Will there be “Altimeter envy” among some analysts at the largest firms? (What’s coming around the corner)

icon-social-media-blue.jpgEvery year the mid-sized and large analyst firms experience a normal amount of turnover in the analyst ranks. Sometimes it’s a little higher or a little lower, but it always occurs. There are times however when a spike in departures occurs caused by some white-hot trend in the broader technology market.

There was such a spike in the late 1990’s as analysts got “dot com” fever and left the larger firms for boutiques firms focused on ebusiness/ecommerce or start up vendors. There was a little blip in the summer of 2008 when some analysts left Forrester and IDC with “social media” fever (see here, here and here). However, since last summer it has been relatively quiet with only normal turnover and recession triggered layoffs. Is that about to change with a more serious set of departures as analysts try to seek fame and fortune in the social media gold fields?

A potential trigger for a spike in departures is what SageCircle is calling “Altimeter envy.” The buzz around Forrester superstars Jeremiah Owyang and R “Ray” Wang joining Altimeter Group was several orders of magnitude larger than all the departures in the summer of 2008. Plus there is just the general increase in hype and fever around social media. This buzz is bound to percolate into the awareness of even the most heads-down, lost-in-his-work analyst at Gartner, Forrester, IDC, AMR and so on. This may be case even if the analyst does not cover the social media market. After all, Ray Wang covers the unsexy enterprise applications market. There was a lot of hoopla around how Charlene, Ray, Jeremiah and their non-analyst colleague Deb Schultz used social media to build up their personal brands giving them the platform for a potentially lucrative new career path. Also, all the analyst firm layoffs in the last year certainly have some analysts thinking that they need to hedge their employment bets. “Altimeter envy” then is a condition that strikes an analyst who uplevels his or her use of social media for a potential departure from their current employer.

If departures do increase, this will be something that will concern both analyst relations (AR) professionals and research consumers at both enterprises and vendors. How will you know if an analyst has picked up a case of “Altimeter envy”? In many cases there will be some obvious signs that you only need to be looking for such as:

  • Conversations with analysts always seem to turn to the analyst’s growing preoccupation with social media
  • LinkedIn connections grow dramatically
  • Twitter updates, follows, and followers increase significantly
  • Personal blog is launched or expanded with official firm blog posts decreasing
  • Community is launched using a free service with invitations going to end users, vendors, and even competing analysts
  • Promotion of the analyst’s social media links becomes pronounced in email signature block, presentations, and verbally

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR should keep a finger on the social media pulse of their top analysts at larger firms, watching for significant increases of usage
  • AR should chat with their most relevant analysts using client inquiry and turn the topic to social media to see how the analyst reacts
  • AR should have a standard process for reacting when a relevant analyst leaves their current employer
  • AR should develop a framework that will help them determine consistently whether a newly independent analyst is a pretender or contender
  • AR should ensure that their analyst list management framework has a way to incorporate social media usage into the ranking criteria

Bottom Line: “Altimeter envy” might not amount to much or it could trigger a spike in analysts departing larger firms. AR and research consumers need to monitor the state of their most relevant analysts and be prepared to act if departures do pick up.

Question: Do you think that there will be a spike in analysts leaving larger firms trying to emulate the superstars at Altimeter?

3 Responses

  1. What you call “Altimeter Envy” could also be labeled what Gerber in E-Myth calls an Entrepreneurial Seizure. Where a person with technical competencies decides they want to do it on their own, forgetting that in this case being a good analysts doesn’t mean you’re good entrepreneur.

    I’m in the speaking and consulting business (sales/marketing/leadership) and I see droves of people enter the business or part-time it while they work somewhere else. Mostly because all you need is a business card and a WordPress blog and your ready! (not really)

    People forget that the investment as an analyst, consultant, or lawyer is building your reputation and your pipeline of contracts. After the initial easy couple deals those clients are going and then it’s down to good old marketing and sales again.

    There’s nothing wrong with doing your own thing. There’s room for 100 Altimeters in the marketplace but I would be concerned about investing in a supplier of any kind that might not be there next year when I need them.

  2. One hedge against this trend may be negotiating six-month contracts with the major firms or insisting on a contract clause that permits clients to terminate or modify an agreement if a key analyst leaves. It won’t be easy. The majors seem unwilling to share the pain of the recession, but if enough clients band together – particularly vendors – a change could be effected.

    I also see opportunity in the boutique trend. The solo and small research firms are exponentially more accessible and responsive. You don’t need to wait five business days to get a response from “briefings central” only to be told the first available slot is three or four weeks out. Many are also proactive – they reach out to you. Imagine that.

  3. [...] breadth and scale (e.g. Gartner, Forrester, IDC). Back in August a little ripple occurred when Jeremiah Owyang and R “Ray” Wang both left Forrester to join Altimeter Group, a mere stripling of a company. But that was not a one-off, more it is just one of a long line of [...]

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