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Demystifying the Forrester Wave

So, what exactly is a Forrester Wave, what’s the process, and which key considerations should you keep in mind?

A Forrester Wave can make for a highly influential and comprehensive guide for buyers in the technology marketplace. They evaluate various vendors in a specific industry based on their own criteria through an evaluation process that historically involves in-depth research using vendor questionnaires, briefings, demonstrations, and customer references.

As an Analyst Relations leader, competing in a Forrester Wave means actively engaging with Forrester's research team, submitting the necessary information and materials, and participating in the evaluation process. It requires collaboration and coordination within the company to ensure accurate representation and effective communication of the vendor's capabilities and unique selling points.

For some, a successful inclusion in a Forrester Wave can lead to increased credibility, market recognition, and potential business opportunities. However, it's important to note that participation does not guarantee positive results, and the evaluation is based on Forrester's analysis and opinion

Below, we'll dive into key takeaways regarding:

Participating in a Forrester Wave

Vendors who choose to participate in the wave can:

  • Provide Forrester with input for their research by completing the Wave questionnaire, joining the strategy briefing/demo, and providing reference customers.

  • They’re also able to receive a sneak peek at the scorecard, ask questions, and also possibly offer feedback on a few scores.

  • If they have any concerns, they’re able to escalate them to a Forrester manager.

  • The option to participate in a 30-minute debrief call with the analyst after the Wave for deeper clarity and learnings that may be useful towards improved standings in future waves.

Why some vendors prefer to participate in a Forrester Wave:

  1. An opportunity for industry Recognition, credibility and validation, as well as showcasing strengths, differentiators, and market positioning to prospective buyers if they perform well in the Wave.

  2. As participating in a Forrester Wave involves engagement with Forrester analysts, this interaction can provide an opportunity to build relationships, gain insights from industry experts, and receive feedback to help shape your company's strategy and product roadmap.

  3. The ability to review the scorecard or escalate any concerns if needed.

Why some Vendors may choose not to participate in a Forrester Wave:

  1. Participating in a Forrester Wave requires significant time, effort, and resources. It involves completing questionnaires, conducting briefings and demonstrations, and providing customer references. The process can be demanding and may divert attention and resources from other initiatives.

  2. While you can provide input and seek clarification, the final analysis and conclusions rest with Forrester; therefore, it may be a subjective evaluation with limited control.

  3. Participating in a Forrester Wave typically involves a hefty fee, which may vary depending on factors such as the industry and company size. Be sure to consider the licensing fees required in order to use the report in your company's sales and marketing efforts after the Wave.

Keep in mind that if a vendor chooses not to participate, they may still be included within the Forrester Wave; however, they'll be represented by a gray bubble in the graphic instead of a white one like the participating vendors. Forrester will however remove vendors from the report upon request. For scoring non-participating vendors, Forrester relies on publicly available information and past briefings and interactions with their clients.

Whether you choose to participate in the Wave or not, some find the Forrester Wave report can provide their team with a comprehensive analysis of your industry, including an evaluation of competing vendors. Providing valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, helping identify opportunities for improvement and differentiation as part of a holistic market intelligence program.

Example Wave Timeline

(Actual timelines may vary, always reference your package.)



Completed Questionnaire

4 weeks after receiving

Reference customers provided

1-2 days after receipt of the questionnaire.

Executive strategy briefing and demonstration

2-week window following questionnaire completion.

Scorecard review

Approx. 2 months after the strategy briefing and demonstration.

Courtesy preview

Approx. 2-4 weeks following your scorecard review.


Approx. 1 week following the courtesy preview

Forrester Wave Scoring Guide:

  • Score of 5: provided to vendors who stand out in a particular area relative to others.

  • Score of 3: usually provided when a vendor appears on par with others.

  • Score of 1: indicates some weaknesses compared to others.

  • Score of 0: means that the vendor is viewed to offer no support in that area.

Forrester Wave Categories

The Forrester Wave report is known to categorize vendors into four classifications: Leaders, Strong Performers, Contenders, and Challengers.

  1. Leaders: Evaluated by Forrester and validated by customers to have a strong and differentiated current offering and strategy. They are considered to be at the forefront of the market, excelling in both areas.

  2. Strong Performers: Have competitive offerings and strategies that are comparable to leaders. They are often considered by users and appear on their shortlists. However, they are not as advanced as leaders in terms of current offerings and strategy, and their customer references may not be as strong.

