Constellation: the next step

R “Ray” Wang launched his new venture, Constelation Research, on leaving Altimeter last November. Now, with over a dozen colleagues, a new full-featured website, and a research agenda, Constellation is preparing for an official launch “next week”.

The team have published a research agenda which their email says is focussed on eight “key disruptive areas that permeate existing and traditional coverage areas”. That’s a bit circuitous but what I think they’re saying is that they intend to focus on disruptive technology themes that run across the conventional analyst agendas.

The eight are:
• Cloud
• Mobile
• Social
• Analytics and game theory
• Unified communications and video
• Internet of things
• Sustainability and Corporate social responsibility
• Legacy Optimization
• Industry specific research in Next Gen Government (Gov 2.0); and
• Customer Experience for Services Based Industries

There’s a detailed plan for published research. It’s presented name-by-name; though not all fifteen analyst names feature in the list. Presenting it this way suggests that the research agenda is driven by the individuals’ interests, past pedigree in their former firms, and expertise.

There’s nothing wrong with that, given the intention to create a group of high profile individuals; but I’m not entirely convinced by the assertion that these are all “disruptive” areas. Legacy optimisation, for example: Ray Wang’s own impressive list of planned research includes “SAP Optimization Options” and “Renegotiating your Oracle contracts”.

And these themes are not missing from conventional coverage. Gartner, for example, have a Key Initiative on Cloud. Green IT is everywhere. And the Internet of Things sounds like Forrester’s X Internet theme up to a couple of years ago, or Yankee Group’s Anywhere Revolution.

A better categorisation shows up on Constellation’s “Suggestions” page, where the team solicit suggestions for the research agenda. There, they offer three broad themes. Navigating through disruptive technologies is one; but they add Designing next generation business models, and Funding innovation through legacy optimization. That seems to fit rather better.

Constellation are offering Open Research: reports which will be made available free – that’s in addition to the blog postings. It will be interesting to see what is published in this channel. Currently the only report there is a version of, and explanation for, the research agenda – Constellation’s co-authored planning assumptions and some insights or recommendations. There are names against these (actually, Twitter names), which is illuminating, and one or two nice phrases (“Enterprise social software migraine”, Sameer Patel).

So am I bold enough to predict a future for Constellation?

Constellation is clearly aiming to be a coordinated team, rather than just an umbrella organisation for individuals. The group is not large enough to be a broad-ranging (generalist) insight service. It won’t be able to take on Gartner or Forrester across the board. On the other hand: neither is it specialised enough to target a clear niche – in the way that, for example, Mike Rasmussen’s Corporate Integrity has achieved. And what will happen if/when the suggestions which the team are soliciting through their website move into areas where the existing team don’t operate?

The business model is the Gartner/Forrester one: a research plan, advisory services and consulting engagements, and a fee service to enterprise clients (what Constellation call “Buy side”) and to vendors. As Barbara French commented in November, it’s not disruptive in the insight marketplace; so Constellation will have to make its way in this marketplace when times are hard and buyers are looking to cut costs.

I’ll take a bet on its success, simply because R “Ray” Wang himself is a luminary in his field and people will beat a path to his door. Some at least of his colleagues are on a similar level. But I suspect that his organisation, and the business model, and the agenda may have to flex a time or two.

• Constellation Research; see the Research Agenda
• Constellation Research: what can users expect?, ITasITis, 15 Nov 2010
• SageCircle podcast: conversation with R “Ray” Wang (look for the 18 Jan 2011 podcast)

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