Thomas Bittman

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Thomas J. Bittman
VP Distinguished Analyst
18 years at Gartner
29 years IT industry

Thomas Bittman is a vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner Research. Mr. Bittman has led the industry in areas such as private cloud computing and virtualization. Mr. Bittman invented the term "real-time infrastructure," which has been adopted by major vendors and many… Read Full Bio

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Five Tenets for the Connected Analyst

by Tom Bittman  |  October 29, 2008  |  4 Comments

Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester had a wonderful post called “The 7 Tenets of the Connected Analyst”. I really appreciate his list, but I felt he didn’t discuss the challenges enough to strike the right balance between his first six tenets, and the last (“Be profitable”). This is very hard! For those of us in the business of selling our knowledge and expertise, the online community is a valuable resource and tool, but we must draw a line between what we freely discuss with the community, and the value we give to our paying customers.

So, with respect, I’ve riffed off his list and made my own that helped me to describe that balance a little better. I would encourage my industry colleagues (including those from Gartner!) to comment.

1) Listen: All good analysts are good listeners. They learn from every useful resource. Social communities are a valuable and very dynamic source of information and feedback – especially as analysts are forming their early thinking about a subject. Good analysts are willing to make mistakes, publicly, get feedback, and adjust.

2) Connect: A connected analyst not only finds and learns from connections, but shares those connections with others. A successful analyst is a resource not only for personal knowledge, but knowledge elsewhere in the online community – they can’t be seen as a dead-end of information, but as a router to other information (some of which may be behind the paywall, and that’s OK).

3) Contribute: Connected analysts should add to the discussions that relate to their areas of expertise, comment on industry trends and events, and build relationships with members of the community (including competitors!). A successful analyst doesn’t use the community as an obvious sales tool. On the other hand, the successful analyst cannot freely distribute all of their knowledge. Finding the right balance point where they are a valued community contributor (but can obviously do more) is critical.

4) Lead: Connected analysts should be very active in leading community dialogue, especially in terms of new trends, major changes, etc. Successful analysts will draw the line on sharing specific ramifications and specific recommendations – this is value that should be reserved behind the paywall.

5) Succeed: A successful analyst must do more than build a reputation as a public thought leader, or a great public collaborator. Successful analysts also participate in communities to learn and grow, and ultimately provide better advice and counsel to their paying customers. It’s relatively easy for a smart analyst to elevate themselves on a public stage – it’s much harder to elevate yourself while not sacrificing how you or your company actually make money. Successful analysts can do both – and that’s mainly about finding the right balance between public sharing of knowledge, and keeping high-value knowledge behind the paywall.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeremiah Owyang   October 31, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I’m glad to see this discussion bloom, both in my comments and here at a fellow firm. The one thing that I was expressing in my post is that in order to be connected, is to move closer to the public forefront using online tools –like you’re doing here.

    Between this list, and the one I first put forth, we’re applying many of the older principles that analysts have had –but now using the online social tools.

    Perhaps the biggest change is that value is going to be shared in front of the paywall, not just to clients.

    Your thoughts?

  • 2 Scott Oppliger   November 1, 2008 at 1:32 am

    I can only imagine that the analyst must constantly walk a fine line when self-regulating open discussions – particularly in this space maybe more than any other. If you’re an analyst of anything “online” and you spend much of your time fostering online communications as a tool and as a strategy, it must be difficult deciding what to discuss and publish freely online and what to put aside as the special nuggets reserved only for those paying customers.

    In reality, I suspect that those of us in the industry who are avid followers of online analysts, such as yourself and Jeremiah, are contributors to your effort by participating in active conversation, debate and an exchange of ideas.

    I appreciate the open dialog that is inherent in the social media industry and think that the value analysts bring to corporate clients is in your ability to distill the proper information in the proper context for each client in a unique way. The concept of “selling the farm” by routinely publishing online what your clients are paying you for isn’t something that I would be overly concerned about because of this reason: your clients’ core competencies are something other than social media such as: running hotels, manufacturing computers, managing investments, etc.

  • 3 Leslie Carothers   November 1, 2008 at 7:56 am

    I am a social networking strategist for the home industries and own a company called The Kaleidoscope Partnership.

    I follow Jeremiah’s blog and tweets religiously. His tweet leading me to your blog was fascinating to me because I struggle with this constantly. I write an online column called “Retail Ideas” for http://www.furnituretoday.com and also write a 2000 word article/month for a series on “Technology and The Retailer” for Furniture World magazine. I have been writing the online column for three years and the offline column for eight months.

    I have given away a LOT of valuable free information through these articles, but, in my industry, very few CEO’s understand the implications of social networking for their business so it is imperative to educate first and become known as a “go to” resource. The free information helps me to do that.

    Has it paid off financially. Yes. I get asked frequently, “Leslie, why would people hire you when you’re giving all this away for free?” And, the answer is: context and specificity-exactly as you state, Scott. I understand the furniture industry-having been it for 26 years-and help my clients understand how to use SN tools to solve specific business challenges. It is very hard for people not familiar with SN to develop a SN strategy and therein lies the reason I give so much away for free. If I educate them, help them see the connections, even lead them in the right direction, they will be able to connect the dots and understand why they need to hire me for specific programs.

    In addition, by giving away information for free, I am asked to speak, write and give interviews internationally on this topic for my industry-just as is happening for all of you who are educating me. This, to me, is the power of what you and Jeremiah and others are doing. You are expanding your business opportunities(=profit)through education. It’s an infinite pie. It could easily be that my clients outgrow my capabilities, for instance, and I refer them to you as they become more secure in the ROI on SN and are ready to take the next financial step. If you weren’t giving away so much valuable information for free, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.

    Clients understand what you are doing. The more they feel in control of asking educated questions, the more they will call you for specific assignments and be willing to pay you for it.

    They can’t pay for what they don’t know is even a possibility.

    Thank you both for the discussion. You are making a difference in my life.

    Leslie

  • 4 Maria Sipka   November 2, 2008 at 9:53 am

    The first golden rule I learned shortly after graduating from a communications degree (a long time ago) was to be overly generous with knowledge. You can never give away enough.

    By the time anybody following you has learned what you know, you’re miles ahead. And in the process you’re building a phenomenal reputation. Jeremiah Owyang is a testament to this golden rule. I don’t know anybody who gives away as much knowledge as he does and just look at his twitter followers – over 14,000 people! He is THE man in social media.

    The bottom line. Prospective clients are lazy or limited for time. Dazzle them with your knowledge and you won’t be able to meet the demand. And people who copy you will always be a ‘few to many’ steps behind.

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