Acquisitions continue to remake the analyst landscape – Looking ahead to 2010

icon-crystal-ball.jpgThis post is one in a series where SageCircle pulls out the crystal ball and looks ahead to what happens in the analyst ecosystem in 2010. See below for links to all posts in this series.

It does not take a magical crystal ball to predict that there will be acquisitions in the analyst market. Acquisitions have always been a business tool of analyst firms. However, there are some potentially interesting developments on the acquisition front for 2010 and beyond.

Roll ups to take on Gartner and Forrester – One of the ways that Gartner was able to achieve its market dominance was 60+ acquisitions in the 1990s under the leadership of then CEO Manny Fernandez.  Since then there has been only one serious attempt to use a roll up strategy to develop a competitor to Gartner and Forrester. That was by Monitor Clipper Partners in 2004, who attempted to buy META Group to combine with the earlier acquisition of Yankee Group to form the core of a new broad-based major analyst firm. This plan was derailed by Gartner CEO Gene Hall’s smart and strategic grab of META. In stark contrast to the last ten years, 2010 could see three firms use a roll up strategy: Corporate Executive Board, IDC (for Insights units) and Ovum-Datamonitor.

Mid-sized firms get gobbled up – As Gartner’s acquisition of AMR Research demonstrates, being a mid-sized firm with a price tag in the tens of millions dollars does not deter determined acquirers. There are a number of potential acquiring firms with the financial resources to buy a mid-sized firm. One firm likely being wooed by potential acquirers is the Burton Group, which has a solid reputation, desirable research coverage, a sales force, and a client base that includes enterprises and government agencies.

Forrester continues adding resources for marketing professionals – Forrester continued its push deeper into research and services relevant to marketing professionals with its recent acquisition of Strategic Oxygen. In 2010, Forrester is likely to continue adding assets for its Marketing and Strategy Professionals Client Group. While this strategy is certainly reasonable because it helps Forrester stay out of the path of Gartner, it risks diluting its Continue reading

Ovum-Datamonitor Restructuring: Sufficient Critical Mass to Take on the “Big Two”?

On August 11th Datamonitor announced a major restructuring of its various analyst brands into a cleaner, more focused framework.

 First a quick recap – Early in 2005 Datamonitor acquired the Butler Group. In parallel, Ovum had started on the M&A path with the acquisition of RHK in mid-2005 followed by Summit Strategies and Orbys after its early 2006 IPO. Then Datamonitor acquired Ovum in December 2006. That was followed by Informa acquiring Datamonitor in May 2007. Informa itself was the target of a failed, hostile takeover by UBM in June 2008. Finally, Datamonitor acquired the Brown-Wilson Group in April 2009. Complex enough for you?

 Datamonitor and Ovum kept all the acquired brands pretty much untouched for the last two and a half years with research overlap, separate sales force, unfocused marketing, and so on. This created a jumble of brands that that did not seem to have any synergy or heft to compete effectively with Forrester and Gartner. In contrast, Forrester (Giga, JupiterResearch) and Gartner (META Group) both absorbed their major acquisitions of this decade relatively quickly and effectively.

 SageCircle was given a background briefing in mid-June by the Datamonitor CEO and Ovum Managing Director Mark Meek and this week by David Mitchell, Ovum’s SVP, IT Research. While still a bit of a work in progress, the reorganization shows real promise to shake up the analyst market.

 The new lineup is going to have three brands – Datamonitor, Ovum and Orbys. Each will have a much more focused client base and research portfolio. Datamonitor will focus on business information, Ovum on enterprise IT and telecommunications, and Orbys on sourcing. This will permit each of the new units to develop sufficient critical mass to be more competitive and attractive to potential clients whether enterprises or vendors. The Butler Group brand will continue for a short period in association with certain conferences much as GigaWorld continued after Forrester retired the Giga brand.

