customer experience, Did Forrester Get Its Digital Experience Wave Right?

If it hasn't sunk in yet for digital experience providers, let's remind them: Forrester sees no leaders in digital experience delivery platforms.

The results came from the research giant's first Forrester Wave for Digital Experience Delivery Platforms. So why no leader? 

CMSWire asked Forrester Wave authors Stephen Powers, vice president and research director, and analysts Anjali Yakkundi and Mark Grannan.

Product Silos Unbridged


In the digital experience delivery space, the Forrester authors told us they found vendor platforms with strengths in core functionality. However, they said, "platform" level efforts to bridge product silos are nascent.

"Some vendors are further ahead than others on creating a unified look and feel, but the underlying data architecture and deployment methods don't align. Or vice versa," they said. "Even if a vendor platform has both technical and design integration across the product set, enterprise clients need tools to easily integrate with third party data and systems."

Without industry-wide standards, vendors have to rely on partnerships -- but those partnership activities are constantly in flux, for many reasons.

Why? M&A activity, for starters.

The authors also noted that even the most progressive enterprise clients are only just starting to execute on this platform mandate. "Functionality without credible reference clients doesn't merit full consideration," they said. "Most of our clients don't want to be a guinea pig."

No Leaders = OK?

So did Forrester get it right?


"I think a broader question has to be answered: who does this help?" asked Scott Liewehr, a former WCM lead analyst for the Gilbane Group and now the president and principal analyst at Digital Clarity Group. "I really don’t know the answer, quite frankly."

Waves have an "underlying premise," Liewehr said, to help buyers achieve some goal in a similar way, such as managing web content, making sense of web analytics, etc. Buyers can use the Wave to develop a shortlist of prospective vendors.

"In this case, I don’t see half of these vendors as even comparable," said Liewehr (left), whose research based advisory firm also produces industry reports on hot topics like Web CMS and customer experience. "Are we really saying that Adobe and Hybris should be comparable options in the minds of buyers? For what? They partner together a lot specifically because their offerings are more complementary than overlapping, so how are they alternatives?"

Liewehr said he worries this Wave relegates “Digital Experience Delivery Platforms” to "such agnosticism" that it’s comparable to having an Open Source Wave in which Drupal is compared to Linux, or a SaaS Wave where CrownPeak is compared to Box.

"I can’t understand the value of a Wave that juxtaposes, HP/Autonomy, and Hybris," Liewehr said. "Their offerings are all over the map, and if they’re all on a buyer’s shortlist, then someone is in the wrong deal."

Why Lucky 13?

Forrester only looked at 13 vendors for the Wave released this week. 

Here's how Forrester sees the industry shaping up: 

  • Leaders: No one
  • Strong performers: Adobe, hybris (SAP), Sitecore, IBM
  • Contenders: Acquia, Demandware, Digital River, HP Autonomy, Intershop, OpenText, Oracle, Salesforce, SDL

Why did they look at these 13 in particular?

"At a high level, these 13 vendors are most closely aligned with our current definition of digital experience delivery for enterprise digital customer experience initiatives, but none of them are there yet," the authors told CMSWire.

Specifically, the Forrester authors said they outlined five specific criteria that all vendors must meet:

  • Offers a core capability that can deliver digital experiences, which can be extended via additional tools and customization
  • Provides integration capability between owned and third party products
  • Showcases referenceable customers at the enterprise level
  • Demonstrates minimum annual revenue of $75 million
  • Generates interest from Forrester clients

Still, Liewehr's not a believer in these 13, particularly, for inclusion in this Wave. "I don’t even think that the companies they included should even be compared in any context other than an academic dinner conversation amongst analysts," Liewehr said. 

'Uncommon' Results

Asked how often Waves have no leaders, the Forrester authors said it's "relatively uncommon."

"If the space is too immature -- e.g. no leaders -- a Wave typically doesn't make sense," they told CMSWire. "In this case our clients are asking for better integration capabilities across their digital stack and looking to Forrester for an objective source of truth on who is doing this well. Additionally, the fast pace of 'platform' branding and marketing announcements from the vendor community has accelerated the need for this Wave."

Vendor Homework

We asked Forrester authors what they see vendor platforms in this space needing more of:

"Vendors need more mature ways of fitting the pieces together," they said. "Faster/simpler technical integration, coherent business user interface, easy cross channel delivery, better customer data management, etc. Data is particularly important for third party integration. And it's not just about insights, but increasingly how do you USE that data?"

And less of?

"Complexity," they said. "Too many platforms have overlapping, conflicting and redundant functionality across discrete products and professional services teams. How can an enterprise buyer know which solution or service is best?"

Title image by EpicStockMedia (Shutterstock).