Status: Forrester Wave Report for Community Platforms, Data Collection (Part 2/4)

One of the ways I tell companies how they can best serve their market is to be transparent on how they build products. By doing so, it helps folks not only understand, but appreciate the level of effort that goes into creating a service or product. While analysts offer guidance and advisory sessions, we’re most known for the reports that we create, in fact, these are key products that help decision makers be successful.

Demand for community platforms, yet too many vendors
I’m asked a few times a week on which community vendor to choose, with a list of 80-120 vendors on my blog and a more refined catalog on the Forrester site, it’s very confusing for brands to determine who’s best. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know I’ve been watching the community platform (aka white label social network space) with great interest, even before I joined Forrester. A few weeks ago I announced my intention to start a Forrester Wave report, which will segment out nine vendors that will meet the needs of Interactive Marketers at Enterprise Class companies (companies with more than 1,000 employees).

The Forrester Wave Methdology
Using the refined Forrester Wave methodology that has been completed by many analysts before me, we’re nearly half way done with this 3 month research project to understand, and segment the community platform market. For this particular report, it doesn’t make sense to utilize crowd sourcing methods (although I’ve used crowd sourcing for other reports), the Wave method is already refined from the many analysts before me.

To date, we’ve created a detailed scorecard that involved a feedback loop with major brands who have recently deployed community software. This particular scorecard contains over 54 criteria that was assembled through client discussions, a panel of a trusted folks who have deployed communities, discussions with fellow analysts, and feedback from the vendors. Next, we collect data from the 9 vendors, each completing the scorecard for a total of 496 cells, then I create my own sheet of cells verifying what we found for a total of 992 cells of data collection.

Also, we’ve started interviewing and recording feedback from 27 brands that have deployed community software from these vendors, in order to find out what went right –and what could be improved from each of these nine vendors. Again, more spreadsheets and data collection.

Starting this week, we start a series of day-long labs with each of the vendors, where will be looking under the covers at the actual software, discuss their business strategy, and understand how their community offerings can best help marketers. We’re looking at the market from a variety of angles, to ensure that an accurate report is created.

Collaborative environment
At Forrester, an analyst never works in a vacuum, it’s collaborative and I’ve a lot of minds to lean on. It’s not just me alone, I’m getting help from analyst and my editor Shar Vanboskirk, analyst Oliver Young who knows the enterprise side of this space, analyst Suresh Vittal who’s completed many waves, analyst Laura Ramos, and constant support from research associate Sarah Glass (my guiding light, and detailed taskmaster) and research associate Zach Reiss-Davis. I’m under the guidance of my research director Christine Overby, and am in constant contact with our seasoned Josh Bernoff. Despite suggestions that some analyst firms do not have knowledge management strategies isn’t quite true. In fact, we retain the knowledge of our colleagues through tools like internal wikis, constant team communication, and most importantly knowledge and insights generated by reports will live on for colleagues and clients on the website.

Focusing in
That’s just the half way point: next I have to analyze, score, conduct follow ups to ensure all the data is correct, and begin the scoring process. You’re going to notice a decrease in my posting over the next few weeks, and my online activity start to wean off as I work hard to deliver a quality report later this fall that will help interactive marketers make the right decision.

Read more about this Wave Research project:

Part 1: Starting the Wave
Part 2: Data Collection Process
Part 3: The Analysis Process
Part 4: Announcing the Wave, the final report