Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ovum and Datamonitor: The Rise of A New Industry Force?

There's been lots of talk over recent months about the changes happening at Datamonitor, Ovum and Butler Group.

Well, the plans are now complete and the good news is there's enormous potential in what the new look Datamonitor group is trying to accomplish.

Moving forward, the plan is for Ovum to be the single brand selling technology and telecoms research and analysis services. (Datamonitor Tech has already gone and we’re told Butler Group is to be phased out over the coming months).

In the meantime, Datamonitor has established a single technology analyst team under the Ovum banner. This team is split into two groups: one covering IT and the other covering telecoms. All the analysts at Butler Group and Datamonitor Tech have transferred across to Ovum.

And the new Ovum teams are looking to expand out of their traditional vendor home base and start providing research and analysis services that will appeal to the technology buyer.

Now this is where it starts to get really interesting. Because Datamonitor has a huge business outside of IT and telecoms. There are another 350 analysts who are not technology related. They are business specialists covering industries such as Healthcare, Energy and Consumer (FMCG, Retail and Financial Services).

Most of this work is done under the Datamonitor brand (the exception is retail where Datamonitor operates under the name Verdict Research). And Datamonitor argues it is the “powerhouse brand” in many of these industry segments.

For example, it says it has more analysts covering healthcare and retail than any other company in the world. Verdict Research's position in retail has been endorsed by no less than Sir Stuart Rose.

That depth of resource out strips anything that the other tech analyst firms can offer. Those technology analyst firms that have built up teams to look at vertical markets have done so on a smaller scale. Quite naturally, they have also concentrated on the use of technology rather than providing broader business insight.

Until now, technology has never seemed to fit easily in the Datamonitor group. It's both vertical (with analysts advising vendors on how to run their business) and horizontal (with technology being used by every type of company out there).

Too often, the opportunities offered by the latter have been neglected. Not any more.

CEO Mark Meek has spent the past two years putting together a strategy that he believes will allow Ovum to compete at the highest levels when selling to IT and telecoms vendors. More importantly, he hopes it will enable Ovum to move in to the buy side market in a significant way.

Ovum will now work with all the other Datamonitor analyst teams (including Verdict) under the “Collaborative Intelligence” model. Technology analysts can call on the insight and expertise of their industry colleagues to help them in their work. Similarly, the industry analysts can turn to Ovum when their clients need advice on technology and telecoms.

This is obviously a huge culture change – and Mark's introduced processes and structures to try and ensure it works in real life as well as on paper. He is determined that analysts in Ovum and Datamonitor start working together. For example, cross industry teams must now meet every month and every quarter to discuss research agendas. There is also a common model across the whole group - gather data, apply meaningful insight and make recommendations.

Like all cultural change, it is taking time and it's been painful – but things are apparently coming together slowly but surely..

For Ovum, the advantages are clearly defined.

Its analysts can now help IT departments talk the language of their specific industry (not the generic language of business). If I am a CIO and I want outside IT advice from an industry analyst, I can now turn to Ovum. I will get the advice I need – but that advice won't be generic. It will be based on a detailed understanding of the industry in which I work.

That's only possible because the Ovum team can call on the resources of all their colleagues who specialise in healthcare or retail or energy or FS or consumer goods. These people are actually experts in that industry, not in technology. All of a sudden, as a CIO, I have industry experts and technology experts being brought together to answer my questions and give me the advice I need. That's powerful.

Ovum will do the same for technology suppliers, helping them understand their clients' industry – and not just from a technology perspective. As a vendor, my product, marketing and sales teams now have a new source of industry insight and expertise that they can use to make sure they know what's happening in their clients and prospects. They are no longer talking in generic, cliched horizontal technology terms but addressing real, specific business issues in a detailed way.

It's hard to get across the real potential of the model in words – but at a recent Ovum event, two great examples of how this might work were given (one for pharma and one for retail). Videos of both are available on the Ovum website (you can also access them via the IIAR blog).

According to the Datamonitor and Ovum leadership teams, feedback from CIOs has been very positive. On the other hand, vendors have been underwhelmed. They don't appear to have yet grasped the concept or the benefits it could bring.

It's exciting to hear Mark and his senior colleagues speak. They are doing something different and there is the opportunity here for Ovum to become a powerhouse technology and telecoms industry analyst firm, in both the buy-side and sell-side sectors.

Of course, there is the chance that it will all fail. While the vision is compelling, the challenge of making it real is huge. Some steps have been taken but there is plenty more that needs to happen before anyone can declare the new Datamonitor/Ovum a success.

One thing is clear. We now have three sizeable, clearly differentiated competitors to Gartner. One is focused on market sizing (IDC), one on roles (Forrester) and one on industry insight (Ovum).

Buyers – both buy-side and sell-side - should be delighted to have real choice in the market.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Gideon Gartner on the future of the industry analyst

I have been told I mustn't be shy. I should make sure you all know to go see Gideon Gartner, Jonathan Yarmis and me discuss the future of the industy analyst.

