Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New tech research models: threat to Gartner and Forrester, opportunity for you?

Business models, the realities of making money by selling goods or services, change.

  • You don't see many Tower Records stores any more, do you?  The retail music business model changed with digital distribution, and stores selling CDs were cut out of the picture. 
  • How long has it been since you made a phone call from a pay phone?  Mobile technology ruined that business model.
  • Remember the original AOL?  Pay us for your ability to get online, and we'll offer internet access along with our packaged services?  I do, but just barely; the original AOL for Windows did not even have a browser.  But you weren't supposed to need one, AOL provided everything.  

Could the big research company business model
be headed for a similar fate?
Research about technology has a business model too.  There are many variations, but one of the most common models is to pay for an annual contract with a large research company--typically Gartner, Forrester, or IDC--with the expectation that their size will get you most of the knowledge you need to make better choices.  To make sure you're really covered, many companies buy a portfolio of more than one of those contracts.   But in general, it's the original AOL idea applied to research.  

I've written about the business of research, and as you may remember, buying those portfolios was part of my career for many years.  In my opinion, some of the same trends I cover--mobility, social networks, the "freemium" model--are triggers that imply a threat to the "big research" business model.  Even if not, remember your old standby, the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats?)  If changes in access to business tech research represent a threat to the big companies, they may also give your own enterprise an opportunity to get a broader range of information, at much lower cost, and with far better decision-making impact.  

In the past few months, I've been talking to former leaders from big research about this idea, and about the future of the business.  In articles to come, we'll hear what it's like to set off on your own as an expert, and how that business model can succeed.  We'll talk about social means of gaining business and tech expertise, how to move from a one-to-many model (such as Gartner/Forrester) to a many-to-many model, as exemplified by specialized individual consultants.  

And I'll report about an emerging trend: the growth of tech information requests coming directly from the business, not the IT department.  The last point is significant; it's another way in which the consumerization of business threatens to disintermediate the IT department, thereby threatening the business model of IT itself.  It's pure Era of You effect in action.

The first of the three-part series on new research models:
My, how you've changed: Technology research meets Social, Consumerization, Freemium

This article is part of Infrics.com ongoing coverage of the business of research:




How are you handling research within your own organization?  Do you feel that big research contracts are a good investment?  Are you turning more to blogs and direct contact with subject matter experts?  I'd like to include your experiences in this series.  Let me hear from you. 

AOL sign in screen image: http://blog.boxedart.com/nostalgia/10-websites-and-services-we-loved-in-the-90s/