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Connect the dots

by Whit Andrews  |  September 30, 2008  |  2 Comments

Lord have mercy, Rita and I are finally done the 2008 Information Access Technology Magic Quadrant (Gartner subscription required). Every year I swear the next year won’t run as tight against the deadline, and considering that we had a full four hours to spare this year, I can proudly say I finally accomplished that goal.

Magic Quadrants are monsters. If cities were time, Magic Quadrants would be like the big weird nasty monster in Cloverfield. Rita and I started working on this one in February, I think — I asked for reference checks (I check references that vendors provided in year n-1, so that the references have a year to ripen and get sweet or sour) back then. We talked to vendors frequently, lined up clients, made a wiki page, lost the wiki page, found the wiki page again, kept records, forgot to update the wiki page when we started using the spreadsheet, botched up the spreadsheet and had to make a new one. You know the drill. It’s our equivalent for “budget crunch” or whatever annual/semi-annual thing you have to do. My father sold plumbing wholesale for ten years, and I thought “inventory” was a swear word.

The whole time, of course, inquiry doesn’t stop; presentations don’t stop; vendor briefings don’t stop. We have to freeze the analysis in time — finances were frozen as of the end of Q1, which means that if vendors had a killer Q2 (or a yawner), we ignored at. We froze functionality and offerings in the first week of June, so if someone had bought Microsoft in July we’d have had to figure out how to ignore that.

We remind people over and over again, and I’ll do it again here: Don’t treat the MQ as the final word on your vendor selection process. It’s a mistake to draw a line from the lower left corner to the upper right and try to figure out a way to calculate the distance from that line, then the position on that line that’s the shortest distance from the dot, as an absolute score. I know it’s tempting, but the fact is that there are nuances that the MQ can’t capture, and that we don’t claim that it can.

Nevertheless, readership figures imply that somewhere around 17 commercial and government enterprise clients read the Information Access MQ for every client who talks to me or Rita on the phone or at a conference about the decision it is intended to drive. I’m sure plenty of those readers are just curious, and read most new magic quadrants just to see where vendors fall. But some percentage of them are in a rush and don’t have time to talk, or have been told simply to “pull the leaders and send RFPs.” I’ll say it again, as Gartner always does: Use MQs judiciously.

A lot of vendors came out of the MQ this year, mostly because they either aren’t marketing in more than one major geographical region, because they’ve gone specialty (which is a wise thing from a marketing and survival perspective), or because they didn’t make the $12 million revenue threshold. All these were new criteria, and in some cases — particularly, revenue — we aren’t able to use absolute empirical evidence in the case of privately held companies. We did the best we could, including a variety of kinds of documentary evidence and analysis.

The new criteria meant a lot of my pet recommendations came out of the MQ, but they won’t come out of my conversations with clients. I have an extra list of vendors, in fact, right here, that I go to when clients need something that doesn’t fall in the MQ class.

Anyway, it’s done. I looked for something elegiac to listen to while I wrote this. (Gotta fit the mood.) Settled on “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (30th Anniversary Edition).” Don’t get me wrong; I’m only dancing.

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Tags: information-access  information-access-magic-quadrant  magic-quadrant  mq  search-magic-quadran  searchmq  

Whit Andrews
VP Distinguished Analyst
14 years at Gartner
18 years IT industry

Whit Andrews is a vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. Andrews covers enterprise search and enterprise video content management.Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Connect the dots

  1. Ray Brothers says:

    Thanks for the Magic Quadrant, from reading other posts I know you and Rita put in a lot of time pulling this together. When I read the MQ text, I gathered that the analysis is specific only for “find, collect and condense information or map its native location….”. So when I look at the postion of Microsoft, Autonomy, OpenText, etc.. in the MQ, the position does not take into account “other” tools from that vendor like Portal, CM, Document Management, BPM and the rest. Correct?

  2. Whit Andrews says:

    That’s fairly accurate. There are a few places — like “market vision,” which is more or less an essay question — where what a vendor does in other markets might make a difference. So, for example, I’ve always been impressed by the potential for Autonomy to inform its BPM stuff with its intelligent analysis capabilities. Microsoft is treating Fast as a potential ingredient in a lot of technological recipes currently under development in Redmond.

    But yes, on balance, that’s just right — this is the Information Access Technology MQ, and that’s where we isolate our focus.

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