Look Beyond The Simple Facts of the Cimpl Acquisition

(Note: This blog was co-written by Hyoun Park and Larry Foster, an Enterprise Technology Management Association Hall of Famer and an executive who has shape the Technology Expense Management industry. Please welcome Larry’s first contribution to Amalgam Insights!)

On August 22, 2019, Upland Software announced the acquisition of Cimpl (f.k.a. Etelesolv), a Montreal-based telecom expense management platform that was the market leader in the Canadian market and had expanded into the United States market. With this acquisition, Cimpl will become a part of Upland’s Project & Financial Management Solution Suite and add approximate $8 million in annual revenue.

Context for the Acquisition

The TEM (Technology Expense Management) industry has experienced a continual series of ebb-and-flow acquisitions/mergers over the past twelve years. The typical TEM acquisition/merger encompasses two or more independent entities within the realm of TEM, WEM (Wireless Expense Management) or MMS (Managed Mobility Services) merging to create a more comprehensive expense management solution portfolio with superior global delivery capabilities.

The reality is that many of these mergers are driven by economic reasons where one or both entities can reduce overhead by eliminating duplicate services. Overhead is eliminated by unifying back-office operations and amalgamating technology platforms. These types of consolidation mergers are typical in a maturing industry that is eventually dominated by a few leading solution providers representing the majority of market share. All of the leading TEM solution providers including Tangoe, MDSL and Calero encompass a long history of multiple “like-minded mergers”.

Cimpl as an outlier in the TEM market

Until this recent acquisition, Cimpl has maintained the persona of the independent dark horse of the TEM industry quietly residing in Quebec, Canada refining its multi-tenant cloud platform and progressively building its market share.

Unlike most TEM managed service solution providers, Cimpl has decided to focus on being mainly a pure software company and providing a white-label technology platform for its delivery partners. In early 2018 CIMPL stealthily started to expand its physical presence into the United States. Since its inception, Cimpl has continued to progressively achieve conservative incremental success and stay profitable in contrast to a number of TEM vendors that have gone through boom-or-bust cycles driven by external funding (or the lack thereof).

The Challenge for TEM

The traditional acquisition playbook is preventing the TEM industry from being recognized as a strategic asset by organizations. Nonetheless, the TEM industry is experiencing a dramatic paradigm shift as organizations continue to replace legacy communication services with the ever-growing spectrum of cloud-based services. Traditionally, TEM solutions have focused on validating the integrity of invoice charges across multiple vendors prior to payment and allocating expenses to the respective cost centers leveraging the leased service. Enterprises derive value from TEM solutions by enabling a centralized ICT (Information and Communications Technology) shared service to automate the lifecycle from provisioning through payment and managing the resolution of disputed invoice charges for essentially static services.

However, as organizations adopt more ephemeral cloud services that encompass multi-vendor private, public and hybrid leased environments for compute, storage, API-enabled integrations, connectivity, input/output, and telecommunications, the purpose of the centralized ICT business operation is being transformed from managing daily operations to a fiduciary broker focused on optimizing technology investments. Unlike the recurring charges that represent the majority of traditional telecom charges, cloud services are consumption-based, meaning that it’s the responsibility of the client user to deactivate and manage the appropriate configuration of contracted services based on statistical analysis and forecast of the actual usage.

In the world of cloud, the provisioning activities such as activations, changes, and deactivations are done “on-demand,” completely independent from the ICT operation. The primary focus of ITEM solutions is to manage recurring and non-recurring invoice charges in arrears. As ICT operations evolve into technology brokers, they need real-time insight underpinned by ML and AI algorithms that make cost optimization recommendations to add, consolidate, change or deactivate services based on usage trends.

Why the CIMPL acquisition will help Upland

This context brings us to the real ingenuousness of the Cimpl acquisition. In the typical quiet financial days of August when everyone is away on vacation, Upland Software announced an accretive acquisition of Cimpl with a purchase price of $23.1M in cash and a $2.6M cash holdback payable in 12 months. Upland expects the acquisition to generate annual revenue of approximately $8M, of which $7.4M is recurring. The keyword buried within all of those financial statistics is “accretive” which means their strategy is to help increase natural growth.

