Mergers are tricky things, and the mergers of businesses based around knowledge workers are especially tricky. It’s not hard to see why. Ovum, Informa and Datamonitor each developed different cultures, each of which reflect the different goals and preferences of their owners, and the intricacies of English business.
In the last post, I asked can Ovum could survive as we know it? Ovum was founded by a group of close colleagues. Ovum was born as an adult: it jumped out of Logica with a clear form and a certain standard to keep up to. Many of the team were Oxbridge graduates, and the rest were eminently clubable. It was collegial and proud, and the the motor of that pride was its self-conception of quality analysis and consulting into IT and telecoms. Demanding, and sometimes brutal, alpha and beta review meetings, a little like a Don Rag, ensured that the firm’s qualitative analysis was rigourous and well-constructed. It’s fair to say that experienced, high-profile analysts could hide behind quality, and that the pace of work was often in the analysts’ hands.
Datamonitor was different even though its founders, Mike Danson and Doug Wilson, were also Oxbridge-trained. They started off modestly, with the analysis of frozen foods from an office over a shop in an down-at-heel suburb of north-west London. The business was run tightly. Even after the business floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2000, the firm’s offices on Finchley Road (still outside the city centre) were threadbare and filled with younger people whose identities were guarded from the public. Datamonitor’s analysts were not given bylines in their reports, nor were their profiles on the website. Their transfer value was supressed.
Informa is different again. Informa has developed a profit-focussed culture which is transparent, meritocratic and free from Oxbridge roots: the firm’s current and past staff have most often been educated at the positively proletarian Leeds, London Met or Westminster universities. Informa was more hungry than it was proud. The managers were focussed on the sort of measurements which Ovum rather trusted its analysts to be adult enough to look after: goals, time, productivity and profit. People with successful performance got pushed forward, even if their work wasn’t especially insightful. Insight, after all, was is Informa’s core business. Informa’s engine is work that can be done by people quite early in their careers: events, training courses and highly-structured information.
These cultures produce different sorts of research. Informa and Datamonitor use younger staff with skills more akin to market research and brand journalism than to industry analysis, which has traditionally required some domain expertise. Less experienced analysts are more easily manipulated and intimidated by vendors. It took Ovum analysts many years to develop the knowledge, industry connections, rigour and all-round nous needed to produce independent analysis. In today’s market, when vendors push more and analysts thus tend to be less confrontational, that culture is needed. Ovum has been on a cultural journey over the last several years: moving towards Datamonitor’s culture and then towards Informa’s. In our next post, we’ll discuss how these approaches meet the future needs of the analyst firms’ clients.
P.S. My former Ovum colleague Heather Stark added the comment below this post on LinkedIn