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Bamboozled by the Analytics and BI MQ? Four Things To Do

by Cindi Howson  |  June 8, 2018  |  3 Comments

Are you feeling bamboozled, confused, or hornswoggled by the Analytics and BI MQ? I confess, I had never heard the word hornswoggled before, until a customer used it while heatedly complaining about the MQ. I got the gist of it – but did later look it up; it means to be deceived. So if you are feeling any of these things, here’s what to do.

1.      Read the note–some of it

Frankly, I’m not surprised if you are confused by the MQ when many have only looked at the graphic. In our summits this year, we sometimes asked how many of you have read the MQ.  A mere 20% raised their hands in one. I was gob smacked (another fun word), and could not hide my dismay. I could kid myself and think people were just not participating. Or perhaps we could phrase it more specifically – how many of you read the WHOLE MQ? I’m okay if that is only 20%. Would the results have been better if we asked, how many of you read the overview on market trends and your respective vendor(s) sections? Gosh, I hope this is closer to 100%, else seriously, next year, I will ask if we can just produce the graphic and save ourselves a boat load of time writing a 69-page note.

We try to strike a balance of giving you the details behind the analysis, while not overwhelming you. But I fear too many people simply look at the graphic, as I wrote in last year’s blog on top mistakes in reading the MQ.

If you want less detail, let us know! The Analytics and BI MQ is one of the longer ones, and we think you want the detail as you are informed buyers who test drive a lot of these products. But if not, let us know.

2.      Understand the criteria

The graphic is a simplification of a lot of complex criteria – six or seven high level variables per axis, with dozens underlying each variable, and in the case of the product assessment, hundreds.  But people seem to repeatedly assign their own interpretation to each axis. They think the Ability to Execute is just product or just market share, forgetting it also includes operations (quality of support and ease of upgrade).  And they misinterpret the Completeness of Vision as just roadmap, when it is includes sales strategy (so a great roadmap but friction in pricing and packaging make for a movement to the left).  We do include all these definitions in the note on page 52 if you are reading the PDF. I do kind of get it— who wants to read that level of detail?

It does remind me of the dresser we bought my college aged son last week. I did not under any circumstances want an Ikea dresser, even though it’s the cheapest. Have you ever built one of those things? You have to read the manual to assemble it, and follow the steps precisely. Somehow we went to Walmart instead. As we paid for this dresser and nightstand, I shook my head at my husband and son, warning them, “RTFM.”  Read the Friggin Manual.  Three hours later, my nightstand was done, but the dresser was a total loss. They did not RTFM. I’m not mechanically inclined and am inept at puzzles, even. But I was an English major, and I will always RTFM.

Now, we do not want you to have to read the full “manual” to interpret the graphic, but we do want you to use the graphic responsibly. So at least know and understand the criteria.

3.      Use the interactive version

interactiveMQOne fantastic way you can better internalize the criteria is to use the interactive view of the MQ. It’s available for all MQs, introduced a few years ago. You can change the weights to see how it impacts a vendor’s dot position. Arguably, if you are only getting the MQ through a vendor reprint, you do not have access to this interactive version. And I guess this is the other caution. If you only get your vendor and product insights from a reprint or a vendor, chances are, you are only seeing the more positive notes.


You may, for example, see what happens if you focus only on product capabilities who jumps to the Leaders quadrant. We wrestle with this internally – should we focus more on product only? But then look what happened to VHS or Blu Ray or BlackBerry (pick your favorite analogy). All were great products but ultimately didn’t win the market.

4.      Use the Critical Capabilities and More

The MQ is one of Gartner’s most popular notes, and in analytics and BI, it’s been around for more than 20 years now. So I can understand that it is more widely read. But frankly, I love the Critical Capabilities, introduced in 2015.  When I ask at A&BI bake offs and MQ sessions who is familiar with the Critical Capabilities, it is only about 10% of attendees, so we have a ways to go to raising the awareness of this note. This is the detailed side-by-side comparison of the product capabilities for each vendor.  The data is fed into the MQ, but as only one input in the Ability to Execute. You want to know who has the most scalable product, with highest ease of use? Use the Critical Capabilities. Then, if you tell me you also want low cost and global support, you want the MQ. Use both notes to inform your buying and investment decisions, as well as Peer Insights (now also captured as a note, filtered for data in the last year).

We also include scores for augmented analytics capabilities, which is where we think the market is going even if it’s not currently a mainstream buying criteria. You’d need to the Hype Cycle to give you an idea of the time to maturity.

Lastly, if you are overwhelmed with all these notes, set up an inquiry – even a trial inquiry through our sales process. It’s what we are here for. You could also next catch me and my colleagues in person in Mexico in September!

Be sure to check out these other recent notes we published:

Diversity and Inclusion in Data and Analytics Fuels Innovation on the Path to Digital Transformation

Select the Right Analytics and Business Intelligence for the Right User and Use Case


Happy reading!


Cindi Howson



Additional Resources

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Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Bamboozled by the Analytics and BI MQ? Four Things To Do

  1. Rohit Sharma says:

    I think data visualization is the foremost composition to understand the gist of analysis. Cindi, your second point points at the puzzling graphs. What i think is that you need to split the criteria in segments. And then, identify what each segment says. Thereby, you would have several points that you can connect. This is how you can easily comprehend the complex analytical structure.

    • Cindi Howson says:

      Thank you, Rohit. We do publish the multiple segments as textual paragraphs in this note – focusing on three high points and three low points. We then publish several related note – the Critical Capabilities for the product scores, then a related customer survey note. So we do share as much of the details as we can, but in separate notes for increasing levels of details. So people want a summary simple graphic, of a lot of complex criteria. But looking only at the graphic, then, can lead to misinterpretation. I’d love to know if you read the text, or if you think we should cut a lot of that if people aren’t reading anyway. Thank you for responding to the blog … and for reading! Regards, Cindi

  2. […] sure, I don’t want any of you ever to feel bamboozled in reading the MQ. It’s only one of several tools we have to help you make the best analytics and BI […]

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