Upland already has an impressive complementary portfolio of profitable software solutions. A closer look at the acquisition of Cimpl shows how Upland is formulating a solution strategy to manage all aspects of the Information and Communication Technology business operations.

The strategic value of the Cimpl acquisition becomes very clear when you recognize that Upland is the first company to combine an IT Financial Management platform (ITFM), ComSci, with an IT Expense Management-based solution (ITEM), Cimpl. Upland already owns additional complementary solutions such as a document and workflow automation, a BI platform, customer engagement platform, and a knowledge-based platform. With these components, Upland is working to create an industry-leading ERP-type solution framework to automate, manage, & rationalize all aspects of ICT business operations.

Although both ITFM and ITEM support the ICT business operations, they focus on different aspects. ITFM is predominately used on the front end to manage budgets and on a monthly basis to support internal billing/chargeback activities and leveraged by the IT CFO office whereas ITEM solutions like Cimpl are used by analysts and operational managers because they focus on managing the high volumes of transactional operations and data throughout the month, including provisioning and payment of leased services such as both landline and mobile communication services and now the ever-expanding array of cloud services.

Looking Forward: Our Recommendations

In this context, take the following recommendations into account based on this acquisition.

Expect other leading TEM, ITFM, CEM/CMP (Cloud Expense Management and Cloud Management Platform) solution providers to develop competitive solution frameworks that bring multiple IT categories together from a finance and expense management perspective.

ICT managers need to evolve and transform their solution to due diligence approach beyond pursuing and leveraging independent ITFM, ITEM, CEM/CMP solutions to choosing solutions with comprehensive IT management frameworks. As IT continues to become increasingly based on subscriptions, project-based spend, and on-demand peak usage across a variety of categories, ICT managers should aim towards having a single management control plane for finance and expenses rather than depend on a variety of management solutions

Real-time management is the future of IT expense management. The next levels of operational efficacy will be underpinned by more comprehensive real-time insight that helps organizations understand the most optimal way to acquire, configure and consume inter-related cloud services and pay their invoices. This will require insights on usage, project management, service management and real-time status updates associated with expense and finance. By combining financial and operational data, ICT managers will have greater insights into the current and ongoing ROI of technology under management.

Mobile Solutions Launches New Robotic Process Automation Capabilities

[Edited July 25th to reflect Mobile Solutions’ current public-facing offerings]

Key Takeaway: Mobile Solutions is providing Robotic Process Automation for Managed Mobility Services with a focus on mid-market enterprises and organizations. This capability provides Mobile Solutions with a starting point for handling basic service orders.

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3 Big 2019 Trends and 4 Strategic Tips for Managing the Transforming Cost of Technology

Amalgam Insights estimates that the total technology spend formally and centrally managed by enterprises with over $1 billion in revenue from telecom, network, mobility, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service will double from June of 2019 by the end of 2021 driven by the massive growth of cloud computing and the need to manage a variety of “shadow IT” costs that grow to the size that formal management is required.. By “formally and centrally managed,” Amalgam Insights assumes full visibility of inventory, contracts, billing, and service orders across all vendors with active usage and supplier optimization efforts.

In 2019, Amalgam Insights notes several key trends in the world of technology expense management that IT organizations should be aware of.

First, every IT expense management solution is increasingly focused on cloud-based expenses, either in terms of Software as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service. Established Software Asset Management (SAM) companies are working on their SaaS expense capabilities including Aspera, Flexera, ServiceNow, and Snow Software and a variety of standalone vendors including Alpin, Binadox, Cleanshelf, Intello, Torii, and Zylo are emerging. Amalgam Insights is planning a SmartList for November 2019 to focus on key vendors to manage SaaS across the SaaS expense, SAM, and Technology Expense markets.

