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Where are the challengers to AWS?

This is part of 2 of my response to Bernard Golden’s recent CIO.com blog post in response to my announcement of Gartner’s 2013 Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS. (Part 1 was posted yesterday.)

Bernard: “What skill or insight has allowed AWS to create an offering so superior to others in the market?”

AWS takes a comprehensive view of “what does the customer need”, looks at what customers (whether current customers or future target customers) are struggling with, and tries to address those things. AWS not only takes customer feedback seriously, but it also iterates at shocking speed. And it has been willing to invest massively in engineering. AWS’s engineering organization and the structure of the services themselves allows multiple, parallel teams to work on different aspects of AWS with minimal dependencies on the other teams. AWS had a head start, and with every passing year their engineering lead has grown larger. (Even though they have a significant burden of technical debt from having been first, they’ve also solved problems that competitors haven’t had to yet, due to their sheer scale.)

Many competitors haven’t had the willingness to invest the resources to compete, especially if they think of this business as one that’s primarily about getting a VM fast and that’s all. They’ve failed to understand that this is a software business, where feature velocity matters. You can sometimes manage to put together brilliant, hyper-productive small teams, but this is usually going to get you something that’s wonderful in the scope of what they’ve been able to build, but simply missing the additional capabilities that better-resourced competitors can manage (especially if a competitor can muster both resources and hyper-productivity). There are some awesome smaller companies in this space, though.

Bernard: “Plainly stated, why hasn’t a credible competitor emerged to challenge AWS?”

I think there’s a critical shift happening in the market right now. Three very dangerous competitors are just now entering the market — Microsoft, Google, and VMware. I think the real war for market share is just beginning.

For instance, consider the following, off the cuff, thoughts on those vendors. These are by no means anything more than quick thoughts and not a complete or balanced analysis. I have a forthcoming research note called “Rise of the Cloud IaaS Mega-Vendors” that focuses on this shift in the competitive landscape, and which will profile these four vendors in particular, so stay tuned for more. So, that said:

Microsoft has brand, deep customer relationships, deep technology entrenchment, and a useful story about how all of those pieces are going to fit together, along with a huge army of engineers, and a ton of money and the willingness to spend wherever it gains them a competitive advantage; its weakness is Microsoft’s broader issues as well as the Microsoft-centricity of its story (which is also its strength, of course). Microsoft is likely to expand the market, attracting new customers and use cases to IaaS — including blended PaaS models.

Google has brand, an outstanding engineering team, and unrivaled expertise at operating at scale; its weakness is Google’s usual challenges with traditional businesses (whatever you can say about AWS’s historical struggle with the enterprise, you can say about Google many times over, and it will probably take them at least as long as AWS did to work through that). Google’s share gain will mostly come at the expense of AWS’s base of HPC customers and young start-ups, but it will worm its way into the enterprise via interactive agencies that use its cloud platform; it should have a strong blended PaaS model.

VMware has brand, a strong relationship with IT operations folks, technology it can build on, and a hybrid cloud story to tell; whether or not its enterprise-class technology can scale to global-class clouds remains to be seen, though, along with whether or not it can get its traditional customer base to drive sufficient volume of cloud IaaS. It might expand the market, but it’s likely that much of its share gain will come at the expense of VMware-based “enterprise-class” service providers.

Obviously, it will take these providers some time to build share, and there are other market players who will be involved, including the other providers that are in the market today (and for all of you wondering “what about OpenStack”, I would classify that under the fates of the individual providers who use it). However, if I were to place my bets, it would be on those four at the top of market share, five years from now. They know that this is a software business. They know that innovative capabilities are vitally necessary. And they know that this has turned into a market fixated on developer productivity and business benefits. At least for now, that view is dominating the actual spending in this market.

You can certainly argue that another market outcome should have happened, that users should have chosen differently, or even that users are making poor decisions now that they’ll regret later. That’s an interesting intellectual debate, but at this point, Sisyphus’s rock is rolling rapidly downhill, so anyone who wants to push it back up is going to have an awfully difficult time not getting crushed.

