Calero Flexes PE Muscle in Acquiring TEM Stalwart Comview

On December 29th, 2017, Calero Software acquired Comview, an experienced telecom expense management and call accounting software and services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. From Amalgam’s perspective, this acquisition is important in demonstrating the plans of Calero under its new ownership, Riverside Partners, and in establishing Comview’s role in the Technology Expense Management market. With this acquisition, all Comview personnel other than Founder John Perri are expected to move to Calero. Calero has committed to supporting Comview’s solution for the immediate future. Comview is expected to run as “a Calero company” with independent development and operations in the short term.

Overall, Amalgam is bullish on this acquisition as it combines the strengths of a veteran TEM provider, Comview, with strong customer service and an integrated platform with the scale and breadth of Calero’s capabilities.

IT and telecom expense personnel may be familiar with Calero, which was created through a rollup of PINNACLE, Veramark, and Movero (previously a rollup of BroadSource, Integrated Mobile, and Movero Technology), to create a technology management provider with 6 billion dollars under spend and a broad portfolio of network, mobility, and IT service management capabilities. With this acquisition, Calero cements its position as the second largest provider of telecom and mobility spend under management that Amalgam has verified.

However, IT executives may be less familiar with Comview. Comview was founded in 1997 by John Perri, a pioneer in the call accounting and telecom management markets and a member of the TEMIA Hall of Fame. It has traditionally been strong in supporting mid-to-large enterprises between 500 million and 10 billion dollars in revenue with a particular strength in the healthcare industry. I’ve been covering Comview since my start as an analyst in 2008 and have seen it evolve from a top call accounting solution to a landline telecom expense solution, and then to a wireless expense solution that included integrations with top Enterprise Mobility Management solutions. This evolution of the Comview product occurred during a time period when hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital were thrown at the telecom expense management market. Many of Comview’s call accounting competitors decided, in the face of this investment, to stand still and remained as call and usage management solutions, which limited their future market growth. However, Comview’s continued in-house investment into its solution and to customer service led to its continued success in competing as a full-service and fully integrated telecom lifecycle management.

Traditionally, Comview has excelled in two key and interrelated areas: customer retention and rapid development. As a vendor, Comview has been very strong at retaining its customers and has a defined “Customer for Life” program. Comview’s responsiveness and customer retention have been noted both in customer testimonials and in analyst landscapes by Gartner, AOTMP, Blue Hill Research, and other research firms focused on the TEM industry. Prior to acquisition, Comview was on track to be a recommended vendor in Amalgam Insights’ upcoming 2018 Global TEM SmartList as well.

A related strength for Comview has been its ability to develop new capabilities as clients require them. Because of the data and integration-minded approach that Comview has traditionally had, the firm has quickly developed new capabilities based on market demand, such as the leaps from call accounting to telecom expense, and then to wireless expense, and then to integrations with market leaders such as VMware AirWatch and Tableau to support mobility management and analytics, respectively. The ability to quickly build and integrate best-in-breed solutions on an open platform has been one of Comview’s traditional strengths at a time when a number of Comview’s competitors have had to either work with a rigid TEM platform or solve some of these challenges by throwing people at the problem. As a result, Comview’s platform and team provide the potential to scale quickly.

Recommendations for the TEM community

For Calero, Amalgam makes the following suggestions

1) Maintain Comview’s Customer for Life program. Comview has done an exceptional job on maintaining customer satisfaction and in providing a simple pricing model based on unlimited seat usage, implementation, and training. This simplicity has been important in building loyalty and engagement and Calero should take this into account when working with Comview customers. Calero should maintain Comview’s integration of implementation and service teams, which allows for institutional knowledge transfer. In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

2) Integrate Comview’s development capabilities into Calero R&D. Comview’s rapid development and integration mentality would be a welcome addition to any TEM vendor, but Amalgam believes that the combination of this mindset and Calero’s support for complex global TEM is a good combination.

3) Take advantage of Comview’s existing focus on the mid-market to expand go-to-market efforts and strengthen industry-specific sales approaches. Comview’s healthcare expertise is a model that can potentially be expanded to other industries as well.

4) Continue being aggressive! There are a number of strong specialty TEM solutions with dedicated expertise in Big Data, global support, help desk, kitting, sourcing, ITSM, and cloud management that would continue to both strengthen Calero’s offering and increase its market share. Amalgam believes that this acquisition is representative of Calero’s new and more aggressive approach is a welcome shakeup and demonstrates that TEM market leaders are now in a stage of growth again after last year’s private equity-backed shake-up.

For Comview customers, Amalgam provides the following recommendations

1) Expect your support team to stay the same, perhaps with some Calero augmentation. There are no plans to change Comview operations in the short term and Calero has explicitly named Comview’s Customer for Life approach as a key reason for this acquisition. But it doesn’t hurt to know who else on the Calero side you may now have access to from a professional services or help desk perspective. Take advantage of having additional resources.

2) Get a commitment on the future of Comview’s support, but do not be afraid of change. For now, Calero is treating Comview as a separate solution with no immediate plans to stop supporting the product. But realistically, Calero has its own platform of parallel services and it makes economic sense to bring the two platforms together over time. Use this time to emphasize the functionality your organization needs most. With the added resources of the Calero team, there is an opportunity here to develop a more functional and usable tool over the next couple of years by partnering with Calero.

For TEM clients considering Comview:

Amalgam has seen that Comview customers choose this vendor because of its integration of call accounting, wireline, and wireless expenses as well as high levels of customer service and, in some cases strong industry knowledge. None of these advantages will go away over the next year and Amalgam believes that Calero is very committed to maintaining Comview’s Customer for Life efforts and industry expertise. In addition, expect Comview’s flexibility of supporting the spectrum of TEM offerings from software-only to full BPO offerings to continue, as that flexibility has been a traditional Comview strength.
The caveats: Make sure that you get a firm commitment on the time frame of Comview platform support before signing on so that your organization can have a smooth transition as Calero and Comview operations inevitably merge. Speak with any Calero shared services or professional services personnel who you may work with as a new Comview client.

Overall, Amalgam is bullish on this acquisition as it combines the strengths of a veteran TEM provider, Comview, with strong customer service and an integrated platform with the scale and breadth of Calero’s capabilities. There is room for both sides to learn from each other and improve over time.

If you have any additional questions about the Calero-Comview acquisition as a potential buyer, current customer, vendor, or reseller, please feel free to contact Amalgam directly at info@amalgaminsights.com. We’d love to continue the conversation!

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