On the IaaS side, every major global Technology Expense Management solution has launched IaaS management capabilities, also known as FinOps or Cloud FinOps, including Asignet, Calero, Cass Information Systems, Cimpl, Dimension Data, MDSL, Sakon, and Tangoe. In addition, this market has been an area of rapid acquisition over the past couple of years including Microsoft’s acquisition of Cloudyn, Apptio’s acquisition of Cloudability (which calls this practice “FinOps”), and VMware’s acquisition of CloudHealth Technologies. And there are still standalone players such as Cloudcheckr in this space as well. This crowded market seeking to manage the next $100 billion of public cloud spend represents an interesting set of choices for IT departments in choosing how to aggregate and manage IT spend.

(As an aside, Amalgam Insights finds the use of the term “FinOps” by Apptio and Cloudability to be an interesting way to coordinate multiple departments and provide guidance on how to manage cloud expenses. At the same time, FinOps seems to be recreating the wheel to some extent in rebuilding a set of practices and cross-departmental teams that already have been managing telecom expenses for a number of years. Amalgam Insights is quite interested in seeing how this duplication of effort within IT departments will sort itself either by the establishment of separate Cloud FinOps departments, integration of Cloud FinOps and “Telecom FinOps” a.k.a. Telecom Expense Management, or the integration of both cloud and telecom into a larger IT expense or finance role. This is an interesting transitional period for IT expense as more spend moves to subscription, usage, feature, user, department, and project-based spend and chargeback models. )

A third key trend is the move to Europe. European IT is being targeted as an area that has traditionally been informally managed or managed in geographic silos that prevent strong global management and alignment with strategic enterprise efforts. To solve this problem, there has been a variety of acquisitions and office launches across Europe as the likes of Calero, MDSL, Tangoe, Flexera, Snow Software, Cloudcheckr, ServiceNow, VMware, and others. Amalgam Insights notes that European IT management challenges have been poorly supported in the past by global vendors that have not adequately accounted for the differences in managing data, connectivity, and compliance in each European country and the relative lack of geographic footprint to support services. In light of this, Amalgam Insights has been tracking European IT management successes and provides guidance on this topic for end user, investor, and vendor advisory clients.

To prepare for this evolution in technology expense management, Amalgam Insights provides the following guidance for Chief Information Officers, Chief Procurement Officers, Chief Accounting Officers, and related IT procurement, finance, and expense managers to prepare for the second half of 2019 and beyond based on prior guidance and research.

$100K and 30% are key benchmarks for specialized IT spend categories. Once an IT spend management category exceeds $100,000 per month, organizations start having the potential to save at least one employee’s worth of payroll through optimization by pursuing the 30% savings that typically exist in a previously unmanaged environment that has not been formally managed or audited over the last five years. At this point, your company should start looking for a dedicated solution for expense management, whether it be manual support from an in-house employee with telecom experience, a software platform to support management, or managed services to support contract, invoice, inventory, and usage management. These rules of thumb are especially true in SaaS and IaaS management, which are currently rife with poor governance, duplicate spending, and unmonitored usage patterns associated with decentralized cloud computing purchases.

Enterprise buyers at Global 2000 companies should review their current strategy for IT spend categories with the goal of supporting all cloud, software, hardware, network, and mobility spend from a usage and subscription-based perspective. IT is moving to a subscription and usage-based paradigm that started by enterprise telecom and then evolved through the enterprise adoption of cloud computing. Firms currently considering new or replacement IT expense vendors, due diligence in understanding prospective vendors’ roadmap and experience for new technology categories is vital for futureproofing this investment. This is especially true in an “As-a-Service” world where all aspects of IT are increasingly being sourced and billed in a telecom-like function which shifts these vendor relationships from traditional asset-based approaches to subscription and relationship-based approaches. Look for depth in the following functional areas: inventory, invoice line-items, service orders, disputes, optimization, governance, and security.

