At HFS, we’re approaching ten years’ in existence – yes 10 bloody years’ of this stuff – and we’re still the “new analyst kid on the block”. As we approach this new phase in our journey, we’re focusing heavily on the massive impact our research has across all corners of the services and tech industry. The traditional channels of slapping stuffy reports behind a firewall and blackmailing suppliers with scatterplot grids are still the predominant way the analyst industry persists in operating (or simply regurgitating supplier press releases dressed up as “insight”), which has helped HFS expand our operations across three continents and bulldoze our way into a small elite group of analysts firms.
However, we’re not stopping there… we want to engage even more digitally and effortlessly with our global community, using video, blogs, podcasts, webcasts, summits, roundtables and various other forms of social media. So were gone and added some serious firepower to our digital prowess with our recent acquisition of Quigley Media, where the founder, Tom Quigley, joins us as Chief Marketing Officer. So let’s hear a bit more from the unassuming Scotsman and his plans for HFS, while he’s not practicing his blackbelt in karate on his three wee lads…
Tom – you’ve been a pretty active figure in the world of global sourcing for some time now – can you share a bit of background about yourself?
Sure. For this first half of my career I worked in mostly operational roles for two large insurers, Commercial Union (now Aviva) and Prudential UK & Europe. During that time I designed and delivered a 3 year programme of events for the CEO whereby he and the executive directors would travel around the country meeting hundreds of policyholders and doing impromptu Q&A sessions with them, which was pretty disruptive back then. I also delivered conferences in Mumbai and Dubai.
I joined BPO provider Capita in 2009 and headed up the marketing function in one of their nine divisions. When I left in March 2016 I was Head of Marketing, Design and Events for a consolidated number of divisions, overseeing a team of 2 Business Partners, 5 marketers and 8 graphic designers.
I joined the National Outsourcing Association as Marketing Director and we rebranded to the Global Sourcing Association (GSA), which we launched in Sofia in October 2016. It was at the time I recognised the emerging talent from central and eastern Europe, and so I set up my own marketing agency providing services to CEE businesses looking for market entry or engagement with the UK and Western European countries. During the last two years I also co-founded and was the CEO of the Alliance for Business Services, Innovation and Technology, with members including Pwc, Cushman & Wakefield, Convergys, Stefanini as well as institutions like IAOP, Nordic IT Association, Bulgarian Outsourcing Association etc. I also met with and successfully persuaded the Bulgarian President to be our honorary Chairman!
I stepped away from that role at the beginning of the year to focus purely on the agency and we’ve enjoyed working with clients from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the UK and US during that time.
So you recently sold your firm and its digital assets to HFS… what was behind this move and what can we expect to see from you in the next few months in your new role?
Well its quite ironic because I’d been spending the last 2 years telling anyone who would listen that I would never work inside another company again as I was having too much fun being my own boss, so it did take me by surprise at how quickly I said yes when the offer to acquire QM came about. We were just completing brand perception study for HFS Research when I got a Skype message from you late on a Friday night. We met on the Monday, signed contracts on the Wednesday and I was in the Cambridge HQ at my desk on the Thursday – it really did happen that fast!
But I’ve known HFS Research for a number of years and was very well aware of its unique stand in the market. I am a big admirer of the quality of insight and unfettered views it provides – and when the offer came I genuinely had goosebumps, that told me it was the right move to make.
As for the months ahead we will launch a new website with improved functionality and integrated multi-platform analytics that gives us a more unified view of our customers, we’ve just set up a digital studio in the Cambridge HQ giving to open up some new channels and give us more control over our digital content, and we’re currently building a number of great marketing campaigns to land some important messages in the coming months. We’re also mapping out customer journeys to see how we can improve client experiences as well as establishing a more structured, tier-based relationship with our supplier partnerships to improve speed and innovation. In addition to that we have our New York Summit in October as well as events going on in Paris and Stockholm, so there’s lots to come. Our clients will definitely notice a new, more emboldened brand overall with a clear focus on building closer, more meaningful relationships with our communities – not only through our research, thank tanks and other market activations, but also through more targeted communications.
How is the industry different these days? You’ve been very involved with emerging locations for several years now – where do you see this headed next? Is the game changing?
We’re in a market of perpetual change now. Technology has overtaken consumer needs as the main driver of innovation, and the lines between BPO and ITO are dissipating. It really is about the provision of integrated digital services and one office. Contracts are increasingly focused on partnership agreements delivering outcomes, providing access to innovation and sandbox environments that will enable businesses to deliver more personalised services to their customers at scale. Central and Eastern Europe has been producing STEM resources for years but they are becoming more even more prevalent because they are forming better and more active networks and alliances, backed by their governments and funded by the European Commission in some instances – they are becoming more adept at integrating themselves into the connected ecosystem. Going forwards location will be come completely irrelevant as technology will enable the proliferation of agile – scaleable – teams that will form virtually to work on multiple projects, before disbanding and reforming on other assignments. I believe we’ll eventually see the end of the permanent employee contracts as more millennials become a part of our economy.
And how about the research industry – you’ve been on the outside looking in for your entire career… how do you see it evolving? Is it looking any different from the inside?
Well I’ve only been on the inside for a couple of weeks now, but I’m not sure the analyst industry IS actually evolving at the same pace. Sure the analysts are reporting on technology and how businesses are thriving or otherwise in industry 4.0, and the means of capturing research and analysing data has advanced but for the most part I don’t believe the research industry has become transformative enough. Some companies appear to have become machine monoliths, churning data and reports that seem pretty vanilla and without much of a voice; if you laid out reports and magic quadrants from a number of them and then covered up the logos I doubt many people would be able to distinguish who is who. Let me be clear, the analysts themselves are highly credible, very clever people regardless of what organisation they work for, but I think the ‘corporate machine’ sterilises a lot of what they actually produce.
This is where HFS Research stands apart, and the reason I’m so excited to be here. I know how different it is observing from the outside but I can see how different it is operating from the inside. Our purpose, our culture and how we operate has completely different DNA from other analyst firms. Last week I listened to Mark Hillary’s first ever podcast talking to you about why you progressed from writing a blog to starting your own analyst firm, and I can see that the values that drove that decision are still very much alive in everyone involved with HFS today – and that podcast was recorded 10 years ago. My job is to make sure our clients and the market at large are aware of that, and recognise the value in choosing HFS Research as their partner going into the hyperconnected future-state!
And finally, there’s a rumor going around that HFS is going to be ten years old soon… any plans to celebrate?
Next March marks the 10th birthday of HFS Research, and yes we will definitely be celebrating with our people, partnerships and communities. But you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to discover exactly how..!
Welcome, Tom – and we’re hopeful that many of our clients can meet you in New York this October 1 and 2 for our next major HFS Summit!
Posted in : Outsourcing Heros