Thanks to Ovum for inviting me to take part in its recent event launching "Collaborative Intelligence".

You can access the video via the IIAR website.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Gartner buys AMR

So, another analyst firm is to disappear. This time it's that leader in ERP and supply chain, AMR Research. It's being bought by Gartner for $64 million.

AMR seems to have got a fair price - 1.6 x sales is roughly the same ratio as Jupiter Research got from Forrester ($23 million paid on sales of $14 million) and more than Gartner paid for Meta ($162 million, 1.35 x sales of $122 million).

I'm not as upbeat as some other industry commentators are. AMR was a well respected firm with a good team of analysts. In its niche, AMR was a strong rival to Gartner.

Vendors and buyers looking for a second opinion on supply chain are now going to struggle to find a viable alternative in the short-term (although watch out for Datamonitor/Ovum, there's some really interesting stuff going on there - a compelling vision if it can be delivered on).

Given Forrester's focus on role-based research, you might have thought it would have taken a fancy to AMR. It'd be interesting to know if it got outbid by Gartner.

Because once word got out that AMR was up for sale, it's hard to see Gartner letting anyone else buy it. It's just too good a deal - revenue, clients, people and opportunities for growth.

Bruce Richardson, chief research officer at AMR, is eloquent in explaining why this also makes sense for AMR, over and above the hard cash that Gartner offered.

If you're interesting in reading more on this, it's worth checking out the IIAR blog post on the acquisition. There's some interesting and valuable insights there.

Top mobile enterprise analyst leaves IDC

Lars Vestergaard is leaving IDC.

In January, he takes up a new role at Mobilethink as MD for a new business area, Mobilethink Analytics. Based in Denmark, Lars will be selling analytics solutions to mobile operators around the globe.

It’s an exciting challenge for the man who, in his decade with IDC, has built up a reputation for being one of the top analysts covering enterprise mobility in Europe. As Lars himself says: “After more than 11 years, it is time to try something new.”

While his appointment is a great result for Mobilethink, Lars' departure is a loss to the European analyst community.

We’re interested to find out more about how IDC will replace him. In the past, the company has proven adept at attracting and retaining experienced, knowledgeable analysts (think Chris Lewis, Eric Owen, John Delaney, Chris Barnard…)

In the meantime, Lars' responsibilities will be covered by colleagues Dan Bieler and Rosie Seechi.

Monday, November 30, 2009

AR and Analyst Drinks - London - Thursday 3rd December

If any AR folk or industry analysts want to get together for some informal Christmas drinks this week, why not come along to the IIAR's Christmas Cafe on Thursday (3rd December)?

It's at a bar near Farringdon station (around the corner from the old Ovum offices), starting at around 6.00pm.

Hannah Kirkman has all the details -
drop her a line

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Come on industry analysts, sharpen up your game

Ben Evetts, a former colleague of mine, pointed me to this article a few days ago. It is an interesting and rather damning critique of industry analyst firms.

Here's just a few extracts from the blog by James Gardner (but do read the whole piece, there's plenty more good stuff in it):

“And here is my problem with analysts: if we are taking strategic advice from such firms, then they'd better have better people than us. Experts, not graduates who have worked their way up the analyst ranks without much experience doing whatever-it-is for real.”

This is one of my bugbears. Like many of my colleagues working in analyst relations, I spend a large portion of my life educating people about the value of the industry analysts.

Then you set up a meeting – either a briefing or an inquiry call – and in strolls someone who knows less about the market than I do (never mind my CEO, CMO, product manager or technology guru). It is happening more and more frequently. It's almost as if the industry analyst firms have a death wish.

Get wise guys. People pay a lot of money for your insight. You're important because of your influence. You're valuable because you're the experts. And you need to keep proving it continually.

Thankfully, it's not all bad news from James:

“I'll accept that there is some value in analyst research, and that the reports written by the superstars have a value that counteracts the journalistic reporting that is mainly what's provided.”

What's most concerning is that these type of complaints aren't just coming from James. I hear similar comments every week.

There are some really strong analysts out there in the market but there are also a lot of people who use the title when they're really just market researchers, marketing consultants, journalists or industry commentators.

Even some of the more reputable analyst firms are doing themselves a disservice by increasingly trying to trade off a global brand while in Europe, the calibre (and / or size) of their analyst teams simply isn't there to support the promise.

If you call yourself an 'industry analyst', people have certain expectations of your knowledge, your insight, your abilities, your expertise. Nowadays, these are often not met.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Catching up with Bathwick

Bathwick is not a firm that I have come across very often in recent years, so it was good to catch up with Katy Ring a little while ago and find out more about it.

Her decision last year to join Bathwick after leaving NelsonHall came as a surprise to many of us in the analyst relations community who watch the IT services and outsourcing analysts.

With her experience and reputation in the market (before NelsonHall, Katy headed up Ovum's European IT outsourcing practice), we expected that she'd turn up at a big firm. Her move to a small company with no reputation in the services market came as a real surprise.

