An OSS Observation


When industry observers compile listings of the most influential people in the technology markets, when organizers seek out the captains of computing, the titans of telecom, the biggest of the kahunas to give keynote addresses at industry events, some familiar names often adorn the dais. Bill Gates (alone and sometimes featured with the world’s best-known investor, Warren Buffett). Scott McNealy. John Chambers. The seemingly always-acquisition-minded and occasionally combative Larry Ellison. Pat Russo, longtime top executive at Lucent Technologies who now sits atop global hardware, software and services colossus Alcatel-Lucent. Ed Whitacre, long-standing head of SBC Communications and then at the helm of the reinvigorated AT&T before turning over the keys in mid-2007 to Randall L. Stephenson. Carly Fiorina, former vice president at AT&T who oversaw the most successful IPO in history (Lucent), served as head of HP and is now a top advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Sanjiv Ahuja, former president of Bellcore, now a member of France Telecom’s Group Management Committee and Chairman of Orange SA.

Marquee names all, and deservedly so. Yet maybe it’s time to start throwing a spotlight or two on some of the up-and-coming leaders in the telecom world and specifically in the realm of OSS/BSS that makes all of that “telecom” possible.

At a time when the telecom market wasn’t quite finished imploding and many thought it was a good time to check out of the OSS/BSS business, two visionaries thought differently. So in 2003 Larry Goldman and Pat Kelly formed their own firm, OSS Observer. Joined later by an ex-RHK colleague, Mark Basham, they began building a franchise around an evaluation of how communications service providers use software to run their businesses. A lot of the people you would talk to in those days would joke, “We don’t need to know that we have X percent market share of zero.” So it seemed that the days of the so-called “numbers shop” were, well, numbered and research firms who still analyzed OSS/BSS turned their sights toward qualitative or more analytical work and away from quantitative, or market figures/sizing/forecasting. The most oft-repeated phrase was: “We don’t do market sizing.”

Well, OSS Observer did market sizing. When vendors stood proudly at podiums at industry events or around conference room tables during sales calls, the pie and bar charts they pointed to were increasingly attributed to OSS Observer. Yet the boys also did a bangup job of providing the qualitative side of the technology analyst equation. They did it all and they did it well.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. OSS Observer today boasts a client base including Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs, HP, Oracle and Telcordia. And on June 26, 2008, the world saw a pretty fair validation of the worthiness of their vision and their execution against it: Someone else was wiling to pay a lot of money to buy what they had built. OSS Observer was acquired by Analysys Mason Ltd, which to read its press clippings is “The world’s premier specialist advisor in telecoms, IT and media.” Analysys Mason’s news release announcing the acquisition crowned OSS Observer “the leading global analyst firm within the telecoms software market.”

OK…Stratecast (a research group of Frost & Sullivan that was named by this blogger) as well as Gartner, IDC, Ovum (which now owns RHK) and Yankee might have a thing or two to say about that. But this is OSS Observer’s moment. Their vision is what kickstarted the enterprise, but over that vision they mapped a blueprint and sweated and hustled to build something good and strong and new that soon towered over the rubble and helped point a way forward for our industry.

Nicely played. Well done. Raise a glass.

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