This week, it is my pleasure to welcome one of the Neils of MWD Advisors.com, only shortly after he kindly participated at our last IIAR Forum: Neil Ward-Dutton. Those two ex-Ovum analyst have founded MWD in 2005, and this year have hired two more analysts and launched their first continuous advisory services. They also have a blog called On IT-business alignment, and related thing.
- What are your coverage areas?
At MWD we organise ourselves around two things: “IT competency areas” (like process management, governance, software delivery, collaboration and so on) and “disruptive trends” (things like SOA, SaaS, virtualisation, Web 2.0, and so on). In our model, these form a matrix that we try and cover. As well as helping to run the company my main job at the moment is to run our research programme in the process management competency area, and also help to lead our work in SOA.
- What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
How long have you got? This is a question I’ve spent many hours debating (mainly in bars at conferences). There’s a lot of talk, amongst both our vendor and enterprise customers, about dissatisfaction with the inflexibility, high prices and complexity of dealing with the big firms. However they still have a huge amount of momentum in the market and massive mindshare, and that isn’t going to change significantly any time soon I don’t think. I like to think of them as “the furniture” – we can’t compete with them directly; they’ll always be there. They’re a bit like IBM and Microsoft in the enterprise software market. Still, though, we see a lot of opportunity for firms like MWD which are prepared to think differently and work really hard to deliver great customer service. I was recently asked about the outlook for MWD, given the uncertain economic conditions, at an IIAR round table event. My response, which I’ll stick by, is that the quality of our work and our pricing structure mean that we find there’s no shortage of business out there for us – our main challenge right now is finding the resources to go after it in the most effective way.
- What’s your typical day like?
Long. But fun. The best days are spent working with customers face-to-face, helping them solve problems, or working through ideas with my teammates; the worst days are spent doing back-office stuff
- How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
We’re an advisory firm focused on helping organisations align IT and business, and maximise the business value they get from their IT investments. Our starting point in everything we do is that focus. When we started the business we decided we needed to build a community and a footprint in the market: so we decided to give all our research reports away for free for the first 3 years. So until this year, all our revenue came from one-on-one consulting – with vendors and with enterprises. We’ve just launched two subscription advisory services, though, and these offer a layer of “value added” research reports and interactive decision support tools separately from our free “guest pass” research library. These are pitched primarily at European enterprises, but we’re also selling them to vendors.
- What is your research methodology?
We use f2f and phone-based primary research with vendors (looking at capabilities, directions, SWOT etc) and enterprises (uncovering perceptions, challenges, maturity, etc). Some of our enterprise research in done in partnership with Freeform Dynamics.
- Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve atttended.
At a big analyst event last year, held at a swanky hotel, we had beautiful weather but most of the sessions were scheduled in a set of dark, windowless rooms in the basement. In one breakout, the session leader said “sod it, let’s go outside”. So rather than stand up and give a prepared death-by-Powerpoint talk, he took a group of us outside. We sat by the pool and had a great, informal round-table discussion. He was prepared to go off-piste, and I think that he (and the rest of us) got much more out of the session as a result.
- What are your offerings and key deliverables?
As mentioned above our big focus right now is our new annual subscription advisory and research services (we currently offer one focused on BPM, and another focused on collaboration). These provide a mixture of vendor capability comparison tools, European best practice research and case studies, European market maturity research and enquiry time. They have “open licensing” terms that allow anyone in a customer organisation to access the research and (if the customer wants) place enquiries. In addition to these packaged products we offer custom enterprise consulting services (strategy reviews, procurement assistance, benchmarking and best practice workshops primarily) and vendor consulting services (quarterly strategy/messaging review retainers, competitive intelligence input, speaking at customer/partner events, and some very tightly-controlled creation of vendor-neutral thought leadership papers). We’re always developing new ideas, so check back regularly!
- Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
When I’m not working or spending time with my son, I try to find time to play guitar, write songs, grow veg and cook for friends. I’m currently trying to persuade my wife that we can keep chickens. If I ever have a chunk of money that I can throw at something completely self-indulgent I’ll always aim to take my wife to a really good restaurant.
- What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
For the next 6 months: continue to build our new advisory services business on a shoestring, so we can invest in some dedicated sales, marketing and customer service resources. For the next 30 min: finish some emails before my crappy laptop battery runs out…
- Is there another analyst (a peer in your firm or with another firm) whose work you rate highly?
Well of course I think my MWD co-founder, Neil Macehiter, is a brilliant analyst and consultant. Without him we’d be all over the place. But outside MWD, I’ve also had the privilege of working with lots of great analysts. Dale Vile, Gary Barnett, Katy Ring, Jessica Figueras and Eric Woods (in no particular order) all spring to mind.