Magic Quadrant: Still valid in today’s world?


That idea that something is wonderful that it solves our problems and appears so sophisticated that it must be true. Magic comes in many forms: Celebrity, Fame, Magic Quadrants, Influence, the Silver Bullet, etc.  The problem with Magic is that it is fleeting success. It’s temporary and rarely really solves the problem. In the realm of cloud solutions there is the Magic Quadrant. Sure, it’s common to see companies self-promote via this mechanism but is it truly realistic? Let’s take a look and evaluate how we think about trusting Magic as we make decisions.

The MQ, created by Gartner, is first and foremost a measurement of company position in the market. Sure, that’s understandable. It shows, every 12 months or so, the position of various companies in a segment. This allows us as consumers enriched content to base our decisions. But what does that entail?

The MQ

The MQ is a graphical prioritization of a list of companies that have the attention of Gartner. That list may not be 100% representative of the entire segment but just a selection set. In the image below I know of many other solutions that don’t appear. In any segment there could be 100’s of companies with competing offerings but only a select group is ever on the MQ. Gartner streamlines your research into a preset of companies who, over time, tend to be the same companies year-over-year. Snore. How many years go by and you really see any massive difference in an MQ?

The MQ is evaluated by analysts that on the face of it is valid. Those analysts put solid effort into their exposition of company offerings and typically save you time from visiting each URL to check the information. A deeper consideration is that those same analysts, who are all good smart people, work in the same company that is paid by those software companies. Yes, I’m sure you’ll see where this is going and also that there will be mention of established firewalls between sales and research, which should put us at ease. But there’s always water-cooler talk and drive-by discussions at the workplace so dilution occurs, analysts place emphasis on the popular trend and voila! a leader in the MQ is born.

The MQ per segment arrives approximately every 12 months. One MQ a year. That is a rather long period and an eternity in software development. With current talks and trends in the industry surrounding agile development, an annual periodical of a limited amount of stale data doesn’t really seem to be “the thing” anymore, right? That’s akin to checking Encyclopedia Brittanica for the state of the internet. The world move far faster than Gartner’s ability to analyze.

Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ): July 2017
Same as it ever was

This scenario isn’t unique to the MQ, btw, but let’s stay on target.

The conclusion you’re probably drawing right now may be that the MQ isn’t such a great tool or reference point. Perhaps you’re beginning to be aware that the MQ is a business like any other: Gartner needs revenue so they monetize their MQ. If vendors want to be on the MQ, then they have to pay up. In return, they can use the MQ as value-added content on their websites and capture email leads via landing pages. That’s Content Marketing 101. The MQ is a revenue channel for Gartner, paying the salaries of the analysts and sales professionals and provides validity for vendors.

It’s a scam?

What if you’re not wanting to pay Gartner? Will they come and evaluate your offering or publish a report on your segment? Yeah, no. And this scenario is why there’s a problem in the market. The software landscape is biased towards those who control the field and can afford to promote their products or services in fake validation channels, like MQs. Fake news, baby.

Well, hang on a second! Fake news? That’s pretty harsh, after all MQ’s are standard news these days. Everyone does it. They must be trusted and valid.  Let’s put this in a position of personal decision making. An MQ alone might backstop your decisions and make your position a bit more valid at the workplace, but you have to realize that you’re not getting all the information. You’re basing your purchase decisions on 12-month old (or older) information in a market that has major shifts on a monthly basis.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

The Emperor has no clothes but don’t fret just yet. The MQ can allow you to quickly form impressions of the market. Leverage the MQ for what it is good at: limiting your scope. Understand that the MQ is only a facet of your discovery and research toolset and begin to leverage other solutions that can provide faster market information and enhanced segmentation information that rely on data to expand and refine your decision information.