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OpenText, Demandware, and are all on a buyer’s shortlist. What are they buying?

Give up? Yeah, me too.

We’ve been known to critique technology rankings such as the Wave and Magic Quadrant here at DCG, since we don’t think they provide much actionable insight, and we usually add a little color commentary to spice things up. However, in the case of Forrester’s new Digital Experience Delivery [DEaD?] Platforms Wave, I think we’ll take a different tack: rather than comment on the positioning of the individual vendors, I want to challenge the premise of the entire report.

As if the reasons why aren’t obvious already, please allow me to explain…

Like most readers, I snagged a free version of the report off the web in exchange for some spammable personal information. And, like most readers, I flipped straight to the chart to see how the vendors stacked up according to my good friends in Cambridge (Mass., that is, not the home of the Prince who turned 1 this week). Is this some sort of mistake?, I asked myself. What are we comparing here? I flipped back to the front to re-read the description of a DED platform: “software vendors vying to offer integrated, business-centric tools to create, deliver, measure, and optimize digital (and offline) channels of engagement and push experiences to digital channels of choice”.

Okay, so everything but the kitchen sink. Got it.

If it’s not clear to you yet (maybe because you haven’t read the report yet – and you’re welcome, for I’m about to save you 20 minutes), here’s another clue: according to Forrester, Adobe and Hybris – one a digital marketing platform vendor in this context and the other an eCommerce and Product Information Management (PIM) vendor – are the two clear leaders of the pack. Yet, they’re often deployed together for large organizations. Meaning, they’re complementary, not competitive.

Confused yet?

Right, so rather than ramble on like I’ll probably do on CMS-Connected this afternoon, I’ll just list my top 3 issues with this Wave, and why I think its content would have been better left as fodder for an esoteric dinner conversation among industry analysts than published as a supposedly valuable report for technology buyers.

  • It does not help anyone make a decision: The role of an industry analyst is to clarify the ambiguous and to help leaders make decisions. Specifically, Forrester Waves, according to their own description, are intended to help “optimize vendor selections”. When reports are published comparing 13 vendors, many of which have no overlapping capabilities whatsoever (as with the three in the title of this post), they’re actually creating confusion.  At that point, we, as analysts, have lost sight of our purpose.
  • It makes you dumber about digital: Rather than help buyers gain a clearer understanding of the digital landscape and the technologies that power it, the report actually sets the audience back by implying that all platforms that have anything to do with digital experiences are on par with one another. It’s almost as if Digital (capital D) is somehow a new phenomenon and we’re just trying to make sense of it. This report is akin to publishing a comparison of all open source software (OSS) and having Linux and Drupal in a neck-and-neck tie for the lead. Or maybe a SaaS comparison of Box and Gmail. Is this helpful?
  • It values end-to-end solutions when buyers don’t: Forrester said it best in last year’s Wave for Web Content Management for Digital Customer Experience: “Even if the ideal single-vendor platform existed, our clients tell us that they’ve already made too many investments to be able to rip and replace all of their existing tools in favor of a single suite or vendor platform [for digital experience management].” And, even in this report, the authors remind buyers again that “many customers don’t want a one-stop-shop”. Yet, in the very same sentence they argue that “vendors in this market still have significant work to do” because they have “functionality gaps” since they don’t have “all the parts to create a single, unified digital experience platform.” Forrester gives the most credit to those vendors who have as many of the pieces as possible, yet they acknowledge repeatedly that customers neither want nor need a unified solution. So which is it? And, if the all-in-one platform is indeed the end-all-be-all, how is Hybris (#2) ranked so closely behind Adobe (#1), and ahead of Sitecore (#3) and IBM (#4), all of which seemingly check more boxes on the tick list of relevant technologies? This only leaves the buyers confused and the vendors frustrated. There is certainly a place for suites, but this point requires significant clarification.

Those are my main gripes, but they’re pretty big gripes. And since we focus so much on customer experience management at DCG, I should also call out another sweet irony. The report (rightly) argues that, customer experience “isn’t just about marketing; it’s about supporting the entire customer lifecycle in a digitally enabled way.” So far, so good. Yet, the clear leader in the report, and the recipient of the highest score for “Strategy” (namely, Adobe) is unapologetically focused on marketers. Hmmmm.

I haven’t pointed out some of the many points that Forrester got right – that data integration is critical, that organizational silos hinder the customer journey, that there’s still a lot of integration to be done by the vendors who have expanded their breadth via acquisitions, and so forth. But that’s because they pale in comparison to the in-your-face issues with this report. Sometimes, we just have to step back to see the forest[er] for the trees, and realize we’re comparing apples to potatoes in the name of research.

Sorry, but this one didn’t pass my sniff test.

What did you think?


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