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Sep 8, 2023 | 6 minute read

When Attempting To Be All Things to All Buyers Leaves Us All Wanting More

written by Bryan House

Earlier today, I saw an interesting post on X about the traps of product management that got me thinking, specifically about Magic Quadrants and Waves and their role in the technology ecosystem.

Pawel Huryn X

Upon review, I couldn’t help but connect the sentiment in this post to the process of responding to a Magic Quadrant or Wave survey. The 300+ question RFP is shipped out by leading analyst firms to torture product marketers and managers alike. As a form factor, it represents everything that is wrong, and quickly changing, with enterprise B2B software sales.

Across the board, enterprise tech is seeing buyer self-service, peer reviews, smaller purchases, and faster sales cycles take over for long RFPs and centralized decision-making. All of these buying trends lend themselves to composable software solutions. The conflict lies in one-size-fits all analyst reports: Is it better to split the camp between composable vs. legacy players?

The feature factory is a death cycle

Up and to the right, it’s the objective of every 2x2 matrix. Nothing of import ever ends up in the bottom left quadrant — and that applies even when quadrants are “magic.” However, what’s fascinating at this point in the evolution of commerce technology is the fact that the analysis in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant contradicts the guidance from the analysts themselves.

In January 2020 and updated as recently as last year, Gartner published a report, Evolve Digital Commerce Portfolios by Leveraging the Application Ecosystem, with a picture that aptly reflects the commoditization of the ecommerce application ecosystem. In short, to build a successful ecommerce application requires a multitude of technologies from many vendors.

In support of this notion, Gartner has vociferously championed the concept of “packaged business capabilities” (PBCs) as part of their “composable ecommerce” thought leadership - discrete bits of functionality designed to solve a business problem that can neatly plugged into a composable commerce application to deliver value in short order. Even beyond the commerce market, Gartner thought leaders believe composable architectures and strategies play a significant role in how business gets done.

Which is why it’s a head scratcher that their most important document for the digital commerce software market is so out of sync with these recommendations.

Evolving with commerce buyers

While in the past, rip-and-replace may have been the only path toward innovation, modern commerce buyers understand the impact of a shift toward composable commerce. They’re the ones reading peer reviews, and breaking down “platform” thinking into smaller changes that work with the technology they have, while significantly impacting the bottom line.

None of this fits well with the decades-old pattern of reading an annual analyst report and subjecting yourself to a 12+ month replatforming decision. That’s why publishing a single commerce analyst report does a disservice to this growing cohort of buyers.

Gartner understands the bind they have put themselves into in the commerce market. As a result, they break down the digital commerce analysis into "Critical Capabilities" which each vendor is scored for and then weighted for use case-based rankings including:

  • B2C Digital Commerce
  • B2B Digital Commerce
  • B2C and B2B Digital Commerce on the same Platform
  • Composable Commerce
  • Complex Business Models

Sounds good. Makes sense so far, different evaluation criteria based on use cases. However, where this all falls apart for me is that they then rank all of the vendors included in the Magic Quadrant according to each of the use cases, when the truly leading vendors are explicitly focused on a subset of those use cases. As any emerging software vendor understands, you have to make decisions based on focus and priority —no vendor can do all things.

And, unsurprisingly to the skeptic in me, the weighted scores across all the use cases determine a vendor’s overall score and, more importantly, impact their position on the 2x2 matrix.

Take our submission here at Elastic Path. We are explicitly focused on composable commerce. We have watched the commerce market become increasingly commoditized, with specialist vendors offering products for every imaginable capability in the ecosystem. We focus on what we believe to be the core components of an enterprise-class composable architecture:

  • A composable catalog with Product Experience manager
  • Simplifying the integration process with Composer
  • Rapid cycle, low code frontend development with CX Studio (formerly known as Unstack)

To that end, we score very well in composable commerce (4.6/5) and are delighted to do so. And, beyond composable, our primary mission will always be to put our customer’s success first. One quick look at Gartner’s Peer Insights and you will see that mission being delivered on.

Given our focus, does a reader of the Magic Quadrant learn anything about our products or our commitment to customer success by the scores in other use cases? I mean, the whole point of product management is to make tradeoff decisions about what product development teams will focus on, and what they won’t. A better question for Gartner to answer would be: Vendors, are you composable or not?

And fundamentally, we agree with Gartner that composable application development, delivered in the form of packaged business applications, is the future of commerce application development. As a vendor with an R&D organization, we will fail if we try to be the winner in all five use cases outlined in the Critical Capabilities report — despite the fact that someone is free to compose an application for both B2C and B2B and complex use cases (whatever that is) with Elastic Path Composable Commerce. That freedom to compose the digital ecommerce application an organization needs with Elastic Path, plus other technologies, is our reason for existing. It’s why organizations should strongly consider Elastic Path, no matter the quadrant we fall into.

Now, if you’d like to download the Magic Quadrant and decide for yourself (or share with your boss), please click here: 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Digital Commerce.

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