Customer satisfaction, geographic expertise, vertical expertise, and depth of managed and professional services are key differentiators. Amalgam recommends that companies looking at TEM solutions focus not only on the technical aspects of invoice and inventory management, but on the alignment between the vendor’s expertise and the potential buyer’s geographic footprint and business model. This alignment is often more important than the extremely granular Request for Proposals that Amalgam has seen in this industry. In 2019, there have been a number of specific trends in this regard, such as the telecom expense management market’s push towards aggregating European spend among market leaders, focus on providing additional managed services such as security and managed mobility, and vertical-specific cost management focuses that also include specific asset management and IT management strategies. Customer retention and satisfaction are also key metrics. For mature solutions, it is not uncommon to see annual customer retention metrics above 95% and to see an year-over-year increase in wallet share as new cloud and app spend is brought into a solution.

Rather than ask hundreds of questions where there is little to no differentiation, such as how invoices are processed and whether a specific type of inventory can be stored within the solution, focus on how the vendor supports the usage and management of value-added technology. The goal of IT is not to restrict the use of helpful technologies, but to increase the use of productivity-driving and outcome-improving technologies and then to providing that optimal level of utilization in a cost-effective manner. Spend management vendors that can help identify technology associated with revenue growth or customer satisfaction provide a competitive edge in understanding the cost-basis of strategic IT. By taking these steps, companies can start to better understand how to manage IT spend more practically.

(Note: This piece is an excerpt from Amalgam Insights’ upcoming SmartList for Technology Expense Management Market Leaders scheduled to publish in August 2019. If you would like more information about this topic, if you are considering a net-new or replacement purchase for IT expense management, or are interested in the upcoming report, please feel free to contact us at info@Amalgaminsights.com)

Strategic Presentation for the Amalgam Insights Community – 5G Context for the Strategic Enterprise

I’ve recently had the opportunity to present on the present and future of 5G as a business enabler. Based on the past 20 years I’ve spent around the carrier, reseller, IT management, and industry analyst sides of the business, I’m looking forward to sharing part of my presentation to the Amalgam Insights audience and show why 5G introduces a new Age of Mobility to follow the Age of Voice, the Age of Text, the Age of Apps, and the Age of Streaming!

If you’re interested in further discussing any aspect of this deck or the repercussions of 5G for your business, please feel free to get in contact with us at info@amalgaminsights.com! Please click on the link below to download the slide deck and learn more about what 5G practically means for the world of business over the next year or two.

Amalgam Insights – 5G Context for the Strategic Enterprise

Inside our Slack Channel: A Conversation on Salesforce acquiring Tableau

As you may know, analysts typically only have the time to share a small fraction of the information that they have on any topic at any given time, with the majority of our time spent speaking with clients, technologists, and each other.

When Salesforce announced their acquisition of Tableau Monday morning, we at Amalgam Insights obviously started talking to each other about what this meant. Below is a edited excerpt of some of the topics we were going through as I was preparing for PTC LiveWorx in Boston, Data Science analyst Lynne Baer was in Nashville for Alteryx, and DevOps Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli was holding down the fort in Buffalo after several weeks of travel. Hope you enjoy a quick look behind the scenes of how we started informally thinking about this in the first hour or so after the announcement.

When the Salesforce-Tableau topic came up, Tom Petrocelli kicked it off.
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Market Milestone – Google to Buy Looker to Transform Business Analytics

Key Stakeholders:

Chief Information Officers, Chief Technical Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Chief Analytics Officers, Data Monetization Directors and Managers, Analytics Directors and Managers, Data Management Directors and Managers, Enterprise Architects

Why It Matters:

Google’s proposed $2.6 billion acquisition of Looker provides Google with a core data engagement, service, and application environment to support Google Cloud Platform. This represents an impressive exit for Looker, which was expected to IPO after its December 2018 Series E round. This report covers key considerations for Looker customers, GCP customers, and enterprises seeking to manage data and analytics in a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment.

