January 14, 2013, 12:11 PM — The Gartner Magic Quadrant is, perhaps, the most renowned artifact in the technology analyst industry. It is controversial, to be sure, with many criticizing it as superficial, too high-level and even reflective more of vendor business relationships with Gartner than true technical and market superiority.
I'm not necessarily convinced of those negative aspects of the Magic Quadrant. Issues notwithstanding, it's obvious from everyone's behavior that being in or out of the MQ is extremely important to vendors. They track who's in (and out), trumpet inclusion when it occurs and assess their strategy and technology plans in light of potential MQ inclusion. Certainly, vendors who achieve the coveted Magic Quadrant inclusion-even if privately they denigrate its importance-shout about it from the rooftops.
The Gartner Magic Quadrant As a Filtering Heuristic
Once you understand how IT shops use the MQ, it's easy to understand why vendors are so eager to be included. It's not just bragging rights, that's for sure. IT organizations beginning to evaluate technology that's new to them often find understanding it confusing. Just trying to establish a conceptual model of an emerging technology sector can be difficult. For example, if you had just heard about software-defined networking, how would you go about understanding it well enough to decide what you should do about it?
IT organizations commonly rely on technology analyst firms to help them comprehend the overall outline of a technology sector. Once they have a grasp on a new sector, they once again turn to the firms to help them evaluate the vendors in the sector.
Here's where the power of the Magic Quadrant comes to the fore. IT organizations use the MQ as a filtering mechanism; by definition, inclusion in the MQ bestows an imprimatur of technology leadership. Moreover, occupying a place in the MQ virtually assures a vendor of being placed on an IT organization's evaluation shortlist and getting a serious look. This is incredibly valuable, as most vendors know how challenging it can be to gain a fair evaluation if the IT organization sees the vendor as an also-ran.
The Cloud Computing Magic Quadrant: 2011 vs. 2012