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New firms sprout roots in the Asia/Pacific IT analyst landscape

Like the markets it supports, the IT industry analyst landscape is in a constant state of change. Firms come and go, research agendas shift to new technologies, business models are tweaked & redirected, deliverables metamorphose to reflect changed information consumption habits.

The last few years has seen quite a bit of consolidation at the “top end of town” as larger players have bought up smaller firms which provide them with access to new markets or opportunities. Forrester acquired home-grown APJ firm, Springboard Research three years ago, and Gartner soaked up IDEAS International in 2012. More recently, 451 Research picked up Yankee Group, a shadow of its former self, and Informa Telecoms transmogrified into Ovum, which it had acquired a few years ago.

These deals have been well reported, but just as interesting is what has been happening at the other end of the market. The analyst business is a classic “long tail” industry – there are hundreds of companies which fit the broad definition of “analyst firm” – and there are few barriers to entry, so there are always new players.

Over the past couple of years, quite a number of new seeds have been sown in the Asia/Pacific region. Some of these have already borne fruit, some are still quite nascent. They all have different business models, different focus areas, different capabilities, and how well they perform remains to be seen.

But they all have something to offer. As we’ve noted before, any analyst firm can give you insights into a market or technology – how important that is to a vendor depends on its own market focus, information needs, budget availability & many other factors.

Very few analyst firms have true influence over end-user purchasing decisions, but many influence around the edges, or can help create exposure for vendors to build awareness or help them better address their market opportunities. These are all valid outcomes of an analyst relations program, just addressed differently.

We thought it worthwhile to profile some of the “new” firms which have come on to our radar in APJ over the last couple of years. There are also a couple of firms which are relatively new on the scene that didn’t want to be included in our coverage at this point, but we’ll likely hear more of them as they get themselves established. We make no judgment on the capabilities or likely success of these firms, and to avoid any allegations of bias, they’re listed alphabetically.

 BigInsights (Australia)

Big data is a big topic, and that’s all that BigInsights covers, offering research, consulting, go-to-market services & training. The firm was founded by a former HP colleague of mine, Raj Dalal, who also spent some time covering emerging technologies for IDC Asia/Pacific. Also on board is another ex-HPer, David Triggs – as CTO – and former IDC Australia software analyst, Shayum Rahim – as research director – while the advisory board includes Ramin Marzbani, who in the 1990s built the internet research firm, www.consult, before selling it to ACNielsen; and Vikram Mehta, who rolled the blade server business out of Nortel to create Blade Network Technologies, later selling it to IBM.

BigInsights’ business model is fairly “traditional” and primarily focused on vendors with specific big data products, but includes some end-user services including discovery workshops & training. Key research studies include an annual technology & vendor landscape, and demand-side research on big data technology adoption, both covering the Asia/Pacific region.

 capioIT (Australia)

It’s been nearly four years since Phil Hassey set up capioIT, so he probably has more visibility than some of the newer firms, but still merits inclusion on this list. For a one-man band, Phil covers a lot of ground within his focus area of emerging technologies & emerging markets – recent studies have included topics as diverse as BI & analytics, infrastructure services, Chinese tier 2 & 3 cities, and natural resources IT solutions – but broadly his strength is around IT services & enterprise software.

With a background leading IT services research for Springboard and IDC Asia/Pacific, Phil delivers research & consulting services to vendors, but also undertakes custom consulting projects for end-user organisations in Australia as well as in other countries in APJ. Unlike many analysts, he also invests a lot of time & some of his own money doing on-the-ground research in many countries.

 Greyhound Research (India)

Former Forrester/Springboard analyst Sanchit Vir Gogia started Greyhound just over a year ago, positioning it as an IT & telecom research & advisory firm, focused on emerging markets. While many of the pages on its website remain incomplete, Sanchit told us that the firm targeted three audiences – IT decision-makers, IT vendors & partners, and venture capital funds – and revenue was reasonably balanced across the three, with clients in India, ASEAN and the Middle East.

Greyhound’s services include free & paid research, custom research, role-based advisory, toolkits & speaking engagements, with broad technology coverage focused on five business themes. Sanchit is also fairly visible through his blog, AsDisruptiveAsITGets, and on Twitter.

 Progessive Digital Media Group (UK)

Datamonitor founder, Michael Danson, who sold his business to Informa in 2007, has recently been rolling up a range of publishing & research businesses across a range of industries. The firm most relevant to this space is Kable, which does detailed primary research on ICT usage in 14 industries in 33 markets, and which also owns telco research & advisory firm, Pyramid, and Strategic Defence Intelligence, which tracks the global defence business.

For the past few months, former IDC Australia & Datamonitor sales director, Paul Hodges, has been ramping up the APJ sales operation in Sydney, and is planning to add country & regional analysts over coming months. Collectively, the PDM businesses have an enormous amount of data on technology consumption & usage, so the potential to further develop services of interest to both vendors & users is high.

 Specialist Computing (Australia)

After covering data centre technology for more than a decade with Gartner & a long career in marketing/technical roles with major IT vendors such as HDS, Phil Sargeant established Specialist Computing last year to focus on storage technologies, as well as server & desktop virtualisation.

While strictly speaking a consultancy rather than an analyst firm as there is no regular cycle of research, Specialist’s services are primarily focused on end-users, including creating & evaluating storage RFT/RFPs and creating storage & virtualisation plans.

 Tech Research Asia (Australia & Japan)

Tim Dillon had an extensive background as an analyst – leading IDC Asia/Pacific’s mobility practice, establishing Current Analysis’ European analyst operation& heading up Asia/Pacific research for Current Analysis, among other roles – before setting up TRA two years ago. Tokyo-based Trevor Clarke, formerly IDC Australia’s lead infrastructure analyst and a former editor of Computerworld Australia, joined the team as a partner a few months later, with former Corporate Express/Staples CIO, Garry Whatley, coming on board more recently.

While TRA positions itself as able to assist end-user executives – and many of its engagements are with CxOs and CIOs across the region – the majority of its revenues are derived from ICT vendors and service providers.TRA has broad technology coverage – although its published research has a strong focus on mobility and the future of work – and says its primary focus is analysing the business outcomes from technology, rather than technology per se. All of its team are active on the regional speaking circuit.

Generally speaking, all of these firms have chosen to focus on market niches where they can compete effectively with some of the bigger players. Key advantages they enjoy include nimbleness & flexibility, unconstrained by the business models, research methodologies & market taxonomies of the more established firms.

Of course, they lack the reach & scale that give some of the leaders a certain amount of market muscle, and scaling up requires adding quality analysts, who are often hard to find. And while some of them will be capable of producing quality research across the APJ region, they will understandably be stronger in their home markets, simply because no amount of travel can compensate for having feet on the street.

From an AR perspective, vendors should be thinking about how, when & why to engage with these firms. Some will make more sense than others, but they’re certainly worth exploring further.

Have we missed anyone? Let us know if there are other new players we should be looking at.

Cheers,

Dave

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