This year Ivanti was placed in the Leader quadrant in the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for ITSM Tools report. After a long and tough journey moving from Niche, to Innovator, to Challenger, we made it to the quadrant that is magic: the Leader quadrant.

Obviously we’re thrilled. Having reached this point, I thought I would spend time here explaining what the MQ really means and why Ivanti’s move to Leader is so significant. (Disclaimer: this is not a Gartner authored article. This is a subjective perspective from a vendor who has navigated the waters through calm and through rapids. You can refer to Gartner’s own formal descriptions and positioning on their website.)

Access the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for ITSM Tools

If you work for a mid/large business or enterprise with any involvement in an IT tool or vendor selection, you’ll almost certainly know the Magic Quadrants, and the industry analysis company Gartner. Other industry analysts and assessment reports exist, and are awesome, but today we’re talking about Gartner and their MQ. This article should give you some insight into how your vendors get to where they are and what it means.

If you’ve ever worked for a software vendor, you will undoubtedly have heard the phrase "Magic Quadrant" or the abbreviation "MQ" many, many times. The following post may help with some insider hints and tips on how a vendor can progress in Gartner’s MQs. Spoiler: It’s not easy.

First, the basics. 

What is Gartner's Magic Quadrant?

Every year, Gartner produces Magic Quadrant reports for many different IT and technology markets. The reports are written by teams of wise (and sometimes pointy-headed) industry analysts up in Gartner’s ivory towers of vision and foresight. Here I’ll be referring specifically to the IT Service Management (ITSM) Magic Quadrant, but the same roughly could apply to any other technology market sector where MQs are produced.

And, OK, yes, fellow pedants, despite being called the Magic Quadrant, there are actually four quadrants in the report. An assessed qualifying list of vendors in that market are placed into one of four quadrants: Niche, Visionary, Challenger and Leader. The report is called the Magic Quadrant. All quadrants are good, as I’ll explain below, but can you guess which quadrant is the magic one? 

Selected and assessed vendors get placed across the four quadrants. The higher up a vendor is placed, the greater their ability at executing. The further to the right a vendor is placed, the more complete their vision and future in that market. Thus, a vendor with a complete vision and great execution hits the top right quadrant. 

I'm not going to say it’s easy to get into Niche quadrant. It’s tough to get the size and visibility into Gartner to be recognised and included. In ITSM the Niche quadrant is the most dynamic, with the biggest moves back and forth, plus new entries and exits. Everyone enters as Niche, many jostle around year on year. Moving across or up is hard.

Moving across to Visionary is often the next step. That’s where your vision translates into real new and different product capabilities. Those smaller Niche players can get there if they can stop playing catchup and can take big risks to introduce something totally left field or differentiate themselves from all others in a very unique way. They won’t get there by telling or shipping the same capabilities and vision as Leader vendors. Innovators have given clever people time and space to do creative and clever things even if the overall business is not fully focussed yet. They may not have the scale and visibility to get above the horizontal line, but they sure are doing some clever stuff. 

Alternatively, a vendor might make it up into Challengers quadrant. This is mostly about scale and focus. Having a large-scale business which is focussed on success in the ITSM space leads to global events, lots of customers, excellent web content, a fireh ose of social media news, references, quotes. Also lots of products, lots of releases, lots of features. That’s about the vendor spending money to be seen and heard as a major and very visible vendor in that market, 

Then, if you add good and unique vision and proven innovation and released progress towards that vision, the new features and messaging are so strong that the shift to the right brings them across the vertical and into the top right (magic) quadrant itself. The Leader quadrant. These are the largest, market-defining, expectation-setting, consistently delivering and innovating leading vendors in that market.

When discussing an MQ report, Gartner will always say is that every vendor in the report is a winner, having made it from a long list of hundreds of vendors down to a selected shortlist of usually somewhere around five to 15. And, as Gartner will emphasise time and again, being in the Leader quadrant does not make that vendor the best fit to every business’ needs.  

Although there are many dimensions and factors, we could simplify to say a vendor’s position on the report is based on three things: 

  1. Real measured or assessed data performance “scores” (size, scale, product feature strength, number of events, number of global partners).
  2. Subjective customer feedback from Gartner client calls and peer reviews.
  3. Vendor supplied information such as road maps, vision, release information, company news, etc. 

Having led ITSM products now for some time, I’ve seen first-hand how really hard it is for a global software vendor to coordinate and execute influencing all of these at the same time and to sustain that focus over a long enough period of time to progress in an MQ report. 

Now to the fun stuff.

How do vendors get to the Leader quadrant, and what does it really mean?

1. All quadrants are equal, but some are more equal than others.

As described above, all listed vendors are the best shortlist in the world in that market. And some may fit different regional or vertical market needs. So don't assume the Leaders are the best for every client need. 

But do acknowledge that the Leaders have size and scale to be the safest start point for your assessment. Start there, assess price against your budget, assess how long typical implementations take, cost of future configuration. Look at your total cost of ownership. Then look at culture, attitude, vision, values.

2. Contrary to rumour, it’s really not pay-to-play…

Nope, sorry. We vendors do not pay money to Gartner to get a placement in an MQ report. If only.  Those darn Gartner analysts follow a strict and rigid set of selection and assessment guidelines and are both stern and uncompromising in their following of the assessment rules and calculations. There is no way to pay money for a position.

3. …but it is invest to win.

