Interview with AMR CEO Tony Friscia and VP Jonathan Yarmis on AMR’s new “emerging and disruptive technologies” service

logo-amr-research.gifAMR announced in November 2007 that it had hired Jonathan Yarmis as the new VP covering advanced, emerging, and disruptive technologies such as social networks, mobility, and location-based technologies. Jon brings a long industry background to AMR, including 10 years at Gartner and stints as a VP at Hill and Knowlton and Waggener Edstrom.

Because it is unusual in the analyst industry to have a dedicated service focused on emerging technologies, we decided it would be interesting to interview Tony and Jonatan about their plans. The interview was conducted by Carter Lusher.

Question:  AMR is known for its focus on supply chain and back office enterprise applications, why the move into “emerging and disruptive technologies”?

We have always believed that as many emerging technologies get past the toy phase, they become powerful business tools that are potentially transforming. As an example, AMR started tracking Internet developments in the mid ‘90s because we understood that it would ultimately be the vehicle for inter-enterprise (i.e. value chain) commerce.  In the current case, there are several factors at work that we believe will impact our core markets going forward.  First, the “consumerization of IT” is driving a focus on client-side and user-oriented technologies and solutions.  Users, who often have more computing power at home than they do at work, are increasingly driving the deployments of advanced technologies.  More importantly, the explosion of phenomena like social networking and virtual worlds continue to shift the relationships between manufacturers, suppliers and consumers in profound ways and it is essential that our clients understand how to harness these technologies and solutions for their own advantage. These too will take supply chain advancement to a whole new level.

Question: So, what will the research agenda look like? What will be your priorities?

Clearly, there’s a virtually limitless set of technologies and solutions that fit under this umbrella.  Our focus will be on:

  • Communities, including social networks and virtual worlds, as well as the evolution of persona, presence and location, to support these networks.
  • Key advanced technologies, most notably:
    • Mobile devices
    • Input and output technologies
    • 3D and other advanced user interfaces
  • Business model changes
    • In particular, the role of advertising in traditional enterprise and personal applications

Question: That agenda is quite ambitious, will Jonathan be the sole analyst in the service or will you be hiring additional analysts?

Obviously, if we get the response to the product that we anticipate, we will grow this group.  However, we look at Jonathan as a catalyst to drive more of this research into all that we are doing.  It is important to understand that Jonathan is not the only analyst focused on these concepts. These are subjects of interest to virtually all of our analysts and we expect to see deeply integrated coverage across the board.  Additionally, there are several analysts who already invest considerable time into looking at many of these issues with their own unique focus, including Chris Fletcher (who covers Enterprise 2.0 and mobility) and Jim Murphy (who covers knowledge management and collaboration, and where blogs, wikis and social networks will be key delivery mechanisms for those solutions).


Back: Jim Murphy, Chris Fletcher, Jonathan Yarmis
Front: Bruce Richardson, Rob Bois, Tony Friscia

Question: Will you be developing new types of research deliverables for this coverage area?

We’re not so much developing new research deliverables for the coverage area but instead those same phenomena that have led us to introduce this product are also leading us to consider new ways of delivering value to our clients and reaching new prospects.  Thus, we’re looking at how we might exploit blogs and social networks to better connect with customers and prospects and you should see exciting things from us in the coming months.:

Question: What are your target markets (e.g., IT managers, vendors and investors) for this new coverage? If AMR is going after multiple markets, will you be tailoring the content to each market?

We are initially launching this as an AMR Market Service, which targets the technology and service providers.  That said, we are increasingly incorporating this research into our user-focused research.  We certainly believe those other market segments will exhibit strong demand for a comparable product and we are looking into that.  We believe it’s critical to tailor the content for the appropriate audience and that’s why we reorganized last year and why we have launched this product targeting a specific audience.

Question: What is the business problem you are solving for your clients? What will be business value for them?

As the name of the service indicates, the technologies and products we’re talking about have the potential to be disruptive to our clients’ approach to business.  It’s not overstating the case to maintain that they can change the whole partner/supplier/manufacturer/customer dynamic.  Thus, understanding these technologies and solutions becomes mission-critical to our clients.  Almost inherent in advanced and emerging technologies, clients are very much in learn-and-experiment mode and we can help clients think through their approaches and, critically, understand the end-user expectations and requirements we garner through our daily interactions with our end-user clients.  Not only are these “advanced, emerging and disruptive technologies,” but they’re being deployed in end-user situations with unprecedented rapidity and in such an environment, we can be a critical sounding board to our technology and service-provider clients.  To differentiate our offering from the more IT-focused analyst firms, our approach is to focus on practical applications and determine how these technologies will impact the business decision-maker.

