A friend insisted I look into an article written by Steve Duplessie of Enterprise Strategy Group titled: ZL vs. Gartner – Interesting at many levels. It all started when archiving vendor ZL Technologies sued Gartner Group for what is calls lost sales opportunities because Gartner failed to list ZL Technologies in the now famous Gatrner Magic Quadrant (GMQ).

The Gatner Magic Quadrant is often referred to by companies wishing to identify who the technological (or sometimes) market leaders in a specific information technology field. For market share, vendors often look to IDC and a few other vendors like Dell’Oro.  

Why am I interested in this? A daily crunch for me when I was in enterprise sales was convincing customers that my company’s solution was the best in its category and the only ideal solution for the customer. A regular occurence in these discussions are the Gartner Magic Quadrant. Senior business and technology managers often refer to analyst reports and rankings as a benchmark for deciding which solutions make it to their preferred list of possible acquisitions or investments. You can imagine my frustration if my solution is not in the upper right hand section of the Gartner Magic Quadrant. Why? Because it means my team has to work harder to convince the customer that our solution is better.

In this regard I symphatize with ZL and all the other vendors out there in the world who are being disregarded simply because they weren’t in the GMQ. But its hard to blame enterprise customers for deferring part of their selection criteria to a third party. In truth technology cycles are moving so fast that its very hard for any one single person to keep track of everything. In a world where things need to be done quickly and we are always on catchup mode, the only alternative is to see what “experts” are saying about the industry and the vendors that play in that market.

But this does not wipe cleans the hands of analyts and organizations that list out what they “think and feel” are the key players in their market without acknowledging new entrants or smaller outfits that may have the technology or solution that could be worth considering.

Steve Duplessie says it right:

Gartner doesn’t have to be doing things like this.  They could refill their ranks with qualified experts.  They could add logic, reason, and disclosures to their MQ choices.  They could legitimize themselves – and then they would deserve the influence they command.

I agree with Dave Kellogg, CEO of Mark Logics Corporation, who wrote on this blog:

“So a bigger part of me thinks that ZL’s just plain nuts. They are breaking glass all around them and spending real money to do it. If their software really is as good as they claim, then if they’d simply done a better job at marketing then they probably could have avoided all of this.”

In my time that is exactly what we did. Rather than wasting our time disclaiming the efforts of analysts, we spent the effort and resources on educating the customer. It also paid that we intorduced prospects to satisfied customers for their opinion about our technology and how it worked for them. I think in the end, it was that combination that helped us win our deals. 

Buyers of technology should not the easy way out and simply ignore technologies that are not listed by one or two analyst groups say so. Check out the credentials of the persons making the commentary. To be frank, the best source of good advise includes a combination of people in your line of business – your competitors, business partners or suppliers. It takes a little bit more effort and maybe more time but if you are investing hard dollars and your reputation, wouldn’t you want to spend the extra effort.

Tell me your opinion. Click on the poll.

References:
ZL Technologies sues Gartner over Archiving Magic Quadrant
ZL vs. Gartner – Interesting at many levels
Email Archiving vendor sues Gatner over Magic Quadrant
ZL vs. Gartner – if at first you don’t succeed

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Streetinsider.com recently posted its commentary following IDC’s 2010 prediction that IBM would acquire Juniper Network. This may be a response to HP’s ongoing acquisition of 3Com and the continuing speculation of a potential Cisco-EMC merger.

The much delayed completion of the acquisiton of Sun Microsystems by Oracle will likely come to conclusion during the first of 2010.

Seeing itself more a bridesmaid than a bride is Brocade, which has put up its “For Sale” sign and seen no real suitor moving to take the offer. As far back as October 2009, Gigaom analysts pointed to Juniper as a potential buyer for Brocade. IBM would have also been a good suitor but the overlap is in the Foundry products (assuming Big Blue does acquire Juniper).

I still think Brocade would made a fine addition to HP. Of course Brocade may need to get rid of its Foundry portfolio to minimize overlap with HP’s Procurve offerring.

Assuming that Cisco and EMC do combine, that would leave NetApp and HDS as the lone pure play storage vendors. Can these two survive in an environment where customers want true ease of use, best possible integration, and one throat-to-choke accountability from their vendors?

If you look back at all this a proliferation of vendors came about because customers clamored for more choice. But while enterprises say they like choice because it allows them to haggle on the price, in reality, they will turn to one vendor who has everything because its simply easier to deal with one supplier than a multitude of vendors.

Having a choice of sources is great only in as much as it gives you the perception of freedom to pick what you want. But choice brings chaos to the equation. This goes agaiinst the grain of businesses that must operate in an orderly fashion so that processes can be streamlined resulting in greater efficiency, higher productivity and lower total cost of doing business. Which if my math is correct will mean greater profits and better shareholder value.

So the old adage of vendor lock-in doesn’t hold sway in today’s highly competitive world. As one CEO told me recently, “At the end of the day, its really not a matter of giving customers a wide array of choices to choose from. It is giving each customer the product that he or she will want to buy. And that could be just one product it just so happens to look a little different to the individual customer.”

Smoke and mirrors!