The Gartner Magic Quadrant – a necessary evil in IT

Lately, I feel as if I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with my companies talking about marketing.  Related to this, one of my portfolio companies recently received a number of nice emails from the board related to its new positioning in Gartner's Magic Quadrant.  We were all quite excited since we made demonstrable progress over the last 3 years from niche player to visionary and on the cusp of becoming a leader.  Yes, I know what you are thinking – this is all BS and how much did you pay them over the years.  And where there is smoke there is fire as those statements ring true but at the end of the day Gartner's Quadrant is important for anyone selling to IT professional because buyers of technology care about what Gartner has to say.  Technologists at corporations are not paid to take risks, but rather to not make mistakes, to make the safe choice.  And guess what, paying Gartner Group for an annual subscription to its content and for access to its analysts helps IT buyers make the safe choice.  Secondly, larger companies when looking to expand their product line or get better positioning in the market definitely do pay some attention to the start-ups on the quadrant. 

For those of you who are not familiar with the Quadrant, you can read more about it here.  In short, it is Gartner Group's proprietary methodology to rate IT vendors in a particular market based on Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision.  Gartner-magic-quadrant1-530x485 In the end, every market is broken out into 4 quadrants, Leaders (top right), Challengers (top left), Niche Players (bottom left), and Visionaries (bottom right).  For the most part, Leaders and Ability to Execute comes down to number of customers and customer references that Gartner has done and the size of your company and ability to go to market.  Based on this criteria, you will never see startups in the Leaders quadrant on Day 1.  However, what you should expect from a startup is a visionary position meaning the company has some phenomenal technology that fits a market need and is leading the future of the industry but at the same time does not have the customer base or resources to go after the big boys today.  If you are in the niche category then good luck.

So how does a start-up navigate the Gartner waters?  First, I would read this overview from Gartner to understand how they think and rate vendors.   Secondly, I would contact the relevant analyst to set up a meeting to discuss further.  Given my experience, I must say that developing a relationship with the analyst is key to helping you improve your standing in the quadrant.  This means buying a subscription to Gartner and then hiring the analyst for some consulting.  As with any business, you will have some impressive analysts and others who are not as strong.  Regardless, I have found that by sharing your ideas and vision for the market with the analysts early on can help them synthesize their views of the market.  If you can have your Gartner analyst take your thoughts as his own then you know you have really done a great job in discussing the market.  What many companies don't know is that you also have to be proactive about the Magic Quadrant.  As you sign up new customers and partners, share them with Gartner so they can call every new customer and partner in advance.  Many times companies wait until the last second and inundate Gartner analysts with numerous calls and information and many times these analysts cannot process all of that info which means it will have to wait until the next release of the Quadrant.  So all in all, be proactive, don't be afraid to pay as you may learn something and it is a necessary evil, and build a relationship with your analyst.  I hope this is helpful and I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this subject.

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

13 comments on “The Gartner Magic Quadrant – a necessary evil in IT”

  1. “This means buying a subscription to Gartner and then hiring the analyst for some consulting. ”

    Is there not even an attempt at a “Chinese wall”?

    You have to buy subscriptions and consulting services from the people that review you or else your review will be worse. Is that correct?

  2. Gartner does not require you to buy subscriptions and consulting. however, it certainly is helpful in letting the analysts get to know you and giving you more time with them

  3. It would be nice if the analysts had ever even installed or used the products they were reviewing, instead of relying on secondhand reports from hand picked vendor recommended customers, who are not unbiased observers and want to make their choices look good. I have found the magic quadrant to send people in the wrong direction in buying decisions quite often. In fact, reliance on Gartner is often a sign of weak organization.

    1. You made an excellent point Matt.. Most analysts that cover your space don’t even have the practical working knowledge of the technology and they are projected as experts in front of you. I personally detest all of them because they make a huge deal of it and it’s exactly the “blind leading the blind”

  4. I believe in the Quadrant and use it, VRIO, and SWOTs with my startup clients.

    Analysts, meh. I’m not saying that to minimize how one should feel about them but it’s a company’s job to exceed their projections, not swim along with them. They have a valid purpose and are well paid to do their job – which most do well. I believe their principle value is framing markets – which I believe they do exceedingly well.

    Thanks for posting.

  5. You made some good points in this post –
    such as that end users really do pay
    attention to Magic Quadrants, and vendors
    should share their visions and successes
    with Gartner analysts regularly.

    The part you got wrong is when you said that
    vendors need to be clients, and even pay
    extra for consulting, to share this
    information and develop relationships
    with analysts. This just isn’t true.
    Analysts cover vendors when they matter to
    the Gartner client base. If a vendor wants
    Gartner analysts to know about a new
    offering, or a change in direction, or
    something else meaningful, they request a
    vendor briefing. Analysts accept or
    reject these invitations based on whether
    they will help to fulfill their research
    agendas; client status has no bearing on
    their decisions. Gartner schedules 11,000
    of these every year.

    I’ve blogged about this a few times.
    Check it out:

    Nancy Erskine
    Gartner, Inc.

  6. To be honest, as someone who has been in IT for more than a decade, doing everything from the nuts-and-bolts coding, to managing teams to being involved in sales and purchases, and even had dealings directly with Gartner, I’d say the Gartner Magic Quadrant is a big red flag to me.

    Quite frankly, Gartner no f*** all about technology and make their money from spouting off buzzwords, how they can still be in business is beyond me, maybe it’s simply a reflection of the general incompetence level of IT executives or maybe it’s just herd mentality, I don’t know.

    A company that highlights what Gartner is saying about them instantly makes me suspicious of them – it doesn’t disqualify them, but it does make me scrutinize them more.

    I’ll stop ranting now, but suffice to say, Gartner as a company and the people working for them leave me unimpressed at best.

  7. If you dont have Industry Analysts to provide insight – what on earth are you going to have instead? LOL

    Its not perfect. But what do you want insetad. Nothing? LOL LOL

  8. well, for starters these executives can start actually LISTENING to the recommendations of the PROFESSIONALS that THEY HIRED to provide them ADVICE and INSIGHT. It’s been my experience that 100% of the failures these guys endure in their own decision making is a result of their not listening to their own “experts” and instead relied on this kind of crap.

    Who needs a stupid floofy magic quadrant when you have a real-live dyed in the wool engineer/architect/admin who’s worked with the stuff before, often for YEARS on end?

  9. I know I am late to the party on this thread but I just saw a new MQ report and I had to laugh. Same dead weight listed in the upper right hand corner – BMC, IBM, etc.

    As for people who don’t think Gartner’s opinion is for sale, just know this. The last vendor I worked for was NOT on the MQ. We then spent about $50,000 on a couple of programs “GartnerConnects” and a video with a Gartner analyst. Low and behold, we made the MQ the following year.

    Amazing how these things work.

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