What’s the difference between a Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) Leader and Challenger? A Challenger and a Niche Player? A Leader and a Visionary?

These may sound like trick questions or something for which you have to do homework.  But relax … Gartner did the research and we’ve got the answers. So if you’re interested in how enterprise content management (ECM) vendors rate in this year’s MQ, and what that might mean, read on.

What’s the Difference?

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant rates vendors on two axes: the horizontal axis scores “Completeness of Vision” and the vertical axis scores “Ability to Execute." The ECM MQ “Leaders” whom we introduced last week, rated highly both in their “completeness of vision” and in their “ability to execute."

Two or three decades ago ECM leaders used to be likened to Cadillacs (yes, the automobiles) in that they were the best of what could be had — the gold standard. While Gartner won’t likely say this, the comparison on the street was that Leaders not only had a whole lot to offer, but that they also cost a mint.

We haven’t done any price comparisons of late, but it’s hard to imagine that a top shelf product, like a Gartner leader, would be less expensive than its lower-shelved competition. And since Cadillacs are becoming someone dated, even to Gen-xers, it’s time to start thinking Tesla when you think “leader."

Consider Your Needs, Not Rankings

MQ Challengers execute as well as the leaders, but they fall short on “vision” which often means that they don’t offer the breadth of capabilities that leaders do. They do, however, get high marks on executing on what they offer. So if you’re a company that’s shopping for an ECM solution and you don’t need it to do everything Leader solutions do (say heat your seats or self-park), a Challenger solution might suit you just fine.

MQ Niche Players offer more limited functions and features and they don’t always execute quite as well. In the automobile comparison think less robust. This again may be fine if you have little or no use for everything a leader or challenger might offer.

In the automobile world this may equate to “no heated seats” and service centers that are few and far apart. But if you live in Miami and the dealership is next door, it’s not an issue.

MQ Visionaries score as highly as some of the leaders on capabilities features and functions, but they fall short in execution as compared to the Leaders. Note that “falling short” doesn’t necessarily imply sub-par. Instead vendors in this quadrant might lack comparative market share, market awareness, or implementation partners whose capabilities are questionable and so on…

The Roundup, Part 1

We’re listing these in reverse alphabetical order.

Xerox, a Visionary Product at a Reasonable Price

Xerox is an ECM Visionary. If the aforementioned sentence caused your jaw to drop, you’re hardly alone. Sure, we knew that the company that ruled the “copy machine” world of our childhood started to build document management solutions in the 1980’s, but in today’s world we would have pictured them as dinosaurs rather than drones.

Not so, said Gartner’s report. In fact, Xerox is on par or even outranks more recently introduced ECM offerings like Alfresco (whom we’ll cover in the next article) in the visionaries quadrant.

One of Xerox’s strengths is its brand name. Managers recognize and trust it so much so that they are willing to buy ECM-as-a-Service from them, and have been for quite a while. Xerox caters to enterprises with its DocuShare line and offers specific solutions for clients in the financial services, legal services and mortgage industries with products like Xerox Transactional Content Manager (XTCM), Xerox Mortgage Services/BlitzDocs and Xerox Litigation Services (OmniX, CategoriX and Viewpoint).

Gartner said that Xerox offers proven deployments at moderate prices. We think that’s worth taking note of.

But there are reasons that Xerox isn’t in the Leaders quadrant and, interestingly enough, one of them is marketing- not enough enterprises know that the company has an ECM solution, so it doesn’t show up on shortlists.

Upland Software Makes Its ECM Magic Quadrant Debut

Someone must have forgotten to tell the Texans at Upland Software that the ECM vendor market was saturated and there was no room for new entrants. Or, if they did, CEO Jack McDonald and his crew simply ignored them.

Upland which stakes its claim as a cloud-based Enterprise Work Management solutions provider has qualified for inclusion in Gartner’s MQ via its FileBound and Clickability acquisitions. The vendor targets the mid-market and provides what Gartner calls “good basic workflow and reporting capabilities for business processes such as accounts payable approval." Its solutions provide good imaging, workflow, e-form and archiving capabilities and are Microsoft-oriented which, needless to say, raises the odds of user acceptance substantially.

