IT managers, it’s never, ever only about the upper right dot when it comes to Forrester Waves or Gartner Magic Quadrants

icon-phone-headset.jpgOne of the things that drives vendors – and even some Gartner and Forrester analysts – crazy is when an IT buyer zeros in on the vendors in the upper right hand corner of a Forrester Wave or Magic Quadrant to the exclusion of all other vendors. It is human nature to go for those who are perceived as tops in their market. Alas, that is not how these highly visible research graphics should be used. Rather IT managers should be looking to align their company’s product or services requirements with the criteria that underlies any particular Wave or Quadrant and only then make a decision about which vendors to add to a short list.

Here is an example of how the Forrester Wave can be misused. Early in 2007, an IT buyer made a decision about which vendors to include on a bid worth multi-hundreds of millions of US dollars solely based on which vendors were the most up and to the right on a Forrester Wave. Never mind that other vendors were also rated “Leaders,” this particular Forrester client thought that only upper right hand dots were worthy of consideration. Needless to say this caused consternation in the unselected vendors, but also did not provide the buyer with the best possible solution.

The Forrester Wave and the Gartner Magic Quadrant are the IT analyst industry’s signature research deliverables, impacting billions of dollars of corporate IT purchases every year. Unfortunately, neither firm does a good enough job in educating the consumers of this research – some of whom are not clients – on how to use the research and recommendations. This is critical because users of the research could end up making poor decisions about technology and services, putting their companies – and their jobs – at risk.

Yes, Gartner does have following disclaimer in Magic Quadrant research notes: “[The Magic Quadrant] depicts Gartner’s analysis of how certain vendors measure against criteria for that marketplace, as defined by Gartner. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in the Magic Quadrant, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors placed in the “Leaders” quadrant.”

The problem is that in many cases, this disclaimer is in small print at the end of a long research note, where it is almost certainly not to be read. Occasionally an analyst will write a research note like this recent one (btw, it is only available to clients):

‘Panning for Gold’ Outside the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (5 September 2007) by Jess Thompson

“In certain cases, you should consider products from vendors that aren’t in the Leaders quadrant. If you work hard enough and look in the right places, then you may find “golden nugget” vendors elsewhere.”

So what should a diligent IT buyer do to make sure they are using these research deliverables correctly? Call and talk to the analyst. The most important tool to leverage in using analyst research is the telephone. While the published research is useful, the real value of an analyst subscription lies in being able to talk directly with the analysts to apply the Magic Quadrant or the Forrester Wave to a company’s specific situation. Whenever using an analyst to make a product or vendor decision, it is important to set up a series of inquiries to:

• Provide background on your company and systems’ requirements
• Ensure that you are using the right Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave – the most recent and right market
• Obtain the criteria and assumptions used by the analyst in creating their MQs or Waves
• Procure copies of both unpublished (e.g., conference presentations) and published research that provide supporting information
• Discuss applying the MQ or Wave within the context of the company’s situation.

However, before calling the analyst with an inquiry, there are a few steps that need to be accomplished to make the inquiry efficient and effective (see Best practices for client inquiry execution).

It is more difficult if you are not a client of the analyst firm. This often occurs when a vendor buys reprints rights to a Magic Quadrant or Wave to post on its website for easy download. In this case it is very important that you do not add the vendor to your short list based on the MQ or Wave without the right context.

Bottom Line: Forrester’s Wave and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant can be a useful component to a product or service selection process. However, neither research deliverable should be used as the sole basis for selecting vendors for a short list. It is important that IT buyers conduct due diligence to understand the underlying criteria and information that went into the research graphic. Even more critical is that the IT buyers talk to the analyst to apply the research to their company’s situation.

Question: For IT buyers – Are you aware of this process for ensuring the correct use of the Magic Quadrant or Wave? Do you look for vendors beyond the “Leaders” box? For vendors – Have you ever been excluded from a sales opportunity because you thought the IT buyer was not using the research deliverable correctly?

Are you getting the most from your analyst contracts? SageCircle can help. Our strategists can:

  • Evaluate the usage of your contracted analyst services and suggest ways to maximize business value from your investment
  • Train your colleagues with analysts seats (e.g., Gartner Advisory and Forrester Roleview) through efficient and effective distance learning via webinar or teleconference
  • Critique your upcoming analyst contracts to ensure you are getting the right services from the right firms to meet your business needs
  • Save you time, money and aggravation

To learn more contact us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or 650-274-8309.

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