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Cloud IaaS market share and the developer-centric world

Bernard Golden recently wrote a CIO.com blog post in response to my announcement of Gartner’s 2013 Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS. He raised a number of good questions that I thought it would be useful to address. This is part 1 of my response. (See part 2 for more.)

(Broadly, as a matter of Gartner policy, analysts do not debate Magic Quadrant results in public, and so I will note here that I’m talking about the market, and not the MQ itself.)

Bernard: “Why is there such a distance between AWS’s offering and everyone else’s?”

In the Magic Quadrant, we rate not only the offering itself in its current state, but also a whole host of other criteria — the roadmap, the vendor’s track record, marketing, sales, etc. (You can go check out the MQ document itself for those details.) You should read the AWS dot positioning as not just indicating a good offering, but also that AWS has generally built itself into a market juggernaut. (Of course, AWS is still far from perfect, and depending on your needs, other providers might be a better fit.)

But Bernard’s question can be rephrased as, “Why does AWS have so much greater market share than everyone else?”

Two years ago, I wrote two blog posts that are particularly relevant here:

These posts were followed up wih two research notes (links are Gartner clients only):

I have been beating the “please don’t have contempt for developers” drum for a while now. (I phrase it as “contempt” because it was often very clear that developers were seen as lesser, not real buyers doing real things — merely ignoring developers would have been one thing, but contempt is another.) But it’s taken until this past year before most of the “enterprise class” vendors acknowledged the legitimacy of the power that developers now hold.

Many service providers held tight to the view espoused by their traditional IT operations clientele: AWS was too dangerous, it didn’t have sufficient infrastructure availability, it didn’t perform sufficiently well or with sufficient consistency, it didn’t have enough security, it didn’t have enough manageability, it didn’t have enough governance, it wasn’t based on VMware — and it didn’t look very much like an enterprise’s data center architecture. The viewpoint was that IT operations would continue to control purchases, implementations would be relatively small-scale and would be built on traditional enterprise technologies, and that AWS would never get to the point that they’d satisfy traditional IT operations folks.

What they didn’t count on was the fact that developers, and the business management that they ultimately serve, were going to forge on ahead without them. Or that AWS would steadily improve its service and the way it did business, in order to meet the needs of the traditional enterprise. (My colleagues in GTP — the Gartner division that was Burton Group — do a yearly evaluation of AWS’s suitability for the enterprise, and each year, AWS gets steadily, materially better. Clients: see the latest.)

Today, AWS’s sheer market share speaks for itself. And it is definitely not just single developers with a VM or two, start-ups, or non-mission-critical stuff. Through the incredible amount of inquiry we take at Gartner, we know how cloud IaaS buyers think, source, succeed, and sometimes suffer. And every day at Gartner, we talk to multiple AWS customers (or prospects considering their options, though many have already bought something on the click-through agreement). Most are traditional enterprises of the G2000 variety (including some of the largest companies in the world), but over the last year, AWS has finally cracked the mid-market by working with systems integrator partners. The projected spend levels are clearly increasing dramatically, the use cases are extremely broad, the workloads increasingly have sensitive data and regulatory compliance concerns, and customers are increasingly thinking of AWS as a strategic vendor.

(Now, as my colleagues who cover the traditional data center like to point out, the spend levels are still trivial compared to what these customers are spending on the rest of their data center IT, but I think what’s critical here is the shift in thinking about where they’ll put their money in the future, and their desire to pick a strategic vendor despite how relatively early-stage the market is.)

But put another way — it is not just that AWS advanced its offering, but it convinced the market that this is what they wanted to buy (or at least that it was a better option than the other offerings), despite the sometimes strange offering constructs. They essentially created demand in a new type of buyer — and they effectively defined the category. And because they’re almost always first to market with a feature — or the first to make the market broadly aware of that capability — they force nearly all of their competitors into playing catch-up and me-too.

That doesn’t mean that the IT operations buyer isn’t important, or that there aren’t an array of needs that AWS does not address well. But the vast majority of the dollars spent on cloud IaaS are much more heavily influenced by developer desires than by IT operations concerns — and that means that market share currently favors the providers who appeal to development organizations. That’s an ongoing secular trend — business leaders are currently heavily growth-focused, and therefore demanding lots of applications delivered as quickly as possible, and are willing to spend money and take greater risks in order to obtain greater agility.

