gartner mq

The Demise of the Content Services Magic Quadrant

Gartner has dropped its Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Content Services; it’s a big event in a relatively small world. Some are reeling at the news. Even though we are not Gartner analysts, various people have reached out to us to ask why this happened and get our take. The simple response to these questions is that we don’t know and don’t have a take on it. But the more complex answer involves recognizing that Gartner has revenues of nearly $5B and its nearest rivals, Forrester and IDC, have revenues that are barely a tenth of that. Therefore what happens at Gartner matters in the analyst world period. But before going any further, let me put my cards on the table, every few years I have tried to come up with something better than the MQ, without success. Not that there is anything magical about the MQ as it is simply a branded variant of the old four-quadrant management consulting staple graph. Almost every other analyst firm that has a market chart follows pretty much the same structure, for example, the Forrester Wave can be viewed and understood in an almost identical manner to the MQ.

Even so, the MQ has long been loved and cherished by Gartner’s leaders but loathed in equal part by many of its analysts. Though you cannot pay for your position on the MQ, its perceived importance in technology circles generates a lot of revenue for the firm. It’s no secret that many analysts (including many at Gartner itself) and I have long been uncomfortable with using MQs for enterprise shortlisting. In theory, it should never be used for that work. In reality, it often is. Exclusion from the MQ means that many vendors are also excluded by default from enterprise shortlists. But rather than write a treatise on how MQs can be misused, I want to focus solely on this particular MQ.

The Document Management & Workflow market (let’s call it what it is) has seen massive growth since its inception in the 1990s. Back in the day, analysts could name and be likely familiar with all of the key players in the segment. However, this categorized and formalized market has morphed over the years and outgrown strict definitions. Though we certainly know our stuff at Deep Analysis, neither we nor any other analyst firm can track all the players in this market; there are hundreds if not thousands. The same goes for enterprise automation, in that once upon a time, we could all name the key players, Staffware, Tibco, Pegasystems, etc., today there are similarly hundreds if not thousands of vendors. Oh, and by the way, many document-focused vendors overlap with the automation-focused vendors and vice versa.

There is a world of difference between Appian and Parascript, just as there is a difference between ScaleHub and OpenText, but they all play in what we once tried to define as a single sector. In 2022, there is no single market; there are dozens of submarkets, and more appear each year. Therefore, distilling hundreds of vendors into a handful of so-called leaders no longer makes sense. Likely more MQs will disappear in the future. In short, we think Gartner made the right decision, and though it has certainly ruffled feathers, it reflects the complexity of today’s market.

First and foremost, as noted above, a lack of an MQ does not mean a lack of available expert advice. Analysts do nothing but study the market, the vendors, the trends and by default, can provide a shortcut to delivering solid, actionable guidance for your enterprise. At Deep Analysis, we provide this for free to enterprise buyers, and you can set up a time on our calendar to chat in confidence. I also recommend that you do some Google or Bing’ ing’ as there is a wealth of information available on the web, including crowd-sourced reviews. Additionally, look for white papers, and be specific in your search criteria. For example, if you are a supply chain company, search for firms with the relevant knowledge and expertise. Under the covers, at the technical level, many products are very similar to one another. The differences come in how they apply them to specific business needs. A company that knows legal processes inside out may not be technically different from one that knows insurance or healthcare processes. Still, that domain knowledge may well be critical in meeting your specific needs. Of course, not all the technology is the same; some are aging, on the other hand, some are new and cutting edge. Sadly, navigating your way through the technology marketplace is not easy, and as more market entrants come along, it’s only getting more complex. Then again, it always was, with or without MQs, and arguably the real problem with MQs was that they oversimplified the market.

So while the MQ is going away, analysts are still available to help navigate the tough questions and they are, as they have always been, a great wealth of information on the market. We remain available to help enterprises navigate the nuances of the available technologies and to help vendors educate potential customers and clarify their marketing and messaging to help cut through the noise. As I say, here at Deep Analysis, our door is always open. 

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