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: 73%

Lots of very smart people like to point out what’s wrong with the industry analyst business. Yet, few engage in a constructive conversation about what it’s going to take to revitalize the industry analyst business — so that it plays a more valuable link in the IT procurement chain going forward. Chanting lies-damn-lies won’t do the trick. To foster a more useful and informed public debate, I’m supporting a new speaker series at the Computer History Museum. Here’s some insight into my thinking, and my personal thank you to some inspiring individuals and organizations also helping to promote this event, albeit each for their own reasons.

To recap the CHM event: The Computer History Museum is presenting Gideon Gartner, in conversation with Neill Brownstein, on May 15th. It’s free; a $10 donation at the door is suggested (if not a CHM member). Find more information and register at the CHM website.

Recently, I surprised James Governor at RedMonk by pointing out that I see many parallels between RedMonk today and Gartner’s early days. If you know him, you can guess just how pleased he was. But here’s my point: as a company, Gartner was a innovator and a disruptor in the industry analyst marketplace in the early 1980s. It changed the rules about information and advisory delivery, sales models, business culture, and more. Gartner was not the only innovative company at the time, nor was it the last. However, many its innovations became standard practices. Most of the analyst companies we see today are interpretations of this earlier period of innovation — despite the fact that as early as 1995, Gideon Gartner himself characterized the 1980s business model as outdated and out of sync with the market.

That, in a nutshell, is why this Computer History Museum speaker series is worthwhile. It provides an opportunity to hear personal insights and stories about a successful cycle of innovation — including the challenges, wins, frustrations. It’s an opportunity to understand the human story behind what it took to disrupt and innovate. What could have been done differently? What will it take to reinvent the analyst business again, today or in the future?

Starting up a new cycle of innovation is never easy in any industry. The analyst business is no exception. Independent analyst businesses — and analyst-like business divisions — are springing up all over the world. Most present very little change in the old business mission, model, culture or mechanisms. It seems apparent that any significant impetus for change must created intentionally.

Several individuals and organizations are engaging in meaningful discussion about new dynamics in high tech market influence. I want to thank those who have stepped up to help promote the CHM event — most notably, the Society for New Communications Research and Hewlett-Packard’s Carter Lusher — and also:

I hope to see you at the Museum on May 15th.

Reprinted from Tekrati

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This sampling of industry analyst research and commentary on blogs and RSS supplements Tekrati’s special report on analyst blogs, and the launch of our directory of analyst blogs.

JupiterResearch

“The Blog Litmus - Using Blog Software to Understand Real Content Management Needs”, by Matthew Berk, Janis Kim and David Schatsky. “At first blush, blog software, designed for personal Web publishing, provides a limited subset of Web content management functionality. A look under the hood suggests blog software can help site operators understand the true scope of their content publishing needs, a prerequisite for effective vendor selection.” Concept Report, May 22, 2003

“Weblog Best Practices - Seizing Business Benefits”, by Melissa Stock, Matthew Berk and Michael Gartenberg. “Weblog readers currently comprise only four percent of the online community, and Weblog creators, only two percent. Although the Weblog audience is small, several businesses including Groove Networks, Jupitermedia, and BizNetTravel have taken the opportunity to capture this audience’s attention through business Weblogs. As Weblog consumption grows, business Weblog creators must identify to which audience, and by which means, Weblogs will be most beneficial.” Concept Report, July 17, 2003

“Weblog Software Applications - Overcoming Enterprises’ Hesitations”, by Melissa Stock, Matthew Berk, Michael Gartenberg and Janis Kim. “With growing attention to Weblogs, Weblog creators unexpectedly make up only two percent of the online population. Weblog application developers must take note of the low adoption rate and encourage enterprises to embrace the technology.” Concept Report, July 28, 2003.

