Gartner and Forrester on the search industry – Part 1

by | Jun 15, 2017 | Search

A number of members of the search implementation community have reservations about recent industry reports from Gartner and Forrester. Charlie Hull has already made some very good points about these reports, and I am about to support him and make some additional comments. They will be in Part 2. To provide some context to these comments it is perhaps worth taking stock of the contribution that industry analysts bring to subscribers making difficult decisions about vendor selection for enterprise applications. As it happens I worked as an industry analyst for around over ten years, initially for Creative Strategies between 1980 and 1982. Then at Reed Publishing I was involved in trying to acquire Gartner before moving on to run large industry analyst teams at International Data Corporation and Logica. I can well remember even now the effort we put into publishing high quality vendor profiles at Creative Strategies, recognising the impact that our work would have on the vendors and their customers.

Ever since my first enterprise search project in 2001 the core question from my clients has always been about what search solution they should implement. Last week I took part in vendor selection discussions with project teams at two different clients, both multi-national companies to whom search was a business-critical application. In one case a senior procurement manager took me through all the vendors mentioned in the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant to find out why only one of them was on the current short list. I was able to offer insights on the vendors to justify my selection decision, but this has been a common scenario over the years. In the second case the client looked at both the Gartner and Forrester reports and wanted to know why some vendors were listed in one and not the other (Microsoft is not listed by Forrester) and one vendor that we had considered (BAInsight) was not included in either report. Again it took time to explain.

In an industry of the size and complexity of IT senior managers, especially in procurement, need to gain a reliable external perspective very quickly at the start of a planning or procurement exercise. Industry analysts can be of great value in spotting trends in the sector and highlighting new vendors with the potential to be great vendors. Kea Company offers services to track and assess industry analysts, and it is interesting to see the extent to which analyst firms wax and wane. Very few of these analyst companies pay much, if any, attention to search. For many years Susan Feldman (at International Data Corporation) was the doyen of search analysts and Stephen Arnold has been tracking search vendors for decades. Hadley Reynolds was also at IDC with Susan, having worked for FAST Search and Transfer. The Real Story Group tracked search for a while but as the number of smaller companies decreased and the complexity of the applications increased RSG decided this was not a commercially viable area. Ovum has published some excellent vendor analysis reports but no longer has specific service offerings for search. The best current analysis of the sector comes from Nick Patience at 451 Research, who was at Recommind for some time and so knows the business from a vendor and client perspective.

Which brings me back to Gartner and Forrester. But they need a blog post all to themselves. To be concluded!

Martin White