Where Upland falls short, according to Gartner, is that it’s not very well known, doesn’t have a strong track record in scalability, and that it has a limited presence outside of North America and Australia.

These shortcomings shouldn’t necessarily be seen as deterrents unless you’re a mammoth Enterprise that wants to do work where Upland doesn’t have a presence.

Unisys has Real World Domain Experience

Like other “Niche Players” in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, Unisys’ placement is limited more by what it brings to the market than the benefits it provides or the results it delivers. It does not try to be all things to all people. Instead, it aims to be the best at what it does.

Gartner said that at its core Unisys is a systems integrator and offers a product, InfoImage, for imaging and Workflow. Its strengths come from its ability to meet its customers' high-volume document imaging and workflow needs and to leverage lessons learned during implementations into repeatable practices.

Unisys could create greater benefits for its customers by strengthening its capabilities in areas like dynamic content, content creation, collaborative content and co-authoring scenarios. Other shortcomings seem to come as a result of subpar marketing.  buyers can’t consider a purchase if they don’t know that a product or service exists.

Systemware Needs to Get the Word Out

Systemware seems to have done a remarkable job of leveraging its historical strength in document archiving and report management and extending it to broader ECM needs. Though Gartner stops short of calling Systemware’s customers “delighted," words like “highly rated” and “responsive are there.

The Addison, Texas based ECM provider offers industry solutions for the financial services, insurance and healthcare markets, including accounts payable and lockbox applications.

In our Leaders report we told you that Gartner sees things like personalization and contextualized user experience in ECM’s future and Systemware’s metadata-based views of information are primed to deliver exactly that.

It takes a careful eye to discover why the vendor didn’t rate higher and it can be simply attributed to where the product needs to become more mature and robust such as earning recognition outside of North America and expanding a limited partner channel.

SunGard Serves a Niche Market

SunGard provides ECM solutions to the financial services, education and public sectors. Its iWorks Macess product is an ECM and BPM platform on which insurance solutions can be built. It appears to be a great choice for scalable process- and content-centric applications for customers in the financial services and insurance sectors.

While Gartner cautions that SunGard may not be a good choice for customers outside of its target market, we’d have to liken it to someone who might be shopping for a ride-on lawn mower when they need a farm tractor, it doesn’t make sense. The one shortcoming that did seem especially relevant is the lack of mobility and cloud capabilities in iWorks Macess.

Software Innovation is Good But Needs Better Support

One of the more difficult things a vendor assessed for a Gartner MQ must face is the generalized comments of its customers. And though the Finnish engineers at Software Innovation put forth a good product that customers love for its Microsoft orientation, strong applicability to government case management, as well as oil and gas industry  contract management, when it comes to delivering prompt 24x7 customer support and having reliable ,well skilled, implementation  partners, it’s hurting.

But there is a silver lining here- Software Innovation has a great product, now it just needs to work on the service part.

Siav has Work to Do Before Going Global

Providing a robust ECM portfolio is no small undertaking and Italy-based Siav has done an impressive job of it with its core product suite made up of Archiflow for document management, Intelligo for imaging, and Virgilio for records management.

Gartner said that the company’s depth of knowledge around e-government, invoice processing and correspondence management make it a compelling choice for clients with those kinds of needs. Add to that the high scores that Siav won from customers and analysts in architecture and usability. and you’ve got something that looks like a winner.

Where Siav falls short, it seems to be working hard to catch up. While it lacked capabilities for sharing outside of the firewall until last July, for example, they’re in place now.

Gartner also said that efforts need to be made before Siav can become a global provider, but that again is more about marketing spend and finding reliable partners than capabilities.

There’s More to Come

We’ve been pleasantly surprised about what Gartner’s research has revealed in it MQ for 2014 and we’ve barely shared half of it with you. Stay tuned.

Title image by Hartwig HKD  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.