Monday, April 14, 2014

Forrester announces reduction in workforce

Last week, Forrester Research filed a statement with the SEC announcing that it's reducing its workforce by approximately 1%.  That suggests about 12 or 13 people are affected - and I understand some of these are analysts.

There's more information and a good discussion going on in the KCG Connects LinkedIn group.  This is a closed group only open to AR professionals but if you're not already a member it's worth asking Stephen England or Bill Hopkins from KCG if you can join. 

The full statement, which can be found on the Forrester website under SEC Filings said:

"On April 9, 2014, the Company announced a reduction in its workforce of approximately 1% of its employees across various geographies and functions. This action was approved by the Company on March 31, 2014. Notification to affected persons commenced on April 9, 2014 and is expected to be completed by April 25, 2014. The Company expects to incur pre-tax expenses of $1.4 million to $1.7 million in the first and second quarters of 2014 related principally to cash severance and related benefit costs for terminated employees."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ovum merges with Informa Telecoms & Media; interview with CEO

Informa plc announced yesterday that it’s merging Ovum and the Informa Telecoms & Media research business (ITM) to create a new IT, telecoms and media analyst firm.

Steve Hotham, currently MD of Ovum, has been appointed as CEO of the new company.   He was kind enough to talk me through what’s happening.

A new company but an established brand

“The first thing is that the new merged company is to retain the Ovum name.   We talked it through internally at Ovum and ITM and decided it’s better to use the Ovum name because it’s a stronger and more unique brand in the market than ITM. It also means we’ve avoided any confusion between us and the parent company which might have happened if we’d used the Informa name in the brand,” said Steve

As a result, the ITM research brand is being retired immediately (although Ovum is still part of the Informa Telecoms & Media group within Informa plc). 

The new Ovum has two divisions:  Telecoms & Media and IT.  It employs 180 analysts, out of a total staff of 275, and has 23 offices worldwide – in the UK, mainland Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia, the US and Latin America.

Among its research and consulting clients, it counts 90% of the top tier telcos, 15 of the top 20 media companies, 25 of the top 30 tech vendors and nine of the top 10 management consultancies.   

Strength in-depth across IT, telecoms and media
Steve said: “The group is investing in us so we can come to market as a brand new company.  This isn’t just about adding Ovum to ITM or vice versa.  We’ve gone back to basics. We’ve analysed the markets we serve.  We’ve improved every single telecoms and media service we sell, as well as many IT services, and we're designing new products to meet market needs.”

It’s obvious that Steve and his team see the new company being a much more powerful force in the market than either of the old individual Ovum or ITM businesses.

Steve explains:  “This merger has been driven by a vision. Combining Ovum and ITM enables us to offer the most comprehensive and in-depth telecoms research service available worldwide.” 

In fact, with 90 analysts, Ovum now claims to have more people in its telecoms team than any other analyst firm.  

But it’s not just about telecoms and media.  “We have spent a lot of time getting to the bottom of what’s unique about us.  It’s that we connect IT, media and telecoms in a way that no-one else can,” says Steve.

“We are now one of a handful of analyst companies, if not the only one, that researches all three markets in-depth.  We can advise on each market individually but more than this, we are also very well placed to advise companies on the convergence of these three markets.”

A telecoms powerhouse

Richard Mahony, who was director of telecoms research and analysis at the old Ovum, and is now becoming telecoms research director for the new Ovum joined Steve on the call last week. 

Both of them wanted to make it clear that the merger of the Ovum and ITM telecoms teams makes good business sense, describing the two as complementary rather than competitive.

Richard said: “If you overlaid Ovum’s areas of strength on those of ITM, it was a good fit with very little overlap. 

“Ovum’s strength was in providing strategic qualitative information while ITM’s specialism was quantitative information.  Put them together and it’s a powerful package that only a few other analyst firms can offer.”

Richard was also quick to point out “Some companies used research from both companies but they bought different types of services so there’s little risk of sales cannibalisation.  In fact, there’s now a strong opportunity for us to cross-sell services between our unique customer sets.”

IT is a core Ovum service

We talked about the IT business too.  Steve wanted to squash one story that's been circulating: “The rumour that we’re selling Ovum’s IT business is untrue.  We’re continuing to grow in this area.   Don’t forget, we see our USP as connecting IT, media and telecoms in a way that no other research firm can.  We are not interested in selling either of the IT or the Telecoms & Media businesses.”

This was reinforced when I spoke with Ian Charlesworth, MD for the new IT business (and previously director of IT research and analysis at the old Ovum).

“The convergence of IT and telecoms gives us a great opportunity.  For example, telcos are looking at how they can become IT service providers and we’re seeing enterprise software companies providing technology solutions which were previously the domain of specialist telco software firms. From the buy-side, there’s no longer any separation between enterprise IT and telecommunication. Enterprise IT managers simply need to manage their technology portfolio of infrastructure, applications, and data.

“To provide complete research on this converging world, you need to understand the two sectors from both dimensions. For us, there’s real synergy and a significant competitive differentiator to have strong teams covering both sectors.  Our IT team couldn’t do such a good job without our telco team and vice versa.”

