Man with head in handsIt’s 2015, and Gartner is planning to publish more than 150 different Magic Quadrants this year, including 20 brand new assessments. Some of these will involve new regional coverage (four new Japan-focused assessments and three regional variants to replace the old Third-Party Logistics Providers MQ), upgraded Marketscopes (e.g. North American Property and Casualty Insurance Policy Management Modules), or new MQs that have evolved from existing research, like the Modular Servers MQ that replaces the Blade Server MQ and the new Unified Communications MQ, focusing on Mid-Size Enterprises. But many of them – such as Cloud-enabled Disaster Recovery, BPM Platform-based Case Management Frameworks, and Contact Center as a Service in Europe – introduce entirely new areas of Gartner assessment coverage.

Critical Capabilities Change the Process

As we reported last spring, in our blog posting entitled ‘More MQs, Better MQs’, Gartner has been planning to extend its MQ coverage and roll out more of its Critical Capabilities assessments to sit alongside MQs. The current plan for 2015 shows that 42 Magic Quadrants (27% of the current total) will be accompanied by Critical Capabilities assessments. In 2014, many of these existed outside the MQ process, but Gartner has already said it will marry the two assessment processes together wherever possible. At least 85% of this year’s Critical Capabilities assessments are expected to run in parallel with the relevant MQs.

The essential difference between a Magic Quadrant and a Critical Capabilities assessment is that the former looks at a product or service in the context of the market, while the latter seeks to establish what it can deliver in relation to a range of specific use cases. Critical Capabilities assessments may provide buyers with useful insights and information, but for vendors they will cause a lot of new headaches.

So far, though, Gartner has only identified plans for a handful of brand new Critical Capabilities assessments (to kick-off in 2015) that are companions to Magic Quadrants including Web Content Management And Search-based Data Discovery. But if a large number of MQs will eventually have a companion Critical Capabilities assessment, the implication is that many Gartner analysts have yet to firm up their plans and decide whether the two will run separately or in parallel in 2015.

More Questions, Fewer Briefings

This is something that really matters for every vendor. It’s not consistent across the board, but the inclusion of Critical Capabilities often changes the assessment input model the analysts use.

In services-related areas we have already seen new survey questionnaires added to cover the extra information that is demanded. At the same time, to keep the workload manageable, some analysts have slimmed down the MQ input process by scrapping briefings in favour of these additional surveys.

In other cases, mainly concerned with products, the two assessment processes have been kept separate. This has left vendors facing the challenge of answering multiple surveys with hundreds of questions, providing all the traditional briefings and demos, and identifying a lot more references to cover both sets of needs.

What do you need to know?

It will be vital for you to find out, as soon as possible, what the requirements for 2015 will be in your particular area of expertise.

·         Is there to be a Critical Capabilities companion to the MQ?

·         Will the two input processes run separately or in parallel?

·         Will the Critical Capabilities assessment mean preparing extra survey responses?

·         Will the MQ process itself be changed, possibly with the elimination of the briefing?

·         Will you be needing to generate a lot more references?

In the past, smaller companies have often found the MQ process itself quite paralyzing, because of the huge amounts of information demanded and the speedy responses that are required. Our experience shows that introducing a Critical Capabilities assessment only adds to this pressure.

What do you need to do?

If you discover that your assessment will include both elements, you must start preparing now. There is no time to lose.

You will need to develop a structured action plan, a clearly defined set of responsibilities and pathways that will lead to the creation of the required sets of data and references, and a clear view of the story your assembled evidence is intended to support. If you are one of the many companies that traditionally brief the analysts annually, at assessment time only, you will also need to plan ahead to organize your briefing to make sure you get the chance to tell your full story and avoid being limited to just answering a set of predetermined survey questions with your briefing having been eliminated.

For many companies, the Gartner new approach could threaten existing quadrant positions and undo a lot of good work that may have taken years of effort.

The landscape is changing. The ground is shifting under your feet. The tsunami is poised to strike, and looking the other way and hoping for the best is not an option.