In an unsurprising but nevertheless significant move, Gartner is permanently canceling vendor-supplied customer references from its Magic Quadrant (MQ) and Critical Capabilities (CC) research methodology. The change took effect on April 28, 2021, and carries with it some nuances as well as broad implications, particularly for Peer Insights – Gartner’s resource for user-written reviews of software and services.
Context – How We Got Here
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic surged, Gartner paused the requirement for vendors to supply customer references as part of the MQ and CC processes. Gartner said it was the responsible move to make for vendors and end-user references alike in light of the business challenges and resource constraints caused by the pandemic. Gartner said that the no-references change would be in place until further notice.
A little more than a year later, the further notice arrived, with Gartner permanently nixing formal customer references.
The Critical Details
Moving forward, Gartner analysts will not ask vendors to provide customer references for analysts to interview or survey as part of MQ and CC evaluations. There is an exception for new MQs and CCs that Gartner creates in the future. To support evaluations of such new markets, Gartner analysts may ask vendors to provide 10 customers who could take a one-time survey.
It’s worth noting that prior to these changes some – if not many – MQs had shifted to surveys of vendors’ references instead of interview-based discussions. The tradition of analysts fielding dozens of reference interviews each year for MQs is no longer widespread.
While end-user feedback remains important to Gartner research, it’s only one of several inputs Gartner analysts consider in MQ evaluations:
- Vendor demos, briefings, and questionnaire responses
- Inquiries with Gartner clients
- Primary research
- Input from fellow analysts
- Peer Insights
Peer Insights – How Does It Fit Into This?
Gartner does not require that its analysts leverage Peer Insights as part of MQ and CC evaluations. And while the newest announcement says that Peer Insights “remains the Gartner platform for enterprise reviews,” it also says that vendors “are not negatively impacted for a lack of reviews provided … nor are they scored higher for providing more reviews.”
With the absence of customer references moving forward, it’s possible that Peer Insights could become a more important part of the toolset analysts use to evaluate markets.
The Bottom Line – What Does This Mean for You?
While the news itself is what many expected from Gartner, the clarity it provides triggers a variety of considerations for vendors in general and Analyst Relations professionals specifically.
- A proactive, insights-driven approach to Analyst Relations is all the more important to understanding analyst sentiment and through them the needs and concerns of your customers.
- Vendors that have zero understanding of Peer Insights need to get up to speed, pronto.
- Leaders in Analyst Relations, Customer Success, and Sales departments should team-up to develop strategies for proactive, year-round engagement across the company’s customer base. Some of those customers could become critical to MQ success.
- Start with an audit of your current standing in Peer Insights and the broader ecosystem of peer-review websites. Ask yourself.
- Do you know how many reviews there are of your technology or service? Do you know what they say? What about your product team?
- Are you prepared to answer questions from Gartner analysts about what’s said in Peer Insights reviews?
- Are there positive reviews that support the use cases you want to convey to analysts?
- Whether you’re in MQs or aspire to be, do you have a thoughtful, comprehensive Peer Insights strategy? Will you source reviews? If yes, how?
- Do you want MQ authors to hear more from your customers than a survey or Peer Insights review can provide? Consider joint briefings – you and a customer –for analysts. Do you encourage your customers and prospects to leverage their Gartner inquiry access?
- Whether via briefings or old-fashioned introductions, can you find creative ways to connect analysts with your customers during the MQ “off-season”?
Next Steps, Learn More
For much more on Gartner’s Peer Insights, as well as other peer review sites, check out our updated Guide to Peer Review Sites for Analyst Relations Professionals.
Whether you’re relieved or frustrated with Gartner’s move to remove customer references from the MQ and CC processes, we’re here to help. Whether you already have Peer Insights reviews or have no idea what it contains about your offering, we’re also here to help. Contact us to learn more about our consulting services and Peer Insights Delivery Team.