How we filtered 9 vendors out of 100 for the Community Platform Wave

Research is always challenging, I’m required to stay objective, follow a consistent methodology, and inform the market who is strong and who’s not. Believe me, I’ve gotten my share of angry calls, emails, blogposts, comments, and conversations with brands and vendors as a result of my reports. I’ve found that one thing that really helps everyone to understand is to be open and transparent about the process.

In every Wave, like the Community Platform Wave I recently published, there are vendors that are elated and those that are disappointed, this is a normal outcome of reports that make the tough decisions to help brands make decisions. I’m empathetic to some of the vendors who were not in the Wave and want to make some clear explinations as they have to answer their colleagues, customers, and investors.

To start with, in a market of now 100 vendors, it’s very important that vendors take the onus to respond to the call for submission to the Vendor Product Catalog (free after registration). We used this information to filter out which vendors would be appropriate for the Wave report. I made a few public calls on my blog, twitter, indicating my intent as a result over 50 vendors submitted. We generally do not follow up unless we’ve heard client demand from inquiry calls, and I turned to 3 analyst peers for their inclusion of any additional vendors.

You can understand the challenges in filtering a large market to just a few vendors, given the amount of hours required to spend on each vendor, Forrester limits the number of candidates involved in the Wave, for this one, nine was a manageable size and we capped it at that number.

Next, we filtered vendors to meet the needs of external communities used for customers (I serve the Interactive Marketer) as well as vendors were primarily serving enterprise class companies.

Some vendors chose not to participate as being involved in a research report takes time of the vendors and perhaps precious time away from clients. Vendors have to participate in meetings, plan travel to meet me in lab, and be involved in several communications throughout the process. In fact, a multi billion dollar company who owns a community platform chose not to participate despite my offer.

I’m required to be objective, without this, I lose credibility and then everything else will fall apart. Several vendors who are in the community space who are Forrester clients were not included in the Wave, in fact, some were livid and gave me an loud earful and I actually suspect they may leave us as a client. Despite this, I’m supported by my management, and our CEO to stay objective.

Now for the good news, while there is no immediate plans, Forrester is known for updating Wave’s in the space after a few years. Secondly, if you’re in this space, you know I publish a weekly digest giving updates to buyers about what’s happening in the market. I know for a fact the digest is read by senior decision makers at large corporations. If you are a vendor in this space, you can schedule a briefing with me and we can discuss your situation, I speak to clients, press, and media frequently and will always match market needs with vendors as deemed appropriate.

I believe in the open conversation, and will support the right for every vendor and customer to voice an opinion. I hope this helps provide insight to why some vendors did –and did not make the Wave, we tried every effort to be fair in our first report in a very large market.