Uncover the Truth Behind “Pay-to-Play” Companies

Theorem is a company that is making the search for the perfect innovation partner simple, without falling for the “pay-to-play” business review lists. Theorem has discovered the secrets behind companies like Gartner and Forrester and share a better way to find a software developer that meets individual business needs.

Alex Finnemore, Head of Revenue, says, “To grow your business in today’s world, you need digital solutions. The internet provides a sea of possibilities for searching for a partner, with an overabundance of players in the market. IT development companies can be found worldwide, at different price points, ranging from freelancers to big, impersonal corporations. Business review sites — such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and Ovum — appear to lay out the “best in the business” in a neat little package to make your selection process easier. But the reality of these lists is that they are, as one Diginomica writer puts it, ‘fiction masquerading as fact.'”

Below are Alex’s tips on how to properly navigate the tricky process more smoothly:

Follow the Paper Trail

While these groups claim that their rankings are based on peer reviews, there is a lack of transparency and disclosure about how the ratings and reviews for the vendors they promote are really derived. For example, Gartner’s market research reports, known as Magic Quadrants, claim to provide a “culmination of research in a specific market, giving you a wide-angle view of the relative positions of the market’s competitors.” But when you look closer at the methodology, the view is much narrower than it appears.

As an article in Tech News World explains, “In addition to being inherently subjective, Gartner requires robotic process automation (RPA) vendors to meet stringent specific criteria, including revenue, operating budget, and client number thresholds, for inclusion and even consideration in a Magic Quadrant. If a vendor misses even one guideline, they are excluded. The problem with this is that these aren’t the same criteria that companies use to evaluate technology. Many businesses don’t care about a vendor’s size or revenue numbers per se. They care about the quality, innovation and applicability of products, the quality of customer support and professional services, and what real customers have to say about the product.”

Companies like Gartner and Forrester have also drawn criticism for how they generate revenue. Software development companies who want to be included on these lists must spend money to improve their position. Commonly known as “pay-to-play,” this model favors bigger vendors with lots of resources and creates major conflicts of interest for Gartner. It’s no wonder the same tech giants of the world continue to be featured over and over, while smaller or newer firms show up lower on the list — or not all.

Gartner’s latest offering, Peer Insights, further widens the divide. Peer Insights is described as a hub “for ratings and reviews of enterprise technology solutions by end-user professionals for end-user professionals.” But it’s really just encouraging technology vendors to incentivize customer reviews in an attempt to gain better standing on Gartner’s lists—which is much easier to do for companies with deeper pockets (and pre-existing relationships with the organization.)

This dynamic creates a skewed marketplace for those trying to find high quality, creative development partners that fall outside the list of typical players.

Don’t Miss Out on Hidden Gems

The companies that produce these lists certainly don’t want you to think that the money they take in has any effect on their rankings. Their argument is simple: we’re popular because we’re unbiased; we’re unbiased because we’re popular. But this circular logic just doesn’t add up. As Brightwork Research & Analysis points out, that’s like saying, “If McDonald’s did not offer healthy food, no one would buy from them.” And while Forrester may be second behind Gartner, they use the same techniques to influence unsuspecting shoppers into picking whichever vendor pays more.

These pay-to-play lists not only alter the marketplace, they make finding a trusted partner extremely challenging. Just because a software development company is included on a “Best Of” list doesn’t make it the best choice for you — it just means that it paid to be there. The truth is that these lists are simply a marketing tool for the companies who can afford them. There are tons of fantastic small to medium-sized technology firms that could be the perfect solution to your unique problem or opportunity. In fact, companies NOT listed are probably more affordable and deliver better quality products than the big box businesses!

You may get more bang for your buck by going with a smaller vendor. These companies put their money toward development and innovation rather than worrying about lists and rankings. Their work and commitment to their clients stand for themselves.

Instead of putting full faith in lists from Gartner or Forrester, look for a partner that’s focused on:

  • Listening instead of pitching
  • Walking with you through the discovery process
  • Having the flexibility to meet your unique needs
  • Thinking creatively and pursuing out-of-the-box ideas

Word gets around when exceptional work is completed on time and on budget. Get recommendations, check references, and read case studies. You’re sure to find the right software development partner for your needs.

More about Theorem:

Theorem is an innovation and engineering firm that builds custom software for companies making bold bets to stay ahead. Through research, lean design, and agile delivery, Theorem makes great user experiences accessible to the enterprise.

Theorem’s global cross-functional development teams drive technology, process, and cultural transformation.

More about Alex Finnemore:

After receiving his doctorate in physics from Cambridge focused on pattern formation in polymers, Alex made the jump to software, initially working on a mobile payments system for South Africa. Alex honed his product management skills while starting a store selling designer clothing in the UK, working at moo.com, and running the product team for Boxbee, a logistics startup.

Initially joining Theorem as a product manager, Alex now oversees their revenue team, sales strategy, and project onboarding. Alex enjoys helping companies grow using technology and by improving processes and culture.

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