The Forrester Wave Methodology


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Executive Summary

The Forrester Wave™ is a guide for buyers considering their purchasing options in a technology marketplace. To offer an equitable process for all participants, Forrester follows a publicly available methodology, which we apply consistently across all participating vendors. Sometimes, vendors decide not to participate in the formal Forrester Wave evaluation process. In these instances, Forrester will evaluate the vendor according to The Forrester Wave And The Forrester New Wave™ Incomplete Vendor Participation Policy.

The Forrester Wave uses a transparent methodology to compare the players in a software, hardware, or services market so the role professionals we serve can make well-informed decisions without spending months conducting their own research. The Forrester Wave offers two major benefits to clients: our detailed analysis of vendors’ products and services, based on transparent criteria, and an Excel spreadsheet that allows clients to easily compare products and develop custom shortlists according to their own requirements. It is our practice to evaluate products we consider to be generally available no later than the time of the Wave kick off date.

Participants In The Forrester Wave Process

A Forrester Wave builds upon the participation of four key players:

  • Analyst: The analyst owns the Forrester Wave and its conclusions and is the content expert for the Forrester Wave. The analyst determines the inclusion criteria, the evaluation criteria, and the scoring framework, based on our Forrester Wave Methodology, and couples that with his or her knowledge of the marketplace and the needs of our clients. The analyst is ultimately responsible for determining the content of the Forrester Wave, including participating firms, evaluation criteria, scores, and analysis.
  • Research associate (RA): The RA manages the Forrester Wave process, driving and maintaining the Forrester Wave project schedule and, in most instances, communicating with vendors throughout the process. The RA serves as the main Forrester contact for the vendors we include in a Forrester Wave and may participate in data-gathering processes, including lab days, product demos, and customer reference calls.
  • Vendor response team: The vendor response team provides detailed product and service information; this team comprises the key contacts we work with at participating vendors. Forrester relies on the team’s participation to provide feedback on the evaluation criteria, identify candidates for customer interviews, provide demos, and collect and verify the product and company information used in the Forrester Wave evaluation.
  • Customer references: Customer references share their experiences with the products — anonymously. Forrester will ask each Forrester Wave participant to provide customer references. Our research teams will contact each of the references to schedule a brief call or complete a short survey. Forrester will ask the customers questions based on their experience with the service or product we are evaluating. We do not list or name customer references in the published materials unless this is specifically agreed upon prior to publication.

The Forrester Wave Process Road Map: How Does It Work?

Preliminary Planning And Kickoff

In preparation for a Forrester Wave, the analyst will work with his or her research director and research associate to:

  • Research the category and define the scope. The analyst conducts initial research to determine if the product or service is mature enough and garners enough buyer interest for a Forrester Wave. As part of this research, the analyst will define the scope of the category and identify the vendors in the space. Forrester reserves the right to remove a vendor from a Forrester Wave, at any point in the Forrester Wave process, if we find it to be incompatible with the Forrester Wave objectives.
  • Draft inclusion and evaluation criteria. Based on the scope of the Forrester Wave, the analyst will create the inclusion criteria that will determine which vendors to include in the evaluation. He or she will also define the criteria against which we will evaluate the vendor products or services. The criteria will consider the needs of the role professionals that the analyst serves; we intend the criteria to be differentiating rather than exhaustive. We will give vendors included in the Forrester Wave an opportunity to review the evaluation criteria.
  • Host a vendor kickoff teleconference. The analyst and RA take vendors through the research process information contained in the email invitation. Specifically, the Forrester team outlines key deliverables and their deadlines and answers vendors’ questions, including questions about specific criteria.

Gathering Evaluation Data

There are three inputs into a Forrester Wave evaluation: a questionnaire, an executive strategy and product demo session, and customer references. We will evaluate incomplete participants using Forrester estimates based on publicly available information. During this phase, the Forrester research team will:

  • Distribute a questionnaire with the evaluation criteria. Forrester creates and distributes to the participating vendors a questionnaire that includes all the evaluation criteria and instructions about the types of information the analyst is looking for. Vendors have three weeks to respond to the questionnaire. We do not grant extensions except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Hold executive strategy briefings and demonstrations. The vendors follow the criteria laid out in the questionnaire and, potentially, scenarios developed by Forrester to demonstrate the functionality of each product. During the evaluation, the Forrester team captures detailed notes and may record the presentation.
  • Interview customer references. Forrester will call or survey the reference customers provided by the vendor. If necessary, the analyst will also speak with other customers about the vendor’s product or service. The goal is to verify the information given by the vendor in the questionnaire and/or collected during the lab evaluation.

Scoring And Reviewing

In this phase, the analyst will create scale explanations for each criterion, defining what best-in-class looks like for each. The analyst will use the facts gathered during the evaluation to score each vendor against that scale and to weight criteria according to importance. We’ll use those scores and weightings to produce the Forrester Wave graphic. We base Forrester Wave scoring on the questionnaire, demo/briefing, and customer reference surveys and/or interviews. We also base it on the analyst’s experience and expertise in the marketplace. At this stage, participating vendors — those that returned a questionnaire and did a briefing and/or demo with the analyst — will:

  • Perform a fact-check scorecard and vendor write-up review. Each vendor receives its scorecard, which will appear in the vendor comparison tool and includes scales and scores the analyst has generated. The vendor must review this scorecard and its vendor write-up for any errors of fact. To learn more, go to The Forrester Wave™ Vendor Review Policy.
  • Receive the final scorecard, write-up, and positioning on the Forrester Wave graphic. After the analyst has received and considered all feedback, we’ll finalize the scorecard and write-up. Each vendor will receive a copy of its final scorecard (including scores, scales, and weightings), its write-up, and a graphic displaying its positioning on the Forrester Wave graphic. This is the last time that vendors will see their scorecards before the Forrester Wave goes live on To be fair to all participants, we do not provide vendors the opportunity to submit additional information unless we request it.

The Courtesy Preview And Publishing The Forrester Wave Report

Once we’ve developed and reviewed all the deliverables, it’s time to share the Forrester Wave with the world. Before publishing the deliverables, the team:

  • Sends out the courtesy preview document. Forrester will provide a courtesy preview of the Forrester Wave document to evaluated vendors. This preview period typically occurs five days before publication, and Forrester will not accept any new information or escalation during this time. We consider the content of the Forrester Wave to be final at this point, although we reserve the right to make corrections until publication.

Changes During The Forrester Wave Process

  • In some cases, a Forrester Wave participant makes a major change to its offering or strategy during the course of a Forrester Wave evaluation. This may include a product announcement, a product enhancement, a merger or acquisition, a brand name change, or a divestiture. To ensure a fair and efficient evaluation process, Forrester presents each company (or product) as it is publicly represented at the time of the Forrester Wave kickoff (the official start of the evaluation period).
  • Announcements that vendors share with Forrester after kickoff (such as during the Forrester Wave briefing or demo) may inform our evaluation or the advice we provide to clients in our text summary of the product. We do not, however, guarantee that we will represent any changes taking place after the kickoff.
  • We allow for one exception: If one company in the Forrester Wave completes an acquisition or merger with another company that is also in the Forrester Wave evaluation, and the public acquisition announcement takes place during the evaluation period but before our courtesy preview, we will note it as a footnote on the Forrester Wave graphic and as an endnote in each company’s written review. We do not re-evaluate companies based on changes announced during the evaluation period.