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I'm an Australian, based in the Washington, DC, area, with extensive experience in the US, UK/Europe and Australia. I have also lectured in IT and Law related topics at King's College, London, and at The Australian National University.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Magic of Magic Quadrants

As someone who works frequently with Gartner Magic Quadrant documents, I was intrigued today to read an interesting critique of the Magic Quadrant approach in The Register.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant is an elegant idea. Basically, it takes a class of IT products, and compares them on a graph with axes for ability to execute (y-axis) and completeness of vision (x-axis). Companies strive to get as close to the top right (complete vision, strong ability to execute) as possible. The simple view which the graph portrays of the market is backed up by a more detailed prose report.

There are other similar approaches to ranking competitive products, for example in Forrester's Wave reports. Interestingly, the Forrester reports use more than the two axes, by plotting companies as different-sized dots to show further company information. Forrester also releases very detailed analysis, often in vast spreadsheet documents, to back up its conclusions.

The critique in The Register is based on the idea that the very simple Magic Quadrant graphs could display much more information than they do, by adding colours, different-sized dots and arrows to show trends. That is probably true: but perhaps the real problem is that readers are too lazy in their absorption and interpretation of information. People often talk about the Magic Quadrant graph, but how many of them actually read the whole report that accompanies it?

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