Blog post

Gartner Launches FrontRunners; a New Type of Quadrant

By Anthony J. Bradley | January 03, 2017 | 18 Comments

What happened?

We launched a new quadrant called FrontRunners at the end of September 2016. You may not have noticed because it was a “soft” beta launch in four software markets. They are available to the general public through the Software Advice web site. You can find them below.

FrontRunners quadrant for CRM software products

FrontRunners quadrant for Help Desk software products

FrontRunners quadrant for Applicant Tracking software products

FrontRunners quadrant for Project Management software products

During the first half of 2017 we are planning to launch Frontrunners quadrants for 24 software markets. We are still identifying the 24 markets and their launch schedules so stay tuned.

Below is the graphic from the “FrontRunners for Customer Relationship Management, September 2016 (beta).”



All products that qualify as FrontRunners are top performing products in their market. In the Customer Relationship Management FrontRunners infographic above, the Capability axis starts at 3.60 and ends at 4.60, while the Value axis starts at 3.60 and ends at 4.70. Scales may differ between quadrants in order to capture the relative positioning of the specific products in each software category.


What is the new FrontRunners quadrant?

The FrontRunners quadrant, powered by Gartner Methodology, provides a data-driven assessment of products in a particular software category to determine which ones offer the best capability and value for small businesses. It is designed to assist small business leaders in making a software purchase.

FrontRunners plots a given market’s top 20-30 products in a quadrant format. The quadrant placement displays the Capability and Value of a product relative to their peers in the market. Each product is positioned in a designated quadrant based on their overall score.

FrontRunners looks a bit like the Magic Quadrant and you can think of it as a sister quadrant… but, aside from appearances, it is really quite different from the Magic Quadrant. Here are some of the major differences.

  • FrontRunners is for small business leaders who are looking to buy business software. This means that the data and methodology is tuned for the needs of small businesses.
  • FrontRunners is completely data-driven with no analyst interpretation.
  • FrontRunners is heavily influenced by user reviews.



What are the basics of the underlying methodology?

The FrontRunners methodology assesses and calculates a score for products on two primary dimensions: Capability on the x-axis and Value on the y-axis.

The Capability score is an overall weighted average of scores including:End user one to five star ratings on the product’s functionality

  1. End user one to five star ratings on the product’s ease of use
  2. End user one to five star ratings on the product’s customer support
  3. A score, relative to other products in the market, for the product’s inclusion of key functionality for the software category
  4. A score, relative to other products in the market, representing the number of other products that integrate with it.

The Value score is an overall weighted average of scores including:

  1. End user one to five star ratings on overall satisfaction with the product
  2. End user one to five star ratings on how valuable users consider the product to be relative to its price
  3. End user one to five rating on how likely they are to recommend the product to others
  4. A score, relative to other products in the market, for the size of the product’s customer base
  5. A score, relative to other products in the market, for the number of professionals in the market who have experience with the product (e.g., users, developers, administrators)
  6. A score, relative to other products in the market, representing the total number of user reviews across the three Gartner web properties
  7. A score, relative to other products in the market, representing the average number of times per month internet users search for the product on Google

Markets are defined by a core set of functionality, and products considered for, and included in, FrontRunners must offer that core set of functionality. Additional related functionality can contribute to the capability score for a product. To qualify for consideration in FrontRunners for a software category, a product must have at least 10 unique user-submitted product reviews across the three Gartner Digital Markets web properties:, and

As I mentioned up front, we launched FrontRunners in beta back in September 2016. As we move it out of beta over the coming months we will look to advance it further. So provide your feedback!


Why am I blogging on the new FrontRunners quadrant?

As you are all aware, I took a new role at Gartner. I’m just kidding. I doubt any of you were aware of my move. 🙂 About a year ago I took leadership over a new research group at Gartner.

In 2015 Gartner bought three internet sites (, and that assist small businesses in finding and buying business software. I am now responsible for the research content we distribute through these sites. I have four teams of analysts, editors and marketers (Austin, DC, Barcelona and Gurgaon) on the job.