  3. Contenders: Have current offerings that demonstrate strengths, although they may be more specialized and cater to a narrower set of requirements compared to leaders and strong performers. Their strategies are generally less advanced than leaders and strong performers.

  4. Challengers: are viewed to be among the top vendors in the market space but lag behind in either current offering or strategy. They may excel in one dimension but fall short in the other, such as having a strong current offering but a weak strategy for the future, or vice versa.

The Forrester Wave evaluates vendors based on three quality dimensions:
  1. Current Offering: This dimension assesses the strength of the vendor's existing product or service.

  2. Strategy: It describes Forrester's evaluation of how well the vendor is expected to perform in the future.

  3. Market Presence: This dimension gauges the size and importance of the vendor as a player in the market.

6 Key Milestones in the Forrester Wave Process:

  1. An invitation is sent, and kick-off calls are booked.

  2. Vendors submit their answered questionnaires and provide customer references. (note: Forrester has historically asked for three references that they may contact.)

  3. Vendors provide an executive briefing and demo.

  4. The scorecard and profile review is completed.

  5. Vendors are provided with a courtesy preview of the report.

  6. Lastly, the final report is published.

3 Primary Sources Used by Forrester to Gather Data:

  1. Questionnaire. Vendors receive an official questionnaire for their industry category. It’s important to note that a 1,500-character limit is given for each response, and any that exceeded that volume will not be considered. Also, no hyperlinks or attachments are allowed.

  2. Executive strategy briefing/demo. This takes place on Microsoft Teams within specific date ranges. Vendors get guidance beforehand and can schedule the 90-minute session using a link to the analyst's calendar.

  3. Customer references. These reference sources are provided by the vendors. Forrester will reach out to these customers with an online survey that needs to be completed within two weeks.

Recording Policy During Briefings and Demos

Forrester will typically ask for permission to record sessions, but vendors do not receive a copy and are not permitted to make their own. From their perspective, they consider the recordings as part of their research, so they tend to like to maintain control over them. According to Forrester, they follow a retention policy and destroy the recordings after the report is published.

Scorecard Feedback Process

Although this process allows vendors to seek clarification regarding some of the scores, it’s good to keep in mind that changes during your scorecard review usually won't drastically affect placement on the Wave graphic, so it's good to set expectations with your stakeholders.

Also, the amount of feedback accepted may vary depending on market coverage, analyst experience, and feedback credibility. The amount Vendors are permitted to provide is also often limited by Forrester to remain fair to all vendors.

The scorecard feedback process typically follows these 5 steps:

  1. Scorecards and profiles are sent to vendors.

  2. Vendors are given 5 business days to provide written feedback, asking for clarification or identifying omitted evidence from the demo or questionnaire.

  3. Forrester responds to vendors with written feedback.

  4. Vendors then have 2 business days to request a call to discuss scores before Forrester finalizes the scorecards. Profile feedback is handled via email.

  5. Finalized scorecards are then issued.

When it comes to the scorecard feedback process, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Firstly, focus your feedback on your current offering, as that's where they tend to be most interested in identifying any missed functionality. If you have questions about a specific score, it's recommended to refer to specific data points or features from your briefing deck or questionnaire, rather than introducing new information. Remember, the quality of feedback matters more than quantity. Vendors who strategically provide feedback and have a positive track record tend to carry more weight.

Lastly, before the final Forrester Wave report is published, participating vendors receive a courtesy preview copy. These materials are considered final, and usually sent to you approximately 5 business days before the publication date.

Although participating within a Forrester Wave can be quite the resource and cost-intensive adventure, it can also often provide an opportunity to showcase your company's offerings, gain visibility among buyers, and leverage the influence of Forrester's authoritative research to strengthen your position in the marketplace. Anything you feel we should add? Questions? Please connect, the Alliance is here to help and is always happy to chat.

2023 Modifications to the Wave Methodology and Process

Starting in January 2023, Forrester is making some modifications to their process:

  1. Easy-to-watch Wave Kickoff Calls: Instead of live meetings, they intend to record the kickoff calls so vendors can watch them at their convenience. Vendors will be receiving their schedules and able to ask questions via email.

  2. Wanting to Hear from Vendors Sooner: Now, Forrester experts will ask for their feedback earlier in the research process, for example, during the Landscape reports research stage.

  3. More Time for Vendors: Forrester is expected to give vendors four weeks now instead of three to complete their surveys.

  4. Smarter Scorecard Review: Forrester plans to focus on areas where they feel they might have missed something in the questionnaire or demo, rather than discussing general ideas. This means Vendors can ask for a review on only 15% of the criteria.


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