This also doesn’t mean that the non-developer-centric service providers aren’t important. Most of them have woken up to the new sourcing pattern, and are trying to respond. But many of them are also older, established organizations, and they can only move so quickly. They also have the comfort of their existing revenue streams, which allow them the luxury of not needing to move so quickly. Many have been able to treat cloud IaaS as an extension of their managed services business. But they’re now facing the threat of systems integrators like Cognizant and Capgemini entering this space, combining application development and application management with managed services on a strategic cloud IaaS provider’s platform — at the moment, normally AWS. Nothing is safe from the broader market shift towards cloud computing.

As always, every individual customer’s situation is different from another’s, and the right thing to do (or the safe, mainstream thing to do) evolves through the years. Gartner is appropriately cautionary when it discusses such things with clients. This is a good time to mention that Magic Quadrant placement is NEVER a good reason to include or exclude a vendor from a short list. You need to choose the vendor that’s right for your use case, and that might be a Niche Player, or even a vendor that’s not on the MQ at all — and even though AWS has the highest overall placement, they might be completely unsuited to your use case.

The 2013 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, 2013, has just been released (see the client-only interactive version, or the free reprint). Gartner clients can also consult the related charts, which summarize the offerings, features, and data center locations.

We’re now updating this Magic Quadrant on a nine-month basis, and quite a bit has changed since the 2012 update (see the client-only 2012, or the free 2012 reprint).

In particular, market momentum has strongly favored Amazon Web Services. Many organizations have now had projects on AWS for several years, even if they hadn’t considered themselves to have “done anything serious” on AWS. Thus, as those organizations get serious about cloud computing, AWS is their incumbent provider — there are relatively few truly greenfield opportunities in cloud IaaS now. Many Gartner clients now actually have multiple incumbent providers (the most common combination is AWS and Terremark), but nearly all such customers tell us that the balance of new projects are going to AWS, not the other providers.

Little by little, AWS has systematically addressed the barriers to “mainstream”, enterprise adoption. While it’s still far from everything that it could be, and it has some specific and significant weaknesses, that steady improvement over the last couple of years has brought it to the “good enough” point. While we saw much stronger momentum for AWS than other providers in 2012, 2013 has really been a tipping point. We still hear plenty of interest in competitors, but AWS is overwhelmingly the dominant vendor.

At the same time, many vendors have developed relatively solid core offerings. That means that the number of differentiators in the market has decreased, as many features become common “table stakes” features that everyone has. It means that most offerings from major vendors are now fairly decent, but only a few are really stand out for their capabilities.

That leads to an unusual Magic Quadrant, in which the relative strength of AWS in both Vision and Execution essentially forces the whole quadrant graphic to rescale. (To build an MQ, analysts score providers relative to each other, on all of the formal evaluation criteria, and the MQ tool automatically plots the graphic; there is no manual adjustment of placements.) That leaves you with centralized compression of all of the other vendors, with AWS hanging out in the upper right-hand corner.

Note that a Magic Quadrant is an evaluation of a vendor in the market; the actually offering itself is only a portion of the overall score. I’ll be publishing a Critical Capabilities research note in the near future that evaluates one specific public cloud IaaS offering from each of these vendors, against its suitability for a set of specific use cases. My colleagues Kyle Hilgendorf and Chris Gaun have also been publishing extremely detailed technical evaluations of individual offerings — AWS, Rackspace, and Azure, so far.

A Magic Quadrant is a tremendous amount of work — for the vendors as well as for the analyst team (and our extended community of peers within Gartner, who review and comment on our findings). Thanks to everyone involved. I know this year’s placements came as disappointments to many vendors, despite the tremendous hard work that they put into their offerings and business in this past year, but I think the new MQ iteration reflects the cold reality of a market that is highly competitive and is becoming even more so.

Recommended reading for Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

If you’re a service provider interested in participating in the Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant process (see the call for vendors), I’d like to recommend a number of my previous blog posts.

