By SageCircle with special guest contributor Gerry van Zandt
Update 9/24/09 2:05 pm PT: We are receiving links to interesting related posts that we are now adding to bottom of this post.
The recent departure of Forrester analysts R “Ray” Wang (personal-branded blog, Twitter handle) and Jeremiah Owyang (personal-branded blog, Twitter handle) has prompted the usual commentary and hand-wringing around what these departures mean. Questions we’ve heard center around: a) do the departures signal the demise of traditional analyst firms; and b) and why analyst firms cannot keep their superstars.
Answers: no; and maybe they don’t want to.
Remember that superstars have always been leaving analyst firms. In the 1980s, George Colony and Tony Friscia left Yankee to form Forrester and AMR, and Dale Kutnick left GartnerGroup to launch META Group. In the 1990s, Gideon Gartner left Gartner to create Giga, and a group of Gartner analysts left and launched Jupiter Communications (while a number of Gartner analysts did join Jupiter, they did not co-found it). These are just examples where the superstars founded what became good-sized firms with many analysts. There are many more examples where superstars have become successful single practitioners or have intentionally kept their firms at a “boutique” size.
There was a similar burst of twittering (in the old fashioned sense of the word) when social media superstar and Groundswell co-author Charlene Li (blog, Twitter handle) and two other social media analysts left Forrester Research in the summer of 2008 (see Bursts of analyst departures in a hot research area are not unusual). So was Forrester doomed? Not at all. It still retained Groundswell co-author Josh Bernoff (blog, Twitter handle). It also had a cadre of social media analysts built organically and expanded via the JupiterResearch acquisition, and it had a very promising young analyst who already had high visibility but had not yet achieved superstar status yet – Jeremiah Owyang. Fast forward a year, and Forrester has lost another social media superstar. Oh, woe is them! Not really. The fortunes of large, successful industry analyst firms do not rise or fall based on a single superstar. Forrester still has a large and strong team of analysts covering social media from many different angles. In fact, among the traditional IT and telecommunications analyst firms, Forrester clearly has the best and most prominent social media research coverage. This is partly because it caters to enterprise marketing professionals in both its end-user and vendor client bases, not just the IT department.
So why don’t firms like Forrester or Gartner keep their superstars? In some cases they can’t because the superstar is itching to start their own (more…)