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

Popularity: 74%

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.

Popularity: 7%

Barbara on January 7th, 2009

Charlene Li predicts that ‘Personal CPM’ innovations will figure in the social media/marketing front in 2009. Personal CPM is one of the more interesting outcomes of joining up social media with consumer marketing. The idea is to analyze social behavior to more accurately target consumers. In Charlene’s words,

“Each person’s profile will command a different, personal CPM based on a trilogy of their behavior, influence, and market demand.”

It’s easy to see how this type of metric would have so much appeal in consumer marketing. It could enhance our thinking about upstream segmentation, downstream personalization, and everything in between. Where we have “personas” today, we could be back to addressable “people” tomorrow.

Personal CPM, as Charlene describes it, could also innovate accepted metrics for identifying and comparing influence among consumers.

Don’t pigeonhole personal CPM as just another advertising model.

Personal CPM has implications for influencer identification and engagement as well.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on August 3rd, 2007

What is a blog? How would you define an industry analyst blog? What separates blogs from the other online destinations and channels published by the ICT analyst community? Is a blog still a blog without an RSS feed? comments? Is an analyst blog tied to his or her expertise? Yesterday, I asked ten or so analysts and consultants in the US and UK to share their thoughts on what is a blog. They responded with free-range thinking on that and beyond: what is an analyst blog, why do analysts blog, and why does anyone care. Good stuff. Here’s a rough cut of my notes.

Background

My intent is to overhaul the criteria for the Tekrati analyst blogs directory. Already, the conversation offers a rich perspective on grounds for deciding which blogs are listed and why they might be tossed out down the road.

I queried analysts and consultants that are successful bloggers: each has a track record as an individual blogger, and has earned credibility as a thought leader within a professional community of practice.

The analysts are: Carl Howe of Blackfriars Communications, Mike Gotta of Burton Group, Alan Pelz-Sharpe of CMS Watch, Charlene Li or Josh Bernoff (Josh responded) of Forrester Research, Dale Vile of Freeform Dynamics, James Governor of RedMonk, John Blossom of Shore Communications, and Stowe Boyd of The Brannan Street Irregulars.

The consultants are: Jen McClure of the Society for New Communications Research, Jonny Bentwood of Edelman, and Erik SR of Tech for PR.

Again, what follows is a rough cut of the discussion threads. I’m pulling excerpts out of the conversational flow, to make for faster reading. More, and perhaps a little more polished, next week.

What is and what is not a blog?

James Governor offers:

1. RSS or ATOM feed
2. no firewall
3. written by named user/s
4. it’s on other people’s blogrolls

Jonny Bentwood agrees with the first two points; sees 3 as more a best practice or preference, and also pushes back on 4.

Dale Vile agreed with points 1 - 3, and adds: “In addition, it might be stating the bleeding obvious, but the ability for people to comment without registration should also be in the list.”

Mike Gotta raises the point of whether blogs are open or are “gated” and require client access: “I think this type of directory should be for blogs or other analyst-associated social media vehicles that are open and community-centric without a lot of strings attached.” Tekrati readers have been rather vocal on this point, too.

Mike and Josh Bernoff both suggest including update frequency. This is another hot point in correspondence with Tekrati readers. The new rev of the directory shows latest posts at a glance, and the actual posts on the detail page. (A blog graveyard might be an interesting addition — instead of a quiet delete.) Josh’s inputs include:

  • Publicly available
  • Updated at least 10 times per year
  • Written in the first person — meaning personal, and expressing a point of view (POV)

He makes a good point: “If you don’t update it at least 10 times a year, it’s not frequent enough to be a blog.”

Disagreeing with James Governor, he reasons that RSS and comments are central to a good blog, but perhaps not mandatory.

Erik poses two criteria to be considered blogs:

  • inherently and consistently personal, whether written by a group or one person. (POV)
  • formatted as journals on a specific topic — unlike traditional websites. “Meaning you’ve got the main page featuring the past x number of articles, then you’ve got your sorting options (tag categories, years and months)”

Jen McClure disagrees on “personal” being requisite. She points out that blogs aren’t always personal; many businesses and organizations are using the blogging technology platform for their primary corporate website presence, in place of an e-newsletter format , or for special promotions or events. She also made a comment that pulls together many of the different thoughts expressed on what is a blog, and underscores the importance of the softer questions below:

“A blog is more than just the sum of its technological parts - as the important thing is what the technology allows, e.g., instant publication and distribution, linking, commenting.”

What is an analyst blog - and, who is an analyst?

Jonny Bentwood says decide who is an analyst, first. Then sort out the blog criteria.

When deciding who is/not an analyst, Mike Gotta says use company affiliation, basic credentials as an analyst within a sector, but — “I would not want to see something that is exclusionary or reinforce a particular status-quo.”

