Might the hegemony of Gartner's Magic Quadrant be under threat? It sounds like a long shot but Chicago startup G2 Crowd thinks it has come up with a disruptive alternative - ditch analysts and ask IT professionals what they think instead.
Gartner's Quadrant has dominated what buyers, stock pickers and even journalists think about tech vendors since the 1980s on the back of star analysts, but G2 Crowd's approach is to build the same quadrant for one class of product, business software, using collective, crowdsourced opinions.
G2 Crowd wants to turn the assessment of tech firms into an almost realtime flow of opinions using the views of people (currently around 15,000) that have actually used the products from the vendors being assessed.
The final assessment for each firm is the result of top-secret algorithms that crunch scores in different categories, backed up by input on a firm's social media, Google, and LinkedIn importance.
On 1 June, the startup's first quadrant, 'Grids for CRM and Marketing Automation' will go ex-beta, using a maximum 64-point survey of real IT buyers recruited via LinkedIn.
It sounds ambitious but the thinking behind it suggests intriguing possibilities. According to co-founder and CEO Godard Abel, the problem with Gartner's approach is that it is inherently slow, often out of date by the time reports appear, and reflects only the opinion of a small number of people. Tech buyers now need a lot more than this model could deliver.
"We think it's a more modern approach," said Abel. "Gartner started in the 1980s and it hasn't evolved much. It's a little bit of a legacy publishing model, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica."
Assessing vendors on the basis of what real IT users thought would be more transparent. Using LinkedIn to build an opinion base had been a way of validating the people taking part with recruitment the first task faced by the startup when it commenced operations.
The firm planned to stick to its business software core (CRM, sales, IT management, ERP and marketing) for the time being but might expand the number of quadrants in time.
"We think the crowdsourced approach can work for all industries and sectors," said Abel.
So far, its beta user base has rated assessed Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics as the Leaders in CRM. In marketing automation, the leaders were Pardot, Eloqua (Oracle), Hubspot, and Marketo.
How will the firm make money?
The plan is to pursue a freemium model with customers (whether enterprises or the vendors themselves) paying for a more detailed cut on feedback on markets and vendors. Abel also believed that it could attract new types of customer put off by the expense of conventional analyst reports.
"We think we can open it up to SMBs and smaller companies that don't use Gartner."
The startup has built its first crowd; only time will tell whether the market is really ready for Gartner mark two.