Whether you like it or not, the influence game is changing. And if you don’t get on the train that’s rumbling through the industry now, you face the real prospect of being relegated to the dust bin of irrelevancy. Right next to the Slyvester Stallone movie 3-pack of F.I.S.T., Rhinestone, and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.The traditional business models that analyst firms have employed for years -some combination of specialized analysts providing seat-based syndicated research through year-long retainer contracts to a highly technical, IT-focused customer base -will become less relevant within the next three to five years. I don’t welcome that development with any type of mirth or glee -as an Analyst Relations guy, I’m quite interested in things like job security and my function’s own continued relevance -but I definitely sense a shift in the air.The”traditional” firms won’t disappear completely, but they will be hard pressed by emerging information delivery models and processes -along with a new breed of alternative influencers -that are fast-moving and in-the moment. And that’s the change agent at the heart of this evolution: Speed.Small businesses, enterprise companies and service providers now all share the same requirement that has been ever-present in the consumer game: access to information in real time that is customizable and easily digestible. I believe that the number of users that buy a product or invest in a technology off the back of a traditional Gartner, Forrester or Yankee report will significantly decrease over the next five years.I also believe most analyst firms understand that the rules are changing, but I’ve seen only spotty evidence that any are moving aggressively to develop and implement new delivery mechanisms based on new Web 2.0 tools and collaboration applications.Several firms, including Gartner, Forrester and IDC among others, are pushing roles-based products and services, and that is a huge step in the right direction. But I strongly believe these firms need to move faster and more aggressively into the new world because users have far too many alternative sources of information and influence to pick from now.The blogging community is exploding. Community-based wikis and social networks -both real and virtual -for business professionals are on the rise. Consumers, especially the 16-to-25-year olds, are having tremendous sway in what technologies small/medium businesses and enterprises are embracing and adopting -the consumerization of IT that nearly everyone is talking about now. And as you’ll see at our C-Scape conference next week, CIOs are forming their own associations and teaming with peers even more than they have in the past. At Cisco, we’re also starting to position and treat our own customers as industry influencers in their own right.A company’s IT department has traditionally been the sole purveyor of all things technology, but that is no longer the case as CIOs and owners of a company’s underlying business model and processes gain an ever-increasing amount of influence and final say over purchase decisions.The established analyst firms would do well to heed the last verse of a little song Dylan recorded in 1964 (hey, I told you last time I was old) that has maintained its relevance to this day…The line it is drawnThe curse it is castThe slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be pastThe order isRapidly fadin’.And the first one nowWill later be lastFor the times they are a-changin’.