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Of course, the rankings and weights are subjective but at least a common set of questions and weights are applied and the results retain some objectivity. And, the analyst can indeed use the Magic Quadrant to push an agenda. Analysts are not just researchers and reporters. Their job is to see where the industry is going and help it along a path that addresses the needs of the Gartner client base -- large enterprises.
Here are three factors to incorporate in your own product selection methodology that can help you leverage the Gartner magic Quadrant.
First, you only have limited resources to devote to doing the research on the myriad products in each sector. Consider the expertise of the Gartner analysts that compile the MQ. They usually have hands-on experience with at least one of the products. While that may have been years ago they are truly experts in evaluating companies and are fully immersed in determining which vendors are best at addressing your problems.
Your in-house experts may be better technologists than any analyst but they cannot help playing favorites. They resist change and may have a long relationship with a particular vendor. They may be best friends with the incumbent sales person. They often lack objectivity. The Gartner analyst knows more than you do. Leverage that knowledge.
Use the MQ as a starting point. Do not short list the Leaders and ignore the other quadrants. Look at each vendor and apply your own criteria. A vendor in the Niche quadrant may be there because they serve your industry sector exclusively. Or they may serve only your region. Your own IT infrastructure may qualify a vendor for the short list. If you are an exclusive IBM shop you are going to over-weight the product from IBM. So, take advantage of the leg work the Gartner Analyst has done but apply your own criteria to develop a short list for evaluation and proof of concept. If you are a Gartner client do the industry a favor and keep your analyst in the loop throughout the process. You will be informing future Magic Quadrants.
The single most important thing to keep in mind when using Magic Quadrants in your vendor selection process is that they are written for the Gartner client base. Gartner's 11,000 clients are the largest organizations in the world and Gartner acknowledges that 80 percent of them are late-adaptors. They are much more likely to buy from HP, IBM, or Oracle than from a start-up with the most cutting-edge solution. If your organization could also be classified as a late adaptor you are probably going to buy a product in the upper half of the MQ. If your IT decisions are more future-forward you will be looking at Visionaries and even Niche vendors.
Treat the Magic Quadrant as a valuable tool but not as a crutch. Mandates like "we only buy from MQ Leaders" will not serve you well. Perhaps Gideon Gartner's original concept has withstood the test of time. Treat the Magic Quadrant as a Stalking Horse: a starting place, not an end.
Richard Stiennon is chief research analyst at IT-Harvest and the author of the newly published boot " UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence" available on Amazon.com. Stiennon was a vice president of research for Gartner from 2000-2004. While at Gartner he was given its Thought Leadership Award and was named One of the 50 Most Powerful People in Networking by Network World Magazine. He was also chief marketing officer for Fortinet and has helped dozens of technology vendors with their go-to-market strategies. He is often engaged by investment firms to provide due diligence on acquisitions and investments.
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