So my new mission is to help small businesses succeed wildly via the effective use of information technology. And so, my blog (and Twitter and LinkedIn) also will now shift to this mission.

This is also the reason for my recent social media inactivity as I have focused on this transition. If all goes well, this blog is a “re-launch” of new activity.

As always, I’d love feedback and a discussion.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Leave a Comment


  • Axel Kirstetter says:

    Great move! Will MQs be phased-out? There is an indication this is only for small companies. What is the SMB / Enterprise distinction?

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Thanks Axel. MQs definitely will not be phased out! Magic Quadrants will continue with its unique methodology targeted at larger enterprises. FrontRunners will continue to target smaller businesses (somewhere around $50 million and below in revenue).

  • Hi
    I am bombarded by websites that say they are there to help businesses select software through user reviews.
    Is Gartner now getting onto the same band wagon?
    Do I know have to ask our customers to do reviews on your websites as well?

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Thanks Simon. The short answer is… yes.

    Software buyers, especially small business software buyers, highly value user reviews in their decision making. So it makes sense that sites trying to help businesses buy software will look to accumulate reviews as part of their content. Just as about any site selling anything these days.

    And yes, all software vendors must strategically decide where to drive their users to provide reviews. We have invested heavily in gaining, validating and delivering user reviews to software buyers. With these three sites we are now one of the leaders, if not the leader, in providing user reviews for small businesses seeking business software. We will continue to invest so we hope you will choose Gartner as the place you send your users. We now share reviews across the three sites so a review on one is a review on all.

  • Frank Kenney says:

    good job I like this approach. most of us appreciate the emphasis on transparency as well as your willingness to answer questions about the process. Good stuff I look forward to participating.

  • Blake Mirzayan says:

    Sounds direct, transparent and thorough. Thanks as always for doing a great job.

    @Anthony, is there any indication yet of what the other 24 FrontRunners will be?

  • mary oskirko says:

    How will Peer Insights be weaved in? Gartner is asking vendors to push reviewers to that site?
    thank you

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Great question Mary. Right now we keep the two sets of reviews separate. Peer Insights (and the MQ) is targeted at larger enterprises whereas our Digital Markets sites (and FrontRunners) are targeted at small businesses. The Peer Insights reviews are quite a bit more robust than the Digital Markets review form which is more consistent with a typical on-line review.

    So right now we are asking vendors to lead their larger, enterprise customers to Peer Insights and their small business customers to the Gartner Digital Markets sites (Software Advice, Capterra or GetApp).

    We currently share reviews across the three Gartner Digital Markets sites and are starting to plan for how we effectively integrate the Digital Markets reviews and Peer Insights reviews.


  • mary oskirko says:

    thank you Anthony
    when will you have the list of 24 identified? anxious to see if you will include Security!

  • I hope some day you broaden your criteria and evaluate companies and their products based on the value and ROI they deliver to their customers and not simply customer reviews. Commence Corporation for example provides a much more robust application suite then several of the products listed above it and in addition offers value added services such as Sales and Marketing Enablement that helps small businesses that do not have the resources or expertise in sales, marketing and customer service to realize the maximum value from our software. If you really want to help small businesses you should add this evaluation criteria to your review’s.

  • thank you, Anthony. (& thank you Gartner)

    We are happy to see the new FrontRunners quadrants recognize the different needs of small businesses.

    While serving small businesses for the past 13 years, we have learnt that

    1. Small businesses do not like big implementation cycles.
    2. Small businesses need simpler tools because they don’t have resources/time to train users.
    3. Small businesses move fast and need tools to adapt quickly (ease of customization is key).
    4. Small businesses need vendors who can respond quickly when they need assistance
    5. Employees in small businesses wear multiple hats. So, asking them to use different tools for different functions is neither desirable nor efficient.
    6. They do not have inhouse developers to integrate different applications used by different teams.
    7. Small businesses do not have big budgets.

    While some of these might apply for Enterprise customers, for small businesses each of these are critical.

    best wishes!

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Sreenivas, could not agree more.

