Magic Quadrant
August 12, 2019

Why Magic Quadrants and Waves are critical to choosing your tools

By Paul Laughlin

A few conversations with Customer Insight leaders have reminded me how many don’t know about Magic Quadrants or Waves.

Given my background in IT I am used to using these tools, from Gartner and Forrester respectively, to help guide tool selection. However, I’m aware not all Data, Analytics or Research leaders have that background.

So, I am delighted to welcome back guest blogger Tony Boobier, to share how these research reports can help you choose the right tools for each job. Over to Tony to build on his past posts (and this AI related book review), by sharing how Magic Quadrants & Waves can help you.

Are you resistant to changing your tools?

We’re naturally reluctant to change. I heard it argued that the main reason for this is that we’re just lazy but maybe we are being a little hard on ourselves.

As members of the human race, we’ve adapted to change and become settled. Frankly to undertake another change might be just plain hard work and best avoided. There’s plenty of reasons that we resist change:

  • The risk that post-change it may be worse than we had before;
  • That we are no longer in control because we don’t know the new system or tool;
  • The fear of failure;
  • The concern that there’s a degree of “unforeseeability” in change.

After all, who likes uncertainty? I’m sure you have your own reasons to resist change.

Could you benefit from a Darwinian mindset?

On a personal basis, I always took the view that if I was to be a genuine agent of change, then I had to accept change as well as dish it out.
The flip side of resisting change is what we might call the ‘Darwinian’ approach. Darwin suggested that it’s not the strongest species which will survive, but the one which is most adaptable. Therefore change is an essential element of survival.

So as we consider the topic of tooling, we have the relative Yin and Yang of ‘uncertainty’ versus ‘survival’. In reality, it’s not quite such a bleak choice. After all we’re only talking about software tools. I don’t know of too many casualties as a result of switching from Cognos to Qlik, for example in the BI space.

But we all have our favourites and as a result sometimes take a blinkered view towards any alternatives.

We try our best to see through the sales and marketing hyperbole in order to find out the reality of the situation.

Could a Magic Quadrant be your trusted guide?

Having someone else tell us about the alternatives becomes mission critical in any decision to make changes. We can ask any prospective vendor to provide references – in the sure knowledge that they will only provide favourable ones. Alternatively we can refer to impartial commentators and analyst such as Gartner and Forrester to both graphically and narratively refer to the status and capability of alternative solutions.

GartnersMagic Quadrant’ tells us where companies stand on their ability to execute, relative to the completeness of their vision. They categorise companies into leaders, challengers, niche and visionary. (Whoever got sacked for choosing a ‘leader’?) And that’s why the Magic Quadrant is a critical component in tooling decisions especially as it’s renewed on a regular basis (normally every 2 or 3 years).

The Forrester Wave equally approaches the analysis of vendors in a different way – using the two axes of ‘Current Offering’ versus ‘Strength of Strategy’, and places vendors in ‘waves’ of Challenges, Contenders, Strong performers and Leaders.

It’s not surprising that technology vendors spend time with analysts to ensure that they are fully conversant both with the technology and with the aspirations of the vendors. Despite the risk of undue influence, both Gartner, Forrester and others rigidly operate using independent and rigorous research.

Beyond Waves, it’s what you do with it that counts

But no matter how a technology vendor is reported as a challenger, leader or anywhere in between, the essence of how good a vendor or ‘tool’ really is may be the level and quality of use that the tool is put to. The greatest tool can be mediocre in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it effectively.

I can think back to even the use of Excel, when the brightest guy in the room was affectionally known as ‘Pivot’ as he was the only one who could create and effectively use a ‘pivot table’. With this knowledge, he made an enormous difference.

Nowadays, even advanced and new tooling seek to replicate the older tools that we are familiar with, even if they supercharge them. For example most of the software solutions by BI tool Cognos come with an Excel front-end client, or at least has the look and feel of Excel. What this means is that the transition from a tried and tested tool to something newer is less traumatic for the user.

Is it personal fit or just fashion guiding your choice?

In any discussion regarding tooling, it would be short-changing the reader not to give a personal preferences. I get a sense that sometime tools can even become fashionable. It might even depend on whether you are a Microsoft or an Apple user.

The use of Prezi as an alternative to Powerpoint might be a contender if only because it’s an alternative to the relatively linear PPT approach. It’s something I really like, even if I haven’t figured out how to use it properly and until that happens then I’m unlikely to choose it as my presentation tool of choice.

I’m still a great fan of MS Word, but even as I write this I know that Paul will be thinking about cutting and pasting into WordPress, which is seemingly the preferred web writing solution ( as opposed to Google or LibreOffice).

But imitation isn’t enough. Why would I want to change tools unless it provides me with new (and essential) functionality, or is free to use, or something else? What does it take to bring new tooling to the ‘tipping point’, when it becomes if not the default, bit the ‘heir apparent’?

A final thought – a return to craftsmanship?

As we describe software as ‘tools’, shouldn’t we also think about what we really mean by the expression of ‘tool’? A ‘device’, or ‘implement’? Many of us have tool boxes or tool sheds. It doesn’t mean that we use the same tools all the time.

In fact sometimes we use some tools only very occasionally, perhaps once in a Blue Moon when we have a particular need. Isn’t the true art or skill of the true craftsman, including the ‘digital craftsman’ to understand when it’s the right time to use that tool at the back of the drawer, the one we don’t use often but which is now ‘mission critical’? Wonder what’s the technological comparison?

Digital Craftsman’? Now, there’s a thought. Understanding Magic Quadrants and the right tool for the job. What an interesting combination of old & new.