Shared Spaces

“Collaboration Software Clients: Email, IM, Presence, RSS & Collaborative Workspaces Should Be Integrated for Business Communication”, by Michael Sampson. “a free white paper from Shared Spaces Research & Consulting. The paper was written as an independent publication, without sponsorship from any vendor, so as to give a totally unbiased view of the needs of users from a collaboration software client.” Free, 2-page Shared Spaces Report in pdf, August 23, 2004

META Group

“Social Computing: Getting Ahead of the Blog”, by Mike Gotta. “Buoyed by media hype, popularity of Internet startups, and some interesting success stories, Weblogs (more commonly referred to as “blogs”) are burgeoning across the Internet as a means to improve social conversation and networking. Strategists should assess business, organizational, and technological implications of “blogging” (and social computing in general) before chasing another tool under the allure of improved information/expertise sharing, collaboration, and community building.” META Group Practice Summary, 2188, March 29, 2004. Also see META Trend at ZDNet

“Blogging Makes a Slogging”, by John Brand. Definition/introduction to weblogs. Free METAbit, August 6, 2004

Berlecon Research

“Weblogs in Marketing and PR - Concept, Potential and Challenge”, by Berlecon analysts. In German language; contact the firm for information on translations. This short study helps enterprises determine whether and how to use weblogs for marketing and PR. The study includes current spending on and use of weblogs in Germany. 27 slides, best practices advisory

Shore Communications

“Weblobs - here to s(t)ay”, by John Blossom for the SIIA magazine, Upgrade, June/July 2004 issue. Contact Shore for reprints. “There is something about weblogging that appeals out to a world that has had carefully crafted content from the media, employers and every other would-be authority figure shoved down its throat by the bucketful year after year. To these authorities and to anyone else who cares to listen, webloggers seem to say, ‘Hey, I can do this too, you know. Do you want to know what I really think?’ Content in this environment can be quite powerful –or quite dangerous, depending on your point of view.”

Wohl Associates

“The Effects of Blogs”, by Amy Wohl. An introduction to blogs, touching on money-making possibilities, a way to look at different categories of blogs, and links to a few blogs that Amy finds of interest. Amy Wohl’s Opinions newsletter, January 28 edition

Editors Note

This sampling is far from exhaustive. Future coverage at Tekrati will include focus pieces on firms deeply engaged in analyzing, if not predicting, blogging and other forms of social media.

The Complete Special Report:

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Barbara on February 7th, 2005

Five industry analysts speak candidly about their blogs — past, present and future — in this supplement to Tekrati’s Special Report: The State of Analyst Weblogs.

QUESTION: Why did you start your blog?

Carl Howe, Blackfriars blog: We started our blog because we were commenting on interesting articles and data verbally with our clients, but had no venue to pass on those insights to our broader Internet audience other than a two-page opinion piece. Further, we wanted a way for visitors to our Web site to provide comments and suggestions to us without necessarily sending us email. A blog felt like the ideal solution.

Rob Enderle, Technology Pundits blog: It is targeted primarily at the media. Due to travel and other commitments, we often had difficulty getting back to them on a timely basis. In addition, they never really could be sure what we were prepared to cover. We felt a blog could address both concerns more effectively, and that, if we did it as a team, it would become a more compelling site.

David Schatsky, JupiterResearch Weblogs: We embraced this new medium to reach a wider audience with our research and analysis and to gain first-hand experience with blogging and its impact on business.

Michael Sampson, Shared Spaces Briefing blog: I wanted a free form method for publishing daily news items, perspective pieces, and links to research. I wanted to encourage engagement with the significant others in the community, such as partners, colleagues and clients.

Amy Wohl, Amy Wohl’s weblog, Wohl Associates: It seemed like a good way to more directly communicate with my world — my newsletter requires a web wizard to publish.


QUESTION: How would you characterize the feedback you’ve received from your blog?

Carl Howe, Blackfriars: We can track visitors to the site, and we know they read the blog, but so far, we haven’t seen many comments at all. Maybe we’re just not controversial enough.

Rob Enderle, for Technology Pundits: Very good, we are, however, asked to contribute to it more often.

Michael Sampson, Shared Spaces: The majority of my posts to date have been a report on daily happenings, and as such that presents minimal opportunities for engagement. The posts that present a position, an opinion or a perspective give much greater latitude for feedback, and I’ve been encouraged by the comments that I’ve received.

David Schatsky, JupiterResearch: We’ve been widely praised for launching the 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. Traffic to the JupiterResearch analyst Weblog has grown rapidly since we launched it.

Amy Wohl, Wohl Associates: Good — I hear from a lot of people who don’t read by newsletter and I’ve gotten new readers for both — we link each to the other.


QUESTION: What kind of impact, if any, has the blog had on your client, vendor or media relationships?

