Altimeter Group is not a traditional IT industry analyst firm. The group not only provides expertise on innovating business through disruption, but also embodies a good deal of innovation through disruption. Two years in, it’s becoming clear that even analysts inclined to push the envelop — such as Michael Gartenberg and R “Ray” Wang — find the new business model is not quite a comfortable fit. Clients, on the other hand, are finding Altimeter Group a perfect fit.

The Altimeter’s approach to innovation through disruptive technologies is hitting the right chord with clients in several markets. “This year, we’ve already touched over 125 clients,” said founding partner Charlene Li. This number will rise before the end of the year. “We’re discussing multiple new proposals every week.”

Several attributes set Altimeter Group apart from its industry analyst and consultancy roots. At the most basic level, the partnership of high profile analysts and consultants produces open research rather than syndicated research. This means no recurring revenues through syndicated research, the baseline for companies such as Gartner, Forrester Research and IDC.

On a more sophisticated level, Altimeter varies from the pack in that the focus of its work is not technology per se, but on selecting and applying technology in order to innovate a business operation, division, culture or even an entire market. In order to achieve that kind of outcome, the Altimeter partners work together to bring different perspectives to bear on any particular client issue.

“Analyst firms are organized around coverage areas. Altimeter is modeled around customer pains,” explained Li. “Our recent event, ‘The Rise of Social Commerce’, is a great example. Every partner was involved as an equal. Every partner looked at social commerce from a different point of view. No one person can cover all of this.”

In other words, clients who want to harness the potential of disruptive technologies like social commerce require input from experts in several different disciplines. With a traditional analyst firm, clients get access to a single silo of topical experts. For analysts at a traditional firm, cross-discipline collaborations on a single client issue are the exception. At Altimeter, they are the norm. This is true of all of the customer points of pain that Altimeter Group addresses.

A third attribute that sets Altimeter Group apart is partner responsibility for the success of the business. Research, ideation and consultation are key. However, so is business development and ensuring the success of the partnership at large. Business infrastructure services — including sales — are lean; overhead investments are selective. There is significant pressure for participating in marketplace conversations, events and communities.

Li understood from the outset that the Altimeter Group model would not suit many of today’s analysts and consultants. She said she wishes Wang the greatest success, acknowledging his desire to work in a more traditional analyst capacity and, as importantly, to lead his own venture.

As for Li, she too has adjusted her own role as the firm has grown. She recently named Alan Webber as managing partner to oversee day to day business. She continues leading the partnership, setting the direction as well as undertaking her own research, consulting, speaking and writing.

We all must cope with the impacts of innovation in our industries. As Altimeter Group proves, analysts have as much trouble coping with innovation as anyone else.

Reprinted from Tekrati

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If you missed today’s fast-paced webinar, here’s the audio replay. However our recorded conversation is just part of the discussion that took place. Check out the real-time reactions and side conversations at Twitter — hashtag #socialanalyst. Thanks to everyone who participated!

As Jeremiah said in his closing comments, we want to continue this conversation. Are you in? Please check back for links to the Twitter transcript. Also, trackback or comment here if you publish on the impact of social technologies on the industry analysts, their advisory clients and their analyst relations communities.

Special gratitude to our pilots at the Hangar – Christine Tan and Julie Viola — and to co-panelists Jeremiah Owyang, Carter Lusher and Jonny Bentwood.

The Impact of Social on the Analyst Industry: A Roundtable w/ Jonny Bentwood, Barbara French, Carter Lusher, and Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group on Vimeo

Related posts:

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Social technologies are disrupting traditional business models, and the tech industry analyst business is no exception. Or is it? How is social truly changing the day to day work of the tech watchers? their advisory clients? their relations with tech providers? Tune in tomorrow as I exchange views on this important topic with fellow thought leaders Jeremiah Owyang, Jonny Bentwood and Carter Lusher. You can ask questions and more during the live webinar using the Twitter hashtag #socialanalyst. This virtual event is free. Register now so you can listen and participate tomorrow!

What you need to know:

Special thanks to Jeremiah for organizing and producing this event!