Datamonitor - Ovum Restructuring

Sales & Marketing

However, it is not just bringing the analysts together and rationalizing the research ownership that makes this an interesting move. Part of the problem Datamonitor, Ovum, and the other brands have had in the last Continue reading

Acquisitions of analyst firms are likely, so who would be buyers and targets?

question-mark-graphic.jpgQuestion: A common question SageCircle has been receiving concerns the likelihood that there will be acquisitions of analyst firms during the current recession.

During a recession, companies with strong balance sheets often acquire companies with weaker financials because the purchase price has been cut. Both Gartner (cash at September 30th was $145.2 million) and Forrester (NASDAQ: FORR, cash and marketable securities at September 30th were $254 million) have a history of acquisitions.  They also have dedicated M&A teams and CEOs that assure Wall Street during quarterly earnings calls that acquisitions remain a potential tactic “at the right price.” As a consequence, there is always the possibility that one or more small or mid-sized firms will be acquired by one of the two major public firms. 

Who could be acquired? Almost any firm. Obviously mid-sized firms like AMR Research that have gone through recent job actions could be thought to be shoring up their finances to ride out the recession… or make themselves a more attractive acquisition target by reducing cost structure or eliminating duplicate reearch coverage.

Who could be buyers? While Forrester and Gartner have the requisite strong balance sheets and motivations, they are not the only potential buyers of analyst firms. Companies that have made analyst firm acquisitions over Continue reading

Is Yankee Group being prepared for another sale?

Last week’s severe cutbacks at Yankee Group (see here and here) could be an indicator that the firm is simply refocusing on its prime research opportunity or it could mean it is back on the selling block. This would be the fourth change in ownership in this decade if this turns out to be true. Here is a quick timeline:

  •  1970 – founded by Howard Anderson
  • 1996 August – acquirer Primark ($34m)
  • 2000 May – acquirer Reuters Enterprise ($72.5m)
  • 2004 May – acquirer Decision Matrix Group, formed by Monitor Clipper Partners (undisclosed)
  • 2005 November – acquirer Alta Communications (undisclosed)
  • 2008 September – ?

 A sale by Alta would not be surprising as it – like Monitor Clipper Partners – is a private equity firm that buys and sells companies as Continue reading

Forrester buying Jupiter – smart, but not a big deal

There has been commentary in the blogosphere about the larger meaning of Forrester’s acquisition of JupiterResearch. Typically this commentary has focused on points like the analyst industry is consolidating and that major firms are losing relevance and influence in the age of blogs and other social media. It is our opinion that this commentary is wrong and that the acquisition of Jupiter by Forrester does not portend some deep consolidation of the analyst industry due to the rise of the blogosphere, rather it is business as usual. 

To get some perspective, let’s look at a little history of the analyst industry.

Analyst firms have long used acquisitions to fill gaps in coverage and geography or pick up client bases. For example, in the last 15 years since Gartner went public for the second time, it has made over 70 acquisitions to pick up expertise in specialized coverage, get into new markets (e.g., learning software), and to broaden its footprint in Continue reading

UBM buys Informa who bought Datamonitor who bought Ovum who bought…

In a classic “big fish eating a smaller fish eating a smaller fish” scenario, UK-based UBM announced its plan to acquire Informa. Informa earlier acquired Datatmonitor, which had acquired Ovum and Butler. Ovum, of course, had made three rapid fire acquisitions (i.e., RHK, Summit Strategies, Orbys) of its own before Datamonitor acquired it.

These serial acquisitions are distracting to management and analysts alike so research quality and timeliness could suffer.  Also, some analysts will likely think “that’s it” and start developing a personal exit strategy. Because analysts are the core of any firm, anything that could cause them to walk could dramatically impact the relevance of the firm to your AR strategies and analyst lists. Besides the impact on analysts, this latest merger might be the last straw for sales representatives and client service personnel as well.  As a consequence, AR teams need to be proactive in ascertaining potential pitfalls and opportunities this latest industry M&A move might provide.

SageCircle Technique: Steps* to immediately take:

  • Ascertain whether any of your primary analysts might be affected
  • Schedule inquiries with key analysts to Continue reading
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