This four-part series focuses on why companies shouldn’t rely on a Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) alone when looking to acquire procurement technology. In Part One (How does Gartner pick their vendors for a Magic Quadrant?), we looked at why some vendors may not be on the MQ and part two (Gartner doesn’t do pay-to-play – at least directly) discussed how some vendors can better position themselves in the MQ if they are Gartner clients. In part three, we’re looking at some of the top performers on the recent Strategic Sourcing MQ.

Part III: Top performing vendors on the quadrant are not necessarily the best

The MQ can show you companies that Gartner thinks do well overall, but if you do a deeper dive, there can be some problematic qualities that lie below the surface.

SAP Ariba is one of the largest names in Strategic Sourcing (as well as Procure-to-Pay) technology and has been around for over 20 years. It scores very highly in the Strategic Sourcing MQ, not just in the upper-right ‘Leader’ quadrant, but also ranks the highest in ‘completeness of vision’. It sounds like a good product looking at the chart, but for many companies it can be a nightmare based on what we have often heard from their customers: It is unintuitive for end-users, connecting to other SAP products is extremely difficult, and Ariba won’t adapt to a company’s existing workflows; instead, the company has to change their workflows to fit how Ariba wants them to work. To boot, there is at least one provider out there who has a specific implementation program for Ariba conversions as many customers are not happy with the product.

Of course, we don’t want to accentuate a vocal minority, but it is hard to ignore the consensus of actual end user reviews on Gartner’s own ‘Peer Insights’ page, where they score SAP Ariba the lowest of the two dozen Strategic Sourcing products on there (as of October 2018). Some highlights:
“The UI is very hard to navigate and the terminology for different areas or concepts is not particularly intuitive… The integration into SAP ECC is custom (as there is no out of the box option)” 
“[I]t took three months before we were taken seriously and engineering resources were allocated to help solve the integration problems to SAP ERP... After 27 years as a SAP consultant, this was the worst experience of my SAP career” 
“Very complex UI and flows; difficult to train and upskill staff. Upgrades are very tedious. Adding new vendors and catalogue updates are cumbersome.”

Mid-sized businesses don’t have the time or resources to conduct the elevated amount of training required for a successful SAP Ariba implementation, and many only find that out after the fact. It’s hinted at in the MQ description of the product, but it is nowhere near the major warning sign that customers should be receiving. Other procurement solutions could have downsides that the MQ only hints at, but could prove to be deal breakers for certain companies.

There are also Procurement vendors out there who make great products but haven’t made a MQ because of the revenue and geography qualifications discussed in Part One. Proof of that can be seen in Gartner’s Peer Insights page, which as mentioned previously, provides reviews of software by actual enterprise users: Of the 5 highest-rated Strategic Sourcing suites, 3 are not on the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

Source One understands that mapping procurement technology vendors on a single chart is not the best way to evaluate them. Our Procurement Technology Advisory practice helps your company find the right procurement vendor for your needs.

There is a use for the Gartner Magic Quadrant, as I discuss in the final post of this series.

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Benjamin Duffy

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