Related posts:

The brainstorm behind this event at Jeremiah’s blog
Personal point of view at Jonny’s blog
More stage-setting at Carter’s blog and here at Sway

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Barbara on May 12th, 2010

RedMonk’s James Governor offers the most intelligent view I’ve read in a very long time on blogging among the analysts. Here’s an excerpt from his excellent post:

We built RedMonk on social media. Its as simple as that. We had a good run on it through the late noughties. But honestly – the differentiator has been significantly eroded of late. One of our significant differentiators is now business as usual. Our competitors are just as fast to the news as us, if not faster, with solid analysis on either side of the firewall. Gartner and Forrester are both doing outstanding work in real time analysis. Seriously. And Gartner analysts are joining the conversation. - James Governor May 12, 2010

His observations are crucial for analysts, analyst relations and analyst watchers. Why? Gartner, Forrester Research and scores of analyst firms have successfully embedded blogging within their businesses. We’re long past the point where it makes sense to quantify analyst blogging as a discrete individual activity. Blogging is becoming integral to analyst business processes.

I’ve been actively monitoring analyst bloggers since 2003 and in 2005 launched the first directory and OPML of analyst-written blogs. The total number of blogs in early 2005: just over 50. I was committed to supporting those pioneering analyst bloggers. In those early days, the number of blogs — and the who’s who and how many — were factors in whether a given firm or analyst would jump into the fray. Not so today.

But even back then, the analyst community’s real focus was on how blogs fit with analyst business processes and policies. You can read a snapshot of their views in the original 2005 report. These are the topics that still deserve our attention. Even today.

Hats off to James for prodding us all take a fresh look at analyst blogs.

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Barbara on May 11th, 2010

I’m not a fan of the growing schism between Altimeter Group and the rest of the analysts. One of the most visible wedges driving this rift is the idea of “rock star analysts.”

“Rock star analyst” is an old notion with deep roots among financial analysts. Originally, rock star analysts were the ones who made the right call the most often, especially on complex decisions. They made their clients the most money. There was a strong body of proof and formal professional consensus behind the status.

Not so on the tech analyst side of the aisle. What does “rock star analyst” mean to analyst relations people and analysts today? It seems to mean an analyst scores high on RSS readership, Twitter following, social net savvy, citations in the media. In short, celebrity status. Customer satisfaction isn’t a meaningful factor, beyond the PR value of the analyst.

What does celebrity status have to do with accuracy, completeness, timeliness? With giving clients great advice?

Why would a decision maker want to hire a celebrity to help with tech decisions?

It’s time for a reality check. Of the many reasons one might hire an analyst, celebrity status is — at best — just one aspect of the package.

Update, for clarification: I’m criticizing the rising popularity of labeling an analyst a “rock star” due to celebrity status. I see Altimeter Group as an unwitting victim of this craze. Ray Wang and his associates have proven their chops as technology & business experts. Putting them on rockstar pedestals strictly because of their social media popularity is insane. And arguably, it’s a disservice to the entire analyst profession. - BF May 12, 2010.

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Whenever you look for the purchase decision influencers in business intelligence (BI) and business analytics, you end up looking at the trade press. And there’s some noteworthy news on that front this week: media giant TechTarget announced that they’ve acquired the BeyeNETWORK properties and network of experts. TechTarget plans to leverage BeyeNETWORK experts to build out their footprint in BI via the new SearchBusinessAnalytics.com destination site.

Regardless how this M&A looks once the dust settles, it will have a definite impact on the influence wielded by the BeyeNETWORK experts.

Many of these experts are solo or small-group professionals with deep subject matter expertise. The group includes analysts, consultants, lecturers and authors. They tend to have closely held relationships with their clients and industry contacts. They influence purchases, implementation, and best practices around enterprise business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics software. They engage with the market, and formulate and promote their own opinions. They can also play important roles in the influencer ecosystem as intermediaries — bringing the viewpoints of more powerful influencers, such as vendors, directly to their own contacts.

