At Forrester’s B2B Summit and CX North America events this spring, Forrester CEO and Founder George Colony issued a clarion call to the audience. “You can’t wait on generative AI,” he said. “You can’t wait a month, you can’t wait a quarter, and you certainly can’t wait a year.” The technology, he said, will replace much of the web, as searching for data and sifting through results gives way to conversing with data and getting succinct answers. Few industries will remain untouched by genAI; for information-heavy industries like research and advisory, its impact will be revolutionary.
Today, Forrester takes one step closer to this future. We’re proud to introduce Izola [eye-ZO-la], our new genAI tool that allows users to query Forrester’s research and get a clear, synthesized answer via a simple chat interface. Now available to a select group of Forrester clients, Izola will ultimately be made available to all Forrester Decisions and Forrester Market Insights clients.
“Izola will help clients make progress on their initiatives faster,” says Forrester Chief Product Officer Carrie Johnson. “It will give them a better starting point in tackling complex business problems through fast synthesis of a wealth of research, data, and insights. Izola will accelerate deeper, more informed conversations with Forrester experts, who help apply Forrester insights to clients’ business-critical initiatives.”
Getting To Know Izola
One of many genAI initiatives underway at Forrester, we developed Izola in-house using open-source technologies, including the Llama 2 large language model (LLM) from Meta. When a client submits a question, Izola quickly scans hundreds of thousands of pages of Forrester’s research and blogs. Then it generates a synthesized answer in everyday common language in the form of a paragraph, bullet points, or sequential steps. Links to the source reports and blog posts appear below the summarized answer, giving clients the option to go deeper.
Today, the tool is particularly good at defining terms — for example, “What is Zero Trust?” or “What is customer obsession?” It also can put concepts into context for specific roles (e.g., “What do B2B CMOs need to know about generative AI?”); serve up best practices (“What are the most effective cloud cost management practices?”); and even help clients strategize (“How should I present the benefits of a data strategy to my board?”).
The tool receives its name from Izola Forrester, a pioneer female journalist in the early 20th century and Colony’s grandmother. From humble beginnings to pioneering transformation, Izola symbolizes the bold innovation and inspiration that Forrester has been known for over the last four decades. Forrester has grown its business guiding clients through era-defining shifts. GenAI, predicts Colony, will be the biggest technology shift of his lifetime — even bigger than the internet — due to its widespread transformational impact.
“Izola gives clients a great shortcut to the answers they’re looking for,” says Doug Washburn, VP of product management, who demonstrated the tool at Forrester’s recent Technology & Innovation North America and Data Strategy & Insights events. “During demos, we kept hearing that ‘This is going to save me so much time.’ Instead of reviewing multiple reports and digging through content, clients can now get consolidated answers first, and then choose to dive in for more context.”
Izola’s capabilities will expand over time. Soon, it will also be able to recommend analysts to connect with based on coverage areas and suggest specific reports (e.g., “What are Forrester’s top-read reports on generative AI in banking?”). Eventually, we envision Izola answering clients’ questions about their Forrester relationship — for instance, “When is my Forrester renewal?” or “Do I have an unused event ticket?”
Like all current genAI tools, Izola has its moments of inconsistency. Client feedback during the beta testing period will be critical to refining it — and that’s the point.
“We see this as a co-creation moment with our clients,” says Johnson. “We’re all learning so much about genAI as we go. Hearing our clients’ reactions at our events and seeing that it was already providing value encouraged us to take this next step with them.”
A New Golden Age For Research
Along with speed and self-service, Izola offers dependability and trust, since the answers provided are based on Forrester’s vetted, rigorous research.
“This is another golden age for research,” Johnson says. “The way to avoid coherent nonsense in genAI output is through rigorous data and analysis going in. That’s exactly what Forrester does: rigorous data collection and analysis.”
In the generative AI era, primary data becomes more important than ever. “And now, of course, you can gather limitless data and analysis because it’s ‘findable’ through a conversational interface,” Johnson says.
“The ability to gain trusted information upfront has downstream benefits, shortening the ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase of client-analyst relationships and helping to speed progress on business initiatives,” adds Michael Facemire, VP of product technology strategy and operations.
Leaders in other client-facing functions see genAI’s potential as well. Senthil Kumar, VP of customer success, expects genAI to be a “huge efficiency and effectiveness driver” for clients and his team as they support them.
“GenAI could provide everything in a nutshell to customer success managers so that they can quickly point clients toward the right research and the right analyst — resulting in faster time to value,” Kumar says.
Building Forrester’s Future With Generative AI
Beyond Izola, genAI is taking on an ever greater role at Forrester. It’s opening new opportunities for how our employees work — several pilot projects in recent months have tested ways in which genAI might save time while improving outcomes, for our clients and Forresterites.
Access to the best experts and research on genAI helps not only our clients — but also Forrester — in building out these capabilities: “Forrester has been making bold calls on AI for more than 10 years and forecasted its creative potential in research dating back to 2019,” notes Forrester Chief Research Officer Sharyn Leaver. “Our ability to discern true insights from market noise ensures our clients have a clear path forward for their specific context. Oversimplification and generic theories on generative AI are everywhere. Our research digs into real-world applications of generative AI to help business and technology leaders define and accelerate their top priorities.”
“I’m very excited about the potential of generative AI for our company, both from an employee experience standpoint and a client experience standpoint,” Mike Kasparian, Forrester CIO, says. “And I think we’re just scratching the surface of how we’re going to use it. The opportunity is huge.”
Capitalizing on that opportunity, of course, depends on all employees being conversant with genAI. Education and upskilling have become key priorities, with demos and trainings held on Forrester’s internal tools and genAI best practices. On-demand courses led by the analysts at the forefront of Forrester’s genAI research are also available to all employees.
“GenAI touches every employee,” says Colony. “It’s critical that everyone understand its capabilities and what it means for their roles and be part of building for the future.”