Looking beyond the magic quadrant to find the nitty-gritty

  • 7-Aug-2009

At first I was hesitant to write a critique of the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM. They're a worthy competitor, we could learn from them about the value of high-level summaries, and the MQ makes an easy target (Alan has already dissected the phenomenon). But when you look beyond the famous quadrant and review the actual rationales, some important issues emerge for enterprises evaluating vendors and technology.

One tendency is revealing. Many of Gartner's "strengths" and "cautions" have to do with a vendor's "marketing effectiveness," "messaging," and "awareness." Things that matter to investors and other vendors, but not so much to buyers. We are about to publish a short statement on sixteen principles behind CMS Watch's methodology. Principles ten through twelve seem relevant here:

10. We do not rate vendors' "market leadership," which is vague and typically not germane
11. We do not evaluate vendors' sales and marketing acumen, except inasmuch as different sales tactics may be meaningful for buyers to understand
12. A vendor's "story" doesn't matter; what they actually do matters

Let's contrast what Gartner says with a sampling of what our research says about Web CMS vendor CoreMedia.

Gartner

 
Strengths
  • CoreMedia has a solid reputation and proven ability to execute in its traditional "sweet spot" in the media and entertainment sectors.
  • Its regional presence is strong. Even in broader Western European markets, CoreMedia has a presence and a reputation for good engineering.
Cautions
  • CoreMedia has customers in different regions, but needs to develop its organization in North America more strongly and aggressively.
  • As with many engineering-focused developers, its marketing and promotion currently lag behind its technical proficiency. But recent changes in management appear to signal an intent to focus more on marketing and global expansion.

CMS Watch

 
Strengths
(partial list)
  • Flexible, open Java architecture
  • Portal-friendly (integrates with many popular portal products)
  • Streamlined in-context editing user interface could appeal to casual authors as well as marketing experts
  • Strong globalization features
  • FAST InStream search engine included in base package
Weaknesses
(partial list)
  • Combination of CPU- and seat-based licensing makes the product comparatively more expensive on larger implementations
  • Internal communication relies on dated CORBA infrastructure
  • Some important integrations (e.g., MS Office, Lotus Notes) have not been productized and remain third-party customizations
  • Power user interface is a thick Java client; some non-traditional UI metaphors
  • Product not well suited for intranet scenarios
  • Comparatively light footprint outside of Germany

There is one other difference. Our research costs money, and this MQ is free.  Or rather, it's been pre-paid for you by Oracle. (Note the URL: mediaproducts.gartner.com/reprints/oracle/...) This tweet from an an Oracle employee -- "Oracle WIN!" -- suggests how useful the MQ is for them.

So, vendors can win (and lose) at this game. But what about you the customer? Before you start researching which tool to adopt, first figure out your requirements, starting with what sorts of website(s) you publish. Oracle might suit your Intranet, but perhaps not your public sites.

Gartner's observations are arguably more strategic. CMS Watch was founded on the notion that in vendor selection, the nitty-gritty matters. A lot. You see, whatever tool you ultimately select will bring tangible strengths and weaknesses -- probably more of both than you ever imagined-- that will impact your business. Software developers make trade-offs all the time. Which ones do you want to make?