I'll be the first to admit: I can't stand forced vendor rankings by third party firms, analyst or otherwise. Ever since I spent sleepless nights on the vendor side pulling together RFP responses from questionnaires that often showed the analyst had very little idea what they were talking about from a pragmatic user perspective, I realized how much these things often pull the wool over everyone's blind spend eye, especially in the practitioner community. Yes, there are absolutely exceptions to this statement. But in general, unless the analyst conducting the research is highly, highly skilled in a pragmatic way in the area they're evaluating, the end result can often end up doing more harm than good for the practitioners leveraging the research in the end.
The Forrester Wave approach is not as bad as Gartner's Magic Quadrant ranking style (owing to the interactivity of the model as well as the specific disclosures on the weights given to different areas). Yet any type of ranking approach is only as good as the author's ability to probe, critically evaluate and, most important, sniff out auxiliary concerns or elements the research might surface. After all, the saying goes, "If it looks like a pig, smells like a pig, it most like is a ..." But keeping things kosher is often easier said than done.
I personally find vendor short-lists a far simpler and superior approach to general rankings that aren't tailored to a specific organizational evaluation. Even better are shortlists based on an underlying assumption (e.g., "you're on a budget – best solutions when price matters" or "best solutions for complex integration environments"). Yet occasionally an analyst firm can be helpful with a forced ranking, even if the study raises as many questions as it answers, in addition to the previous quibbles I've raised. I think Forrester's latest services procurement Wave is just such an example of a study that probably does slightly more good than harm. Courtesy of Emptoris, you can download it for free. And if you tune back in tomorrow, I'll summarize some of the key points I think Forrester gets right (as well as suggesting a few critiques as well).
You can also check out our own musings on the services procurement landscape by downloading our free Compass research: