Ex-IDC Canada analyst returns as managing director

He’s spent a lot of time analyzing the Canadian IT industry, but it didn’t take Vito Mabrucco long to realize he could seize a major career opportunity by returning to an employer he once left behind.

After a stint in the marketing division at Cisco Systems of Canada, Mabrucco officially jointed market research firm IDC Canada Tuesday as managing director. Mabrucco has already worked for several years at the Toronto-based subsidiary of International Data Corp., which manufacturers turn to for insights into purchasing patterns, usage models and market share statistics.

While it has taken time, Mabrucco says he believes his insights are taking hold among business and policy leaders. 

“I spoke about the productivity gap for years, and now you’re hearing about it in the throne speech,” he says.

Mabrucco comes back to IDC at a time when the research industry is facing the same kind of consolidation as many of its clients. Late last year, for example, Gatner Inc. acquired the Meta Group, while other firms have scaled back their operations in the U.S. or Canada. 

ITBusiness.ca spoke with Mabrucco on his first day back at the helm.

ITBusiness.ca: What will you be bringing from your stint with Cisco to this new position?

VM: Well, I’ve kind of completed now, if you will, the full cycle in the industry. The telecom and networking world was one area that I had direct experience with. From that point of view, it was a real eye-opener, understanding what is going on in the networking world. It’s a parallel world in IT, but I’m expecting to change my terminology now to call it the ICT industry. It’s no longer just the IT industry. I’ve seen what Cisco wants to do and what IBM wants to do and this thing is all coming together. It gave me that understanding that, as much as people talk about convergence, it is actually happening, and five years from now, a lot of people are going to be saying, “Wow, why didn’t I see that coming?” 

ITB: What did you learn about the kind of demands a customer like Cisco or IBM might have of market research firms in the future?

VM: Having been in the role of buying research there, one of the needs that vendors have is helping them solve problems that they don’t even necessarily know they have. For example, a customer may have a new product to announce, and they’re going to deliver this worldwide. Cisco, for example, might want to introduce all these data centre products. Well, where do they go to understand in the Canadian market — what that opportunity is, who’s buying it and what kind of problems it’s going to solve? Internally they struggle, because it’s such a new market. So we as an outsider get to bring some of that insight. Have you ever heard of something called market management?

ITB: No, I don’t think so.

VM: Market management is something more and more vendors are doing formally. It’s looking at market opportunities to help the company to determine how big (the market) is, what are the resources required, who are the players, how do we win, who are the competitors, and develops a business case to make that investment. They can outsource part of that, all of that, they can call on us as required. I think one of the things we’re going to have to do is make our offerings more granular so that we can win on those requirements, and not just kind of sell 50,000 ft. level stuff. 

ITB: We’ve seen Forrester enter the Canadian market and then essentially pull out, but besides Gartner there isn’t a lot of focus here. Why do you think that is?

VM: Well, partly because we are an incumbent. That doesn’t mean we can fall asleep at the switch or take it for granted, but we have a trusted advisor position and we have to build on that. That’s why I wanted to come back here: the people were great, the products were great, but the customers are loyal. 

ITB: IDC in the last few years has launched spin-offs like Financial Insights here in Canada. What about bringing more of those, like Life Sciences Insights, to the Canaidan market? 

VM: The Insights groups are something where we want to take research into the vertical markets. We’ll have a similar strategy in Canada, but we will choose which make the most sense. It’s not something where we just want to migrate from corporate into Canada. A Retail Insights might not have as much relevance here as Oil and Gas Insights. We get to pick and choose. That’s the advantage of a Canadian-based organization. We have a footprint that exceeds our competitors and we can make those decisions.

ITB: Your analysts often participate at industry events. How about more of your own, vendor-neutral information sessions?

VM: When we do that, we’re not talking about an event with 300, 500 people. We’re talking about 50 to 100 people where we deliver very concise messages, very relavant messages. This is not intended to become a mainline business but a complement, another service that we can provide. We are not going to become an events company, but it does add to our overall value proposition to our customers. 

ITB: How much collaboration is going on between analysts here in Canada and their U.S. counterparts to look at North American-wide industry trends?

VM: I’m not up to date on that, but I can tell you what I believe needs to be done. I believe there should be alignment, certainly around definitions in the criteria, because the customers are operating that way. At Cisco and even at other vendors, they were using the IDC Canadian content but they knew that IDC Canada was connected to IDC U.S. They didn’t have to worry about trying to triage the numbers, because our numbers are fed into the global numbers, and IDC corporate kind of looks to us for those numbers. If we stay coordinated, our customers will be confident that we have tied up any loose ends.

ITB: You see some independent analysts focused on niches like VoIP. How do you know when a technology or market is mature enough to create a program around it? 

VM: We have to do our own market management there. There may be markets we have to take a pass on. If you get too granular on security with identity management, you can’t build a program around that. We can do some custom consulting so we can compete with those smaller groups, but our business model is combination, as you know, of publishing and consulting.

ITB: What will your strategies be for attracting and retaining talent at IDC Canada? There’s been a fair bit of turnover in the last few years, with yourself included.

VM: It’s interesting. I sent out my greetings message yesterday, and one of my goals is to make this the best place to work. And I think it (already) is a great place to work. I don’t know what the statistic is, but a number of people who have left IDC in the past have since come back. So there’s an interesting culture here of people who like the company, they like the work. You’re right, there was a lot of turnover and probably potential turnover about to happen, but I think if you remove barriers around succeeding, I think people will stay. I have to remove some of the barriers, create some consistency, deliver a vision for our company and for our industry. I think if I do that, people will rally behind it, and being here is kind of going to be where they want to be.

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