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Reflections on the 2019 Forrester Wave: Digital Experience Platforms

Forrester first published its Forrester Wave for Digital Experience Platforms in 2014 (with Acquia’s own David Aponovich as one of the authors before he joined Acquia), after recognizing its clients needed to better understand how a variety of products can work together to deliver a better customer experience across all digital channels: websites, mobile apps, commerce sites, etc. Earlier this week, Forrester published the Q3 2019 version of this Wave, identifying Acquia as a contender.

In 2014, there were individual Forrester Waves across many of the core capabilities, like web content management and commerce, but no one had taken a step back to look at the complete picture of how specific vendors could address the holistic customer experience.

The result? Well, a bit of a mess, especially in the earlier versions of the Wave. With such a broad range of capabilities required by a DXP, Forrester had to include a wide variety of vendors who often never competed against each other in the real world. To do well in the DXP Wave meant you had to do well in all the other Waves. It was a Forrester Wave of Forrester Waves.

The problem was that no one buys a digital experience platform as a single product. Instead, companies look to DXPs for a foundational set of capabilities, like web content management, that then need to integrate with all the other technologies they already own, like CRM, commerce, campaign management, analytics, etc. The tension in the digital experience platform market always comes down to “best of breed vs. open platform.” Platform vendors like Adobe and Oracle do well in this Wave because they bring their “everything but the kitchen sink” product portfolios into the report and check the most boxes.

Forrester has always understood this reality, even if the Wave scoring didn’t accurately reflect it. Here’s how Forrester put it:

“Forrester has long believed that despite vendors selling increasingly large chunks of digital experience platforms, enterprises don’t buy everything from one vendor. Legacy investments, limited budgets, business disruption, and fear of vendor lock-in lead most organizations to avoid going all-in on a single vendor’s DXP platform.” 

In the new DXP Wave, Forrester did a better job of shaping their requirements to capture the real-world demands for an open digital experience platform that needs to serve as the connective tissue of the digital customer experience. But still, the results of the 2019 Forrester Wave: Digital Experience Platforms still identifies the vendors with the most toys as Leaders.

One of the best things about the Forrester Wave vs. other analyst rankings is the transparency in how vendors are scored and ranked. Forrester ranks vendors based on two axes: Current Offering and Strategy. Each contains a series of weighted requirements that are scored between 0-5 and form the basis of where the dots are placed in the Wave. Forrester even provides clients with a raw spreadsheet to see how “dots” move as scores and weights are adjusted. That’s important to Acquia because it lets us understand our path to becoming a Leader in the next version of this Wave (and in my opinion, we will be!)

For example, back in May we acquired Mautic, the only open source marketing cloud. We acquired Mautic specifically to accelerate our DXP vision, but unfortunately, the acquisition was not reflected in the Wave scoring, as we just missed the timing window. Mautic would have directly impacted our scoring in two categories: B2B campaigns and messaging and B2C campaigns and messaging. With Mautic, I’m confident that a higher score in both categories would have pushed us over the Strong Performer line. To become a Leader in the next Wave, we’ll continue to invest in our existing products and explore new opportunities to acquire companies like Mautic to expand our DXP portfolio. Stay tuned for more.

In parallel, we’ll continue to advocate for our position that the future of digital experience platforms is open: open source and open platforms.

Open source delivers faster DXP innovation

The first time Forrester published a DXP Wave in 2014, Alexa didn’t exist. Now five years later, organizations like the State of Georgia are building voice-first digital experiences using Acquia. Acquia is the only open source digital experience platform company built on top of Drupal, the largest open source web content management system and the largest open source marketing automation system, now that we’ve acquired Mautic. 

Open platforms deliver better ROI for customers

The best DXP doesn’t come from a single vendor with the most products. Instead, we believe that it will come from the vendor who helps companies tear down the organizational silos that stand in the way of delivering an excellent digital experience. The only way to do that in the real world where companies have already made significant investments in other products is to help companies get more value from the products they already own. We’ll do that by continuing to build products that are radically open, with pre-built integrations to all the DXP products being used in the enterprise and by providing simple APIs for developers to build exactly what they need

Tom Wentworth

SVP Product Marketing Acquia