Forecasting the future of new technology with agile planning and exploratory analytics
Ovum is a market-leading research and consulting firm that is part of the Business Intelligence Division of Informa plc, a leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events group listed on the London Stock Exchange. With 150 analysts worldwide, Ovum helps digital service providers and their vendor partners thrive in the connected digital economy with comprehensive, accurate, and insightful market data, research, and consulting.
As disruptive technologies rattle traditional IT, communications and media markets, robust forecasting depends on ingenious analytics supported by dynamic planning tools. Leading research and consulting firm Ovum worked with ICit to transform its forecasting techniques with IBM Cognos TM1—helping their clients stay abreast of emerging trends.
With the pace of technological evolution accelerating, how could Ovum rapidly deliver business intelligence on emerging markets and the innovative potential of new technologies?
Working together with ICit and IBM, Ovum re-engineered its forecasting tools to help envision the impact of new technologies and business trends on emerging value networks with greater efficiency.
Business challenge story
Keeping abreast of a dynamic market
In this digital age, businesses need to stay alert to technological development in order to remain competitive and avoid missing out on the next big trends. This is true for almost all industries—but for companies in the telecoms, media and technology (TMT) sector, the pace is particularly swift.
The complex modeling features we were looking for were understood by ICit, who helped us leverage the dynamic capabilities of the IBM solution.
—Gareth Sims, Director of Forecasting and Data Analysis, Ovum
When the release of innovative technologies, such as robotic manufacturing or virtual reality headsets, can significantly disrupt traditional markets and forge new value networks in a matter of months, companies and investors rely on expert analysis to stay ahead of the curve. Will internet streaming services totally replace traditional television and radio stations? Is the golden age of the smartphone ending, and are wearables on the rise? How can my business capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Ovum, a vertical of Informa Business Intelligence Division, specializes in helping its clients in the TMT sector answer these questions with detailed business intelligence—delivering reports and forecasts that help market players make wise decisions and strategic future investments.
Gareth Sims, Director of Forecasting and Data Analysis at Ovum, takes up the story: “Over recent years the TMT sector has seen significant change, driven by both new technologies and changing customer behavior. As a result, demand for highly detailed market reporting and forecasting has risen dramatically. Companies want to know what impact a disruptive technology will have on their established lines of business, as well as which nascent markets to invest in and which to give a wide berth.”
With demand for analytics rising and the pace of change accelerating, Ovum faced a continual challenge to deliver innovative and ever-more detailed insights into the evolving technological landscape.
Gareth Sims continues: “To satisfy rising demand we recognized that it was essential to reduce the time taken to produce our forecasts and create new types of reports. To achieve this, we had to overcome two challenges.
“First, we looked to optimize the arrangement of the vast array of time-series data that we use to compile our analyses. After a series of acquisitions, we had inherited a variety of datasets stored in multiple silos. This presented a problem because each data repository stored different information and functioned differently. Having our data arranged in this way made the task of feeding data from one system to another a time-intensive process. In turn, that increased the amount of time taken to produce reports.
“Second, we saw that it was important to achieve greater flexibility when formulating new metrics. For example, transformative technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) are so unique for analysts and companies, that we must generate new metrics to define, quantify and forecast the size and significance of this emerging market. However, each time we wanted to generate new metrics, our IT development team had to add new code to pull that data from each of our repositories. It was such a laborious process that we often resorted to using spreadsheets instead.”
With the IBM Analytics Solution, our analysts have more functionality at their fingertips, which provides them with more ways of developing innovative forecasting methods.
—Gareth Sims, Director of Forecasting and Data Analysis, Ovum
Sharpening the tools for success
After witnessing the benefits that Informa Business Intelligence Division’s pharmaceuticals vertical had reaped by implementing IBM Cognos TM1, Ovum decided to invest in a similar solution. The company teamed up with ICit, an IBM Business Partner® that specializes in complex planning and forecasting projects, to implement the solution.
Gareth Sims explains: “We explored a variety of potential solutions, and IBM Cognos TM1 emerged as the most dynamic option for us. When our colleagues at Pharma Intelligence implemented TM1, it opened our eyes to the potential of the platform. While their models are not quite as complex as ours, we realized that the solution could serve our needs too.
“We were particularly impressed by the fact that Cognos TM1 enables you to consolidate all of your datasets and repositories into one easily manageable system, reducing the time-intensive process of feeding data between different silos and systems. This ability to consolidate and align time series data is crucial for Ovum, as this data forms the basis of many of our forecasts.”
Before going ahead with the project, Ovum compiled a detailed business case and explored the ways in which ICit could tailor the IBM solution to suit TMT business intelligence and forecasting.
Gareth Sims continues: “As a business intelligence company, we had some unique requirements for the solution. For instance, it was important that we implemented a solution that enabled us to build forecasts with both a top-down and a bottom-up approach to data entry. We receive both top-level data from industry regulators such as Ofcom, and detailed data from individual operators, and it’s vital to be able to reconcile all this information and work out what is missing. That enables us to build truly robust forecasts even when we can’t obtain 100 percent of the data.”
As an IT company founded and run by professionals from the financial industry, ICit clearly comprehended Ovum’s needs and helped it tailor the IBM solution for TMT forecasting.
“A significant part of our forecasting focuses on establishing the ‘diffusion rate’—the rate at which new technologies initially penetrate a market, then grow rapidly as they achieve mainstream adoption, and finally tail off when the market becomes saturated,” explains Gareth Sims.
“To be able to calculate the current rate of diffusion and the expected point of market saturation, our analysts make use of specific mathematical functions called sigmoid curves, which plot market diffusion trajectories. Understanding these trajectories helps our clients decide which markets are already saturated and which new markets are worth penetrating. ICit helped us build sigmoid curve modeling into the TM1 platform, providing our analysts with a more accurate way of modeling market behavior.
“The process of tailoring Cognos TM1 to our specific requirements really highlighted the benefits of working with financial experts. The complex modeling features we were looking for were understood by ICit, who helped us leverage the dynamic capabilities of the IBM solution.”
Envisioning the future
After successfully implementing the IBM solution with ICit, Ovum is now enjoying the myriad benefits the product has to offer. The company has obtained a highly dynamic planning and analytics solution with IBM Cognos TM1, customized to suit its specific business intelligence needs. With the solution in place, Ovum has achieved significant time savings, acquired important new functionalities, and freed up more time for analysts to develop new types of forecasts.
Gareth Sims says: “Since implementing IBM Cognos TM1, we have been able to reduce the amount of time that it takes to produce bespoke reports from two weeks to just a number of days. Being able to produce reports at this speed keeps our customers happy: it helps them make tactical decisions faster, and react to new opportunities quickly to sustain their competitive advantage.”
He adds: “In addition to accelerating the production of custom reports, we anticipate that the solution will reduce the time spent producing all forecasts by 40 percent. As well as time savings, we also anticipate cost savings: we have now decommissioned the software in our existing infrastructure, saving us the expense of multiple software licenses, and reducing maintenance costs.”
By cutting the amount of time spent compiling reports, analysts at Ovum can dedicate more time to developing new forecasting styles and procedures. The company has already introduced five new forecasts and plans to introduce a further ten by mid-2017.
Gareth Sims concludes:
With Cognos TM1, our analysts have more functionality at their fingertips, which provides them with more ways of developing innovative forecasting methods. The solution has enabled us to streamline our forecasting processes, achieve greater granularity and make valuable efficiency savings. We are keen to continue exploring all the forecasting capabilities that the IBM solution offers, and further, refine the performance of our reporting processes.