Gartner is one of the world’s leading experts on technology research and analysis. The intention of this post is to help potential ECM buyers understand the strengths and limitations of Gartner’s research, and assess whether ECM is the correct solution for prospective buyers in the first place.


Introduction to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for ECM

Created by Gartner, Inc., a technology research and advisory company, Magic Quadrant is a visual tool devised to help prospective technology buyers understand vendors within certain information technology industries.

In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for ECM, analysts selected a variety of ECM vendors, dividing these in the quadrant into leaders, challengers, visionaries, and niche players—illustrating where certain vendors stand in relation to others in terms of their completeness of vision and ability to execute: the two axes comprising the quadrant.

Magic Quadrant visually ascertains many of Gartner’s perspectives independent of the report’s text; if these perspectives are true, vendors will, for the most part, not make any drastic, innovative leaps within the next two years.

Although a lack of further innovation may seem like a downfall, the market is already sophisticated in terms of strategy and feature innovation, and any further innovation within the next two years may prevent ECM users and prospective buyers alike from placing ECM in an understandable light.

Although eFileCabinet is a document management vendor, not an ECM vendor, for smaller to mid-sized businesses, Enterprise Content Management is a relatable subject, and its research can tell us about information management in general.


Main Points from the Quadrant

Many ECM vendors with reseller partnerships were included in the quadrant, and the most notable vendors in the quadrant understandably have great product lines and integration capacity, the ability to serve clients from anywhere, and consequently, a strong global presence.

Vendors with little cloud presence and capacity did not rank as highly as their competitors with sophisticated cloud bandwidth. The number of data centers does not equate to compliance. Some vendors have easily modifiable and upgradable ECM solutions, whereas others do not. Vendors with partner-led support, as in third-party software support, did not fare as well as those with in-house support teams.

Vendors with a strong spread of products in their portfolio fared better than those with fewer solid product options. Vendors with metadata-driven ECM models fared better in the quadrant than they would have without their metadata-driven architectures.

Gartner notes that leaders possess vertical-specific technologies, creating greater product assortment and industry-specific benefits—particularly analyzing “integration with other business applications and content repositories; the incorporation of social, cloud, and mobile capabilities; and vertical process and horizontal-solution focus.”

In its Magic Quadrant, Gartner emphasizes the importance of collaborative work, content authoring, and publishing in ECM—stressing that the collaborative abilities of these ECM solutions will require integrated, accessible, and streamlined integration with social software: primarily wikis, blogs, digital forums, and social networks.

Gartner defines use cases, as they pertain to ECM vendors and users, as the interactions between a user and a system that enable the user to achieve a goal. Gartner emphasizes three use cases as the most important as they pertain to ECM:

Transactional Content Management

This is a method for moving individual pieces of content and data through business processes; it is any process or routine that optimizes and unifies the bi-directional interactions between customers and vendors.

Records Management and Compliance

This is the ability to fulfill compliance standards by industry through records management practices.

Digital Workspace Scenarios

When consumerization and non-routine work forms have disrupted a traditional content management strategy, a more open and agile approach to content management is required.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant also enumerates the geographical implications of the ECM market in Asiatic and North American regions. The report also imparts valid analyses to prospective ECM buyers regarding how geography will impact their choice of ECM vendor.

Gartner stresses that the Asia-Pacific Context (APAC) can be divided into mature and emerging categories. Gartner places Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and Singapore in the APAC’s mature market, whereas China, Taiwan, India, and the myriad countries of South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma) fall into Gartner’s Emerging APAC category.

Gartner readily differentiates North America and Europe from the APAC region, stressing how the APAC region is forecast to grow in terms of ECM use and understanding, whereas North America and Europe will experience less growth in these domains.

There is evidence to support this claim, and it provides potential ECM users in the APAC region with considerable room to grow, develop, and compete against other businesses by adopting and relating to ECM technologies sooner than competitors in the same region. Internationally, this will mean greater grounds for effective communication in the era of globalization.

In Gartner’s report, ECM use and adoption in European markets may portray the region as slow-moving, but also as one presenting tremendous opportunity for information technology leaders of growing companies, who should look to boost their organizations through ECM.

There are numerous ECM vendors catering to the European region and few organizations with the resources to purchase solutions from these vendors, allowing heavy-hitters to further stake their claim in their respective market territories.

In continuing the report, it is noted that Europe is rife with economic turmoil, preventing enterprises from extending their suite of information technology products. Despite ECM solutions being valuable to this market, Western Europe is presently displaying, and likely will continue to allocate dollars toward software that addresses specific issues, opting out of ECM by virtue of its generality.

Additionally, Gartner notes that this portion of the European context opts out of automation technologies (such as ECM) in fear that such technologies will replace workers—further hurting the economy as a whole.

Additionally, Gartner’s report stresses the difficulties that Europe’s myriad languages present in a relatively small geographic space, preventing vendors from attempting to saturate the European market and/or produce software accommodating these myriad languages.

Despite these setbacks, Gartner asserts that Europe’s IT leaders do still purchase ECM solutions, and in doing so, consider vendor product focus, a vendor’s local support resources, and the vendor’s financial viability and track record.

In the concluding analysis of Gartner’s report, they deduced that ECM vendors who are local to less developed tech markets and their prospective ECM buyers have advantages over generic global vendors—irrespective of how targeted or diverse the portfolio of strategies and technologies offered by the global ECM vendor.

They uphold this assertion by stating that vendors local to their ECM buyers will have superior knowledge of local conditions and compliance objectives, resulting in better support, cultural overlap, tech customization, and linguistic overlap.


Limitations of the Quadrant

There are several limitations to Gartner’s otherwise impressive Quadrant. First, a lack of innovation in the ECM space is the reason for Gartner refraining from placing a single vendor in the “Challengers” Quadrant of their diagram.

It may also be debated whether completeness of vision and ability to execute convey the ECM Industry vendors in the entirety of their vision, niche leanings, challenger-ship, and leadership—let alone each vendor’s strong-suits and drawbacks.

In its publication, “Magic Quadrant for Identity and Access Management as a Service, Worldwide” Gartner measures the ability to execute as the confluence of their product or service offerings, viability, sales execution/pricing, market responsiveness/record, marketing execution, customer experience, and operations.

While most can agree that the “ability to execute” is indisputably important, it is debatable whether marketing execution and sales execution are relevant determinants for which ECM vendor serves the intended purposes of the quadrant: to give prospective ECM buyers the best array of options from which to choose. This raises questions as to whether all of the relevant vendors have been included in the quadrant.

Additionally, “completeness of vision” is an immensely subjective criterion—even for highly qualified researchers. What’s more, this completeness of vision does not detail how it benefits the prospective buyer.

Gartner qualifies this criterion as being comprised of the following determinants: market understanding, marketing strategy, sales strategy, offering (product) strategy, business model, vertical/industry strategy, innovation, and geographic strategy.

One must ask, again, whether sales and marketing strategies can be reiterated in this axis of the quadrant, especially since it is unclear how the selected vendors will allocate revenue from solid sales and marketing efforts.

A more objective criterion would better serve readers, perhaps freeing up room for analyses more inclusive than the 20-vendor analysis Gartner provided in its report. This would, in turn, ensure that readers choose the best ECM for their organizations irrespective of their budget, size, and technological bandwidth.