Foundational Gartner research notes on cloud IaaS. Recommended reading to understand our thinking on the market.

Having cloud-enabled technology != Having a cloud. Critical for understanding what we do and don’t consider cloud IaaS to be.

AR contacts for a Magic Quadrant should read everything. An explanation of why it’s critical to read every word of every communication received during the MQ process.

The process of a Magic Quadrant. Understanding a little bit about how MQs get put together.

Vendors, Magic Quadrants, and client status. Appropriate use of communications channels during the MQ process.

General tips for Magic Quadrant briefings and Specific tips for Magic Quadrant briefings. Information on how to conduct an effective and concise Magic Quadrant briefing.

The art of the customer reference. Tips on how to choose reference customers.

Call for vendors — 2013 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

It’s that time of the year again, a little bit early — we’re trying to refresh the Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant on a nine-month cycle rather than a yearly cycle, reflecting the faster pace of the market.

A pre-qualification survey, intended to gather quantitative metrics and information about each provider’s service, will be going out very soon.

If you are a cloud IaaS provider, and you did not receive the 2012 survey, and you would like to receive the 2013 survey, please email Michele dot Severance at Gartner dot com to request to be added to the contact list. You must be authorized to speak for your company. Please note we cannot work with PR firms for the Magic Quadrant; if you are a PR agency and you think that your client should be participating, you should get in touch with your client and have your client contact Michele.

If you did receive the 2012 survey, you should be receiving email from Michele within the next few days, requesting that you confirm that you’re the right contact or passing it on to the correct contact to do so.

If you’re unsure whether you’re a cloud IaaS provider by this MQ’s definitions, consider the following:

  • Are you selling a service? (That means you’re not selling hardware or software.)
  • Are you offering compute, storage, and network resources? (You can’t be, say, just a cloud storage provider.)
  • Is your offering fully standardized? (It’s identical for every customer, not a reference architecture that you customize.)
  • Can customers self-service? (Once approved as customers, they can go to your portal and push buttons to immediately, with zero human intervention, obtain/destroy/configure/manage their infrastructure resources. Managed services can be optional.)
  • Can you meter by the hour? (You can either sell by the hour, or you can offer monthly capacity where usage is metered hourly. Having to take a VM for a full month is hosting, not IaaS.)
  • Do you have at least one multi-tenant cloud IaaS offering? (Customers must share a capacity pool for the offering to be considered multi-tenant.)
  • Do you consider your competition to be offerings such as Amazon EC2, Verizon Terremark’s Enterprise Cloud, or CSC’s CloudCompute? (If not, you’re probaly confused about what cloud IaaS is.)

The best guide to this year’s Magic Quadrant is last year’s Magic Quadrant. Read the interactive MQ if you’re a client, or the free reprint if you’re not.

Please note that receiving a survey does not in any way indicate that we believe that your company is likely to qualify; we simply allow surveys to go to all interested parties (assuming that theyâre not obviously wrong fits, like software companies without an IaaS offering).

The status for this Magic Quadrant will be periodically updated on its status page.

The forthcoming Managed Hosting Magic Quadrant, 2013

Gartner will soon be starting the process of updating our Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting, currently targeted for publication in Q1 of 2013. This is the update to the Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting that was published in March 2012 of this year; a free reprint is available. If you consider yourself to be an enterprise-class managed hosting provider, capable of providing fully-managed services for complex, mission-critical websites, this is your Magic Quadrant. (Note that this is a distinct market from data center outsourcing.)

The previous Magic Quadrant was global. However, because regional requirements differ, and many excellent managed hosting providers are not global, we have decided to replace the global Magic Quadrant with three regional Magic Quadrants — one each for North America, Pan-Europe, and Asia-Pacific, published in that order. Each MQ will have its own inclusion criteria and evaluation criteria.

I will be leading the overall global effort, and Gartner’s analysts that cover Managed Hosting will be doing these MQs as a global team, although each regional MQ will have a region-specific lead author. We are going to do a single global data collection effort and set of briefings, though, to reduce the level of effort needed by the service provider AR teams.