However, clearly, the more a vendor invests their time and efforts into growing in the areas that Gartner assess and score up, the more that is reflected in the position of those vendors. Remember my three dimensions above—real data scores, subjective feedback, provided information—by Increasing your marketing spend, running multiple global industry events, building new and innovative products and features, attracting many more happy new customers. Retaining happy customers. 

Doing all this is expensive. Even bringing together CEOs, CPOs, product directors, product managers and product marketers into multiple repeated updates and briefings with Gartner analysts is time and resource expensive. So, clearly if a vendor sets out a plan to deliberately improve its MQ position, it will need to spend money, time, and effort to raise its overall position in the market to the required level. It doesn’t come for free.

4. Don't compare previous years, except, well yes, actually do.

Gartner will say you cannot and should not compare MQ positions year on year. Every year the criteria are adjusted and changed. 

But saying that, a vendor’s position in the MQ over time tells a story. Look at Ivanti, the only vendor that has moved consistently over the last five years from Niche to Innovator, to Challenger to Leader. That journey is important and tells a clear story about the focus on the vendor over time. 

5. MQ is a company report. CC (Critical Capabilities) is a features report.

Oh, this has been said many times but worth saying again. The MQ is about the whole vendor company and includes everything from go to market, partners, support, services and of course products as well. When we say Ivanti is a Magic Quadrant Leader, we mean the whole company Ivanti. As a buyer or customer, you will have a relationship with the vendor (over many years if an Ivanti customer).

Yes, there is an assessment of the product itself and that’s called the Critical Capabilities (CC) report. That assessment feeds into the product section of the MQ so does have an impact, but don't use the MQ to judge the product and don’t use the CC to judge the vendor. If in doubt, use the MQ since a good vendor will always improve their product.

6. Peer reviews help, but like anything, never trust a single review alone.

Another thing that has changed recently is Gartner’s greater focus on their Peer Reviews site where verified customers leave reviews of the vendor and their product. A clever move by Gartner, as they have been building, enhancing and promoting their new Peer Reviews site over recent years. It’s now a part of the MQ assessment criteria with a move away assessing direct feedback from only individual reference customers.

Peer reviews are good, but remember two things: the number of peer reviews is influenced by the vendor’s own investment into encouraging their customers to leave reviews, and as with any peer review system, the background on any one single data point may be questionable. (As an example, one peer review on another site criticised Ivanti Service Manager for not being a code&script-based development platform. To some customers, that might be a weakness if they expect to configure their tools with in-house developers. The review was probably left by a developer whose career depends on writing third-party toolset configuration scripts. To other customers, it may be strength to have a tool that does not require developers to configure it. So don't trust single data points.)

7. Timing is everything.

Hey vendors, want to shift further right on the MQ? Make sure your best new and innovative features are generally available, released, and have referenceable customers using the new features during the MQ assessment period. Gartner won’t score a vendor on product capabilities or their ability to execute based on future feature plans. They are very strict that if it isn’t released and GA on the assessment period, they won’t include it in the scoring.

So, letting a secret out here, Ivanti worked really hard to make sure that the new Ivanti Assistants for Service Management (which is now part of the Ivanti Neurons platform as Ivanti Neurons for Healing) was launched, availabl,e and in production usage with reference customers. We knew this was an innovative game changer and we moved heaven and earth to make sure the 2020 MQ assessment could reflect this exciting new capability.

8. Ah, vendors. You need good analyst relations.

Analyst Relations (AR) is a thing. It’s a career and an industry. I’ve seen instances where a Niche level vendor doesn’t have staff focussing on analyst relations. This is a false economy since what always suffers is the volume, focus, quantity, and consistency of communication into industry analysts. And if Gartner don't hear often from a vendor, then they are less likely to understand that vendors progress, plans, execution and vision. Solve that problem by employing Analyst Relations staff, dedicated 100% to managing the communication into analyst organisations.

If you want your house to look good from the outside, you could ask your plumber to also do some painting when he has time, or you could ask a dedicated exterior decorator and remodeller to project manage the renovation and redecoration work. Which do you think would provide a better looking house frontage? A vendor with AR cares about growth,

So, there you have it. Hopefully these eight leaps to Leader in Gartner's Magic Quadrant can help in understanding how a vendor grows over time across the different quadrants, and what it means when a vendor makes it to Leader. 

And just in case it’s still not clear, here’s what it means in a nutshell: the vendor has put years of effort, expertise, experience, and execution into growing a proven happy global customer base. They’ve worked day, night, year on year with focus throughout changing environments and unexpected event. They are a safe pair of hands. They can do it. 

But is the vendor and their toolset just right right for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Some are expensive, some are complicated. Some are just right for your business. And, just like Goldilocks, you ned to find the one that’s just right. Are they the right fit for your business? Do their culture, values, vision, personality, and strategy fit with your needs? Only you can answer that question by talking to representatives from that vendor.

And, finally, on a personal note, I want to finish with showing massive respect and praise to all those that have helped grow Ivanti into an ITSM MQ Leader. It’s been a long, fun journey for all of us so far. All the people that have given blood, sweat, days, nights, weekends, year after year, innovating, building and launching, and selling and implementing and supporting and … well, everything I describe above. Whether within Ivanti today or in the past, or in our partner network, or of course in our customer community. If you think you may have played any part at all in this, you probably have. Thank you.