What is an analyst+blog?

I suspect that analyst salespeople, vendor sales and marketing people, and IT people all have fundamentally different expectations of analyst blogs. Makes answering the question an interesting exercise.

Carl Howe suggests that analyst blogs could resonate with industry research and advisory values, and offers these criteria to kick off the conversation. BTW, he characterizes these as “fairly hard nosed” and not intended to offend:

  • Is there accountability? “An analyst is one who is willing to attach her or his personal reputation to their analyses.”
  • Is there data to support the point of view?
  • Is there original synthesis and insight?
  • Is there either prescription or prediction? “Ok, so the blog tells me 1+1=3 — so what? Should I do something about that, like go back and rebalance my checkbook with this new math?”

Some of the other contributors do find these restrictive; I don’t, unless a blog is truly personal. Then again, I am overly jaded on link bait and trolls — a side affect of perusing too many press release and post titles — and I’m not refering to vendor content.

By contrast, Mike Gotta: “Not all analyst blogs contain “analyst-related writings”. Some might be more personal with postings far outside the information topics that one might expect to be associated with an analyst. This is neither good or bad – it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.” Good point, and true to the historical nature of the directory.

Likewise, Mike raises the point that wikis, social bookmark systems and other social media forms all enable analysts to express themselves. So, “fundamental question is whether this is a directory to analysts and how they are expressing themselves via social media”. He’s telling me not to get too hung up in the tech specs, as all tech dies. Et tu, bloge?

Dale shared an interesting model for categorizing blogs, very good and no way to rough cut with justice. Plus, I’m thinking about incorporating into the directory ASAP.

Why do analysts blog, and why does anyone care?

Stowe Boyd, Jen McClure and Dale Vile cracked open this territory with a short debate on social media, thought leadership and the masses. The context is how the blogging and interactive public participates in new ways — and how this can affect opinions, reputations, politics, and more. Clearly, it could affect analyst reputations, as well as the analyst workflow processes (gathering and synthesizing data, reaching and testing conclusions, and publishing).

See Stowe’s post, that kicked off the exchange: What is social media?.

Reprinted from Tekrati

Popularity: 4%

Barbara on February 7th, 2005

As professional opinion leaders and market experts, industry analysts face three key challenges as bloggers: credibility, relevance and passion. Tekrati explores these challenges and how different analyst groups address them, as we continue this special report on industry analyst blogs. Related stories offer in-depth comments from selected analysts, and a reading list that links directly to analyst commentary on blogs and RSS.

Closing the Credibility Gap
Analysts taking up blogs expose themselves to a vocal and often skeptical audience. Online audiences routinely discuss, debate and refute industry analyst research – and in a few cases, specific industry analysts.

Many bloggers are well-established respected opinion leaders within their virtual communities. A good example is Slashdot, the pioneer of blogging and reader-driven news and commentary. Slashdot delivers 86 million page views per month to 4.3 million unique visitors(1).

Rob Malda, founder and director of Slashdot, says that Slashdot posts often refute analyst research. “There are a lot of issues here, but I think my readers are naturally skeptical of analysts,” said Malda via email. He thinks the general perception among Slashdot readers is that analysts can be paid to produce research that supports any conclusion. It’s seen as a matter of money – which vendors have it to spend, which analyst firms go for it, which individual analysts tow the line and deliver the goods.

Slashdot readers are not unique in their skepticism. For example, Ed Brill, worldwide sales leader for the IBM Lotus Notes/Domino product line, made a post to his personal blog(2) last October seeking reactions to an IBM-funded report by Robert Frances Group. Reader comments ranged from a detailed critique of shortcomings, to general criticisms of vendor-sponsored research, to a Microsoft employee challenging the premise of the report.

Forrester came under mild criticism when Charlene Li, principal analyst, initiated coverage of blogs and started her own blog. The skepticism subsided quickly as it became clear that Li and Forrester were using the blog to elevate the voice of the audience within their research – an analyst version of participative journalism. Li uses it not only as a way to communicate, track and interact with audiences, but also to supplement her research.

Li poses questions to her blog audience. Responses often end up in Forrester’s syndicated research, as well as in the blog itself. “My audience also asks really, really good questions — sometimes through comments, sometimes in private email — which helps sharpen my thinking,” said Li.

Amy Wohl used a similar technique while developing a new quantitative model for measuring open source operating system deployment. She invited open source community ideas and critiques.

JupiterResearch tackled credibility by using a more traditional approach: content selection. They take disagreements in stride, whether among themselves or through reader emails and comments at other blogs.

“Many clients and non-clients have found the information we provide valuable, though not everything our analysts post is universally agreed with of course,” said David Schatsky, senior vice president of research at JupiterResearch.

