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...

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