Examining the 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Service Desk

Gartner have released a new Magic Quadrant for service desk. Get it from BMC or EasyVista (reg req). It is delightfully challenging (for a skeptic) but also disappointing.

Before you say anything, yes I know it isn't the magic quadrant for "service desk". It is the Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools. According to the MQ paper

The ITSSM product must include all the following functionality:
IT incident management
IT problem management
IT change management
IT release governance
IT user self-service
IT request management
IT knowledge management
IT service support analytics and reporting
IT SLA management (with regard to incident and service requests)

Potato potahto. "Service desk" software hasn't been intended solely for the Service Desk function since Change, Config and Release became standard components. Nobody knows what ITSSM is. I'll keep calling it Service Desk software.

The really interesting - and obvious - thing about this report is that two of the quarters of the Magic Quadrant are empty. No vendors in the bottom right or top right quadrants. This is causing a bit of a stir and so it should.

ServiceSphere (Chris Dancy) does an excellent dissection of the flip-flops that lead to this year's quadrant, and talks about those two empty white spaces:

Leadership and Vision are not missing from the quadrant they’re missing from our collective wisdom.
As of September 2012, we have a new quadrant with new definitions focusing around, mobile, social and innovation.

I beg to differ with Chris that there is any "focus" on mobile, social and innovation: they get a mention. If you read the criteria at the bottom of the paper, "Completeness of Vision" - the dimension which no vendor rates well on, giving us those startling white spaces on the Quadrant - seems to me to be mostly about "Ability to Sell", but that doesn't sound as funky as "Completeness of Vision". The key dimensions of "Completeness of Vision" are:

  • Product/Service
  • Overall Viability (Business Unit, Financial, Strategy, Organization)
  • Sales Execution/Pricing
  • Market Responsiveness and Track Record
  • Marketing Execution
  • Customer Experience
  • Operations

"Ability to Sell" is a very good dimension to have for the Quadrant, mapped against "Ability to Execute". And Gartner are telling us the Service Desk tools vendors suck at selling/marketing. Well, yes.

Now on to some other issues with the document:

When organisations such as Gartner publish competitive analysis like this, you expect them to be immune to KoolAid, and yet the analysts chose to make one of only four highlighed strengths of Remedy

BMC Remedy ITSM provides built-in support for ITIL best practices, which allows organizations to derive quicker time to value.

OFFS. Name one ITIL-related value-accelerating feature of Remedy. Just one. In fact, name one ITIL-out-of-the-box feature of ANY piece of software "which allows organizations to derive quicker time to value". None of us fall for these Crap Factoids. What are Gartner analysts doing regurgitating it?

I note that CA "has out-of-the-box best practices" and EasyVista has "good use of ITIL best practices" and Hornbill "contains strong ITIL understanding and best practices" and LANDesk "is aligned with ITIL best practices". They all have it, dammit. This is not a differentiator for any of them - it should not be considered a strength - and ITILishness does not on its own yield any benefits: success of practices improvement is not about the tools, and tools on their own don't "accelerate time to value".

This statement alone is enough to destroy the credibility of the rest of the report.

Or maybe we should give Gartner the benefit of the doubt, and assume they couldn't think of anything else good to say about Remedy other than to recycle BMC's marketing bullshit. There is a strong argument for this view because another of only four positives is

BMC Atrium CMDB's integration enables IT service visualization to show upstream and downstream impacts. This aids in faster issue recognition and resolution.

which is (a) straight out of the brochures and (b) nothing special vis a vis other tools either.

Speaking of scrabbling around for something nice to say, how can having multiple product offerings be a strength for FrontRange (or any vendor)? Multiple development overheads, mixed messaging, conflicting interests... Experience tells us it almost certainly means the ultimate death of all but one of them. It is an especially weak point when it wasn't listed as a strength for CA or BMC. Sometimes when you can't say something nice it is better to not say anything at all (not that I have ever taken that advice).

There is some great intel in this report, and it presents an excellent high-level view. It puts a rocket up the vendors over their lack of ability to sell their own products. It is a shame Gartner have so narrowed the criteria that they now only look at the few bigger fish in a crowded pond. It is also a shame they aren't a bit more skeptical about the vendors' (their clients') spiels.

P.S. a nit-pick:
ITSSM tools don't do "release governance"; they do release management. ISO38500 defined "governance" for us and Gartner should start complying.

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Reasonable business practice ?

Using the quadrant as the base for the long list when selecting a software can be a reasonable business practice. Especially if you compare it with the other options. It beats a google search by far and questions on LinkedIn easily.

