Just a couple weeks ago, Forrester released its much anticipated Wave for Digital Experience Platforms*. The annual, detailed review of content and customer experience technologies draws both praise and criticism. Those vendors that qualify to participate leave their fate in the hands of a scoring paradigm focused on both current offerings and strategy boiled down to two numbers plotted on an X and Y axis.
Critics claim that no important technology decision can be quantified without applying the lens of organizational context and maturity; and therefore the Wave is misleading. Forrester agrees, to an extent, and suggests that the Wave be used by organizations to get a feel for the marketplace, that they utilize the detailed research data to customize rankings based on their unique needs and acknowledges that viable firms may exist that do not qualify for participation.
With this in mind, we took a moment to review any notable trends since the last Digital Experience Wave conducted in Q3, 2014**. They are…
Platform as a Service is Almost Table Stakes.
Cloud based offerings are available from every vendor on the list. Each vendor has their own flavor, ranging from limited-capability, shared tenant SaaS, to fully dedicated, highly customizable PaaS, to hybrid options. The right approach comes down to each organization’s specific requirements, internal capabilities, and overall customer experience strategy.
Digital Experience is More Than Just Marketing
Forrester defines digital experience platforms as “Software to manage, deliver, and optimize experiences consistently across every digital touchpoint.” Therefore, these platforms should ultimately help brands manage the full customer journey, from initial awareness and customer acquisition, to conversion and commerce and finally loyalty and service. Today, most if not all of these platforms focus on acquisition and to a lesser degree commerce. Time will tell which vendors are successful across the full spectrum.
Suites are Making Progress, but Best of Breed is Still a Reality
Many of these platforms have made significant progress towards rationalizing their product portfolios, marked by far less acquisitions and far more investment in roadmap development & integration. However, scanning the 10 vendors in this year’s Wave, the average number of evaluated products sold separately in conjunction with the core platform was 6.7, with a range from as few as 1 to as many as 18. Yes, some vendors still have a lot of work to do here. And that might be OK for many buyers, as Forrester acknowledges that between legacy technology investments, siloed operations and an assortment of point solutions, many organizations will continue to have a best-of-breed approach for years to come.
Content and Data Integration is Still in its Infancy
A 360 degree view of the customer as a single source of truth is the goal of every customer-focused organization. Unfortunately, data integration is still painful, particularly as the number of touchpoints and therefore sources of data continues to increase, not shrink. For many digital experience functions like marketing automation, commerce and email, content has been an afterthought. Smaller, more nimble vendors may have a bit of an advantage here, although their value will be most realized in best-of-breed organizations. Content processing, enrichment, transformation and delivery requires a focused, content engineering discipline.
It’s a Very Crowded, Tightly Grouped Pack
Comparing the 2014 Digital Experience Wave to the most current 2015 version, we see an overall much tighter grouping among the 10 vendors. Several large vendors are no longer part of the Wave, including some with a fairly large number of installed enterprise accounts. Without any clear standout, the burden lies with organizations and their respective technology implementation partners to make the right choice for digital experience management platforms.
Forrester, along with fellow analyst firms Gartner, Real Story Group, IDG and others, all have their own methods to bring some clarity around technology selection. From Kanban’s perspective, the Forrester Wave is just one input signaling a very dynamic, complex ecosystem where for the time being, caveat emptor. Today and for the foreseeable future, content and experience management service organizations like Kanban will stay very busy navigating the plethora of technology options, product gaps and the many opportunities for organizations to differentiate their brand.
* The Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Platforms, Q4 2015
** The Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Delivery Platforms, Q3 2014