What do the following have in common?
Oracle and Microsoft but not IBM? PeopleSoft and SAP but not Siebel? SAS but not Teradata? Business Objects and Crystal but not Cognos or ReportNet, and Hyperion but not Brio? Applix and QlikTech but not Temtec? Microstrategy and ProClarity but not Actuate? Spotfire and Arcplan but not Hummingbird?
Now, these are not separate questions. So, to summarise: what do Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft, SAS, Microsoft, Business Objects, Crystal, Hyperion, Applix, QlikTech, Microstrategy, ProClarity, Spotfire and Arcplan all have in common that the others (any others) do not?
1. If you have managed to come up with some extremely convoluted, specialised definition that exactly includes these vendors and nobody else then congratulations, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din, but no points I'm afraid.
2. If you have given up in despair and concluded that there is no conceivable relationship that exactly defines these vendors then - well done, only 5 points but you are absolutely correct – there is no conceivable way that this is a sensible list.
3. For 10 points you must have cheated or you are an avid fan of Gartner Magic Quadrants since these vendors represent the suppliers that appear on the "Gartner Business Intelligence Platform Magic Quadrant" as of April 2004.
Now, in the days when I was a salesman I was taught never to slag off the competition; but this is ridiculous. Cognos isn't a BI platform? Actuate isn't? And some of these others are? And how do you justify comparing Applix with SAS? That's nuts.
Of course, to an extent, that is the beauty of the Magic Quadrant: everyone gets to be a winner. If you are a leader or a visionary, that's great. If you are a challenger then, by definition, you also have the ability to execute.
The only potential losers are those that can't execute and have breadth of capability ("completeness of vision") either – by rights you would say that anything falling into the last category was absolutely hopeless – but, oh no, they are "niche" players, regardless of whether that is how they see themselves or not. I mean, let's be clear here: Applix and QlikTech are labelled niche players in this quadrant but Spotfire (which historically has been much more focused on niche markets that than these two – it's changing now, but that's a different story) is not.
The Magic Quadrant is a great marketing tool: it makes everyone look like a winner. While this suggests that it actually has very little intrinsic value, the fundamental problem is that it does not compare apples with apples and, worse, it leaves out some of the apples altogether.
This prompts another question for our Christmas Quiz: how many users actually pay attention to Magic Quadrants like this, when it is patently obvious that major vendors have been omitted? And if customers can see through it, then of what value is it? Answers on a postcard please.