How Trustworthy is the Gartner Magic Quadrant?

How reliable are they for positioning technology players within a specific market?

Type “Magic Quadrant” into Google, and you’re sure to find countless press releases from vendors who want to share their coveted position with the world. Whether challenger, visionary, or leader, everyone wants to be associated with the Magic Quadrant, no matter what it takes.

However, sometimes it might be worth asking with the data we get from Gartner is really infallible. After all, the group has contradicted itself multiple times in the past and appears to change its criteria for entry almost at random. Can we really trust Gartner to direct our business decisions?

Gartner MQ
What is the Magic Quadrant?

The Magic Quadrant is a term that goes back to the 1980s, where it was intended to describe a quick overview of a market segment. Now, there are over 150 distinct research reports that each cover a wide range of different technologies. These reports take the form of a two-dimensional look into companies, with “Ability to execute” on one side, and “Completeness of vision” on the other.

Entries are assessed with extensive data-gathering practices, in which vendors respond to a highly in-depth document and fill out lengthy surveys. This research then informs the opinion of analysts, who chart vendors depending on their performance, and place them as a “Niche”, “Visionary”, “Challenger” or “Leader”.

The Magic Quadrant Controversy

It’s clear that the Magic Quadrant has seen significant controversy over the years. Back in 2009, ZL Technology questioned how legitimate the rating system was, and alleged that Gartner was developing an unfair competition – though the case was ultimately dismissed. In 2014, Netscout leveraged a suit against Gartner in a similar case, that has yet to be decided.

It’s hard to know whether we can trust an organisation who are aggressively focused on nurturing their enterprise clients. After all, these are the people that pay Gartner the most when it comes to consultancy, event, and research fees.

The Problem with Giving Preference to Enterprises

Perhaps a key issue is that a listing on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is often essential to being able to pitch a concept. With so much market saturation, it’s hard to make decisions today, which is why companies are focusing so heavily on analyst research like the Magic Quadrant. The problem is that the same vendors are the leaders in most of these reports, including multinationals like IBM, Google, and Microsoft. In other words, it seems that you already need to be “big” to get business.

Back before 2017, there was still some hope for smaller companies. They could access the Magic Quadrant based on merit. However, in 2017, new criteria emerged where companies needed minimum annual revenues of $40 million USD or growth year-over-year of 50%.

It Might be Time to Look at Something Broader

Ultimately, the Magic Quadrant is something that’s written by big enterprises, for big enterprises. As such, it’s hard to use it when conducting a complete assessment of the market. For real representation, businesses may need to look deeper than the Gartner report.

When conducting research into today’s competitors, think about what comparison benchmarks you need to consider, whether customers are satisfied, and how long the vendor has been in play. If we only look at Gartner’s results, then we might limit our opportunity to see new and emerging experts.


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Written by Rebekah Carter

Rebekah Carter

Hi I'm Rebekah, I have an unwavering passion for the technology sector, and I regularly stay up to date with the latest in UC and Cloud