Forrester 2024 DAM Report – Not Waving but Drowning

This feature article has been written by Ralph Windsor, a leading DAM expert with over 25 years’ experience in the industry.


A few weeks ago, analysts Forrester announced the publication of their 2024 DAM Wave report.  Anyone who follows the DAM industry will have noted their in-boxes suddenly lighting up with press releases from the featured firms, all eager to tell the world that they are ‘leaders’, ‘strong performers’, ‘contenders’ etc.

The report itself is pretty standard fare that anyone with a few years’ experience of this market will have seen before from them.  There are still the references to their ‘Excel-based vendor comparison tool’ (or a ‘spreadsheet’, to use a more prosaic description).  The vacuous references to ‘vision’ or ‘community’ etc. are liberally sprinkled across the copy, along with arbitrary scores assigned without any context as to why or how the numbers were calculated.

I have seen a copy of the Forrester report as well as spoken to people who have coughed up the $3k asking price for an individual licence. The near-universal reaction was that they thought it was more like a pamphlet than a report.  The PR benefit to vendors of getting featured is understandable, but what it offers to end-users (or other vendors seeking to research the competition, for that matter) is more questionable.

What is possibly the most interesting aspect of the Forrester’s document is why some vendors were chosen to appear and others were not.  Accusations that Forrester use a ‘pay to play’ model where vendors get charged to appear are bandied around quite a lot by many in the DAM market.  Equally, you will find a sizeable section of commentators who are keen to point out that they don’t do this.  As described in this article, by Stephen Messer the truth is somewhat more nuanced.

I have been told by some vendors who have asked Forrester why they were not featured and insufficient revenue is apparently cited as the most common reason.  The exact level of revenue that a vendor is required to attain is not always clearly elucidated, however.  Furthermore, some vendors who aren’t in a higher revenue category but who have recently completed a financing round (e.g. through a Venture Capital firm) are permitted.

It seems like the real reason Forrester seek out vendors who have met a particular revenue threshold (or received funding recently) is that they are more likely to have the funds required to pay for lucrative report re-distribution licence fees – where the vendor is allowed to provide copies of the report to prospective customers, bespoke research and sponsored events like Forrester webinars.

My recollection was that in the earlier years (circa 2010) they included some smaller vendors without having any specific knowledge about who they were.  With descriptions like ‘turnover unknown, assumed to be $1m’ being used.  Forrester also state that they will sometimes cover firms without having obtained consent.  In most cases now, however, this tends to be very large vendors who have brand names which are more recognisable than Forrester’s own and whom don’t need them, nor care too much about what they say anyway.

Setting Forrester’s business model aside, there are a few firms listed in the DAM Wave who test the boundaries of obscurity in terms of their brand awareness in the DAM market.  For example, I don’t recall having ever been asked about Storyteq (in fact, I had to go to Google to learn who they were).

After a quick glance over the websites of a few of these firms, what becomes quite clear is that DAM isn’t specifically their core business.  In most cases, their DAM component is part of some wider ‘suite’ offering – this also hints at Forrester’s wider agenda in-relation to their opinion of the significance of the DAM industry itself.

Forrester’s choice of ‘leaders’ is also intriguing.  Their report places Aprimo as the strongest vendor and they have held this position for some years now.  Indeed, one of their former analysts, Anjali Yakkundi, left Forrester to join Aprimo in 2017, where she remained until 2021.  Clearly, she must have been so impressed with their platform while reviewing it that she felt there was no option but to go and work for them.  What other explanation could there be?

Aprimo is a case in point with reference to our own DAM industry report, which we published last week.  While sifting through the data about them (and it was actually data provided by Aprimo themselves) we found some interesting facts about their claimed support for third-party technologies.  Assuming Aprimo answered any vendor questionnaires in the  same way for both Forrester and the DAM News vendor information form, these call into question the robustness of Forrester’s assessment of this firm as the ‘market leader’.  Those who would like to know more can take out a DAM News Premium subscription and make up their own minds.

There is a more fundamental issue with seeking to rank vendors into ‘market leaders’, ‘contenders’ etc.  This is plainly obvious to anyone who has had real-world experience of implementing DAM systems, as opposed to using some abstract theoretical criteria to evaluate them.  It is this: there is no such thing as ‘the best DAM’, it’s a mythical, non-existent beast.

Although the vast majority of DAM systems are highly homogenised and difficult to differentiate, each one of them has an array of micro-advantages and disadvantages when compared with the competition.  A more realistic assessment is that there is probably a best DAM system for you, but not for everyone.  Classifications such as ‘market leader’ etc. are fallacies and will make the process of selecting a suitable DAM far more difficult than it should be – which is why true DAM experts don’t do it.

The Stevie Smith poem Not Waving but Drowning is what comes to my mind when evaluating the Forrester 2024 DAM Wave.  My overall impression is that they would prefer that DAM would quietly disappear under the surface and get subsumed into some wider ‘Experience Management’ category, out of sight so they don’t have to cover it any longer.  This seems to have always been their agenda ever since they first released reports about DAM.

This points to the fundamental issue with Forrester and their ilk: they simply don’t understand the DAM use-case and the market which serves it well enough to offer any kind of credible guidance.  They are not alone amongst the analyst community; it is my assertion that all of them would prefer DAM would just go away, despite both the fact that demand for it remains robust and that no genuine market leaders have emerged.

In the last week, myself and my colleague, Russell McVeigh (the editor of DAM News) have received a number of emails from vendors asking what the criteria is for appearing in our own DAM Buyer’s Report.  In the interests of full transparency, they are provided below:

To answer another question which has been raised, if you want to become a sponsor of DAM News and have your adverts appear on the pages of the DAM News website, please feel free.  Be aware, however, that this, alone, will not get you listed in our report and we won’t change our editorial policy nor the content of our articles to suit your marketing agenda either.

For those who wish to compare Forrester’s $2,995 document with our own 500+ page report, it can be obtained by registering for a Premium Subscription (at a cost of just $999) and includes a number of other benefits in addition to the report itself.

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