Gartner’s Quadrant for Strategic Sourcing Application Suites: Magic or Tragic?

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about Gartner’s new “Magic Quadrant” for Strategic Sourcing Application Suites, including a lot over on Spend Matters in we report, you read, and we all decide and clarifying a few questions, and with good reason. As one of the two publications that are supposed to “define” the strategic sourcing space, the other being the Forrester Wave, there are a large number of expectations that it will be fairly complete, mostly correct, and useful to the client base. But considering that only 14 vendors made “the final cut”, that one of those was an “exception”, that up to 3 more appear to have slipped in on “technicalities”, and that, depending on your viewpoint, up to a dozen other suite providers were excluded for no immediately apparent reason (including some you would expect to slip in under “technicalities” as well), it really makes you go “hmmm”. Especially when, upon diving in, you encounter a number of statements that make you go “huh?” and leave you with the nagging feeling that the report was as rushed as the survey process itself, which upset a large number of vendors, as you can see from the comments to Gartner’s Two-Week Fire Drill and Too Little Time In The Oven? over on Spend Matters.

Before I start ripping it to shreds, which you know by now I’m going to do, I should point out that I thought this was better than some of the previous quadrants because it was clear to me that, with respect to the criteria used, 10 of the vendors definitely deserved to be there. (Not that I agree with all of the criteria or definitions, or the final rankings. However, it’s reasonably clear that Debbie made a conscious decision to define criteria, as arbitrary as some of them seem to be, and stick to them.) Furthermore, most of the information about the included vendors was correct. (I thought it was better than Mickey’s 5th piece on Reaching Sourcing Excellence, Sourcing Technology Is a Commodity With Short Time to Value and Immediate ROI, that was released around the same time. Though her article was well written and made a number of valid points,   it, unfortunately, contained a poorly-constructed “Category Profile and Qualification Table” that attempted to rate the capabilities of 27 vendors across 12 capabilities.   This, in my opinion, ruined what was otherwise a pretty good piece.  But that would be another post in and of itself)

So what didn’t I like? In short the criteria — as some of them didn’t make any sense; a few of the definitions — as some are non-standard and confuse the issue; the implied and unwritten technicalities that resulted from the criteria and let some vendors slip in when there are others who were left out who are bigger, have a better reputation, and/or, in some cases, are more innovative; the amount of notice vendors were given — which may have resulted in a number of exclusions; and the results. I’m sorry, but when you ask me who the “visionary leaders” are in the space, I’m not going to say SAP, Emptoris, or Ariba. SAP is, as it’s always been, a slow lumbering giant in this space. It’ll get there, but not before just about everyone else. Not only does Emptoris have a history of acquiring most of its innovation, but up until it’s recent acquisition by Marlin Equity Partners, it spent the better part of two years downsizing and outsourcing all of its development and most of its support (to India), and you can clearly see the lack of innovation that resulted with respect to other companies in the market. And while Ariba, like Emptoris, is still a “leader” from a market size and solution footprint perspective, they’re still, in reality, dealing with the long-term effects of the Procuri acquisition and trying to fully integrate the code-base and capabilities into their platforms, some of which they still need to integrate and normalize separate from the Procuri acquisition.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth discussion and expose.