Top Takeaway:

Google Cloud Platform intends to acquire a Best-in-Breed platform for cloud analytics, embedded BI, and native analytic applications in Looker. By filling this need for Google customers, GCP has strengthened its positioning for enterprise cloud customers at a time when Amalgam Insights expects rapid and substantial growth of 25%+ CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) across cloud markets for the next few years. This acquisition will help Google to remain a significant and substantial player as an enterprise cloud provider and demonstrates the latitude that Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has in acquiring key components to position GCP for future growth.

To read the rest of this piece, please visit Looker, which has acquired a commercial license for this research.

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Knowledge 2019 and ServiceNow’s Vision for Transforming the World of Work

In May 2019, Amalgam Insights attended Knowledge 2019, ServiceNow’s annual end-user conference. Since ServiceNow’s founding in 2004, the company has evolved from its roots as an IT asset and service management company to a company that supports digital workflow across IT, HR, service, and finance with the goal of making work better for every employee. In attending this show, Amalgam Insights was especially interested in seeing how ServiceNow was evolving its message to reflect what Amalgam Insights refers to as “Market Evolvers,” companies that have gained market dominance in their original market and taken advantage of modern mobile, cloud, and AI technology to expand into other markets. (Examples of Market Evolvers include, but are not excluded to, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Workday, Informatica, and Tangoe.) Continue reading “Knowledge 2019 and ServiceNow’s Vision for Transforming the World of Work”

Blackberry Successfully Transitions into a Software Company: Mission Accomplished

In April 2019, Amalgam Insights attended BlackBerry’s Analyst Summit, a collection of high-profile industry analysts and financial analysts who were provided with the key highlights of BlackBerry’s accomplishments over the past year. This day included BlackBerry’s top executives including CEO John Chen, President and Chief Operating Officer Bryan Palma, Chief Financial Officer Steve Cappelli, Chief Marketing Officer Mark Wilson, Chief Technology Officer Charles Eagan, and a collection of subject matter experts across security, the Enterprise of Things, mass communications, and Blackberry’s key verticals including automotive, government, and healthcare.

Above all, the key takeaway from BlackBerry’s Analyst Summit is that BlackBerry’s transformation  into a software and services company is complete.

A Successful Transformation

When John Chen first joined Blackberry roughly 2000 days ago, BlackBerry was a 7 billion dollar mobility company focused on its once-iconic handsets, but losing money hand-over-fist in the era of the iPhone and Android. Although Apple and Google had taken over the handset market, BlackBerry’s leadership at the time was reluctant to take the hard steps necessary to transform into a digital company and to take full advantage of its intellectual property. In this 2011-2012 time period, I was among the analysts who were criticizing BlackBerry for its inability to separate devices, software, and services and hoped that BlackBerry would move to Android, QNX (a 2010 acquisition) or another operating system that would be more flexible and app-friendly than BlackBerry.
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Quick AI Insights at #MSBuild in an Overstuffed Tech Event Week

We are in the midst of one of the most packed tech event weeks in recent memory. This week alone, Amalgam Insights is tracking *six* different events:

This means a lot of announcements this week that will be directly comparable. For instance, Google, Microsoft, Red Hat, SAP, and ServiceNow should all have a variety of meaty DevOps and platform access announcements. Google, Microsoft, SAP, and possibly IBM and ServiceNow should have interesting new AI announcements. ServiceNow and Red Hat will both undoubtedly be working to one-up each other when it comes to revolutionizing IT. We’ll be providing some insights and give you an idea of what to look forward to.

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How is Salesforce Taking on AI: a look at Einstein at Salesforce World Tour Boston

On April 3rd, Amalgam Insights attended Salesforce World Tour 2019 in Boston. Salesforce users may know this event as an opportunity to meet with their account managers and catch up with new functionalities and partners without having to fly to San Francisco and navigate through the colossus that is Dreamforce.

Salesforce also uses this tour as an opportunity to present analysts with the latest and greatest changes in their offerings. Amalgam Insights was interested both in learning more about Salesforce’s current positioning from a data perspective, including the vendor’s acquisition of Mulesoft as well as its progression in both the Einstein Analytics and Einstein Platform in providing value-added insights and artificial intelligence to Salesforce clients.

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