Understanding The Limitations and Opportunities of Forrester’s Wave Report into The DAM Software Market


As we reported on a recent DAM News round-up, analyst firm, Forrester have recently released their ‘Wave’ report about the DAM software sector.  The document features 14 vendors, the majority of whom are those with a high degree of visibility in the market.  One possible exception (at least currently) is new entrant, Tenovos, who despite being around for only three years were founded by a management team with a lot of experience (indeed, many of them were once employees of the other vendors in Forrester’s report).

As I have discussed in the past, I find there are some issues with Forrester’s analysis when it comes to DAM.  I will acknowledge, however, that their reports are used by those who maybe don’t have experience of this subject in order to get them up to speed so they can gain a basic understanding of the commercial dynamics at play within it.

One specific critical point about Forrester that has been mentioned by some I have spoken to is how to interpret the evaluations.  This is not always straightforward and a number of DAM end-users have mentioned they find the language employed somewhat opaque and hard to rationalise into real-world experience.

The aforementioned Tenovos have recently published an article which helps prospective DAM users to decode some of the language and terminology used by Forrester.  As ever with vendor pieces, there is an obvious potential conflict of interest which means you can’t exclusively rely on what they say.  With that said, the article is pretty good and gives a very even-handed assessment of the criteria used.  I didn’t find very much to take issue with when I read through it.

The article discusses Forrester’s distinction between a vendor’s current offering and strategy:

Now, you might say, when reading the report, that some DAM vendors score much higher than others for different functionalities. Well, you’re right. But that’s where things get difficult in your evaluation, because you need to decide how to prioritize the strength of the current functionality alongside the long-term strategic direction of the platform.” [Read More]

In addition to the following:

 “…the best approach is to ensure a vendor’s current offerings do match your needs, but then focus on their long-term vision and strategic direction to make sure it’s the right DAM for you in the future, as your needs grow.” [Read More]

Having studied some of the Forrester material in the past (although not the current edition, I must point out) I have tended to find they tend to favour discussing topics like ‘vision’ and ‘strategic direction’, but less so on how this applies to product – or what you will actually get as an end-user.  Terms like ‘vision’ can become euphemisms for vapourware, i.e. product that doesn’t exist and may never see the light of day. As ever, you need to focus less on what vendors say and more on what they do.  As such, there ideally needs to be an assessment of whether a given vendor’s ‘visions’ from the past bear up to current reality.  In other words, did they stick to their road-map, or just jump on whatever fashionable bandwagon came along a few months later?

One of the reasons why there is still a market opportunity for new entrants to the Enterprise DAM software market (such as Tenovos) is because legacy products have not delivered on their historical objectives.  I have read other quotes from Nick Barber (the Forrester chief analyst for the DAM market) where he states that 50% of the people they surveyed were using DAM for 2 years or less.  This doesn’t match up with my experience, nor the vast majority of DAM software sales personnel who I encounter (and I meet quite a few).  Most organisations have implemented DAM at least once before.  When I carry out audits with clients, we usually find there are many different DAMs in-use across the business.  There is a ‘corporate amnesia’ problem with DAM, which isn’t properly acknowledged by Forrester (nor any of their competitors either, it should be noted).

This feeds into discussions about current product vs strategic vision and how to reconcile the two.  As anyone who has been involved in a DAM purchasing exercise will attest, when systems are being selected, there is often no shortage of people who all have an opinion about DAM, but far fewer who will be actively involved in managing one and dealing with governance issues etc., post-implementation.  At the point the product is selected and implementation commences, the latter group who tend to have job titles like ‘Digital Asset Manager’, ‘Head of DAM’ etc., usually are left to get on with it (and a very limited operational budget also, in many cases).  This is usually based on the assumption that a product has been purchased and therefore the problem is now a solved one – when in reality the really serious work has only just started.

Thus, there is a disconnect between assessing whether a given system will meet the long-term strategic objectives of the business and what happens when it is put into use.  The point Forrester make is not an unreasonable one, but you need people with sufficient seniority to remain involved, especially when it comes to ongoing governance, adoption and integrating the DAM as widely as possible with other solutions.

In mitigation, the Forrester report appears to be quite a lot more in-depth than it used to be.  I was shown an edition from around 2014 and rather than a report, it might have been better described as a pamphlet.  They also appear to have now eschewed phrases like ‘an Excel-based vendor comparison tool’ (which they once were keen on) and simply call the supporting materials ‘a spreadsheet’.

What is also encouraging is that some of the more enlightened vendors who feature, such as Tenovos, don’t just crow about whatever classification they have been handed out by the analyst, but also seek to educate prospective end-users on how to interpret what this means.  They have been quite balanced in their critique but are still prepared to highlight limitations in the analysis, for example, consider the following about Forrester’s ‘performance’ criteria:

A quick note here on performance. Forrester defines this as financial performance, and the score is not reflective in any way on the platform’s performance for customers and their users. One component of the performance score is profitability, for example. What this doesn’t really represent well are startup companies like Tenovos. In our example, as a three-year old company, we are not profitable today because we are intentionally investing our capital to drive growth and innovation instead of cash flow. However we, like many tech startups, are venture-backed with a strong financial position and a documented plan towards profitability. [Read More]

This is one of the issues I have noted before about Forrester’s DAM report. In the Digital Asset Management software sector there aren’t just a few dark horses, there is an entire herd of firms you probably know nothing about, but who also happen to have some large and very impressive brands as customers.  Some are venture-funded, others (especially outside the US) have relied exclusively on ‘sweat equity’ (as I gather it is called).  As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover – and that most definitely applies to DAM software.

The argument frequently advanced is that there are only 10-15 vendors who really matter and who control the majority of the market.  But this isn’t true either and my reckoning, no single firm controls much more than a single digit percentage of the overall revenue on offer.  That is the same irrespective of whether it is enterprise, mid-market or DAM Lite.  The DAM industry remains heavily fragmented and no one has even got close to cornering it.

This last point links to the earlier discussion.  While many of the current personnel in larger enterprises who are choosing DAM systems right now in 2022 might not have had much to do with it in the past, the chances are that a number of their colleagues almost certainly will have done.  My strong recommendation for anyone currently planning a DAM implementation is to carry out in-depth fact-find and audit to see what other activity has occurred in respect of DAM elsewhere in the business.  There are always quite a few surprises and some potentially valuable insights on offer also – and without any cost other than a modest amount of internal research time.  As I have noted before, DAM is not new, only some people’s understanding that they now need it.

If you have the budget to afford a report like the Forrester’s, it could be worth checking out but (as with so many other things in DAM) it is unwise to rely on a single source for all your information. Effectively you need to develop your own bespoke form of analysis that is specific to your business and your needs.  Further, in order to do that, it is essential to carefully peruse information sources which help you to interpret what you are being told.  To that end, the Tenovos piece is well worth a read through.

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