Today’s IIAR> Around in 10 questions interview is with Swapnil Bhatnagar, Senior Research Director, Avasant (LinkedIn, @swapnbha). See also the IIAR> Webinar: Analyst Pet Peeves- Things AR Pros need to pay attention to.
- What are your coverage areas?
We have identified six digital technology prerequisite areas fundamental to enterprise transformation – AI & Advanced Analytics, Intelligent Automation, Hybrid Cloud, Advanced Networks, Cybersecurity, and IoT.
My personal interest area is the interplay between these technology prerequisites and their converged applications in various end-user industries. I cover these from both software products as well as services perspective. One of the most exciting new themes that I am exploring is the speed and nature of transformation of enterprise business processes due to accelerated digital adoption in a post-pandemic world. We have expanded the coverage of our Industry RadarView program to over 15 key verticals to ensure we stay on top of rapid changes across industries over the next 12-18 months.
- What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
I think the IT Analysis marketplace is amid fundamental change. Technology buyers are seeing transformative value coming only from the convergence of emerging technologies. In such a scenario, traditional coverage silos amongst analysts will have to be broken down as tech buyer questions can only be answered by taking a holistic view of the interplay between technologies. I expect analyst firms will change their definitions of research areas.
- What’s your typical day like?
The typical day has changed significantly over the last year. Earlier, there was a lot of travel to analyst events and provider/buyer meetings (I’m based out of our New Delhi office, so I travel to the US and Europe 4-5 times a year, generally for extended periods). Now, the day typically begins with internal calls and reviews of ongoing studies. The second half is generally spent in online briefings, participating in industry virtual events, buyer enquiries, post-publication debriefs, discussions with advisory partners, etc. A fair amount of time also goes towards analysing our buyer queries and advisor discussions to identify and ideate research themes that are ahead of the curve.
- Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
A couple of years ago an AR professional reached out to set up an analyst session with some practice leaders who were flying in from different cities. They were coming for customer meetings, and the AR pro was keen to get the practice leaders to listen to our views on the market. We had planned a two-hour session. However, that morning after he was already in our office, he realised none of the others had reached the city due to series of exigencies (health, minor accidents, canceled flights etc.).
We had a good laugh about it and converted the session into an excellent extended lunch!
- How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
Historically, we are a management consulting firm, largely serving as advisors to large organisations in strategic sourcing of IT products and services, business process outsourcing, and digital transformation programs. As such, more than 80% of our revenues come from end-user organisations, and we have the privilege to work with over 400 of the Fortune 2000 companies.
Around five years ago, we incubated our subscription research and data services, which not only contribute a significant revenue stream now, but also serve to bolster our own advisory services with research and data. In turn, our research analysts gain insights into what our consultants learn in real deals and are able to bring that knowledge to bear in market assessments, buyer enquiries and vendor discussions.
We continue to make significant investments to expand our research and data coverage. In 2020, we acquired Computer Economics, a 40+ year old IT research firm that produces IT management metrics, largely around IT spending and staffing benchmarks. This brought in over 500 research and data subscribers spanning end-user organisations, leading consulting firms, all major accounting firms, Tier 1 ITO and BPO service providers, technology vendors and private equity, venture capitalists, and Investment Banking firms.
- What is your research methodology?
Primary research based on briefings, online surveys and executive discussions. We augment these with inputs from Avasant’s sourcing advisors and Distinguished Fellows (Advisory board comprising of former CXOs).
- Any favourite AR professional you’d like to mention? Any why?
We’ve been lucky to work with several excellent AR professionals across organizations. They are all dedicated, smart, and responsive.
A couple of names that I can highlight are Rohan Kurian Varghese at HCL and Shevy Magen at IBM/Kyndryl. It is a joy to speak to both of them for our quarterly chats as they have really understood the higher purpose and role of analysts in the technology ecosystem. They bring great insight about their own organizations, and also about how they are helping evolve the space itself.
Rohan has a very measured, thoughtful approach and I have left meetings with him feeling more enriched. Shevy is a livewire bubbling with ideas and thoughts and really spreads an infectious energy in his interactions.
- Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
Responsiveness beats everything else when it comes to good AR practices. This is even more important in a client situation where AR professionals help us navigate internal divisions and silos in getting time-sensitive information.
A good AR event that I attended was Orange Business Services’ analyst day in Paris before the pandemic shut down all travel. The content was spot on and clearly articulated how they had been traversing their stated strategy over the last two years. In terms of structure, there were candid 1:1 sessions with their leadership team, and several client interactions. There was also great follow-up (another good practice I would really recommend) in terms of sharing additional material and follow up calls.
- What are your offerings and key deliverables?
As I mentioned earlier, our research and data offerings span all aspects of the end user’s tech journey:
We bring the strategy consulting and sourcing advisory offerings from our consulting practice. This is augmented with our RadarView market, provider, and product assessments to help our advisors and enterprises understand providers’ strengths to enable them to develop their short lists, especially in digital technologies and applications.
We also have a differentiated productized benchmarking offering called AvaMark. This provides the tools and knowhow to enterprises looking to optimize their tech investments. This is also extremely useful in single-source or contract renegotiation scenarios.
And to tie it all together, our acquisition of Computer Economics provides our clients access to some of the deepest IT management metrics around IT budgets, staffing, salaries, and technology adoption in the market today. We also provide custom research and thought leadership-centric engagements.
- Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
I enjoy writing short fiction and have also been published in several literary magazines. It is my escape from the data-centric, precise, research writing that is my day job!
I also play tennis most weekends, or at least I did before the pandemic, though I would fall in the ‘enthusiastic trier’ category when it comes to my game proficiency.