Forrester Research finally allowed a software provider through its digital experience leaders door — just not all the way through.

A year ago, the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm did not select any digital experience leaders in its Wave for Digital Experience Platforms. 

Today, in its second annual report, it named Adobe Systems a leader ...  but it wasn’t exactly an open-arms welcome. Adobe straddles the line of a "leader" and a "strong performer," according to Forrester researchers.

Forrester considers a vendor’s current technology offering and strategy as well as market presence. Forrester analysts Mark Grannan, Ted Schadler and Stephen Powers authored for the report. 

(Editor's Note: Grannan will be speaking at CMSWire's DX Summit 2015 conference on Nov. 3 in Chicago.)

Who’s In, Out?

Forrester trimmed the number of “significant” digital experience providers from 13 in 2014 to 10 today. Those significant players are: Acquia, Adobe, Demandware, IBM, Oracle, SAP hybris, Salesforce, SDLSitecore and, new to this report, EPiServer.

Digital River, HP Automony, Intershop and OpenText — who all earned spots last year — did not make the cut this time, although Forrester did include them in the 2015 report as “other vendors worthy of consideration."

Forrester evaluated 40 criteria for each vendors, including at least $1 billion in revenue. 

Forrester sees the core of a digital experience platform including content, marketing, commerce, service, analytics and customer data, but its Wave report has a long list of other requirements, including digital asset management, search social depth, and testing and optimization.

Who Landed Where?

Outside of leader Adobe, most vendors fell into the “strong performers” category.

Here's how Forrester sees the industry shaping up:

  • Leaders: Adobe
  • Strong performers: SAP hybris, Salesforce, Acquia, Demandware, IBM, Sitecore and Oracle
  • Contenders: SDL and EPiServer, though SDL did ever-so-slightly touch the “strong performers” section

As for who has the best current offering, that honor went to Adobe. But the San Jose, Calif.-based giant trailed Acquia in strategy. Acquia, a Boston-based digital experience provider, has the best strategy, according to Forrester. Adobe’s No. 2 in strategy, followed by Salesforce. 

Acquia improved from its “contender” status in 2014. Oracle, Salesforce and Demandware also leaped from 2014 “contenders” to 2015 “strong performers.”

From a user standpoint, digital experience technology still comes with its challenges. Users of digital experience technology told Forrester researchers that integration still remains a challenge, even if vendors claim otherwise. They also told Forrester that a good service partner is crucial to integration success, and some technology users cautioned against buying features you’d ultimately not use.

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Title image by Kyle Meck