A Gartner Magic Quadrant: Know what to read and where to look

“If a vendor’s 5 best references (out of their entire customer base) state that there are stability and scalability issues, then your risk is exponentially higher for project failure. I can’t imagine a seasoned CIO would put their personal brand on the line or their company’s success when a vendor’s product stability and scalability issues are highlighted for the world to see.”

Having worked at Gartner for many years, it is important to delve into how one should look at a Magic Quadrant for decision making purposes. In Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing, for example, you will find a very telling story about the transformation occurring in the market when put in the context of cloud enterprise content management and collaboration. For broader insight, you will want to review in combination with additional research from other firms such as IDC’s Worldwide File Synchronization and Sharing Market Share statistics.

Gartner EFSS MQ 2015While organizations will each have unique requirements, it is important to understand how Gartner positions vendors in their graphical representation as it may not be widely known where to look for market trends and innovation or for vendor risks within the report. For example, if you find a caution that is related to stability and scalability issues expressed by a vendor’s customer references, this is a big red flag. Why? Because the vendors offer their best clients for the analysts to speak with for the reference requirement.

Gartner MQ References: “Five customers must have deployed the service or product for a minimum of six months, and have at least 1,000 paid users. Two of the references must have at least 4,000 paid users.” (Source: Gartner)

If a vendor’s 5 best references for Gartner’s analysts (out of their entire customer base) state that there are stability and scalability issues, then your risk is exponentially higher for project failure. “I can’t imagine a seasoned CIO would put their personal brand on the line or their company’s success when a vendor’s product stability and scalability issues are highlighted for the world to see.”

Too often we ignore the insight spread throughout the report. Below are key points to understand about Gartner Magic Quadrants:

Gartner Magic Quadrant Descriptions

(Source: Gartner)

Leaders provide mature offerings that meet market demand. They have demonstrated the vision necessary to sustain their market positions as requirements evolve. The hallmark of Leaders is that they focus and invest in their offerings to lead the market and affect its overall direction. Leaders can be the vendors to watch as you try to understand how new offerings might evolve. Leaders typically possess a significant, satisfied customer base, and they enjoy high visibility in the market. Their size and maturity enable them to remain viable under changing market conditions. Leaders typically respond to a wide market audience by supporting broad market requirements.

Challengers have a strong ability to execute, but may not have a plan that will maintain a strong value proposition for new customers. Large vendors in mature markets often may be positioned as Challengers because they choose to minimize risk or avoid disrupting their customers or their own activities. Although Challengers typically have significant size and financial resources, they may lack a strong vision, innovation or overall understanding of the market’s needs. In some cases, they may offer products nearing the end of their lives that dominate a large, but shrinking, segment.

Visionaries align with Gartner’s view of how a market will evolve, but they have fewer proven capabilities to deliver against that vision. In early markets, this status is normal. In more mature markets, it may reflect the competitive strategy of a small vendor (such as selling an innovation ahead of mainstream demand), or of a large vendor that is trying to break out of a rut or differentiate itself. For vendors and customers, Visionaries fall into the higher-risk/higher-reward category. They often introduce new technology, services or business models, but may need to build financial strength, service and support, and sales and distribution channels.

Niche Players
Niche Players do well in a particular segment of a market, or have a limited capability to innovate or outperform other vendors in a market. This may be because they focus on a particular functionality or region, or because they are new to the market. Alternatively, they may be struggling to remain relevant in a market that is moving away from them. Niche Players may have reasonably broad functionality, but limited implementation and support capabilities, and relatively small customer bases. They have yet to establish a strong vision for their offerings.

How should one compare quadrants?

Magic Quadrants use criteria placed into two categories: ability to execute and completeness of vision. From an ability to execute perspective, and if you are an enterprise-level organization, the quadrants most often compared are the “Challengers” and “Leaders”. This is where you will find the largest organizations partnering.  The “Leaders” are defining the market and driving the innovation. The “Challengers” may have stable products, but are lacking vision. This quadrant is where you see mega-vendors often bundling their product because it is not able to stand on its own merit. Most CIOs understand this and are quick to recognize the limitations of an offering. “Niche” and “Visionaries” quadrant players aren’t typically deployed as enterprise-wide sanctioned solutions for large organizations.


Further insights you will find useful in a Magic Quadrant:

The Context Section:

  • “EFSS has become a priority for organizations to enable a modern, digital workplace for employees, partners and even clients.
  • “Organizations are increasingly investing in enterprise-class capabilities such as EFSS, which complement mobile productivity and collaboration features with data protection, security and compliance.
  • “Investments in this area also are driven by the desire to enable mobile access to enterprise content repositories — such as SharePoint and other common ECM, collaboration and storage platforms deployed on-premises — in order to boost an individual’s productivity and collaboration.”
  • “Some EFSS platforms begin to be considered, in specific cases, as the integration layer that can “glue together” distributed data architectures, federating legacy data repositories and new cloud storage repositories into a virtual data space that users can smoothly access and use, thereby providing IT controls and data governance across them.”


At the end of the day, it is always a good idea to speak with the analysts that conducted the research. The research combined with analyst inquiry is a very powerful combination of gaining further insight.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Brian Clendenin
Brian Clendenin
"We are at one of the most exciting moments in history when it comes to innovation in IT driving innovation in business." Widely recognized as a powerful speaker intertwining storytelling and expertise, Clendenin writes and speaks on the topics of leadership, cloud, infrastructure, monitoring & analytics, DevOps, AI, machine learning, security, mobility, IT strategy, and digital transformation. Invests his time interviewing engaging thought leaders. (Connect with Brian Clendenin on LinkedIn)

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