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Snow’s Gartner halo slips, Flexera & ServiceNow ascendant in SAM Tools Magic Quadrant 2019

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

April saw the release of Gartner’s 2nd Magic Quadrant for SAM tools. Magic Quadrants aim to highlight solutions to a particular requirement by ranking them on two dimensions – completeness of vision and ability to deliver. As ITAM grows in maturity and seniority, Gartner’s research helps us on that journey – but as with 2018’s report, the findings need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. Before we get into why, let’s take a look at the findings, and the differences from the inaugural report.

Flexera overtake Snow

The most notable shift is that Flexera have shifted up in the quadrant, effectively swapping places with Snow. This isn’t surprising – Flexera had a busy year last year with the acquisitions of MetaSaaS for SaaS Management (now Flexera SaaS Manager) and Rightscale for IaaS Management. Rightscale was a stellar acquisition, giving Flexera status as an ITAM platform provider, such is the breadth of their product offering. I find it odd that Gartner feel they’ve shifted back in terms of completeness of vision to last year, given all that acquisition activity. Possibly they’re not including the Rightscale acquisition because they include that product in their Cloud Management technologies MQ. Regardless, to my mind, Flexera have the broadest solution coverage of any ITAM tools provider.

Conversely, Snow had a quiet 2018 and, in my view, failed to leverage the opportunity provided by their position in the 2018 quadrant. Gartner note this too – it was a year of boardroom and senior staff changes and this impacted perception of their ability to deliver. The silence was deafening, and it is notable that they aren’t running their popular “SnowStorm” user group conferences this year. Gartner also note grumblings from existing customers regarding support and agility. As a former Snow end-user, I would agree – technical issues in Snow License Manager 8, and issues with the multi-tenant architecture used by many partners, diverted resources and hobbled their ability to deliver innovation. There are signs this is changing, not least with their latest release – more coverage on that soon.

Eracent & 1E added

The addition of Eracent & 1E supports the trend of the best SAM tools being part of a Unified IT approach. Rather than delivering SAM in isolation tools like these reflect the need for integration with Service Management and Service Request tools. This also matches Ivanti’s messaging and approach. These three companies provide functionality to manage other aspects of IT – for example endpoint management and user/device provisioning. They also have self-service App Store portals which aim to put control of the software request process in the hands of users, improving service, reducing delivery times, and reducing IT overheads.

Other changes

The rest of the quadrant remains broadly unchanged. Is this because enterprise-scale SAM tools are relatively mature? Perhaps so. We see innovation happening, but it tends to be new entrants or smaller players who won’t clear the market share and global presence hurdles necessary for inclusion in an MQ. Gartner require sales of $5m per annum and customers in two of North America, Latin America, Asia/Pacific, EMEA, and Japan, with at least one territory being North America or EMEA. This limits inclusion to large, global, players in enterprise-scale markets. Only Symantec have exited the quadrant – unsurprising as the reaction from many to their inclusion last year was “Do they even do ITAM?”

The ServiceNow Effect

ServiceNow are another new entrant this year, buoyed by the ITAM functionality in their London release in Autumn 2018. This brought award-winning features highlighting the power of embedding ITAM in a wider IT Management platform. Vendors such as Ivanti, Matrix42, BMC, and Axios Systems are also working towards this broad approach and as highlighted above so are Flexera, Eracent, and 1E.

ServiceNow’s incumbent status in many organisations means their solution is an easy sell to existing customers looking to add ITAM capabilities, and Gartner acknowledge this as a strength. I disagree – just because a solution is easy to acquire and integrates with your existing platform isn’t a reason to buy it. Does it deliver what you need? If not, are those requirements on the roadmap?

Smaller vendors are often more responsive to customer requirements – as highlighted at our Australian conference last year by Anne Cameron from Monash University who shared her very positive experience of working with Certero. I’ve subsequently heard of similar positive experiences from other Certero customers. Similarly, Aspera built their award-winning Salesforce optimisation product in response to specific requirements from one of their larger customers.

Prior to having their own ITAM product, ServiceNow were willing to work with other vendors and so have excellent integration support (they also continue to be happy to provide this support to potential competitors). Flexera, License Dashboard, Snow, and others all have connectors available for ServiceNow. As ITAM managers, it’s vital we have the tools to match our use case and whilst ServiceNow’s offering is broadening and growing rapidly, Gartner acknowledge that it is still limited in comparison to other products.

Vendors not included

As touched upon above, Gartner’s playing field is not a level one. A very strong, award-winning, and innovative solution may not be eligible for inclusion because it lacks a global reach or the necessary sales volume. To Gartner’s credit they do provide a long-list of some of these vendors such as Matrix42 & License Dashboard but there are still some notable absences. Certero for example have a broad suite of solutions comparable to those included, and there are newer entrants such as Xensam & ITSM tools provider Axios Systems that could be challenging for inclusion next year.

Limitations

Gartner’s approach with Magic Quadrants tends to be somewhat misunderstood. For example, for Gartner subscribers, MQs are meant to be interactive tools, not a static diagram in a press release. Gartner subscribers can tune the output to meet their use case and requirements. Furthemore, for SAM tools my view is that Gartner’s assessment criteria are narrow and rooted in traditional SAM. Managing big vendors by discovering where their software is installed, whether it’s in use, and reconciling this against entitlement will score big points based on Gartner’s criteria. SAM is much, much more than that these days. It’s notable that there is just a single mention of a pure-play SaaS Tools provider (Zylo) in this report.

