As an industry analyst, it makes sense for me to keep an eye on events in my own backyard of technology research firms, as well as the mobile industry. So it's fascinating for me to watch the offer this morning by Datamonitor for Ovum.
It's particularly interesting, because in 1991, I was employee #7 at Datamonitor, and was one of the first 2 analysts to write technology research there in 1992. I worked directly for the two founders, Mike Danson and Doug Wilson. (Mike is still there & remains the largest shareholder). Unlike Ovum, Datamonitor covers multiple industries and doesn't just focus research & consultancy on the tech sector - it has analysts watching everything from chocolate biscuits to cardiovascular drugs.
When I left in early 2000, I was one of the directors of the technology business unit - and at that time, we estimated internally that we'd just overtaken Ovum as the 3rd largest technology analyst firm in terms of European revenues, after Gartner and IDC. In fact, one of the strategies I'd been driving during the late 1990s was to specifically target Ovum's telecoms & IT specialism. (I'll also hold my hands up & confess to helping steer DM away from wireless & more towards IP networks & security). However, over time Datamonitor decided to relinquish much of the hardcore techy analyst domain to the specialists, and focus on leveraging its knowledge of other industries to provide vertical market information (IT in the banking industry, telecoms in the pharmaceutical sector and so on). Ovum itself went through a rough patch after then collapse of the bubble in 2001-2, but wasn't as geared into some of the fluffier dotcom areas as many of its US peers, so rode out the storm better.
In the big scheme of things, the combined DM/Ovum technology division is still a relative minnow on a global scale - Ovum has revenues about £18m per year, and I'll guess that about 20% of Datamonitor's £56m was in tech-related areas. So, a total of about £30m / $55m - against Gartner's $800m+ . Mind you, there are still quite a few other decent mid-size firms that could become targets if DM decides to really push towards a global tech analyst position (Yankee, Strategy Analytics, Pyramid, IDATE & Current Analysis spring to mind).
One of the challenges that Datamonitor is going to find is exactly how to blend (or perhaps keep separate) the different identities and cultures of Ovum, Datamonitor and Butler research. My perception is that the gap between them has widened a lot since my time at DM's "palatial" London offices. I suspect that quite a few customers of Ovum will be feeling a bit bemused by this move, as in recent years Datamonitor has had much less of a presence in areas like telecoms. In my view, Datamonitor is a very well-run company from a business & shareholder value point of view - but (certainly on the technology side) has not pushed quite as hard on intellectual thought-leadership and "brand name" industry guru positioning. When I was there, analysts weren't even individually named on reports. When I was at Datamonitor, there was also a real work-hard/play-hard culture, emulating the long hours, ruthless deadlines & bonus-oriented remuneration of some strategy consultancies and investment banks... I remember my boss' favourite line "So...how's your weekend looking?" with a mix of fondness & dread, as you could be certain he'd be in the office on Saturday too.
From a personal & wireless-centric point of view, this acquisition probably won't make any material difference to Disruptive Analysis. DM has never really played much in the mobile area, outside of a few bits on enterprise mobility, and I already compete with Ovum. On the other hand, I still know quite a few DM analysts, and regularly meet my Ovum peers at industry events, so I wish everyone well for the future.
Just seen this fantastic comment (not a direct quote I suspect) from Mike interviewed by CityWire, which to me rather sums up the difference between the DM philosophy (create templated business information products & sell the heck out of them) and more conventional tech analysts view (employ knowledgeable but sometimes prima-donnaesque gurus and monetise what they have to say, ideally communicating directly with clients wherever feasible).
"Ovum markets itself as a people-based adviser and consultancy, but Danson says that this is flannel to make it look posh. He argues that, in fact, its services are product-based."
Gartner, of course, tries to do both approaches simultaneously using a volatile mix of gurus and an aggressive salesforce)