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2) Magic Quadrants are not always updated in a timely manner and out-of-date MQ’s seem to stay around forever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
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 When research notes are used out of context (or out of date) they can be misleading or even incorrect for a particular buyer.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.
- 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.