Doug Toombs will be the lead author for the North American MQ and will be assisting me in running the global effort. If you are not already following his blog or his Twitter (@DougToombs), I strongly encourage you to do so.

We will imminently be kicking off the process for this set of MQs. If you were not on last year’s Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting, and you would like to receive a pre-qualification survey, please contact Doug Toombs at Douglas dot Toombs at Gartner dot com. Please note that we allow any service provider to participate in the survey process; reception of a survey does not indicate in any way that we feel that your company is qualified to be in the MQ.

Vendors, Magic Quadrants, and client status

I’m writing this blog post for vendors who are in Magic Quadrants or who are hoping to be in Magic Quadrants, as well as the Gartner account executives (AEs) who have such vendors as clients and prospects. It’s in lieu of having to send an email blast to a lot of people; since it’s more generic than just my own Magic Quadrants, here it is for the world.

So, to sum up:

Whether or not a vendor is a Gartner client has no bearing on whether they are on a Magic Quadrant, or how they are rated. Vendors should therefore refrain from attempting to use pressure tactics on Gartner AEs, and Gartner AEs should be careful to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in dealing with vendors in a Magic Quadrant context. Vendors should conduct Magic Quadrant communications directly, using the contact information they were given.

And here’s the deeper dive:

Vendors, you’ve been given contact info for a reason. Please use it. As part of the process, every vendor being considered for an MQ is given points of contact — generally an admin coordinator as well as one or more of the analysts involved in the MQ. You’re told who you should go to if you have questions or issues — often the coordinator, lead analyst, or some specific analyst designated as your point of contact (POC). You should communicate directly with the POC. Do not go through your Gartner AE, other analysts that you deal with, or otherwise attempt to have a third party relay your concerns. Also, communicate via the contact you designated as the responsible party within your organization; we cannot, for instance, work with your PR firm. Gartner has a strict process that governs MQ-related communications; we ask that you do this so that we can ensure that all conversations are documented, and that your message is clearly and directly heard.

Yes, we mean it. Please contact us with questions and issues. If you’ve read everything available to you (the official communications, the Gartner documentation on how MQs work, any URLs you were given, and so on), and it doesn’t answer your question, please reach out to us. If you have an issue, please let us know. The analyst is the authoritative source. Anything you hear from anyone else isn’t. Gartner AEs don’t have any kind of privileged knowledge about the process, so don’t depend on them for information.

A vendor’s client relationship is of no relevance. The analysts do not care if a vendor is a client, how big of a client they are, whether they’re going to buy reprints if they get a certain placement, will become a client if they’re included on the MQ, or about any other attempt to throw their weight around. Vendors who try to do so are likely to be laughed at. Gartner AEs who try to advocate on behalf of their clients will annoy the analyst, and if it doesn’t cease, strongly risk having the analyst complain about them to the Ombudsman. In general, analysts prefer not to even know about what issues an AE might be having that may in some way be impacted by the MQ. It may even backfire, as the analyst’s desire to avoid any appearance of impropriety may lead to much closer scrutiny of any positive statements made about that vendor.

In short: Vendors shouldn’t try to go through Gartner Sales to communicate with the analysts involved in a Magic Quadrant. The right way to do this is direct, via the designated contacts. I know it’s natural to go to someone whom you may feel is better able to plead your case or tell you how they think you can best deal with the analyst, but please avoid the urge, unless you really just want a sounding board and not a relay. If you want to talk, get in touch.

Specific Tips for Magic Quadrant briefings

This is part 2 of a two-part post. The first part contains general tips for Magic Quadrant briefings, applicable to any vendor regardless of how much contact they’ve had with the analyst. This second part divides the tips by that level of contact.

Richard Stiennon’s UP and to the RIGHT, which provides advice about the Magic Quadrants, stresses that preparation for this process is really a continuous thing — not a massive effort that’s just focused upon the evaluation period itself. I agree very strongly with that advice.