Obeying the Law of Proximity
Blogs are realtime. The best blogs reflect a strong sense of what’s relevant today, based on what’s happening now. Popular industry analyst bloggers translate their thinking into nuggets that enrich the daily event horizon of news and online conversation.

Excerpts of well-researched reports — while popular with many product and IT managers — rarely succeed as compelling blog fodder. As Malda observes, from a Slashdot point of view, “A lot of analyst reports, when you boil it down, don’t say anything all that interesting. Or, they say it months or years after it’s conventional wisdom.”

Michael Sampson, director of research and consulting at independent Share Spaces in New Zealand, has found that reporting on daily happenings presents minimal opportunity for reader engagement. Instead, he finds that his posts offering a timely position, perspective or opinion offer much greater latitude for feedback. His readers have asked for more.

Several analysts identify the media as a primary component of their blog audience. Shore Communications’ John Blossom strives to keep his blog current with near-realtime insights and opinions. This works particularly well for deadline-driven press, who increasingly leverage his blog for edge-leading insights and interview questions.

Rob Enderle, Tim Bajarin and Richard Doherty all blog primarily for media audiences. Co-locating their blogs at their TechnologyPundits site serves two purposes: providing quotable commentary and positions on a near-realtime basis, and enabling the media to discern which specific topics they are prepared to comment on at any particular point in time. Enderle reports very positive feedback from the media. On the other hand, he said clients are somewhat mixed. Some would prefer more exclusive access to the analysts’ commentary.

Regardless of intended audience, analysts will undergo ever greater pressure to maintain blog currency and relevance. Blackfriars Communications, a research and consulting group that helps businesses market and communicate more effectively, describes the current environment of information overload as “the tyranny of too much”. Carl Howe, a principal at Blackfriars, believes that RSS-enabled readers like Safari will engage more people in RSS-enabled content and then will push blogs onto a “Darwinian path”. Well-edited, frequently updated blogs will thrive; most of the rest will die off. Why?

According to Howe, “As the novelty wears off, most viewers will find they just don’t have time to wade through poorly written and stale content. There used to be an old story that eCommerce was a dangerous way to sell because shoppers would click away to a competitor at the first problem or slow response. The same will be true for blogs: once they are mainstream vehicles, only the best will survive.”

Passion
Perhaps the greatest challenge of the three is finding ways to convey a passion for technology. Malda believes that Slashdot attracts readers because it’s bottom-up: people who read and comment there are into technology for the love of it. They feel the passion, the joy of technology. These are the people most likely to read and comment among themselves. These are the people who want their words to matter.

Time will tell which of the industry analyst blogs offer conversation that matters.

Blogs in Balance
The number of analyst blogs is likely to double over the next year, based on comments from the analysts Tekrati tracks. Analyst blogs will also diversify — David Scott Lewis added podcasting to his blogs last week.

Will blogs have a substantive impact on high tech industry analyst services? Carl Howe, in speaking for himself, summed up the sentiments of many analysts:

“I think we have to recognize that technology can only play a part in providing insight. The highest value exchanges of information will always be in person, whether they be speeches, conversations, or shared dinners.

“I believe Internet technology helps us fill in the gaps between in-person interactions, and continue the conversations they start when we are separated in time and space. But at the end of the day, nothing is going to displace the need to shake someone’s hand, sit across from them at a table, and talk to them in person.”

The Complete Special Report:

Follow the link below for Tekrati’s directory of analyst blogs*.

Editor’s notes:
1. Slashdot media kit, Feb 2005.
2. Disclaimer for www.edbrill.com: “In this blog, my opinions are my own and do not represent those of my employer.” For Ed Brill’s comments as an official IBM spokesperson, see the InsideLotus weblog.

* Effective 11 February 2011, the Tekrati Analyst Blogs Directory and OPML are no longer available.

Reprinted from Tekrati

Popularity: 5%

Barbara on January 27th, 2005

The high tech industry analysts have been slow to adopt blogs. That’s about to change. In this two-part special report, Tekrati takes the pulse of the industry analyst bloggers. The report supplements the launch of our newest online resource, a directory of industry analyst blogs.

At first glance, the slow spread of analyst blogs seems illogical. We expect the analysts to embrace new technologies. We expect the analysts to embrace tools that can increase their visibility and effectiveness as thought leaders. Where the two intersect — new technologies and new communications channels — we expect to find analyst nirvana. So, why the slow uptake?

It’s not a Blog, It’s an Adventure
Blogs present a fundamental cultural change for the analyst business. Analyst business processes assume analysts have control of interactions with clients and research subjects. These processes also ensure that findings and opinions are subjected to scrutiny and polish before public release. Blogs fly in the face of those processes.

“The nature of an edge-based communications medium is a big change of mindset,” said Stowe Boyd, president, COO, head of research, and a resident blogger at Corante. Earlier in his career, he worked at Giga Information Group (now Forrester Research) and Cutter Consortium.

