for this article to be written, and it is not pretending to inform you while being rigged to sell you software or consulting services as a vendor or consulting firm that shares their ranking in some Gartner report. Unlike nearly every other article you will find from Google on this topic, it has had no input from any company's marketing or sales department. 

How Gartner Works

In a previous article, How SAP Used and Abused the Term Legacy,

I made the following statement:

The fashion industry is based on a premise that its customers need to get the new items, which have a higher social status. If you don’t buy the newest items, you are stuck wearing legacy garments. Companies are presented in business school textbooks as highly rational, and one would not think that decisions work the same way. However, the term legacy is essentially the same strategy to motivate purchasing behavior as the fashion industry.

This got me thinking about who decides “what is hot and what isn’t hot.”

About the Movie

These opinion shapers live in New York, Paris, and Milan and decide on fashionable clothes. The movie The Devil Wears Prada describes how the fashion industry works.

In the movie The Devil Wears Prada, the young and impressionable Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, is alternatively hazed and praised by Miranda Priestly, who Merryl Streep plays. Miranda Priestly’s character heads the fashion magazine Runway Magazine. Miranda Priestly has to have her coffee just so and has to have the fashion book dropped off at her house in an exact way. She required the Anne Hathaway character to meet her exacting specifications. If you have not seen the movie, it is an excellent film even if you could care less about fashion. The main plot point is that Miranda Priestly is so influential that she decides what will be in fashion and what will not. 

In connecting up the dots of the fashion or trendiness element part of enterprise software.

The Similarity Between IT Analysts and Fashion

For example, CRM is “hot,” even though, in my estimation, CRM, in most cases, has a negative ROI. I cover this on Brightwork’s software category page on CRM. Meanwhile, a software category with what is most likely a far higher ROI, like BOM/PLM software, is far less commonly implemented.

Software categories get hot for reasons unrelated to the evidence for their return to the companies that implement them. This got me thinking about who Miranda Priestly and Runway magazine of enterprise software are.

The answer to that question is easy. It is Gartner!

Considering the Connection

Gartner tells people what to buy, what is hot, and what is not. As I cover in my book Gartner and the Magic Quadrant, Gartner is not so much a research entity as an information broker between software buyers and software vendors. They puff themselves up like peacocks and then charge people to talk to them. They then gather information to talk to the buyer, sell this information to the other side, and vice versa.

Gartner’s real asset is not its research but its network of buyers and vendors from whom Gartner is constantly gathering information. And Gartner is paid every time they gather information!

It’s easy and fantastic work…if you can get it. Furthermore, the IT industry is afraid to say the “emperor has no clothes.”

I had yet to make the Devil Wears Prada connection when I wrote my book on Gartner. However, the connection is obvious and difficult to disagree with.

Clearing The First Hurdle in Understanding Gartner

The first hurdle to get through is the impression that Gartner is not just some fashion magazine but that they are a “research entity.” They aren’t, and I prove it in the book. Being a research entity means that you follow the well-established rules of research. Gartner follows no research rules. That should be the first hint.

Let’s review just a few ways Gartner violates these research rules.

  • An actual research entity does not employ cheesy sales tactics to raise money. It does not promise improvements in the Magic Quadrant in return for purchasing “advisory services.”
  • An actual research entity that does not over-promise and uses extortionist tactics to make money. (The over-the practices of Gartner’s top sales are covered in my article Gartner and Scientology.)
  • An actual research entity does not accept money from the entities that it is rating.
  • An actual research entity does not hide that these entities pay it.

The Epidemic of Fake Research Entities

I have analyzed the research output from many entities. I have never seen an actual research entity behave like Gartner does in this regard.

And that is the thing to remember. Just because an entity declares itself a research entity does not mean it is.

Let me provide some examples that will help lend context.

Example #1: The American Petroleum Institute

The American Petroleum Institute claims to be a research entity but is a well-known front organization for large petroleum companies. No big surprise, the API denies global warming, which 97% of climatologists agree is accurate.

Example #2: The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation also claims to be a research entity, but they are a false front that follows no research rules and produces propaganda for big donors. As a donor, you can pay the Heritage Foundation to study anything and tell them your conclusions. The Heritage Foundation is quite influential in policymaking; they give impressive titles to people with no academic or other background in the areas that they write on.

Example #3: Pharmaceutical Companies

Large pharmaceutical companies justify enormous profits by their research and claim to be research entities. However, the truth is that pharmaceutical companies do very little research. They primarily review universities’ research, much of it funded by the NIH (the federal government). Then, they put the chemical compounds that they find most promising (a process called assaying) through clinical trials, which they go about unscientific. They don’t care much if the chemical compound is effective; they maximize profits to get the most drugs through the FDA. So, they do not publish the studies that show no benefit of the chemical compound tested. If the pharmaceutical companies admitted that they are marketing entities, that they live off of taxpayers’ scientific work, and that they falsify clinical trials, they would be regulated. The money train would be much smaller. So, instead of the truth, they say they pretend to be research-focused.

Gartner is the same way. While I have seen Gartner excoriated in private conversations with many people, Gartner gets mostly a free pass in the media. And if a software vendor were to challenge Gartner openly, Gartner could retaliate against them. Since Gartner does not publish the underlying numbers of what makes up the ratings, it would be hard to prove if they did.

How Gartner Changed Their Tune About Being a Real Research Entity When Sued by ZL Technologies

Gartner has stated that his publishing and advice are merely their opinions. It reported this in the case brought by ZL Technologies, who were suing them for essentially using a rigged system and pretending that the Gartner ombudsman provided remediation when they did nothing when ZL Technologies brought the issue to Gartner.

So there you have it. Gartner states that it does not perform research, but it admits this only in certain circumstances. Conversely, Gartner’s website does not indicate this, and when you speak to people from Gartner, all you hear about is how vital their research is. Gartner’s website is filled with puffery about how much they do research. But when challenged in court, they walk away from those contentions and declare they are just offering “opinions.”

The Similarity Between Gartner and the Fictitious Runway Magazine

  1. The fictitious Runway magazine in Devil Wears Prada tells its readers what to buy, just as Gartner does.
  2. Gartner surveys the market, just like Runway, and serves as a traffic light for what should be purchased this year. None of this has anything to do with scientifically what is shown to provide a return on the investment.
  3. Gartner is highly trend-centric. Gartner is an excellent source to look to find out what is happening. But that is the extent of the value they add. This is the same as looking at a fashion magazine. You can find out what is hot and what is not this year. Is green the new black? A fashion magazine can tell you that. For the high conformists in the population, this is incredibly comforting. Without this information, you would have to decide what to wear alone.

Entities that report trends and that signal what is popular “this year” fall into a fashion magazine category. Gartner simplifies the enterprise software market and its offerings to be approachable for an audience with a lower knowledge level necessary to understand it. Whenever I read any Gartner research, there is never any point where I feel enlightened. But Gartner is not writing for me; they are writing for people who barely ever touch enterprise software. Gartner interferes with understanding enterprise software because it heavily focuses on oversimplified assumptions.


Gartner is not a research entity. Gartner cannot be a research entity because it seeks to maximize profit. Profit maximization does not work with research because you must undermine the research you do, release information, and conclude that it increases profits as much as possible.

Gartner is an opinion leader. There is no disputing that point. They are the most influential entity for enterprise software decisions that have ever existed. They are a genius marketing organization that gets paid to collect information from people and companies. All of that can be true and not be inconsistent because they serve the same function as a fashion magazine but for enterprise software.