Nevertheless, even AR professionals — indeed, even AR professionals who are part of big teams at big vendors — often don’t do that long-term prep work. Consequently, there are really three types of vendors that enter into this process — vendors that the analyst is already deeply familiar with and where the vendor and analyst maintain regular contact (no client relationship necessary, can just be through briefings), vendors that the analyst has had some contact with but doesn’t speak to regularly, and vendors that the analyst doesn’t really know.

Tips for Vendors the Analyst is in Frequent Contact With

In general, if you have regular contact with the analyst — at least once, if not several times, a quarter — a briefing like this shouldn’t contain any surprises. It’s an opportunity to pull everything together in a unified way and back up your statements with data — to turn what might have been a disjointed set of updates and conversations, over the course of a year, into one unified picture.

Hit the highlights. Use the beginning of the briefing as a way to summarize your accomplishments over the course of the year, and refresh the analyst’s memory on things you consider particularly important. You may want to lay out your achievements in a quarter-by-quarter way in the slide deck, for easy reference.

Provide information that hasn’t been covered in previous briefings. Make sure you remember to mention your general corporate achievements. Customer satisfaction, changes to your channel and partnership model, financial accomplishments, and other general initiatives are examples of things you might want to touch on.

Focus on the future. Lay out where you see your business going. If you can do so on a quarter-by-quarter basis (which you may want to stipulate is under an NDA), do so.

Tips for Vendors the Analyst Knows, Without Frequent Contact

If the analyst knows you pretty well, but you haven’t been in regular contact — the analyst hasn’t gotten consistently briefed on updates, or been asked for input on future plans — not only do you want to present the big picture, but you want to make sure that they haven’t missed anything. Your briefing is going to look much like the briefing of a vendor who has been in frequent contact, but with a couple of additional points:

Tell a clear story. When you go through the highlights of your year, explain how what you’ve done and what you’re planning fits into a coherent vision of the market, where you see yourself going, and how it contributes to your unique value proposition.

Have plenty of supplemental material. Because the analyst might not have seen all the announcements, it’s particularly important that you ensure that your slide deck has an appendix that summarizes everything. Link to the press release or more detailed product description, if need be.

Tips for Vendors the Analyst Doesn’t Really Know

Sometimes, you just won’t know the analyst very well. Maybe you’re a new vendor to the space, or previously been too small to draw attention from the analyst. Maybe this space isn’t a big focus for you. Maybe you’ve briefed the analyst once a year or so, but don’t really stay in touch. Whatever the case, the analyst doesn’t know you well, and therefore you’re going to spend your briefing building a case from the ground up.

Clearly articulate who you are. Start the briefing with your elevator pitch. This is your business and differentiation in a handful of sentences that occupy less than two minutes. The analyst is trying to figure out how to summarize you in a nutshell. Your best chance of controlling that message is to (credibly) assert a summary yourself. Put your company history and salient facts on an appendix to the slides, for later perusal. Up front, just have your core pitch and any metrics that support it.

Pare your story to the bare essentials. Spend the most time talking about whatever it is that is your differentiation. (Example: If you know your product isn’t significantly differentiated but for whatever reason they love you in emerging markets, sweep through describing your product by comparing it to a common baseline in your market, and conceding that’s not where you differentiate, then focus on your emerging markets story in detail.) If your differentiation is in your product/service and not in your general business, focus on that — you can assume the analyst knows what the common baseline is, so you can gloss over that baseline in a few sentences (you can have more detail on your slides if need be) and then move on to talking about how you’re unique.

Be customer-centric. Explain the profile of your customers and their use cases, and make it clear why they typically choose you. Resist the urge to focus on brand-name logos, especially if those aren’t typical or aren’t your normal use case. Logo slides are nice, but they’re even better if the logos are divided by use case or some other organizing function that makes it clear what won you the deal.

Ensure you talk about your go-to-market strategy. Specifically, explain how you sell and market your product/service. Even if this isn’t especially exciting, spend at least a slide talking about how you’re creating market awareness of your company and product/service, and how you actually get it into the hands of prospects and win those deals.

Provide a deep appendix to your slide deck. You should feel free to put as much supplemental material as you think would be useful into an appendix or separate slide deck for the analyst’s later perusal. Everything from executive bios to a deep dive on your product can go here. If it’s in your presentation for investors, or part of your standard pitch to customers, it can probably go in the deck.

