Three flaws in the 2017 Forrester CMS Top 15

Let’s say you are in the marketplace to update your digital platform. Perhaps you are running on an old and outdated version of something that powers your website and the time has come to take the next step in 2017.

To help you navigate a crowded marketplace, you might consider the 2017 Forrester Wave for Web Content Management (WCM) which came out this week. As usual, those vendors who fared well were quick to celebrate, update their marketing and being the campaign machine, in particular, Acquia, e-Spirit and Crownpeak, which all offers the report free of charge.

Here it is. The 2017 Forrester Wave for Web Content Management

Before you get consumed by the deafening vendor marketing, I’ve read the report and wanted to offer my view on three critical shortcomings.

The report uses WCM and CMS and even digital experience platform as different terms for the same thing. In this posting, I’ll stick to CMS and highlight major flaws in the 18-page report according to how I see the marketplace. This posting is written to customers aiming to make the right choice.

1) The scoring is not good for you

Before I look at the vendors, I would remind you that horse race style evaluations like Forrester deploy do little to determine what might be best for your project. You need to consider your requirements, your organisation, your mandate and the promised land you want to get to.

Having said that, the Forrester weighting of 50% current offering and 50% strategy is fundamentally flawed.

The current offering is the product you can try out. That’s something you can test, live demo and implement. You can ask other customers if they are happy with it. You can draw on the experience of digital agencies. 

The strategy is different and made up of 35% vision according to Forrester. I find it interesting to read about strategy in Harvard Business Review, but I have much less energy for vendor strategy. I would recommend assigning 0% weight in your evaluation. If a vendor says their vision is to also do commerce, that’s fascinating, but how does it help your project?

It took Acquia less than 24 hours to get out an email marketing campaign promoting their position as a Leader in the new Forrester Wave

Finally, Forrester assigns 0% weight to market presence. My advice is that it market presence makes a big difference. If you are the only Adobe customer in Denmark, that’s not a good thing. And support services belong to this category as well, yet that is highly valuable to customers.

2) The CMS marketplace looks different

As the real marketplace leaders, Acquia, Adobe and Sitecore gets a perfect score by Forrester when it comes to product customer count. That’s the part I agree with.

The 15 products that Forrester has evaluated represents a mixed bag. A few notable ones are missing like CoreMedia, Kentico, Umbraco and WordPress, which all has widespread adoption.

The CMS marketplace remains a local one, so if you are based in say Norway, you might also want to consider Enonic and in the UK, Zengenti is doing a great job. The list could go on for every country.

Forrester has evaluated 15 products from 14 vendors. 5 of the vendors included  I have not seen shortlisted and selected by customers in the past 24 months:

  • e-Spirit has made much progress from its roots as German software business with SAP integration as the main differentiator. That’s not a small home turf, but still, they are far from a top 15 global leader
  • IBM is no longer your parents IBM with the introduction of Watson, but they have never been a serious player in the CMS space. I understand why Forrester customers, many of which are historically heavily invested in IBM, will ask for the Forrester view, but I cannot point to a single customer that runs their website on IBM and are happy with it
  • Jahia has me impressed with what they have built, both in terms of software, user experience innovation and company, but to call Jahia a CMS vendor is almost an alternative fact. Their focus and strengths are elsewhere and competing analyst firm Gartner places them as a horizontal portal vendor
  • Open Text is infamously known as the place where great software goes to die. They have 2 products on the Forrester Top 15 and they might win new deals somewhere, but not that I know off. As a company, they are mostly living off support and services contracts coupled with loyal customers who are reluctant to change
  • Oracle in this space is a bit similar to IBM. I do understand why Forrester customers are curious to hear about the Oracle approach, but I would advise caution with a vendor that does not consider CMS strategic and has many customers leaving the platform

Finally, many customers are looking at CMS as only one part of the required digital plumbing. Vendors like Contentful, GatherContent and Siteimprove,  play an important part of the digital architecture in many leading organisations and as such are a part of almost all CMS projects.

