Misunderstanding Magic Quadrants, MarketScopes, and More

Source: Gartner analyst blog by Lydia Leong

Source: Gartner analyst blog by Lydia Leong

For years IT and telecommunications vendors have complained about the misuse of Gartner Magic Quadrants by IT buyers.  It appears that three key issues are routinely surfaced: 

1)     The criteria for placing the dots onto the graphic are not transparent and often the dots appear to be randomly placed by the whim of the analyst

2)     Magic Quadrants are not always updated in a timely manner and out-of-date MQ’s seem to stay around forever

3)     Research consumers often look only at the graphic and miss the supporting research note or do not speak directly with the analysts via client inquiry.  This is especially true when free reprints are made available to non-clients by various vendors

Example Gartner disclaimer about the Magic Quadrant

Example Gartner disclaimer about the Magic Quadrant

Part of the problem is that while Gartner has background information about the MQ on its website (click here to read, free registration required) and a perfunctory paragraph to readers in the fine print in the footnote of MQ PDFs (click on graphic on left to enlarge), it does not have a systematically approach to training its clients about how the MQ is to be used. That is one of the reasons why SageCircle wrote IT managers, it’s never, ever only about the upper right dot when it comes to Forrester Waves or Gartner Magic Quadrants. (There is longer, more detailed version of this content in our  SageNote™ “A Consumer’s Guide to using Gartner’s Magic Quadrant”.)

It was therefore refreshing to see a blog post on the Gartner Blog network by Jim Holincheck entitled Misunderstanding Magic Quadrants, MarketScopes, and More where he talks a bit about criteria transparency and the way these reports should be used.  It makes a good read for both vendor clients and IT buyer clients.  This addresses the number one concern above. Perhaps with more discussion the use of these important tools can be improved.

However, there is still a disconnect with issue number three.  Jim states “More importantly though, most clients will set up an inquiry (or a series of inquiries throughout the selection process) with an analyst to discuss their specific requirements.”  This assumes the reader is a client. SageCircle recognizes that the research note (MQ, MS, etc) is only part of the data and agrees that the true value of the analyst is in the client inquiry.  When research notes are used out of context (or out of date) they can be misleading or even incorrect for a particular buyer.

About a week after Jim wrote his blog post, Gartner analyst Lydia Leong came out with her own post on How not to use a Magic Quadrant. Lydia’s post also focuses on educating research consumers about the way to use the MQ. Lydia does not contradict Jim, but does express certain points differently so it is also worth a read. Lydia also has an amusing smiley face MQ that we reprinted in this post.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR teams need to inform their sales staff about the possible ways that IT buyers use these signature research documents.
  • Sales teams need to be prepared for misuse of research and have plans to counter inaccurate information
  • AR teams need to provide on-line support documents to quickly address the needs of sales representatives
  • Research consumers need to educate themselves about the best practices for using a MQ as a decision support tool
  • Gartner need to incorporate MQ consumer best practices into its new client onboarding process
  • Gartner needs to have a link to its gartner.com MQ backgrounder in every research note with a MQ
  • Gartner needs to include a standard appendix that describes how to use the MQ similar to what Jim and Lydia wrote in every research note with a MQ

Bottom Line: The on-going dialog about the use of analyst research will help the entire ecosystem, but AR teams and sales representatives need to be proactive about informing prospects on the proper way to use analyst research, especially if they are not paying clients. Gartner could assist by doing a better job of training its clients about how to use its research, especially the Magic Quadrant.

Question: AR – Do you have formal training for your sales teams on the ways to educate their prospects on the use of analyst research?

Have you considered an AR-Sales Partnership program with formal training?  Ask SageCircle about the way to get started. Contact us at 503-636-1500 or “info [at] sagecircle [dot] com” for more information.

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4 Responses

  1. Guys,

    Great article and a very interesting discussion. However, you are underestimating the MAIN use of the MQ: competition.

    In my experience, beyond the marketing and sales teams thumping their own chests over position (which has two connotations – we are the best or we are better than the competitor we are trying to beat), the MQ (and I am quite certain the Wave as well) is used in presentations and WP by vendors to show how the opponents are bad.

    In a large number of those cases the client receiving the presentation or materials does not know how to use a MQ – they may not even be clients of Gartner or Forrester. Tasking Gartner and Forrester with education of the customer, which I know is done as best as possible, is not even 1/3 the battle. The battle is fought in the front line by the sales people distributing documents and content they are not supposed to distribute (in most cases, some of them have reprint rights), and not educating the customer on why the positions matters or not, and how to interpret it.

    We are higher and more-to-the-right is the only way that customers are educated by vendors. And that is the only way they read the MQ or Wave – regardless of whatever the analyst or someone else says. I had countless interactions with clients that did not want to understand what the MQ was, how to read it, and what it meant. They were already convinced that higher and rightmost was the only way to be.

    I am a great fan of Gartner and Forrester, but I do believe that tools like the MQ, MS, and Wave are a disservice to customers more often than not. I said it before, and I will say it again, it is a great marketing tool for the companies – but hardly a good tool for clients. I could provide so much more value in writing a market evaluation that does a comparison of vendors against criteria without a ranking, and then have discussion with clients on how it applies to their specific situation.

    No one would be the winner but the end-user.

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