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Calculated ROI is a tricky beast to capture. In my research experience, the overwhelming majority of organizations do not track an ROI. And so it is not feasible to capture calculated ROI. Value is also not something you can calculate. Value is in the eyes of the beholder. One of the FrontRunners axes is value.

    I believe you understate the value of “simply customer reviews.” One of the ratings we capture is “Value for Money.” This is a strong proxy for ROI. Why, because what the user thinks of value is really what is important. I would argue more important than a calculated ROI. If your product offers a robust set of functionality and a great set of services then the “value” user ratings should reflect those benefits. If the user doesn’t see the value in that robustness is it really there? Perhaps they view the robustness as complexity, or as functionality they don’t need and don’t want to pay for. And now the price factor comes into play.

    So, bottom line is we will not add in that criteria because it is already captured by the “value” set of user ratings.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • Sue Lingard says:

    In the interests of transparency, I imagine it would be good to share your revenue model for these sites (e.g. vendors have the option to pay for PPC and lead qualification) and how the FrontRunner reports fit in. My guess is that since the client reviews make up a significant part of the scoring (, an aim is to continue to tie vendors in.

  • Anthony J. Bradley says:

    Thank you Sue, certainly. The business models of Gartner’s three web sites (Software Advice, Capterra and GetApp) are pay-per-click (PPC) and pay-per-lead (PPL). Listing a product on these sites is free but vendors who opt to become clients can sign up to receive traffic from the site (click through to vendor’s product landing page) or qualified leads (after we have a conversation with the buyers to better understand their needs).

    The content we provide through the sites, such as FrontRunners, is free to buyers. Other than this relationship (i.e., the PPC and PPL models allows us to provide content for free) there is no impact of client relationship with content. For example, all products in a market (that we know of) are included in the FrontRunners research whether or not the vendor is a client. If we find a product we believe is in the market but not on the site then we will add it to the site. We do a call for participation to all vendors in the market regardless of client status. If you are a client and you don’t qualify then you are excluded. If you are not a client and you qualify then you are included. It is just as easy, or hard, for a non-client to qualify as it is for a client.

  • Bryan says:

    Anthony – bit late to the party on this, and came across your explanation after being puzzled by someone sharing a ERP Frontrunner “MQ” on LinkedIn that I couldn’t get my head around.

    Following your explanation above, I have a better understanding and can see why some products may have been positioned where they ended up.

    However, there’s a big question over geographic relevance. It’s often the case that products serving the SMB/SMEs market may be very regionally specific. A product sold in Usa may not be available or supported in the UK market, which probably explains why there were quite a few ERP names I didn’t recognise.

    How do you think the FrontRunner method accounts for this?

    I realise there’s probably going to be an (increasing) predominance of cloud SaaS products, so the geographic constraint becomes less relevant, and the onus will be on how well the vendors provide customer support.

    Anyway, I still think there’s a likelihood of geographic bias in those products featured, unless the marketing on your websites specifically sets out to target regionally local vendors and encourages them/their users to provide reviews.

    Welcome your thoughts on these points.

  • Hi! Looking at several Frontrunner’s reports- it’s not readily apparent which definition matches which score. Can you match them? The score areas are:

    Capability User Rating
    Functionality Breadth
    Confidence Score
    Customer Base
    Employee Base
    Customer Growth
    Employee Growth

    That’s just on the capability side- but it’s easy to see how this loose terminology doesn’t necessarily neatly align to the descriptors that are published. Can you match them for us?

  • jeet vegda says:

    Great Post.

    Their analyses are conducted for several specific technology industries and are updated every 1–2 years. once an updated report has been published its predecessor is “retired”. The chart is segmented into four quadrants which divide the companies listed into four broad categories, identifying them as niche, challenger, visionary, or leader. Gartner advises users to take notice of all quadrants, since businesses in every category have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. To be considered for a Magic Quadrant, a market must be distinct and viable. Gartner selects a market for analysis based on the impact of emerging trends and the users’ need to understand changing market dynamics.

    I see Techimply have lots of free and best CRM Software. If you interested ? , then visit Techimply and get best CRM software.