Are Gartner’s Quadrants still Magic or just a load of old tricks?

Written by on November 25, 2015 in Opinion with 1 Comment

Magician making mysterious gestures. Wearing black suit and hat. Studio shot against black.When you see a headline like “Magic Quadrant or Gartner ‘Graft’?“ you have to take notice. This time BSS vendor, AsiaInfo, came out with guns blazing and the story was picked up by Ray Le Maistre at Light Reading.

I have always been a great admirer of Ray’s work and respectful of Light Reading’s position as one of the leading publications in the telecommunications space so when both go public with criticisms of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant processes then you really have to take notice.

This is a bold move, as most of the industry is terrified of ruffling Gartner’s feathers for fear of being demoted in stature or receiving adverse analyst reports. You don’t see Gartner advertising through the trade press so Light Reading probably has nothing to lose.

DisruptiveViews, and BillingViews before it, have constantly questioned the validity and accuracy of the Gartner IRCM Magic Quadrant, mainly because this is one space we have the most experience in. We too have been perplexed at some of the results and have speculated a number of times on how they may have reached them.

Gartner, as one would expect, has ignored our past endeavours at highlighting the shortcomings of their Magic Quadrants (even though we know many of their senior people have read them) and those articles continue to attract large numbers. But virtually no-one is willing to comment publicly. Like Light Reading, many have applauded our efforts privately but will not go public.

That’s what makes Dr Andy Tiller’s stand on behalf of AsiaInfo so admirable. He is one terribly bright man and has been in the cut and thrust of the IRCM sector almost as long as I have, and that’s a long time. His arguments are not malicious or unfounded and stem from a deep frustration at a process that is, to many, questionable. When he questions Gartner directly he does so with clarity and transparency, two of the qualities many feel are missing from the IRCM Magic Quadrant.

I won’t go through all the issues raised in the article, you can read that for yourself, but will reiterate that our industry appears to have become dependent on Gartner almost like a security blanket. CSPs will often make decisions on who to include in RFIs and RFPs based on if, and where they are in a Magic Quadrant.

Vendors, it seems, need to engage with Gartner (read that as you like) in order to be included in a Magic Quadrant exercise. That is surely a win-win for Gartner, but as we can see from the AsiaInfo and Netscout ‘pay-to-play’ experiences, not always so for the vendors.

You have to give credit to Gartner for being able to pull this off for so long but it highlights what may be a much bigger issue with CSPs in their quest to remain relevant in this digital era. With all the resources they have at hand you wonder why they can’t make a purchase decision in the IRCM space without referring to Gartner.

For many, the excuse is that senior management and C-levels find comfort and security in going for a vendor well-positioned in one of those mystical squares. How, though, will they ever find new and exciting technology if they don’t open their eyes.

Surely, in this era of transformation from legacy systems, it would be worthwhile – even necessary – to take a look at technology so new it hasn’t even been considered by Gartner, nor has sought Gartner’s approval.

If I remember rightly, at the time of deregulation of the telco industry a number of new players emerged and many of them that inherited staff from the existing CSPs followed the same BSS path. Others, seeing the limitation of billing systems of the time looked to new players offering revolutionary ‘convergent’ billing platforms. These are now the norm.

Companies like AsiaInfo pioneered online charging systems in China, processing numbers never imagined by Western networks. I know because I was involved in a very early assessment of their systems. Needless to say, they have now become the norm.

Maybe, just maybe, CSPs will at some stage pull their heads out of the sand and do what the agile digital players are doing by going out and finding all the options available. Make it acceptable to look at suppliers that don’t fit into a predetermined mould and, above all, learn to take and manage risks.

And for every executive that promotes only a solution that has Gartner’s blessing there should be clear message that this is a ‘cop out,’ that they are not doing their job properly and that there is whole world of brilliant products, solutions and vendors that are not taken in by Gartner’s magic spell.

On the question of clarity and transparency it would be interesting to see an IRCM Magic Quadrant based on how much vendors spend with Gartner and see if, when overlaid with the existing one, there is any correlation. Now, that would be magical.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .

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  1. Ed Finegold says:

    Tony writes: “Surely, in this era of transformation from legacy systems, it would be worthwhile – even necessary – to take a look at technology so new it hasn’t even been considered by Gartner, nor has sought Gartner’s approval.”

    Being on the front lines of the “new tech” incursion into telco & retail – and having succeeded without having engaged Gartner – I will report that there are at least two factors in play behind this well stated point.

    First, telco is slow to adopt new tech. It’s not even an unwillingness to try, it’s a lack of people who know how to use the tech. To oversimplify and generalize a bit – forgive me – folks trained to run IT ops around old EAI platforms look at a platform that uses modern APIs for integration and don’t know how to use it. They don’t understand the concepts at play. There’s simply a lack of knowledge on ‘which buttons to push’ & overcoming that inertia continues to be a huge challenge for many telcos, whether they know it or admit it or not.

    So – second – if a firm like Gartner plays to that audience, they don’t have much incentive to compare new tech with old on the same grid. Seems they may not have appropriate categories or methodologies – much less in-house expertise- to properly evaluate new tech anyway, at least not beyond new tech v new tech.

    The reality, however, is that new tech is replacing old. New tech is beating old tech in the marketplace in the sense that those who embrace elements of new tech well end up with substantial advantages. But BUYING new tech and USING new tech are two different things. So even if a telco did license or acquire new tech based on 3rd party validation from Gartner or anyone else, chances are still very good they won’t know how to use it.

    The real shame here is that the telco industry needs to get much better much faster at USING new tech. If what is recommended to telcos remains old tech & those tasked with educating the industry don’t really understand new tech, then the industry won’t learn and won’t adopt. And that’s how you end up, for example, with mobile operators selling a lifestyle product like it’s gasoline; succumbing to endless price wars; and still thinking of themselves as “phone companies.”

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