Is the Magic Quadrant really a vendor selection strategy?

Gartner’s magic quadrant for OSS is often used by organisations as a proxy for determining a short-list from the hundreds (thousands?) of OSS products available on the market. I’ve even heard of executives from tier-one telcos issuing directives that their short-list should consist of the top right corner of Gartner’s OSS Magic Quadrant (the Leaders quadrant).

The Gartner analysis makes for great reading and its readers can be left with the impression that they’ve been given the silver bullet of vendor selection. Unfortunately there’s an inherent problem with it. It only covers a small portion of what it takes to find the right vendor because it takes a generic viewpoint and doesn’t evaluate best-fit for any given customer’s requirements (that’s not a criticism, but a statement of fact that it doesn’t cater for every different customer variant). Again this is not a criticism of the Gartner report, but I’d go as far as saying that the Gartner rankings can actually be misleading for some customers if they intend to use it as a vendor selection proxy.

For example, many years ago I was brought in to advise the board of a tier-1 telco who had recently selected an OSS vendor that was in the leaders’ quadrant (there were also rumours of brown paper bags changing hands to influence the decision but we won’t go there). The vendor brought many products to the deal, giving it a completeness of vision and it was very modular, increasing the vendor’s ability to execute (thus putting them in the leader quadrant).

Unfortunately, the lack of integration between the modular products meant there was none of the richness of cross-domain data sharing that I’d come to expect from an OSS (or that the customer’s requirements indicated that they needed). The vendor could execute on basic functionality quickly but they couldn’t fulfill the important requirements, certainly not at the price-point the customer could afford.

In this case, there were other vendors / products that were definitely a better fit for this customer’s requirements and price-point that weren’t even on the Gartner matrix.

If you need any help designing the best vendor selection strategy for your business and requirements, I’d be delighted to hear from you at:

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