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Guest post: Disrupting Gartner's Magic Quadrants

Open source doesn't find much of a place in Gartner's Magic Quadrants, but that's largely because of how the firm measures short-term success, Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile argues.

This is a guest post by Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile. The views expressed are his own.

I know it's the dead of winter when Gartner releases its report "Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms." Since its release in mid-January, I've had some time to talk to a variety of colleagues and to think about its accuracy, and wanted to share some of my conclusions.

Gartner receives a lot of criticism about these reports, especially from open-source vendors, but my views are mixed. I believe that this new report on business intelligence contains solid insight on what has transpired in the sector during the past year and about enterprise priorities for the coming year. This report is not helpful, though, in truly understanding the likely course of the next 12 months.

Gartner's Magic Quadrants, much like any report from a mature, established analyst firm, greatly understates the current and near-future impact of disruptive technologies. The market research firm's role is to appeal to the fat part of the bell curve, and this is where it missteps.

Because its criteria for inclusion on the business intelligence-focused Magic Quadrant chart focuses on the vendor achieving a minimum revenue threshold, not market penetration or customer adoption, the effect of open-source products is hugely understated.

Of course, open-source business intelligence (like many other software categories in which open source is fast-growing) is having an enormous impact in both large and small customer environments. And, more importantly, the simplicity and innovation being delivered by the modern open-source code bases are allowing business intelligence to reach new customers and audiences largely forsaken by the established, proprietary vendors. This modern approach provides a critical appeal to the shifting workforce demographics in most of the large economies.

More than ever, software will be transformed this year, and open-source adoption will remain aggressive, even in the current tough economy. Simply put, enterprise information systems will require a simpler, more consumer-oriented approach to appeal to the younger generation of up-and-coming workers, a concept Gartner and I refer to as "the consumerization of information."

The facts are clear: the evolving workforce and its expectations for software, which will drastically transform software development and usage--especially in the enterprise software market--is under way. As the aging workforce in the largest economies continues to retire (in the United States, it's the baby boomer generation), and more young workers enter and climb higher, we'll see a widening "expectation gap" between the anticipated behavior of enterprise applications and their actual behavior.

Younger workers have grown up with computers and, by and large, the Internet. They've never been "unconnected." Therefore, their expectations for how software systems should behave are vastly different from those of an older worker who has grown into computers and software during the course of his career.

Software vendors designing products that work according to the new Web principles will fare far better with this younger generation of workers. Those that do not will become less relevant.

While Gartner's report mentions the consumerization of information, it does nothing to illustrate the full impact this trend is already having on the software industry and the ensuing disruption open-source software will present. At best, this makes the Magic Quadrant a lagging indicator and at worst, inaccurate.


Contributed by Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile. The views expressed are his own. (But if you like them, I'll take credit. :-))

Read more about Gentile's positions on open source and business intelligence at his blog: The Open Book on BI.