  1. Contentful as the API-based vendor that is really a CMS, but without a presentation layer of the actual content
  2. GatherContent to help you not only move content from A to B, but also as a part of your content strategy
  3. Siteimprove to help you succeed with a quality website without accessibility flaws, spelling mistakes, broken links and much more

3) Cloud is a game changer

The Forrester report does indeed cover cloud, which might explain why Sitecore is not doing as well as last year.

As I’ve previously written, there are no sane reasons not to take your digital experience to the cloud. Among the 15 products that Forrester has researched only 2 offers a true cloud-based solution today:

  • Acquia
  • Crownpeak

Read more going cloud in 10 learnings from digital leaders in 2016, where the third point is all about cloud. To quote:

At recent J. Boye meetings in Europe, we’ve seen how vendors like Cloud CMS, ContentfulCrownpeak, Solodev and Umbraco have come a long way to offer cloud services for content management, while other vendors still have a long way to go.

Read the Forrester report free of charge

As you writing, you can simply fill out a brief form on the Acquia, Crownpeak, e-Spirit or Episerver websites and read the report free of charge.  

Full disclosure: This assessment is based on my personal experience working in the CMS marketplace for almost 20 years and dealing with 1,000s of customers, many of which are members of the J. Boye community. J. Boye also has a few of the mentioned vendors as members of our CMS Expert and Software Product Management groups. 

Learn more about selecting the right vendor

There’s an emerging trend towards multiple tools. Read selecting the right tool has become selecting the right tools.

Are you interested in learning from the best? Do consider joining a J. Boye group to meet with peers and hear their insights about vendors, agencies and everything required to make digital transformation work.

8 thoughts on “Three flaws in the 2017 Forrester CMS Top 15

  1. Great post Janus. What makes a rating on strategy even more problematic in my eyes is the fact, that it is not measuring to whether a strategy is in place or not, but how well the vendor’s strategic vision is aligned to the analyst’s strategic vision. One cannot know, however, whether the analyst’s strategic vision is right or wrong – only the future will show this. So a high rating on strategy might be obtained by betting on the wrong horse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely agree! From my personal experience these magic quadrant things are more or less worthless. My theory about their existence: I guess they thrive on the separation of IT and business. Business knows nothing or little about tech and have to rely on an IT-dept. that knows nothing or little about business. Business has heard great tales of 1-1 personalization, big data and other buzz words presented by the IBMs and the Adobes of the World on the endless rows of tech-vendor-sponsored digital conferences. “Yes! This is exactly what we need to realize our digital vision!” The requirements basically write themselves… Off you go IT! Find a system that supports buzz 1, buzz 2, buzz 3 and especially buzz 4. Enter magic quadrant. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great article Janus and I agree with your points. The fact that companies like Open Text, Oracle and IBM are even on the list (let alone in the blue parts of the diagram!) shows that it’s very hard to take the analysis serious in the context of choosing a web CMS.. in 2017 if you’re “just” looking to have a marketing site then it has to be SaaS and it has to be plug and play!


  4. Awesome post, Janus! My main concern with these kind of evaluations is the lack of honesty. You simply cannot compare these systems “in general” without taking customer and project needs into account. As you stated out, the requirements of the projects need to be reflected in the weighting of their scorings and picking just some big names from other areas ignoring the CMS realities in your area or worldwide makes it even worse. The only thing i’m looking at differently is the definition of the “area”. For example in Germany the CMS market is stuck in technologies and dogmas from a decade ago, so you and your customers have to look around what’s going on in the markets around you and find the right CMS that fits your customers needs.


  5. Also something that isn’t clear to readers of these reports is that, certainly in the case of Gartner, you have to be in more than 2 vertical markets. We at TERMINALFOUR only sell to Higher Education and would a very good fit if you’re a University or College. I’m sure it’s the same in other markets too.


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