General Tips for Magic Quadrant briefings

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post called “What Makes for an Effective MQ Briefing?” This is a follow-up, with my thoughts somewhat more organized.

For AR and PR people, before you do anything else, if you have not read it, get and read Richard Stiennon’s UP and to the RIGHT. I cannot recommend it enough; Richard has seen the process as both a Gartner analyst and as a vendor, and it is chock full of good tips. It will help you understand the process, how the analysts think, and how you can best present yourselves.

This is part 1 of a two-part post contains the general tips. The next post contains tips that are applicable specifically to each of the three types of vendors. Every single one of these tips comes with one or more horror stories that I can tell you about past Magic Quadrant briefings. What seems obvious often isn’t.

General Tips

Pick the right presenters. You don’t need your most senior executives on the phone. You do need people who can present well, who thoroughly know the source material, and can answer whatever questions arise. Ensure that your presenters will have a good clear phone connection (use of cellphones or speakerphones should be strongly discouraged), and a quiet environment. If possible, choose presenters that speak fluent English and do not have accents that are difficult to understand — even if that requires using someone more junior and simply having the expert or executive on hand to take questions. You may even want to choose presenters that speak relatively quickly, if you feel time-crunched.

Send the presentation in advance. Ensure that you have emailed a copy of the presentation deck, in PowerPoint format, a day in advance of the briefing, to the administrative coordinator (who can take care of distributing it to the analysts). Be prepared to quickly resend it to anyone who has not received it. Do not send PDFs; analysts like to take notes on the slides. If you’re relying on a web conference, make sure that you still send the slides in advance — and get set up on it ahead of time and use a single PC to drive the whole presentation so you don’t waste time and possibly run into technical difficulties switching from screen to screen.

Be on time, and don’t waste time. Make sure that your dial-in number is distributed to everyone who needs to be on the call. Dial into the bridge early if need be. Have someone available to wrangle your executives if they’re running late. Have a backup presenter if you have an executive who’s notorious for not making meetings on time. Do not waste time making introductions. A presenter can briefly state their name and functional role (“I’m Joe Smith, and I run our support organization”) before starting their portion of the presentation. If you think your executive bios are important, include them as an appendix to your slides. Do not spend time having analysts introduce themselves; there are bios for them on Gartner’s website, and they will state their names when they ask questions.

Watch the clock. In a Magic Quadrant briefing, you typically have one hour to present your thoughts. Analysts are almost always scheduled back to back, so you will not have one minute extra to present, and may in fact have several minutes less if for some reason the analysts are held up from a previous meeting. Also, you want to have some time left for questions, so you should target a 45-minute presentation. If you think you have too many slides, you probably do. Rehearse to make sure you can get through your material in 45 minutes, if need be. Do not expect to be given the opportunity to do another briefing if you fail to finish in your allotted hour.

When an analyst prods you along, move on. One or more of the analysts may cut you short and ask you to move to the next slide or even skip a few slides. Listen to this and move on. By the time someone has gotten to the point of cutting you off, the analysts, who are almost certainly in an IM conversation with each other, have all already agreed that what you are saying is collectively useless to them, and that this part of the presentation is dull beyond enduring. If you think that there’s a really important point somewhere in what you’re saying, make it and move on. Or incorporate it into some other part of your presentation. Do not keep plodding along.

Focus on this particular Magic Quadrant’s market. If you have a broad solutions portfolio, that’s great, but remember that the analysts, and this Magic Quadrant, will be focused on something specific. The broader solutions portfolio can be worth mentioning, especially if it allows you to deliver higher-value and directly-relevant highly-integrated solutions, but not at the expense of focus on this Magic Quadrant’s topic. That topic should always be front-and-center. If you’re finding yourself wanting to instead talk about this somewhat-related market that you think you’re much stronger in, don’t — re-focus on the core topic.