Carl Howe, Blackfriars: I wouldn’t say that the blog has had any significant impact on our relationships other than increasing our Web site traffic a bit.

Rob Enderle, for Technology Pundits: Clients are somewhat mixed, some would rather this be more exclusive while others see it as more convenient particularly since we started the RSS feed.

Michael Sampson, Shared Spaces: I have visibility and a voice that I didn’t previously have. It’s been great.

David Schatsky, JupiterResearch: We’ve long advocated that our clients adopt a multi-channel strategy to reaching their customers. The blogs have worked for us in this way. Our clients are loyal readers, as are non-client vendors as well. The press had made JupiterResearch’s blogs a regular stop, and frequently quotes our posts.

Amy Wohl, Wohl Associates: I don’t know that it’s had any relationship on my client relationships, except that I’ve had one specifically blog-related engagement. It’s had lots to do with which vendors come calling and what the press calls me about.


QUESTION: What role, if any, will blogs, wikis, RSS and podcasts play in your 2005/2006 model for research deliverables? Longer term?

Carl Howe, Blackfriars: I don’t see any changes in our business deliverables based upon these technologies. My belief is that professionally-edited written material will continue to carry the majority of business value. These alternative media provide more color and flavor to those traditional deliverables, but I don’t see them becoming the primary value that clients pay for.

I think Wikis have great potential for community development of content. Again, they’ll do best when they have strong communities watching over them and controlling their evolution. But I think they will democratize content creation by removing some of the technology barriers that stand in the way today.

Podcasts are a similar democratization of traditional one-to-many radio broadcasting. Again, the challenge will be having a story to tell that people will devote the time to listen to.

I believe the largest challenge associated with these new technologies is the one that the Internet at large presents: how do you find useful information in the midst of a tyranny of too much information? It’s an ongoing battle. Every time we provide easier ways for people to make their voices heard world-wide, we create more noise to sift through to find things we want to hear. And no matter what the technology, each of us has finite time to spend searching for information. Voices that are clear, insightful, and distinctive will always stand out, but we’ll need more and better ways to find those voices amid the ever-growing tsunami of information we face.

Rob Enderle, for Technology Pundits: It will become a bigger portion, a way to drive the dialog rather then just respond to it. Longer term, we will revisit this towards year end and likely make decisions based on how well this has worked for all of us.

Michael Sampson, Shared Spaces: The Shared Spaces blog will continue throughout 2005 and 2006, and will increase in depth, with a higher number of opinion and research viewpoints. I will link to all new Shared Spaces research on the blog, and encourage participation in forthcoming research programmes.

David Schatsky, JupiterResearch: No specific plans to change our paid deliverables.

Amy Wohl, Wohl Associates: I’m thinking of having both a public and perhaps a private (subscription) podcast this year. We’re working on the logistics now. We’ll continue to use blogs… we may try some private ones (for specific clients).

The Complete Special Report:

Reprinted from Tekrati

Popularity: 2%

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.

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Popularity: 2%

Barbara on June 14th, 2004

Certain analyst relations “best practices” are living on borrowed time. They are out of sync with the structures of expertise within the analyst community. They are also out of sync with the dynamics of analyst influence among high tech users. Following is a simple exercise in creative thinking that can help you start breaking free of handed-down AR behaviors, practices and assumptions.

Step 1: Picture The Situation.
Picture yourself in a typical launch kick-off team meeting. Assign yourself the product/service that will be launched. The launch power brokers are gathered together. Each weighs in with his or her top suggestions and time/budget/workload issues. All attention turns to you for comments on an industry analyst relations plan.

Step 2: Walk through the normal response.
Now, most of your team players are expecting your usual discourse on Tier 1-2-3 analyst targets, message testing candidates, written research targets and press reference targets. They are so familiar with your template that most are counting the minutes until they can speak again. The rest are checking email, rejoining an IRC, or looking for proof that they know as much about analyst relations as you do. As for you? You have a strong sense of deja vu. Push through it again in this imaginary situation.

