Ovum (related blog posts, website) the UK-based analyst firm which enjoys a soft spot in the hearts of many AR pros, has gone through tough times in recent years.
Multiple changes of ownership accompanied by several different MDs have led to inconsistent and regularly changing strategies for the business, and a considerable turnover of staff.
Is this period in Ovum’s history now at an end, following the appointment of Aneil Rakity (LinkedIn) as the MD in 2016?
David Rossiter (LinkedIn, @davidrossiter), IIAR UK Chapter and director of analyst relations at Harvard, had the opportunity recently to sit down with Aneil and chief research officer Tim Jennings (@tjennings, LinkedIn) to find out what’s going on.
Read on for this and don’t miss the IIAR Webinar with Ovum on Wednesday 25th October > REGISTER NOW.
Since joining 18 months ago, Aneil has worked with his team on developing the vision and strategy for Ovum, securing parent company Informa’s support for his plans, and getting the business in shape to deliver them.
One of the first questions I put to Aneil was whether the Ovum brand would continue to be used. He was quick to dismiss any suggestion of rebranding to Informa and confirmed that Informa agreed with this decision and saw substantial value in the Ovum name.
In discussing where Ovum plays in the TMT (technology, media and telecoms) ecosystem, Aneil confirmed that Ovum has a focused strategy and isn’t trying to offer a comprehensive range of research and advisory services across all areas of the TMT space.
Instead, he is focusing Ovum not only on traditional areas of expertise (e.g. consumer/enterprise telco services, media & entertainment, service provider technology) but also increasingly targeting specific high-growth or disruptive subsets of the TMT market where he believes the company has market-leading capabilities. These include IoT, Cloud, 5G, Big Data, Security, Payments, Devices and AI.
Data and forecasts, which Aneil described as “a historic Ovum strength”, remain critically important to the business, and a key part of the strategy is to ensure that Ovum’s insights are built on a robust fact base.
Aneil also confirmed that Informa investment is going into an upgrade to the Ovum Knowledge Center platform and the creation of a new Forecaster product that will give clients what is thought to be “a unique ‘whole of market’ view.”
Overall, Aneil wants Ovum to be able to make a difference to its customers, enabling digital service providers and their technology partners to profit from the connected digital economy. At its core, Ovum says it is helping its customers to answer three questions: where to play, what to deliver, and what to sell.
To accomplish this, Aneil is looking to expand Ovum’s international presence (there’s a new office in San Francisco and further hires in Asia) and approach its target areas in a more joined-up, coherent and practical way, concentrating on how technologies can be applied to specific use-cases and industries.
Driven by customer interest, this has led to a research agenda covering topics such as “The Augmented Customer”, “Digital First Strategies” and “The Hyper-Connected World”. Aneil and Tim discussed the importance of vertical understanding, highlighting strengths in areas ranging from communications to financial services, the public sector, education and retail.
Given active support by Informa at board level, there seems to be a good chance of Aneil’s strategy for Ovum succeeding. He is clear about the challenges that Ovum has faced in the past and wants to avoid the company making the same mistakes again.
The goals he has set look ambitious but reasonable and achievable, and capable of delivering value to customers.
He has also been able to secure the support of some well-known and highly-regarded research leaders to sit on his research leadership team, including Tim Jennings as Chief Research Officer.
On top of this, Brad Hecht joined Ovum earlier this month as Global Research Director. If his name isn’t familiar to you, Brad’s worked for over 20 years in leadership positions at the Reputation Institute, CEB, and the Yankee Group. He was also the vice president and general manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was responsible for expanding MIT’s content strategy, including working with MIT’s Technology Review magazine and the creation of its Internet media property.
Despite all this, there do remain some questions over what Ovum’s future will look like.
One difficulty in targeting fast-growing, disruptive markets is that other firms also see the opportunities these present. At least two other global analyst firms we’ve spoken to recently have identified the same segments as a key focus. Ovum will only be successful in these sectors if it is able to deliver a unique approach for customers, something that has already been given some thought and attention.
Then there’s the question about how much emphasis Ovum will continue to place on selling research and advisory services to the end-user enterprise market.
Aneil says this continues to be an important market segment for Ovum but that services will be increasingly delivered by analysts outside of the traditional “technology buyer” team.
The rationale is that these end-user clients (including both line-of business and technology executives) are looking for a trusted advisor on so-called “digital hotspots”. They want the answer to the question “how do I transform my IT in a digital way?” Aneil sees their needs being best met by bringing together sector specialists and horizontal technology analysts, which seems a sensible approach.
When asked about some of Ovum’s differentiators, Aneil called out its comprehensive data and forecasts, depth of analyst and consulting expertise in key digital services and markets, and the benefits of being part of Informa.
On the latter point, Aneil highlighted not only the enterprise reach and influence that Ovum gains through Informa’s series of conferences (that its analysts regularly chair), but also the benefits of Informa’s acquisition last year of Penton Information Services, a US exhibitions and professional information services group.
Penton has brought Informa a new set of marketing services capabilities and the ability to reach over 20 million professionals in North America, across a range of industry sectors. Aneil, who is regularly out talking to Ovum’s clients, said that they had responded very positively to this development and new services “are in the works.”
However, probably the biggest question is whether Aneil will be given enough time to fully implement his strategy and show it is working.
In the past, Informa has sometimes left the impression that it’s overly impatient to see results; if Ovum didn’t deliver quickly on a new strategy, it was time for a change.
Aneil’s vision and strategy for Ovum come across as credible and realistic. It also seems that early results are promising and customers are buying into the new-look company.
Let’s hope so. In a market dominated by one global player, it’s good to have as many credible alternatives out there as possible. A successful Ovum has an opportunity to firmly cement itself as one of these.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
We will be holding a webinar with Aneil and some of his Ovum colleagues on Wednesday 25th October, including Q&A. If you’re interested, please REGISTER NOW.
IIAR Webinars are free to attend for all IIAR Members, a good reason for joining the IIAR. For non-members there is a fee of $25 / £25 (pay here) that is redeemable against IIAR Membership over the next 12 months. Join the IIAR via the form on this page, new members are always welcome !
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