Set up in 1997 by Jonathan Steel, Bathwick says it “researches how businesses actually buy and apply IT to their business, how they innovate using technology, and how IT is supporting changes in market and organizational models.”

The company splits the world into four main domains - green, open, smart (including CRM and business intelligence) and dynamic (including services). These are all attributes that Bathwick says users need to achieve in today's world, and therefore vendors must be able to address.

Rather than provide traditional research subscriptions, Bathwick instead offers research-based consulting and co-branded research-led whitepapers (which - although vendor-funded and branded - are independent, according to Katy). To facilitate its primary research, Bathwick has established a partnership with CNET and surveys the IT professionals that regularly use its websites. Bathwick is also involved in benchmarking and publishing.

The company's biggest client is rumoured to be IBM. While Katy doesn't deny this, she is adamant that Bathwick is not just an IBM shop and works with plenty of other vendors as well.

According to the website, over the past three years, clients have included Accenture, BT, Cisco, Ernst & Young, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Orange, Sun Microsystems, TCS and Unisys.

What's also interesting – but not mentioned as much – is the high regard in which Jonathan is held by many of his peers. His ability to attract both Katy and her former Ovum colleague Gary Barnett adds further testament to his standing in the analysis and research world.

Going back to Katy's story, she joined Bathwick to set up the IT services group. A quick hire was Kate Hanaghan from Ovum. Together the two are now busy building up the business. The most public of their efforts is the quarterly Bathwick Services Index (BSI) which surveys the 20 leading IT services vendors that together shape the IT services market in Western Europe. The first Index (on Industrialisation) came out in November.

We're going to watch progress with interest. Katy and Kate are both very good but let's not fool ourselves. The market will be tough this year and there is a lot of established competition out there.

However, we are firm believers that a small group of well respected individuals can do very well, provided they are able to deliver the right type of high-quality service at a reasonable price (think Freeform Dynamics and CCS Insight for example).

And, let's be honest, some of Bathwick's rivals are not so great and do seem to be living off their reputation as much as the value they provide.

Interesting and exciting times...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Redundancies made by big analyst firms

SageCircle has posted on its blog that Gartner and AMR are laying off staff.

Via Twitter, Carter also comments on the situation at IDC (a small round of layoffs in December) and Forrester (nothing there).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ovum reborn in IT services?

It's been interesting and encouraging to watch the revival of Ovum's IT services practice over recent months. Under the leadership of Eamonn Kennedy, the company is slowly but surely re-establishing its reputation as a tier one player in the market.

The IT services team looks stronger than it has done for the past few years. Luring Eamonn back from NelsonHall was a real coup for Ovum. He's a world-class analyst.

With David Mitchell's support and encouragement, Eamonn has been busy since his return, building out the team, strengthening the skill base and expanding its geographic coverage.

Hiring Alexander Simkin from Clarendon was an inspired choice, given that his previous experience as an analyst was in software rather than services. He is already impressing with his thorough, research-driven approach to analysis.

Alexander's recruitment should help Ovum sharpen the intellectual rigour of its research, something that Eamonn is keen to do. In a world where some analyst firms are blurring the lines between analysis and journalism, Eamonn recognises that high quality analysis will help Ovum stand out in the future and add real value to its clients.

Eamonn also has global ambitions. As well as the five analysts in Europe (Ian Brown, Samad Masood and John O’Brien are the others), his team now includes John Madden who has responsibility for North America while Jens Butler was hired back in November specifically to look after Asia-Pacific.

Starting to position Ovum as a worldwide IT services analyst firm makes sense. If the old cliché of 'get big, get niche or get out' holds true for the analyst market, then this is the only route available to the company.

Datamonitor, which owns Ovum, is ambitious. It won’t be content for Ovum to remain a niche UK and EMEA specialist. There is a much bigger IT services market out there and Eamonn wants his team to reflect this.

It doesn’t mean that Ovum will stop covering the UK market - but we expect growth outside of the UK to remain a priority for Eamonn.

Then there's Orbys. Purchased by Ovum several years ago, this advisory firm works with firms looking to procure IT outsourcing services. It could give Ovum a real competitive edge over most of its rivals. Apart from Gartner, how many analyst firms are there covering the IT services market that can bring together qualitative research (Ovum), quantitative research (Datamonitor) and the first hand experience of working with buyers (Orbys)? The resulting research and analysis could really sing.

We think that David and Eamonn have made a good start to re-establishing Ovum as a tier 1 player in the IT services market. High quality, fact-based research and analysis are sometimes hard to find in this sector (which is surprising given the number of players out there). It looks like this is what Ovum wants to deliver so we wish Eamonn well in his efforts.

Hopefully, John Leigh – the newly appointed research and analysis director – will support Eamonn as he continues on the journey. Great progress has been made so far - but Eamonn is the first to say that there's plenty of work still to be done.