Unified Communications: Click to talk

Sep 14 2009   12:30AM GMT

Disappearing Value of the Magic Quadrant

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

The media likes to quote analysts and survey reports, but do reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant provide any useful information for customers?

I have thought for some time that organizations like Gartner, Forrester, and others have an inflated view of their self-worth. The analysts prognosticate based on trends and circumstantial evidence and the industry in question is expected to react to the analyst statements and predictions.

To the extent that customers actually accept the analyst reports as credible information they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Customers who have never heard of ACME Unified Communications (don’t check the Magic Quadrant- I made it up) are more likely to purchase products or services from it if it is ranked prominently in the Magic Quadrant, thereby justifying its rank in the Magic Quadrant after the fact.

A blog post I read recently drilled even deeper to explore the value of the Magic Quadrant.  The blog post points out that “unified communications as an industry is fueled by, driven by, and revenue generated by a set of companies Gartner just never sees. Just as small and mid-sized business drive much (I believe most) of our economy, they drive much (or most) of this industry. Where’s Truphone? MaxROAM? Calliflower? Tungle? IfbyPhone? Junction Networks? Voxeo? Jaduka?”

It seems like the Magic Quadrant is little more than marketing fodder for the companies fortunate enough to make the Magic Quadrant. It gives vendors recognition to quote in marketing collateral and media (such as me) a convenient source of (allegedly) credible data to quote from, but seems to offer little in the way of true value for customers trying to understand the products and services available in a given industry.

What do you think? Do analyst reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant have any value? Do you use them in making vendor / purchasing decisions? If not, are there other sources you consider more credible and reliable that would recommend instead?

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  • Stiennon
    You said : "The analysts prognosticate based on trends and circumstantial evidence ". Is there something else they should use to prognosticate? Seems to me that trends and circumstantial evidence are pretty good ingredients for making forecasts. Sure, an analyst firm can miss something. So called Unified Communications is after all not a technology but a combination of technologies so little companies that appeal to small to medium early adapters might not catch the attention of a big analyst firm. Luckily there are about 450 smaller firms that keep an eye out for these new trends. A typical contract an analyst firm can cost tens of thousands of dollars so almost by definition you are going to get mostly (80%) late adapter types signing up for it. They want to know SAP or Oracle? Not Tumblr or Blogger. So, yes, Gartner Magic Quadrants do serve a purpose. You are the one who gives them too much credit if you think an MQ makes or breaks a vendor. It has been five years since I was responsible for writing a couple of MQs and I understand the process has become very standardized. The MQ's have become somewhat less dynamic than they used to be but still serve their purpose: Identity the players in a space, and winnow down the selection from dozens to a few.
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