[Driven] Steve Peltzman: Digital Disruption from MoMA to Forrester   banner image

[Driven] Steve Peltzman: Digital Disruption from MoMA to Forrester

This post appears as part of our Driven profile series, spotlighting some of the hottest movers and shakers from all corners of the Boston tech and startup space.

On the weekends, Steve Peltzman’s a sculptor. He works with clay mainly, and typically sculpts portrait busts. Not the first hobby you might imagine for a chief technology officer, but by day that’s just what Peltzman is: chief business technology officer (CBTO) at Forrester.

Peltzman’s background is dynamic. He’s been sculpting since high school and coding since he was a kid. He’s an Airforce vet, a pilot, and a Columbia Business school grad.

Leading MoMA’s Digital Entrance

It’s that unique combination of passions in tech, art, and business that led Peltzman to the role he held prior to Forrester, CIO of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Peltzman was with MoMA for more than a decade, leading the museum’s digital entry and transformation. When he started there in 2001, MoMA’s tech adoption wasn’t especially noteworthy, explains Peltzman, saying it was viewed as a “necessary evil.”

But he and his team had a vision.

“The museum could become more virtual,” he says. “Without digital, you come to the museum, you experience the art, you leave, and you don’t think about it again until you come back.

“But where we were headed extended a visit beyond the four walls. When you left, you’d have something to go back to - an interface and education to still experience the museum, be immersed in it and, want to come back,” he added.

With Peltzman leading the charge, MoMA became the first museum to embrace Facebook and Twitter and one of the first to launch its own app. It tapped digital to drive visits, experiences, and memberships in ways that, at the time, were unheard of.

That - combined with MoMA’s massive systems for retail, visitor services, digitizing collections, and ensuring the safety and security of the art itself - kept Peltzman more than busy.

“It was like 10 different jobs in one,” he says. “I really liked it. It was very dynamic.”

Forging New Ground at Forrester

After 10 years with MoMA, Peltzman was ready for his next opportunity. So after speaking at a Forrester event, he Googled “Forrester CIO.” As fate would have it, his now-employer had just posted a role for a CBTO.

“They wanted someone who wasn’t just bits and bytes, but who could drive revenue,” he reflects. “They were looking to make an example to clients and show that a CIO doesn’t just sit and react to what comes to them, but knows business well and uses tech to drive revenue.”

Peltzman joined Forrester in 2011. Today, one of the many areas he owns is Forrester Labs. Aiming to drive innovation, Forrester Labs creates disruptive tech and product ideas, kickstarting them through experimentation and partnership. Its success relies heavily on startups - though Peltzman wasn’t able to mention which it was partnering with.

“Forrester Labs gives us a way to try things without major investments,” Peltzman explains. “It gives a way to roll the snowball (maybe a snowflake is more accurate) down the hill a bit. We’ll work with a company that helps us accelerate in a way that’s faster than us developing it internally.”

Ask Peltzman about his top accomplishments at Forrester so far, and he immediately notes both Forrester Labs and it’s semi-annual Tech Mixer event. The most recent event, held last month at the company’s Cambridge location, invites innovative companies and startups to share their businesses and technology. Organized in a networking-style format, it attracts Forrester employees, clients, analysts, and others from the Boston tech scene and beyond.

His preference for startups dates back to his time at MoMA, where he had to work with smaller albeit riskier companies due to budget constraints. Today, the decisions to work with startups is no longer based on necessity but preference, he says. And the risk is a whole lot less than it was back in the mid-2000s.

“It’s less risky these days,” Peltzman says. “But the number of companies that can disrupt us grow every day.

“With all this pressure that we have, it’s imperative for me to find and be aware of what new companies are offering and see if I can partner with them or use their technology,” he adds.

Likewise, it’s partnering with those startups that Peltzman says keeps Forrester (and any other company, if you ask him) ahead.

“If you’re not seeking startups and trying to find the ones that are giving you a unique advantage, you’re going to lose to your competition,” he says.


Kaite Rosa is Director of Content & Marketing at VentureFizz. Follow her on Twitter: @KaiteRosa.

Image via Forrester.