This year has been a whirlwind for Altimeter’s analysts; Charlene Li, Brian Solis, Susan Etlinger and Omar Akhtar. The team has published several new research reports, presented keynote speeches at top global industry conferences, and helped some of the world’s top brands learn how to best leverage disruptive technologies.

The Altimeter Crew

If you aren’t familiar with the Altimeter crew, they’re an interesting, smart and accomplished group of folks. For example:

  • Charlene Li can’t live without NPR and was a Cutco knife salesperson before becoming a consultant.
  • Brian Solis has made more than 450 presentations to universities, businesses and organizations; including South by Southwest and TEDx. His client portfolio is impressive and includes L’Oreal, 3M, Oracle, and Google.
  • Susan Etlinger ironed call numbers onto book spines in college and if you ever have questions about whether humanity will be eradicated by robot overlords— don’t be afraid to ask her!
  • Omar Akhtar has been quoted as a technology expert in leading publications, including National Public Radio, CNET, Forbes, Digiday, TechCrunch, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Inside Look at What Our Analysts Have Been Up to in 2018

To get an exclusive look at all they’ve got going on, we asked them to answer six questions about what’s happening now, and what’s on the horizon. Hear from them firsthand:

1.What has everyone been up to in 2018?

CHARLENE LI: My research has been centered around employee engagement and collaboration as well as the state of social business.

BRIAN SOLIS: My research is focused on digital transformation, retail innovation, and corporate innovation (how change agents can drive innovation and transformation from within). On the client side, I studied the state and future of digital marketplaces, contact centers/customer service, digital influence, predictive analytics and the digital transformation of guest experience, among other things.

SUSAN ETLINGER: My focus has been on the impact of data and artificial intelligence on business and society. Specifically, I look at strategy, use cases, organizational impact, AI and data ethics and effects on organizational leadership and culture.

OMAR AKHTAR: I’ve had a wide range of topics I have focused on including: digital marketing, content strategy, customer experience systems and augmented/virtual reality

2. What reports/research will you be publishing soon?

OMAR AKHTAR: I’m excited about the 2018 State of Digital Content in October. This report is our industry benchmark survey about best practices, investments and future trends in content marketing.

CHARLENE LI: “The State of Social Business in 2018” will publish in early October. It’s a quant study of several hundred social media directors on their current and future social business initiatives. I’ll also publish a study on employee engagement in November.

3. What is the most interesting research you’ve seen or come across in the past year?

OMAR AKHTAR: eMarketer recently had a stat about how the average person sees between 400 and 5000 brand messages a day, which means that 90% of everything a brand communicates is bound to have zero impact. This makes it even more challenging to figure out where and when to personalize messages and how to stand out amongst the noise.

4. What are the hot topics/ discussions we should be following right now? Where do you predict big changes in 2019?

SUSAN ETLINGER: AI maturity: what will that look like? Will companies other than Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook be able to compete? How will enterprise use data to understand, personalize, predict and act in a way that differentiates them AND promotes trust? How will technology actually help people rather than displace them? I think we must have a strong POV and make decisive choices in these areas; organizations of all kinds are looking for guidance.

5. What are you looking forward to in 2019? What do you intend to focus on?

CHARLENE LI: I’m intrigued by the ability to create greater transparency and accountability not only in organizations but also across ecosystems. I believe questions like “How do you measure and optimize intangibles like “experience?” and “loyalty?” will be tackled in 2019. In core tech, I’m excited about quantum computing — it’s the domain of academics and has huge potential for analytics and modeling, solving different problems than AI.

6. Is there anything you’d love to see happen in your area of expertise?

BRIAN SOLIS: More support for innovation and transformation at the board and C-Suite level. There’s a mindset shift that needs to happen…to see how people are changing, empathize and understand it, and embrace the change agents fighting to innovate but are facing push back from those who don’t want to change. Innovation is an investment, not a cost center, and it’s critical to understand the purpose of innovation at a human level.

Fascinating Thoughts from Our Analysts

CHARLENE LI: Tech changes both faster and slower than we think. Smartphones and social media have been with us for only 10 years. Bitcoin went mainstream 5 years ago. What’s slower to change are the social constructs that allow new technologies to be used in our lives and our society.

OMAR AKHTAR: We’d love to talk more to consultants! It’s the best way for us to understand the problems in the industry and develop research that is relevant to them. If you’re noticing recurring issues with your clients, let us know so we can craft our research agenda to solve them.

SUSAN ETLINGER: We’re moving into a new age, World Economic Forum calls it “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which gets at the idea but is a little dated in its premise. The fundamental shift I see is that we’re moving toward a world that will be governed by probabilities rather than rules. This is happening in computing and it’s going to happen to leadership too. So, we’re going to have to be much more flexible in our approaches to solving problems. This will be exciting for some and terrifying for most of us!

BRIAN SOLIS: I’m starting to see more and more, that companies are confusing innovation and iteration. All too often, the innovation programs that I study are designed to improve existing products, models, services, processes, etc. That’s necessary. But that’s largely iteration…doing the same things better. Innovation, on the other hand, is doing new things that create new value. The combination of the two can lead to disruption, doing new things that make the old things obsolete.

Have More Questions About Altimeter?

Do you have more questions about Altimeter? Send your questions to us on Twitter to Altimeter at @AltimeterGroup. If you’re interested in learning how Altimeter can help you, send us a note or subscribe to get updates on our latest research.