Don’t talk about the market in general. Any analyst involved in a Magic Quadrant is, at least in theory, an expert on the market. They don’t want or need to hear about it. The only exception might be if you serve some specialized niche that the analyst does not often come into contact with. Your perspective on the market should be made clear by the specific actions that your company has taken, and will take in the future; you can explain your rationale for those decisions when you go through them, without doing a big up-front thing about the market.

Focus on your differentiation. The analysts want to know what you think makes you different, not just from the market leaders, but from your closest competitors. They want to know who you’re locked in bloody-knuckled combat each day, and why you win or lose those deals. But focus on explaining what you do well and where you intend to be superior in the future — don’t waste time badmouthing your competitors.

Be concrete and incorporate metrics whenever possible. Analysts hear broad directional statements all the time, and are usually unimpressed by them; they’re interested in the specifics of what you’ve done and what you’re going to do. Analysts love numbers. Their lives are full of vendors making grandiose claims, so they like to see evidence whenever possible. (For instance, are you claiming that your customers are much happier this year than last year? Show last year and this year’s NPS scores, ticket closure times, whatever — concrete evidence.) You don’t need to read the metrics. Just make the general point (“customer satisfaction has increased greatly in the last year, as our NPS scores show”), and have the metrics on the slides so the analysts can dive into them later. You can request that the metrics be kept under NDA if need be.

Disclose your future roadmap. A one-year or two-year roadmap, especially one that’s quarter-by-quarter, is going to make a much bigger impression than a general statement about aspirations. If you have to state that part of the briefing is under NDA, that’s fine; the analysts will still factor that information into the rating, implicitly. You may have great things planned, but if the analysts don’t know about them, you’ll get zero credit for those things when they consider your vision.

AR contacts for a Magic Quadrant should read everything

Something for analyst relations folks and the PR firms that help them, to take note of when participating in a Magic Quadrant:

Read every communication that you’re sent, in its entirety.

One might think this would be a simple thing, but multiple years of experience have shown that this is not the case. Granted, sometimes these communications are long, but they are long because they contain lots of information. The information is not gratuitous; it is information that you need to know.

Many vendor AR folks have told me that these communications essentially fall into the TL;DR category — they’re only glanced through. I recognize that it is only human to skim long emails, and even more human to skim through lengthy Word documents. I am resigned to the fact that you may completely ignore even the things that are in boldface type, especially if they’re in the middle of the message or at the bottom. I also recognize that it is only human to ask questions, rather than spending the time to read what you are sent.

But I must also point out that for many vendors, the Magic Quadrant is viewed as a high-stakes exercise that will consume a tremendous number of hours of your time and the time of your executives. You do yourself a disservice if you do not read every single word of every single communication that’s sent to you with regard to the Magic Quadrant. You don’t have to do so instantly, but you probably want to carefully read what you’re sent within a business day — and to take the time to mark deadlines on your calendar, add contacts to your address book, and so forth.

Gartner tries very hard, through the prescribed form-letter formats that it requires that analysts use for Magic Quadrant communications, to make sure that you get all the information that you need. It is true that we generally err on the side of providing too much detail, rather than being overly succinct. This is because we generally try to anticipate the questions that you are going to ask. Also, sometimes we are constrained by the form letter, which requires that we provide certain information in a certain format, which might not be the most concise possible approach.

Many of the analysts try to deal with your collective reluctance to read by making use of boldface and colorful text to highlight critical information, and in longer communications, to put a summary up-front so it’s instantly in front of you. However, in the end, glancing through the highlights and the summary is often not sufficient. There’s simply no substitute for reading everything.

To make sure that you do not drop critical communications into your spam folder, ensure that you whitelist the admin coordinator at Gartner (who will usually be your point of contact and will send out most of the official communications), along with each of the analysts involved in the Magic Quadrant. Analysts don’t do general email blasts. You should even consider just whitelisting gartner.com email addresses.

By the way, if you can spare the time, you also want to read the research that’s been published by the analysts who will be involved in the process, and more broadly, about your market. Some of the analysts blog, so looking through their postings may be helpful as well. Again, it’s time-consuming, but if Magic Quadrant placement is important to your company, it can give you a good idea of what the analysts will care about in their evaluation.

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