Question: A competitive landscape question. Only one analyst firm in the IT industry has a dedicated and systematic research approach on emerging technologies. However, that one firm is the 900 pound gorilla Gartner with the Hype Cycles, Cool Vendors research note series, Spring Symposium and so on. How will AMR differentiate itself from Gartner or is your focus the rest of the analyst industry?

As stated in the last answer, we will differentiate ourselves the way we differentiate ourselves from them in any other area of coverage.  We are the No. 1 research firm focused on the intersection of business processes with value chain and enterprise technologies.  That position has led us to the forefront of the integration of business and IT and we will always be speaking first and foremost to that business practitioner who employs IT for business advantage, even while we also talk to the CIO and his or her staff.  Many of the technologies and services we’re talking about are being driven by the end-user and in fact are meeting resistance from the IT organization.  We just concluded a recent survey that showed some dramatic differences of opinion between LOB decision-makers and IT staff.  So, we’ll continue to differentiate on the basis of our audience which also drives a differentiation on the basis of our advice.  Our business practitioners are inherently more pragmatic when it comes to evaluating new technologies:  how and when can this help me do my business better, cheaper or faster?  So we won’t be evaluating technologies in a vacuum, looking for “cool” vendors.  Rather, we’ll be looking at advanced technologies through the lens of when and how will this let me do business more efficiently.  We’re not promoting hype cycles, we’re promoting business value.

Question: Which vendors will be targeted for coverage? Besides the startups and hip small vendors, will you go after the research labs at the large vendors, like HP and IBM? These old line companies are doing interesting research on disruptive and emerging technologies, but don’t always do a good job talking about them or even commercializing the work.

We have to do both.  So many new and exciting ideas emerge from small companies and the speed with which people are bringing solutions to market and reaching volume is unprecedented.  New Facebook applications can gain 100,000 users in a matter of weeks.  This used to be a great year’s accomplishment.  Web 2.0 technologies are changing the competitive dynamics not just for our end-user clients but for the providers as well and as such, we’ll be looking at a broad cross-section of vendors.  HP and IBM are doing some interesting things and are at least trying to do a better job of closing the gap between research and commercialization and so we’ll certainly be watching what they’re doing.  Even Microsoft should perhaps be mentioned in that same breath these days.  They’re no longer the plucky, fast-moving upstart that Jonathan covered when he began at Gartner 20 years ago but they’re instead an “old line” company not doing a great job of commercializing their work.  All this said, we want to make sure our coverage focuses heavily on a few emerging heavyweights, notably Google and Facebook.  Their social network battle could really be the battle for the next-generation socially-aware application deployment platform and, as such, merits considerable research focus.:

Question: Should vendors with emerging and disruptive technologies start briefing you? If yes, what is the best approach to setting up briefings?

Within the scope of our research coverage above and with understanding of our client base, absolutely we are interesting in hearing from vendors with exciting and differentiated solutions.  Vendors are always encouraged to request a briefing on our web site at

Question: Anything else you would like to add?

We really believe that many of the disruptive technologies and solutions that are being introduced today actually fall into AMR’s research sweet spot.  They’re not so much cool technologies in search of a home, and IT is the playground in which those homes are found.  Instead, we’re seeing innovative customer solutions being delivered and deployed and that operations and business people are driving this wave of technological innovation.  As such, AMR is the perfect partner for them to seek the pragmatic guidance for which we’ve always been known.  It’s an exciting time in the market and we believe AMR is well poised to capitalize on the technological and business changes that are rolling through global markets.:

Tony and Jonathan, thank you very much for your time. Best of luck with the new service.

Full disclosure – Seeing Jonathan give a speech in 1988 on Gartner’s PC Scenario was Carter’s first introduction to the IT industry analysts. Later Jonathan hired Carter to join Gartner’s PC research team.

Bottom Line:  There are few analyst firms that are taking a systematic approach to covering emerging technologies. For vendors and IT users, having AMR Research launch the “emerging and disruptive technologies” service is positive because adds another voice to the marketplace and puts competitive pressure on the other analyst firms.

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