If you work in IT, or if you're in any position to evaluate and choose IT tools, chances are you're familiar with the names Gartner and Forrester.
Like them or not, analysts like Gartner, Forrester, and their ilk are some of the most influential factors on purchasing decisions. Reports like Gartner's Magic Quadrant and Forrester's Wave are often the first source consulted when evaluating enterprise IT tools and solutions. In my own experience, I've never been a part of a decision that didn't at least consult an analyst report—even if it was just a non-technical boss who brought the report to a meeting.
These reports can be a great tool for finding the top players in a given market, but they rarely give a full picture of the market, and they pay little heed to the way particular solutions work for different industries and use cases. What's more, they rarely move at the speed of business—the Forrester Wave is quarterly, while the Gartner Magic Quadrant, like Santa Claus, comes just once a year.
So, regardless of their popularity, there are some serious drawbacks to relying on analyst reports. And while there’s no doubt that a full, comprehensive report on the vendors in the space is useful, sometimes you need a ground-level, in-the-weeds take that only a real IT pro, i.e., a peer can give you.
Lucky for us, there is an alternative. As with so many things in the 21st century, the internet has democratized the evaluation of IT tools, and crowd-sourced peer-reviewed websites now account for a huge part of the research process.
On sites like Capterra, G2 Crowd, and TrustRadius, IT pros like yourself give honest takes on the product reviews—and you don't have to wait a year to see what they think of a new version. The biggest of these sites have millions of visitors each month and hundreds of reviews on dozens of products in a given segment.
Think of it this way: would you rather take advice from the guy who's being paid to tell you something, for from a coworker who's used the tool before? When buying a car, who would you rather hear from: the glossy auto magazine? Or your neighbor who's been driving the car for years.
So, without further ado, here's my list of the top crowd-sourced, peer-reviewed alternatives to traditional analyst reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant and the Forrester Wave.
The Top Seven Crowd-Sourced IT Review Sites
A powerful resource for comparing IT tools, Capterra.com boasts thousands of reviews in over 600 categories. Reviewers give their tools one to five stars on features and functionality, ease of use, and customer service, and a main score is pulled from the average of the three. Reviewers can also chime in on the overall pros and cons of the product in question. Capterra provides users with a wealth of additional information about products, including data on the starting price, pricing details, whether or not there is a free trial, deployment types, and available training types. What's more, users have to option of comparing two competing solutions head-to-head on Capterra.
Capterra has been owned by Gartner since 2015, and makes money by selling referrals and sales opportunities to vendors.
Chicago-based G2 Crowd brings over 400,000 reviews to the table, and lets users sort reviews by the reviewer's company size, organizational role, and industry. Like Capterra, G2 Crowd rates vendors on a five-star system, but there is only one rating per review, and vendors are not given a star-rating for individual categories such as features or customer service. Reviews on G2 Crowd are typically lengthy and in-depth, as the website asks reviewers to answer specific questions on what they like and dislike about products, as well as the business problems they are solving with products, and the benefits they've realized.
TrustRadius doesn't have as many reviews as some of the other sites on this list—they come in with approximately 140,000 reviews—but what they lack in quantity, they make up for with quality. Reviews on TrustRadius average over 400 words in length, and each review is authenticated and verified before it's published on the site. Reviews rate vendors on a scale of 1-10 and reviewers often give detailed responses to prompts such as use case and deployment scope, pros and cons, return on investment, alternatives considered, and more.
Gartner Peer Insights
Ok so I know this list is supposed to be alternatives to Gartner, but a few years ago Gartner launched their own alternative... to themselves. And what can I say? It's pretty good. Where the Magic Quadrant gives and authoritarian take on vendor evaluation, Peer Insights democratizes the process, with over 100,000 reviews of 4200 products across 310 categories. Reviews are based on the five-star scale, with subratings for integration and deployment, service and support, and product capabilities. Reviewers are also asked to give an overall comment on the product, and fill out a section on the lessons they learned from the deployment process, such as pros and cons, and satisfaction with the product. Gartner also gives good details on the reviewer, including their title, the size of their organization, and the vertical it operates in.
Spiceworks differs from the other sites on this is in that it is not primarily a review sit. Spiceworks, as many of you will know, is a community for IT pros—sort of an online watercooler. As such, it's not uncommon for product reviews to sort of spontaneously occur. In fact, its so common that Spiceworks went ahead and built out a review section. The reviews on Spiceworks are extremely simple: just a rating out of five stars, and a brief blurb on the reviewers experience. It's not uncommon for the entire review to be shorter than a tweet. As such, I recommend diving into the Spiceworks community, engaging, and participating in discussions to get real, in-depth product feedback.
IT Central Station
IT Central Station is a member-based peer review site which boasts over 300 thousand members who have reviewed products in over 600 categories. Each reviewer must give their title, the size of their organization, and the industry that they work in, which makes for some very trustworthy reviews. Reviews rate products on a simple five-star basis, and reviewers give in-depth replies to a number of prompts, including features, pros and cons, and improvements the tool made for their organization.
Honorable Mention: Reddit
While Reddit is obviously not an IT site, there are scores of subreddits such as /r/sysadmin which are dedicated to the plight of the IT pro. And while 90% of the posts on these subs are HelpDesk folks griping about their bosses (deservedly, usually), sometimes folks take time out of their day to gripe about the tools they're using too! Or even recommend them! While you're not going to get a vetted review on Reddit, you will get honest opinions from real people, and that's valuable.