If you’re in the BI market, monitor BeyeNETWORK and TechTarget over the next 3 to 6 months to see which experts get more play, which get less, which get lost, and any new experts attracted by the larger combined media site. Keep your focus on the individual influencers, not the BeyeNETWORK brand itself.

For example, some of the BeyeNETWORK experts I recommend putting on your watch list: Merv Adrian, Lou Agosta, Leslie Ament, Steve Dine, Neil Raden, Craig Shiff, James Taylor, and Colin White.

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Barbara on March 30th, 2010

DestinationCRM cites me along with Carter Lusher, William Hopkins and other IT analyst watchers in a March 2010 article focusing on recession-driven consolidation in the industry analyst business.

It’s in the hardcopy version - so purchase / registration required.

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Today’s Apple iPad debut has everyone talking, including the tech industry analysts. The launch presented an unusually high profile opportunity for analysts to advance their credibility, influence and client loyalty. All they had to do was get to market quickly (i.e., this morning) with smart, helpful analysis. Unfortunately, only a few did. Instead, most of the industry analysts paying attention to the launch focused on speaking through the press or Twitter.

I checked 25 analyst sites for “ipad” or “apple ipad”. Here’s the short list of analysts who put their clients ahead of their sound bites as of noon Pacific today. My hat is off to all them. They understand that communicating through sound bites and 140 characters is not mutually exclusive to sharing more meaningful analysis — on a real time basis — with clients and online audiences.

Mike Borland, BIA Kelsey, at the Local Media Blog: Hello iPad, We’ve Been Expecting You

Harry Wang, at Parks Associates blog: Will the iPad Kill the Digital Photo Frame Category?

Carl Howe on Yankee Group blog: First take on Apple’s Anywhere iPad

Ted Schadler on The Forrester Blog for Information & Knowledge Management Professionals: Apple’s iPad Will Come Into The Enterprise Through The Consumer Door. Again.

Jeff Orr on the ABI Research blog: Apple Joins the Media Tablet Fray with iPad Launch

Andrew Brown on the Strategy Analytics blog: Apple’s iPad…just where does it fit in the Enterprise?

Philippe Winthrop on his personal blog: The Apple iPad: The Enterprise Mobility Perspective

Maribel Lopez on the Lopez Research blog: Apple Makes Further Advances As The Premier Retailer of the Digital Age

Stephen Baker on the NPD blog: Apple Reinvents The Netbook

If you know of others that were published on January 27, please add them in the comments.

Editor’s note on updates to post: added Andrew Brown; Maribel Lopez; Philippe Winthrop; Stephen Baker.

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Barbara on January 18th, 2010

How can industry analysts start relationships with analyst relations professionals? It’s a question posed every day by every analyst wanting to open doors at tech provider firms. Usually, the goal is sales, research or broadening a professional network. Often, analysts want to build rapport with AR pro’s for all 3 reasons. Two posts offer useful pointers on how to succeed:

SageCircle takes an industry insider view on the sales and research front with today’s post, How can small analyst firms get the attention of analyst relations? [Analyst Question] (disclosure: Tekrati is listed as a key resource)

Mashable offers sound advice on the professional networking front with today’s post, 7 Lessons for Better Networking with Social Media

Having influence in some circles does not automatically open doors in others. That applies equally whether you work at Gartner or as a sole proprietor.

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While the wildly successful “Groundswell” book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff continues winning acclaim — most recently from the American Marketing Association — Josh has announced work in progress on a new book. This time, he’s teamed with Ted Schadler as co-author.

The title is “Harnessing the Groundswell: Drive Your Business With Empowered Employees and Customers”. The authors say this next Groundswell book is not a sequel…

“It focuses on individuals empowered by technology — both employees and customers — and how businesses can efficiently turn them into a force for better performance.” - Josh Bernoff

Look for the book in summer 2010 from Harvard Business Press.

Josh is carrying forward some precedents established with the first Groundswell book project. For example, you can keep up with progress and more at the Groundswell blog.

In case you missed it, Charlene Li started her new book project a few months ago. She’s engaging with the community in full force. You can vote on the title for her book right now — check out this post. I’ll write more once she settles on the title. Hers is due out in May 2010.

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