I'm not a Gartner fan but they put a fair amount of work in it. And placing HP and even BMC where they are requires balls of a decent size.

shortlisting using the Magic Quadrant

If one's requirements for a service desk tool meet the selection criteria for the quadrant then yes it might be a useful first cut

but that would be odd. For example only tools that have both a SaaS and an on-premise version are allowed in this quadrant. And only tools that have a global presence.

So if you are a global multinational who is planning to install multiple instances across the globe, but also must have a SaaS option while staying with the same vendor, then yes the MQ would be a useful shortlist

For the other 99.7% of us, no.

Quadrants are meant to be read?

Does anyone who actually looks at these quadrants read the text? Rob, you only have yourself to blame for doing that.

Bless you Rob

You hit 'em all. Namely:

- Vision isn't really vision per the MQ axis criteria. I have no idea why they call it such and I swear x and y criteria are purposely intermingled to keep anybody from making any justifiable argument over dot location...which is probably a good idea on Gartner's part.
- ITIL has hampered tool innovation and real vision for years, but somehow it magically becomes a strength for a few vendors skilled at following directions. I'm thinking about adding the MQ to the ITIL violations list: http://community.servicenow.com/blog/rglauser/notice-itil-violation
- The MQ is supposed to evaluate one tool from one vendor, which becomes problematic for vendors with six or more. But Gartner doesn't hesitate to give props to vendors for a mashup of acquired, rebranded technologies?! Not good for all the reasons you list. Mark my words though, this trend of 31 flavors of ITSM tools from a single vendor is only just now gaining momentum...both within the analyst and vendor ranks. Nobody has yet to clearly define the benefits to the customer of this approach.

That was therapeutic. Nice work. Thanks, @rglauser

ITIL fan-boy

being a bit of an ITIL fan-boy I can't agree that it held back innovation. on the contrary ITIL dragged the tools out of being crude ticket databases and made them understand process, escalation, accountability, reporting, config and a raft of other concepts. You'd be too young to remember :)

Nor - being ex-CA - can I agree about "mash-ups". There's no shame in acquisition, it's a natural part of industry consolidation and a cost effective means of innovating. It's the subsequent integration that counts. I'm talking about distinct parallel products competing for attention and resource.

Yes and no

Yes, for awhile ITIL was useful but agree with Rhett that now it is holding things back.

Rob, you should sometimes read your own writings ;) You do an amazing job of ITIL bashing.


the death of ITIL

I like to think I'm rational about ITIL. I know when it has value and I know when it needs criticism. I'm also able to distinguish between ITIL the body of work and ITIL the movement. At least I flatter myself that these things are true.

The anti-itil hysteria at present is as irrational as the pro-itil hype was, and is as worthy of skeptical demolition. Singing the death of ITIL is as much a fad as declaring it a miracle cure was. Reality is of course complex, grey, and somewhere in the middle, as always. I.e. common sense

Take the exam

I wish I could see even some anti-ITIL movement but what I mostly see is blind acceptance of everything. Even you published text which argues that ITIL is a standard.

Remember that ITIL is also a rigid set of exam and product requirements, based on the 5 books. Maybe you should try to get certified as an ITIL Expert.


I just might

If I can do it online for a few grand - which I can now - I just might.

Does this mean that Pink will

Does this mean that Pink will offer a "COBIT 5 - verify" stamp?

While everyone has their +ve and -ve ITSM tooling stories, I'm batting 0 and 3 across three vendors listed in the MQ (over the past 6 years) in terms of their tooling actually being able to do what was promised.

Yes, for three different employers.


Before I get accused of pickin' on poor sweet lil BMC, let me say that i used them as the example because
(a) BMC have been wheeling out that ITIL-in-a-box line shamelessly for years now
(b) they came first in the report

To me, a vendor strength ought to be something that differentiates them, or at least something they excel at relative to the other vendors.

But many of the supposed vendor "strengths" in this report are straight out of the brochures and are lame lame lame.

Cherwell Service Management's One-Step actions enable organizations to create and execute microworkflows at any point within the tool.
HP Service Manager supports robust executive dashboards available as add-ons to the current ITSSM tool.

And many of the strengths aren't. A feature of the product is not in itself a strength of the vendor, even when it is a strong feature. The report is full of features and pretty limp ones at that, some of them.

EasyVista's modern user interface makes good use of screen real estate and intuitive user interaction, specifically for incident management.
The IT service view visualization feature in IBM SmartCloud Control Desk is differentiated from other vendors through the use of a swim lane diagram showing the relation of the different service layers.
IBM SmartCloud Control Desk offers good self-service and service request management capabilities.

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