If SAM is about software, then a critical capability is surely being able to manage all software – including that delivered as a service.

Remember, SaaS has locally installed components and those components will be licensed differently to their perpetually-licensed versions. I hope to see Gartner adjust their criteria next year to account for this rapid evolution in user requirements.

I’d also like the criteria to reflect the growing maturity of ITAM teams. For example, by assessing tools on their ability to aid forecasting and better calculate the value derived from software investments is as important as managing license compliance. For a visionary company, focusing on the value approach should be more important than having tools designed to manage license audits – based on the thinking that audit activity will drop as digital transformation moves companies towards subscription software and hardware.

Conclusion

Gartner MQs are often seen as an indicator of the maturity of a particular capability. As such, this MQ provides a welcome spotlight on our industry. Use it as guide but don’t assume that just because a product is included, or is in the top right sector, that it’s going to meet your needs.

Further Reading:

For a complimentary copy of the Magic Quadrant report please follow the links below:

Aspera – https://www.aspera.com/en/resources/gartner-magic-quadrant-for-software-asset-management-tools/

Flexera – https://info.flexerasoftware.com/SLO-WP-Gartner-Magic-Quadrant-Cloud-Management-Platform-2019

Snow – https://go.snowsoftware.com/SAM-Gartner-Magic-Quadrant-2019.html?_ga=2.3350064.1293591402.1556554944-1874095396.1548440250

Additionally, Flexera provide Gartner’s Critical Capabilities for SAM Tools 2019 – https://info.flexerasoftware.com/SLO-REPORT-Gartner-Critical-Capabilities-SAM-Tools

(all above links require registration to download the report)

Cloud Management Platforms Magic Quadrant

SAM Magic Quadrant 2018

How to use a Magic Quadrant (Gartner)

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About AJ Witt

AJ is Industry Analyst for The ITAM Review. He's interested in hearing from end users of ITAM tools and also vendors. You can connect via email (aj.witt@itassetmanagement.net) or LinkedIn. AJ enjoys cycling, music, and spending time with his family.

4 Comments

  1. Matt Fisher says:

    I find it interesting that, while Flexera did indeed leapfrog Snow in terms of “ability to execute”, all those acquisitions didn’t seem to push Flexera further to the right (“visionary”). Snow has done precious little to communicate or execute against a vision in the last six months. I think Flexera will privately feel a little hard-done by. As for dark horses, ServiceNow has started quietly. I have a feeling we will see much more in the near future…

  2. Clarifications discussed with article author AJ Witt –

    By stating “smaller vendors are often more responsive to customer requirements” it was confirmed that the author’s intent was not to imply that ServiceNow was slower than small vendors to respond to customer requirements. With two releases per year, ideas and input from the customer led Product Advisory Council and regional user groups are two cornerstones of the product strategy. Likewise, the Customer Development Partners that provide feedback to new features are central to driving ServiceNow innovations and roadmap. Net net – Customers guide the use cases ServiceNow solves for. Only by listening to customers has ServiceNow brought features to market in 16 months that incumbents in the SAM tool space have not been able to deliver for customers in 16 years. Customers are the ultimate beneficiary as legacy tool providers attempt to transition into platforms and innovate to fill this void.

    It was also clarified with the author that Gartner did not state the ServiceNow product was limited. Gartner was referring to the library which may require customers to opt in to the Content Service to normalize the last 5% of niche and custom software titles a customer may want additional visibility into. This is relevant to the 10% of customers at the high end of the maturity spectrum (90% of customers have low maturity according to Gartner, footnote 1). Mature customers who have already tackled and optimized the first 95% of their environment may be interested in leveraging the Content Service which publishes new patterns in a two-week turnaround time from which all customers receive updates.

    The article mentions of a solution that “integrates with your existing platform isn’t a reason to buy it” is the opposite of what the market has proven in the last year. It also contradicts the statements two paragraphs above it “the trend of the best SAM tools being part of a Unified IT approach” and emphasis on “these three companies provide functionality to manage other aspects of IT.” ServiceNow was curiously excluded from this point, along with mentions of self-service portals, reducing delivery times and IT overhead – all of which are applicable to ServiceNow.

    Hopefully the readers of this article are able connect their own dots to factual accuracy and omissions. Customers should evaluate their requirements, including what is an acceptable timeline to value outcomes. When considering acceptable timelines, customers should define in detail what “implementation” means in their discussions with providers – this is the only way to avoid surprise change orders required to get to an ELP and optimized license position. As more customers have the “ah ha” moment and realize they can leverage their existing platform investments to both meet their requirements and get to required outcomes in a fraction of the time, the market as a whole can move forward in maturity with ITAM playing a central role to serve the needs of the business.

    1 – Gartner research G00303174, October 24, 2017.

  3. Rory Canavan says:

    Nice article AJ; perhaps it’s time for Gartner to create a Magic Cube rather than a Magic Quadrant – that would better match the demands of SAM & ITAM these days.

  4. AJ Witt says:

    @Ryan – thanks for clarifying ServiceNow’s position. Looking forward to hearing more from ServiceNow customers at Knowledge next week, and in the future.

    My view on the ideal future state is an open ecosystem of best-of-breed tools that allow customers to build the solution that most closely matches their needs. I’m sure we’re heading that way – and it’s for customers to choose whether they commit to a single vendor providing those requirements, or to leverage APIs etc to build that solution themselves.

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