Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | November 15, 2012 |


Challenging Gartner's Magic Quadrant

Challenging Gartner's Magic Quadrant The main issue I have is that management and provisioning should be a bigger part of the evaluation criteria.

The main issue I have is that management and provisioning should be a bigger part of the evaluation criteria.

The Magic Quadrant (MQ) from Gartner has become a staple in our industry. Placement in it seems to legitimize the position of many vendors that are trying to challenge an incumbent, while not being represented in it seems to carry some sort of negative association. The MQ has become such a big part of our industry that when one sees a quadrant chart, the eye is automatically drawn to the top-right, as that's the place of strength. In MQ speak "top-right = good, everywhere else is a lesser place". I'm not sure how it's become the perceived de facto standard for IT decision-making but many other research firms have tried to create alternatives to it, and no one has been able to match the gravitas of the MQ.

I'm not here to disparage any other analyst's work; in fact I have great respect for both Bern Elliot and Steve Blood, the authors of the Unified Communications MQ, but I would like to challenge the latest UC MQ. The MQ for UC was released towards the end of the summer, August to be exact. Not being a Gartner subscriber I didn't get a copy immediately but I did recently read it and I've had some time to digest it and here are my primary concerns with it.

* There's no context. This is actually an issue with all MQs. The graphic comes off as laying out relative strength for all deployments in all situations. Cisco and Microsoft are in the "top right" which again, is generally regarded as the place to be. However, I know both ShoreTel and Mitel have great, easy-to-deploy products for small to mid-market companies. Avaya has a broad range of products to fulfill the needs of its massive installed base. Definitively trying to say that one vendor is better than another in all situations is very tough to do. If they could make a "magic cube," where some sort of deployment criteria could be introduced, that would help.

* The evaluation criteria do not include any kind of management or deployment tools. This is actually the biggest issue I have with this specific MQ. I looked through the evaluation criteria over and over and I can't find a mention of the provisioning and management tools.

If you talk to customers about why they haven't been more aggressive with UC (ZK Research shows in the 500+ market, less than 10% have deployed UC company-wide), many will tell you that it's just too hard to get going. I know the visibility and management tools have been key focuses for Avaya with Aura, and Cisco has completely gutted Cisco Works and replaced it with a revamped "Prime" management suite. Additionally, it has continued to further its relationship with companies like VOSS to make the provisioning of UC easier. Juxtapose this with Microsoft Lync, which has virtually no tools in this area.

The way the evaluation criteria are set up, there's almost no MQ value in a vendor investing in this area despite the tremendous customer value it provides.

* The MQ mixes up the terms "open" and "standards". The document states under "Openness" that, "Enterprises wish to avoid 'closed gardens' and weak support for standards to ensure choice and control. Support for standards is a critical consideration, as enterprises wish to integrate their UC deployments with business partners, customers, business applications and third-party products. In particular, enterprises expect good-quality support for SIP, XMPP and H.323 integrations, as well as a clear longer-term commitment to intervendor interoperability and federation. Users will increasingly look beyond a closed partner ecosystem, seeking vendors that have open interoperability."

Now, that's fine to say, but "open" and "standards" are two different issues. You can be closed and standards-based, open and proprietary, or open and standards-based. Also, the MQ does look at breadth of features, and the standards such as SIP still have a relatively small feature set, meaning vendors are forced to build features through proprietary extension to differentiate. If everyone really were purely standards-based, then every product would look the same.

Open is another issue entirely. The level of openness determines the flexibility the product brings. Some vendors choose not to open up everything, to maintain quality, which has some advantages. Digium is the one vendor on the MQ that tries to be as open and standards-based as they can, and their positioning is poor.

Don't get me wrong, I think open and standards-based are important, I just think they're two different issues.

In closing, I just want to reiterate the respect I have for the two analysts that did this and I recognize building an MQ for something as multi-faceted as UC isn't easy. If I were to make a recommendation, I do think management and provisioning must become a bigger part of the evaluation criteria. UC is widely deployed, although the penetration within companies is still limited. Scaling it from here requires a focus on management and the vendors that invest in it should be rewarded.


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