A new kind of “Leader?”: Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM, 2010

NOTE: Below is my personal view of the report. While my interpretation of the findings is well-informed by frequent dialogue with Gartner ECM analysts, the only people entitled to offer a definitive opinion about vendor placement are the authors of the report. My opinion is not a substitute for speaking to the analysts directly using the inquiry time available to paid subscribers to Gartner’s advisory services.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is, at once, the most influential, misunderstood and misrepresented assessment of the ECM marketplace. I know this well because, for the past six years, I’ve had the pleasure of being Hyland’s principle point person for articulating our position in the MQ and other analyst reports to customers, prospects and partners.

To a large degree I owe my role to the sales departments of “BIG ECM:” IBM, EMC, Oracle and Open Text. You see, these vendors are tenured members of the MQ Leader quartile. Hyland Software, on the other hand, retained an exclusive position in the Challenger quadrant for five, consecutive years from 2005 through 2009.

During that time, the members of BIG ECM always made certain to “encourage” prospects to ask Hyland to explain why we weren’t a Leader. With a lot of practice we became pretty darn good at helping buyers understand the nuances and layers of the ECM market, particularly in terms of how it’s framed in the MQ.

Yesterday, Gartner published the 2010 edition of the MQ for ECM. I now find myself in unfamiliar territory. After all these years of defending Hyland Software’s position outside the Leader quartile, this year…WE’RE IN IT!

Soooo, y’know all that…stuff I used to say about not limiting your evaluation of ECM vendors to just those in the Leader quadrant? W-e-e-ll, you just go on and forget all that nonsense.

I’m kidding, of course. This year’s MQ signifies a critical change in the way the ECM market is viewed, both by the analysts and the market. But why?

As I’ve said in my AIIM Roadshow presentations: When it comes to ECM, there is no best. There is only best fits – based on the needs of the organization. This is clearly demonstrated (well, to me at least) in this year’s MQ for ECM.

From 2005 to 2009, Gartner has stipulated that for a vendor to be a Leader in the MQ, it had to offer an integrated suite or collection of products featuring the following six, core ECM component applications:

  • Electronic Document Management
  • Document Imaging
  • Workflow
  • Records Management
  • Team Collaboration
  • Web Content Management

But in this year’s MQ, something clearly changed. Take, for example, Microsoft. It’s positioned in the MQ as the clear and dominant leader. But, Microsoft is there primarily because of the broad adoption of SharePoint as a collaboration platform for an organization’s ECM strategy. It’s also there because of the number of Microsoft ISV partners looking leverage SharePoint as the development platform upon which to develop their own applications.

But perhaps the more glaring example is Hyland.

Since the beginning, Hyland strategically decided not to pursue two of Gartner’s requirements to be a Leader: team collaboration and WCM.

Instead, it stayed focused on this: integrated document imaging, management and workflow capabilities that meet the needs of targeted vertical industries. By forgoing a product strategy that was broad in scope, Hyland was able to concentrate resources on developing breadth and depth of capabilities, as well as industry domain knowledge, to effectively solve a specific set of business problems.

In retrospect, this was probably not a bad decision, given SharePoint’s dominance as a collaboration platform, and its continued expansion into the WCM space. However, doing so meant OnBase did not conform to the MQ’s definition of a complete ECM suite and was a major reason why Hyland was repeatedly excluded from the Leader’s quartile.

So what changed in 2010? Microsoft’s vision didn’t change. Hyland’s vision didn’t change. The market and its evaluation changed.

We may finally be seeing the end of measuring ECM products against an idealized notion of a comprehensive ECM software suite spanning six core technologies. Gartner is wisely moving quickly towards segmenting and aligning vendor product capabilities according to the business problems those products are optimized to solve.


Ken Burns

Ken Burns manages the Analyst and Influencer Relations program globally for Hyland, creator of OnBase. He is responsible for keep leading industry analyst firms informed about Hyland’s company and product... read more about: Ken Burns

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