Boyd noted that while some analysts are jumping into blogging, many more are struggling with the implications of blogs as a participatory and dialogue-based medium. “This is another wave of upset. It means they need to rethink parts of how they do what they do — how they deliver value, how they define their value chain.”

James Governor of RedMonk agrees that analyst business models are broken. He and partner Stephen O’Grady have begun using their blogs to develop a new business strategy for their firm. They started the effort, which they’ve dubbed an “open source analysis” strategy, thinking only of their own firm. They are encouraging candid, constructive dialogue. In return, some bloggers are encouraging them to create a precedent that could begin transforming the industry analyst community at large.

Blog challenges do not stop there. Amy Wohl, one of the first analysts to publish a blog, points to an aspect of blogging that requires special attention: balancing blog posts with client and industry expectations.

“I think you have to decide that public people are public people and everything you do is in the public eye. That means you can’t be one thing on a blog and something else when you’re in front of a client,” said Wohl in an email interview. “It’s easy to forget that and get carried away with what a free-lance press writer might do with his blog — an analyst can’t do that.”

No Pain, All Gain
Charlene Li at Forrester Research is one who is achieving the balance. “My blog is more informal, almost like a conversation, and hence, has what I call a very personal ‘voice’ as opposed to the Forrester voice in our syndicated research,” said Li. “I think it’s more reminiscent of a conversation I might have with a client or journalist.”

Many analysts see neither challenge nor conflict in incorporating blogs into their businesses. JupiterResearch dove into blogs in 2003 and never looked back. Their blogs developed a loyal and growing community, transcended analyst blogger departures and absorbed changes in research agendas.

Rob Enderle embraces the change that blogging brings to his analyst business: “It is forcing a process where generic research is provided more freely but where focused recommendations are provided more frequently. It is changing the very nature of what I do, and honestly, I’m getting a big kick out of it.”

Forrester’s Li sees blogs and syndicated research co-existing in harmony. “Our syndicated research is thoroughly researched, analyzed, and edited through several drafts. My blog, on the other hand, represents a very personal, individual endeavor and is usually not reviewed by any editor,” said Li. “This is not to say that my blog posts are not deliberate or carefully researched — it simply serves a different purpose from our syndicated research.”

Likewise, independent analyst David Isen said his newsletter and weblog have always attracted two separate but overlapping groups. “Blog readers are more likely to read the e-letter than vice versa,” said Isen via email. Going forward, he can’t see living without blogs, wikis, RSS and similar venues.

Pilgrim’s Progress
Today, approximately 10 percent of the 350 analyst firms Tekrati tracks have well-established blogs:

  • Public blogs rule — for now. Exceptions include a Shore Communications subscription blog and Gartner blogs restricted to their EXP members. Both firms offer public blogs as well.
  • Individual analyst blogs are the norm, although several firms are experimenting with group blogs, where multiple analysts post. Redmonk shifted from shared to separate blogs, as its principals wanted to express and debate differing perspectives and interests more fully.
  • JupiterResearch publishes the most blogs — almost 20, updated constantly — and has integrated them with its individual and collective analyst value. Of the firm’s 70+ staff, 16 blog.
  • Gartner takes the most eclectic approach. With its public blogs, it tightly controls topics and “archives” weblogs. Perhaps this is a moot point; none of Gartner’s 500 analysts have made a post to the “active” public blogs since mid-2004. (Did we miss something?)
  • Analysts are increasingly appearing as regular blog contributors at third party sites. Examples include David Scott Lewis at AlwaysOn, Joe McKendrick at WebServices.org and ZDNet, John Yunker at Corante, and Bill Zoellick at The Gilbane Report. Rob Enderle, Tim Bajarin and Richard Doherty opted for the best of both worlds: they co-locate their individual blogs at their own third party site, Technology Pundits. Meanwhile, Ralph Lombreglia contributes to M2M Blog, a thought leadership blog published by nPhase CEO and founder Steve Pazol.
  • On the down side, several analyst blogs have poorly formed code, bar reader posts, or lack trackback. Some do not attribute posts to specific analysts.
  • The up side is significant. Very few analyst blogs are blatant marketing vehicles. Initial adopters generally report that weblogs, wikis and forums are invigorating their practices by offering more IT user perspectives, greater industry visibility, and more opportunities to engage with users and vendors.

Editor’s Note
Next week, analysts talk about their blogs in Part 2. Meanwhile, sample the blogs firsthand via the Tekrati directory of analyst blogs* at the link below.

The Complete Special Report:

* Effective 11 February 2011, the Tekrati Directory of Analyst Blogs and OPML are no longer available.

Reprinted from Tekrati

Popularity: 2%