Step 3: Walk through an expertise-based response.
This time, replace your normal response with a response based on the actual roles of analysts both as researchers and as influencers. You do not simply append an AR proposal to the marketing/PR calendars. The game is to identify the analysts, timeline, budget and engineering/marketing inputs you need in order to build a viable AR plan involving three types of analysts:

  • Oracles: These are the analysts that backfill or validate your existing market research that justifies this new initiative. These analysts look into the past, present and future to tell you whether this new product/service will fly, and if so, where it will take you. They tell you in general terms what your prospective market looks like, cares about, and wants to buy. They also tell you if your competitors are likely to push you off the runway. In short, these analysts inform your business strategy with macro-level, research-based intelligence. Six weeks ahead of press launch is more than a little late to consult the oracles.
  • Wizards and Rainmakers: These analysts have earned credibility among one or more of your carefully segmented customer constituencies. Instead of looking out into the market, they look deep into your product/service. They point out your jewels, fillers and holes. They run your product through their labs, conceptual frameworks, focus groups and/or research panels. They tell you which features are hot and not. They give you a sanity check on your pricing and support plans. They reveal the dynamics of the decision making process–for your particular type of product/service–within your particular prospective customers and partners. They help you figure out how to communicate most effectively about your organization and your new initiative to the specific market segment in which they wield influence. In other words, these analysts inform your product/service and go-to-market strategies with micro-level, community-specific research- and contact-based intelligence. When do you bring them in? That depends on how serious you are about market success/resonance/obstacles and accommodating point-of-decision intelligence.
  • Pirates: Sooner or later you want to play with the pirates. These are the analysts who basically derive their research agendas and positions from other sources, including other analysts. You can be agnostic about the existence of analyst pirates. If the pirate label bothers you, then think of them as merchant marines. Either way, your interest in them is their power to carry ideas and opinions to new audiences, or repeat ideas and opinions with fresh spin. Some have tremendous influence within key user or demographic groups. They are important assets in reinforcing and extending your organization’s reputation, anytime from long before your launch to long after.

Last Step: Populate and postulate.
Playful labels aside, the first challenge for you is to decide which analysts belong in each group. Your second challenge is estimating the timeline for your plan, plus costs and other resources. Your third challenge is in envisioning how you would manage the impact of this level and type of interaction, on your analyst relationships and internal relationships. Your final challenge is envisioning how this approach to AR would redefine your own role in your organization.

Do you know your customer targets and their decision processes well enough? Do you know which analysts would wear which hats?

Conclusions
The idea of this exercise is to begin examining your analysts and relations programs from new perspectives.

This exercise helps you think differently about analysts in terms of:

  • Expertise: Which analysts have which type of expertise? Who performs primary and secondary research and towards what type of strategic or tactical discovery? How in tune is an analyst with purchase decisions?
  • Services: When do you employ an analyst service, such as a research panel or test lab, to obtain the most benefit to your organization? Is it after the product/service has been defined, or upsteam in the lifecycle? What service deliverables are offered and what indicates accuracy?
  • Outputs, Outtakes & Outcomes: Whose opinion carries the most weight with each link in your prospects’ purchase decision chain? How do you structure analyst relations so that a growing percentage of favorable outputs, outtakes and outcomes are natural by-products, rather than the sole focus, of your relationships?

So what?
Why do this type of exercise at all? Because breaking free of entrenched best practices is not easy. Yet, it is vital for analyst relations managers to begin the process of re-inventing their own professional best practices. Many analyst relations practices have been in place for more than a decade. Meanwhile, fundamental aspects of high tech markets have changed.

The 1990s-style analyst influence model–theTier 1-2-3 model and its derivatives–is based on generalities and assumptions that no longer hold true. For example, a Tier 1-2-3 model of influence does not take into account the current decision processes of high tech buyers. Changes are evident in how buyers evaluate products and services, who makes final recommendations and decisions, and who influences these people along the way. These changes are re-shaping media buyer practices. Why not AR practices?

In addition, the Tier 1-2-3 model and its requisite three-step outreach plan–message test, pre-announce brief, post-announce brief–undercut the value of analyst relations professionals. This approach forces intelligent, skilled relationship managers to be perceived as glorified logistics administrators.

Finally, this old approach is creating bottlenecks that increasingly frustrate and limit the analysts. It forces them to bypass analyst relations altogether in order to convey meaningful intelligence and advice to vendor organizations at the most critical junctures.

Simple, playful exercises such as this one can propel your AR strategy to the next level.

Now, in case you are wondering: I do not go about classifying analysts as oracles, wizards and pirates on a regular basis. That would be silly. Visualizing them in the hats–well, that’s another story.

Reprinted from Tekrati

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