The ITAD industry has made significant strides in the past decade – and is beginning to catch up with what the marketplace is demanding today. Not so long ago, many companies considered putting computers out with the trash a viable ITAD solution.
Today, organizations are demanding ITAD solutions that are environmentally and socially responsible. And an increasing number of companies recognize that aging IT equipment has value both within the organization and in the marketplace.
A lack of accountability and standards allowed vendors to present themselves as responsible – without actually acting responsibly. But that became much more difficult in 2010 as the e-Stewards and R2 standards established the first independently audited certifications for electronics recyclers. These certification programs allow businesses looking for responsible partners to differentiate those who “walk the talk” from those who merely “talk the talk.” From our perspective, the e-Stewards Electronic Recycling Certification represents the more rigorous of the two, but both represent a significant step forward for our industry.
In another effort to push the industry, IT analyst firm Gartner recently published its first ever “Magic Quadrant for North America Information Technology Asset Disposition.” The Magic Quadrant is a highly respected evaluation of the vendors in a particular industry to help buyers of a technology or service make a more informed decision.
Creating a Magic Quadrant represents a substantial investment on Gartner’s part – the company evaluated hundreds of service providers to arrive at the 13 that qualified to be in this report — and is only possible when an industry has matured sufficiently to have well-defined best practices. Further, the research topic must represent sufficient value for enterprise IT to be meaningful to Gartner subscribers.
That said, the marketplace is still crowded with under-capitalized ITAD providers boasting little more than nice-looking websites and well-spoken salespeople.
That makes the Gartner ITAD Magic Quadrant particularly important. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant research is objective, thorough and detailed, drawing validation from interviews with vendor customers. By benchmarking the ITAD industry, the Magic Quadrant gives enterprise IT a valuable tool to improve its business processes by making better, less risky vendor choices.
The Magic Quadrant divides the vendor world into leaders, challengers, niche players and visionaries. Leaders offer comprehensive solutions and a proven ability to execute. Challengers may be strong on execution in focused areas, but lack a developed solutions offering. Visionaries can describe the full flower of a comprehensive solution, but have not demonstrated a proven ability to execute. Niche is niche.
All of the vendors represented on the Magic Quadrant subscribe in large degree to Gartner’s definition of industry best practices. All are mature and reliable compared to the norm in our highly fragmented industry, where barriers to entry are low and vendor transparency is often limited.
The emergence of clear standards combined with the Gartner Magic Quadrant report represents a significant step in the maturity of the ITAD industry – and a great opportunity for the businesses our industry serves. Well-executed IT asset management brings together accountability, security and thrift—a combination which leads inevitably to improved sustainability, lower costs, less risk and better business. With these new tools available, businesses can now make better decisions about the ability of their partners to help them achieve these objectives, and the industry can continue to make strides to keep up with the market.