To most people these days, the name Gartner is immediately associated with one particular form of research – the Magic Quadrant, or MQ. That familiar two-by-two matrix has become synonymous with the company’s brand. So it’s no great surprise that the latest news from Gartner is that it is going to do more of them, with 30 new MQs already added to the roster for 2014. The Magic Quadrant is set to take its place right at the heart of an assessment structure that looks in ever more detailed layers at a company’s products and services.


For several years, Gartner has had two main assets in the vendor assessment category: the MQ (which everyone knows) and the Marketscope (which most people have managed to ignore). From 2015, the Marketscope will be retired. Marketscopes will be replaced by Market Guides, which offer an overview of a specific market (usually a new or emerging one) and a list of suppliers – but without any form of ratings analysis. Gartner has already started producing Market Guides. Over the next year, it will move all its market analysis across to these, or to MQs in markets where supplier comparisons are wanted. It’s important to note that this change presents a great new opportunity for suppliers in emerging markets to start to get on the radar and work with Gartner to build visibility.

CCs to give MQs extra horsepower

Magic Quadrants form the heart of the Gartner assessment methodology. But the company is clearly looking to a future in which the MQ forms the anchor for a broader range of assessment research that will strengthen the Gartner existing stranglehold on longlisting and shortlisting decisions and deepen its reach into the IT organization. In particular, two existing research products are being beefed up to complement the MQ and cement its position.

One of them is Critical Capabilities (CC), a methodology that has been around for a few years. CCs assess a product or service in terms of six to ten capabilities the analysts see as being the key differentiators when choosing a vendor. If you were in the cheese business, for example, these might include taste, colour, consistency and aroma. In the first place, each capability is scored for each supplier and these scores are combined in a series of use case scenarios. For cheese suppliers, the use case scenarios might include grating with pasta, use in baked foods or eating fresh with bread or biscuits. Scores across the capabilities are then weighted according to the use case and aggregated for each supplier, providing a set of scores which allow vendors to be ranked for each particular use case. Which capabilities and use cases Gartner identify as being most relevant for a category is therefore, of course, key!

Gartner is now starting to link the CC research method with the appropriate MQs. Analysis for the MQ and CC pairings will be done in parallel and the product/service deep-dive focus of the Critical Capabilities note will be able to feed the product/service category assessment in the MQ. As with recent MQs, the Critical Capabilities will offer an interactive experience in which you can change the weightings for different use cases and instantly see how this reweighting alters the rankings.

For those companies that buy the Gartner for Technology Professionals (“GTP”) service, analysts in the GTP teams will be adding detailed evaluation criteria notes relating to the capabilities. This is aimed at giving technology professionals the fine-grained product and service detail they need to build RFIs and RFPs. Of course, it may just also generate more GTP demand (and revenue) from within the supplier community.

Opening up new Perspectives

The Magic Quadrant itself is also being improved for 2014. There’s nothing in sight yet to compare with last year’s big changes, when MQs became interactive for the first time, but the introduction of Perspectives will certainly be welcomed by many vendors.

Perspectives are new segments within an MQ note that allow analysts to provide variants of parts of the written research – though not the grid or the core vendor write-ups – and to write about specific market segments based on geography, industry or company size. This capability begins to address, for the first time, the inherent bias built into many notes in favour of vendors with the widest geographic, industry and market coverage – who, oddly enough, are invariably very large companies that tend to be Gartner clients. In theory, at least, the new Perspectives will allow analysts to pay more attention to vendors with particular strengths in Asia or in the public sector or that are only suitable for the very largest enterprises. The snag is that these extra sections are optional, onerous for the analyst and potentially bulky enough to turn an MQ from a novel into a doorstop. With luck, though, they represent a stepping stone towards fully interactive MQs that allow buyers to set these categories to show the most suitable suppliers for their needs. Well, it’s a thought at least.

New opportunities, but there’ll be a price to pay

All in all, this is going to add up to a comprehensive smorgasbord of assessment pieces and other material. But, of course, every element will require new information and will need to be validated by new references.

We’ll be examining each of these changes in more detail in our next few blog postings, but for now let’s look at the big picture.

We’ll start with the good news, which is that Gartner is going to be making MQs (and related analysis) even more visible (certainly good if you get to be included). It will effectively widen the net to cover more markets and more suppliers, giving many more companies the chance to benefit from exposure in MQs and the associated research.

The bad news is that it doesn’t come free. There’s no omelette without breaking eggs. Nurturing ongoing analyst relationships is set to become even more important than it is today. Engaging with analysts throughout the year to ensure they are aware of you and understand your market will be more vital than ever. Identifying the right evidence to put forward and managing its flow shrewdly is going to be essential.

Assessment processes will undoubtedly become more structured, more demanding and lengthier. Reference requirements will become tighter, based not just on numbers of clients, but on specific profiles of the clients served (e.g. specific industries or geographies). Without skilful preparation, a well-developed assessment response plan and the right resources in place to take advantage of this opportunity, there is a real danger that suppliers will be overwhelmed by the new demands and find themselves drowning in the detail. You need to get ready.

 Are we on target? Have you worked with Critical Capabilities or Market Guides? or have a view on the new Perspectives? Have your say, and send us any practical tips you’ve discovered that we can share with our readers.