Good friend Ray Wang lays out his 7 tenets of starting a new analyst firm - it’s a nice summary of his own decision process as he exited Forrester and what he has learned since. I would like to contribute a few more based on my book experience over the last year about what a next generation, “polymath” analyst firm should aim for
a) Look way beyond IT 3LAs
Three letter acronyms define old school analysts. They package neat categories of technologies. The real world needs solutions which often cut across categories. Not just IT categories, cleantech, biotech etc. We need a new generation of polymath analysts which follow the path of Kleiner Perkins which over the last few years (as my book describes) has aggressively moved past its roots in information technologies into clenatech or that of Intellectual Ventures formed by ex Microsoft CTO, Nathan Mhyrvold whose interests are in computer hardware and software but also more ambitious ones, including as its website says “ advanced medical procedures, digital imaging, nanotechnology, nuclear energy and advanced particle physics.”
b) Focus on innovation and solutions from “buyers”, not just “vendors”
More and more so-called “buyers” are increasingly “tech vendors”. BMW’s cars have millions of line of software code and hundreds of sensors. Hospira does not just sell IV fluids, it has an infusion system with scanners, complex displays and sophisticated algorithms. GE delivers technology to aviation, healthcare and many other industries. My book has many such examples. But the traditional industry analyst has not recognized this blurring of who is “buyer” and who is “vendor” of technology.
c) Scour the world
They are snippets of 1-2 paras in a 400 page book, but I have been impressed how many oohs and aahs I have heard from readers about the sections on Macedonia and the Amish of rural Pennsylvania. Technology innovation is not just happening in Silicon Valley and big cities and the next-gen analyst will dramatically expand his/her geographic reach.
d) Showcase the voices of many
One of the other traits of a traditional analyst is the summarization of multiple viewpoints into a market position. It shows up as glib lists – could be “best practices”, it could be the top 5 vendors in a magic quadrant etc. The problem with that is you often lose the “nutrition” readers can find in the source data. One of the most challenging things I had in my book was how to “sanitize” the voices of 150+ innovative people, products, places profiled. In the end, I took the ego-bruising approach of allowing them to speak for themselves. The result is a much richer product for the reader. They are smart enough to create their own “top 10” list from the book based on their industry, geography etc.
e) Work in multiple roles
The book has many perspectives on how “the nature of work” is evolving with mobility, telepresence etc. The traditional analyst is comfortable being an analyst – where the average customer interface is a 30 minute phone call or a 2 hour vendor pitch. The next generation analyst will be far more flexible – he/she work on short term consulting assignments, moderate conversations across multiple clients, be the interface for a client to the growing world of communities and crowds.
The coming New Polymath world opens up opportunities for, well, a new generation of Polymath analysts. Scary and exciting times, ahead.