Ian explained that the IT and telco teams are already working together on some topics which sit across both markets.  “Think of subjects like the Internet of Things, BYOD and cloud computing. We’re bringing the IT and telco teams together to collaborate so we go out to customers with a single, comprehensive product.  It’s hard work but the results are stronger and it differentiates us from other analyst firms.”

Steve is also clear that he and Ian have spent a lot of time re-evaluating the IT business and understanding its key strengths:  “We have refocused and are positioning ourselves around those strengths.  We have a lot of expertise in certain emerging technology segments and intend to be seen as leaders in those areas.” 

Ian picked up the same thread:  “There are four main areas where we want to focus on being market leader and we’ve been focused on these areas since the second half of last year.”

These are:
  • Customer Engagement (including contact centre, customer data management, customer analytics, social media and digital marketing) 
  • Information Management (including big data, analytics and business intelligence, and data visualisation)
  • Enterprise Mobility and Productivity (a range of workplace technologies including BYOD, mobile device management, collaboration tools, and BPM)
  • Infrastructure Modernization (covers everything that IT departments use to manage their IT estate, e.g. provisioning of IT services, cloud services, application development, IT security)

Ian continued:  “This helps with our vertical perspective as well. We’re able to take this horizontal expertise and look at how these technologies are being applied in our target vertical industries – e.g. retail banking, education, public sector, oil and gas, and of course telecoms.  It’s another example of differentiation though intelligent collaboration.”

Investment from Informa

Evaluation and planning of the merger has been underway for one year and the integration of Ovum and ITM is almost complete.  The companies are expected to be fully merged by the end of May. 

The last thing to happen will be the launch of a new Knowledge Centre, the primary way in which clients will access Ovum’s research online.

All research products are being carried over to the new knowledge centre with new ones also being introduced. 

These include World View, a new service which brings together telecoms and media data sets such as WCIS (World Cellular Information Service), WBIS (World Broadband Information Service) and WTVIS (World Television Information Service).   In telecoms, Ovum now provides the most in-depth KPIs available for 200 countries and has detailed forecast coverage available for 67 countries.

New products will also cover Enterprise Services Technology, aimed at telcos looking at the IT services market, as well as digital media and digital music.

Two new divisions

The Telecoms & Media division, led by Martin Hill (who was MD of ITM), employs 108 analysts.  90 of these work in telecoms and 18 in media. 

Richard Mahony (from Ovum) is research director for telecoms and Rob Gallagher is research director for media and entertainment.  Mark Newman is chief research officer and Nick Jotischky is consulting director.  The latter three are all from ITM.

There are 72 analysts in the IT division, led by Ian Charlesworth (who was director of IT research and analysis for Ovum). His leadership team all come from Ovum, which is unsurprising as ITM didn’t cover the IT market.

Tim Jennings is chief research officer. Maxine Holt is research director for software, Nicole Engelbert is research director for industries, John Madden is research director for services and Adrian Drury is consulting director. 

Steve didn’t deny there had been some redundancies but wouldn't go into detail. He explained: “Naturally, when you bring companies together there’s some duplication of roles. However in such cases, we are trying to redeploy people and make sure any redundancies are minimal.  Plus we’ve also been hiring new people in our fastest growth areas such as media and entertainment. Overall, the staffing numbers in the new company are not significantly changing from the old Ovum and ITM businesses combined.”

A global boutique

Ian Charlesworth gets the last word:  “We have the strengths of the specialist – our focus on customers, our flexibility, our agility. Combined with these, we have all the advantages of a large provider - global scale, certified and consistent research methodologies, in-depth data assets and insights.

“Think of Ovum IT as a global boutique. No one else combines the advantages of a large provider with the focus of a specialist. That’s what our customers told us they wanted so that’s what we've done.”

The Informa Telecoms & Media research business (ITM) referred to in my blog is separate from the Informa Telecoms & Media Group, even though they share the same name.

Both ITM and Ovum were part of the Informa Telecoms & Media Group, which is run by Ian Hemming.  The new Ovum company now sits in this group, and Steve reports to Ian. 

Personal note:
It was generous of Steve, Richard and Ian to make time to speak to me about the merger.  My thanks to them.  Thanks also to Ovum’s PR manager Claire Booty who arranged the calls.

This is the first of two blogs that I’m working on this week about the Ovum and ITM merger.  The second will be published in a few days and will contain more of my views and analysis.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

New analyst firm specialising in Internet of Things and M2M

I might be slightly late to the party on this one but it's great to see Steve Hilton has set up his own analyst firm, MachNation.

It specialises in covering the "future of the Internet of things (IoT), Internet of Everything (IoE), connected device and machine-to-machine (M2M) ecosystems."

Steve used to be at Analysys Mason where he led its enterprise and SMB research team and started its coverage of the M2M / IoT space.

Setting up your own business is never easy, so well done to Steve for giving it a go and all the best with the new venture.