HfS Network

Japan: The Land of Rising Automation

April 26, 2017 | Phil FershtAndrew Milroy

And back to our emerging coverage of Asia/Pacific... where people tend to focus on China, India and Australia. However, the Japanese IT services market is larger than these three markets combined - and is growing. So, let’s have our Asia/Pacific research lead, Andrew Milroy, discuss some of the important - and unique - aspects of this lucrative market. 

Japan’s ageing and shrinking population creates real skills shortages and very high labor costs

Japan is currently the only major developed country that is experiencing a population decline. Unlike other developed economies, it is not offsetting population decline with immigration. In addition, Japan has the largest proportion of elderly citizens of any country in the world. In 2014, 33% of the population was over the age of 60 and this percentage is increasing.

Given its shrinking productive population, combined with its wealth, the cost of labor is high. Consequently, its companies are often the first to adopt new technologies, including artificial intelligence and robotics. Companies use these technologies to increase productivity in a market with severe skills shortages.

Japanese firms increasingly struggle to acquire necessary skills to optimize their technology investments which, in turn, raises the cost of these skills. This is leading to increases in spending with third party service providers that help to fill these skills gaps.

Keiretsu stifle innovation and decision-making

Japan has a unique business culture based around keiretsu. Keiretsu are a set of companies with interdependent business activities and ownership arrangements. Toyota is the largest keiretsu. It dominates its keiretsu and has several tiers of subcontractors, most of which only serve Toyota. The activities of contractors and subcontractors tend to be shaped by the dominant company within their ecosystems. This can inhibit innovation from smaller companies in a keiretsu and make it inflexible. Deals tend to be done at the top of the keiretsu. Japanese business remains hierarchical and labor mobility is low compared to other rich countries. Hence, there are typically fewer stakeholders involved in decision making.

The convergence of Information Technology and Operational Technology is driving major transformation

One of the key things to understand about the Japanese market is that operational technology is converging with information technology at an extremely fast rate. It has to, if Japanese industry is going to remain competitive. Its leading manufacturing and automotive firms are using cloud, machine learning, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to transform their operations.

Until recently, industrial firms used proprietary technology for very specific processes. They were often dependent on suppliers within their keiretsu, for components, management, and maintenance of these proprietary machines. Today, Japanese firms are integrating their machinery with information technology, often supplied by firms from outside their own keiretsu. For example, Hitachi and Mitsubishi are integrating third party mobile, cloud and AI technology into their industrial machinery as a way of lowering planned and unplanned outages, enhancing customer experience and lowering the total cost of ownership.

Similarly, Toyota, and other leading Japanese automotive firms, have been embedding IT into their vehicles, enabling more automation. Third party cloud, mobile, IoT and AI technology are all being integrated into Japanese motor vehicles.

The Japanese business environment poses huge challenges and opportunities for ambitious IT Services buyers and providers

What does this mean for the IT services environment? Industrial firms are looking for IT services firms that understand how information technology is converging with their operational technology. These firms must understand how their customers’ businesses operate, at a more granular level than ever before. The integration of the IoT, cloud, machine learning and mobility with operational technology is transforming industrial businesses and enabling firms in Japan to differentiate themselves. Large Japanese IT services firms, NEC, Fujitsu and particularly Hitachi are well placed in their domestic market. In addition to being leading IT services suppliers, they are also operational technology firms. This gives them a huge advantage in the Japanese market and makes it difficult, although not impossible, for foreign firms to compete with them locally. These firms continue to dominate the Japanese IT services market together with the NTT Group. To be successful, foreign IT services firms must be able to demonstrate an understanding of the convergence of operational technology and information technology in specific industries.

The financial services, retail, healthcare and government markets offer enormous opportunities. Japan’s financial services and retail sectors are mature, sophisticated and highly automated. There remains a lot of older, legacy technology, so there is an opportunity for IT services companies, both Japanese and foreign to create systems integration, maintenance and management opportunities in these sectors. Financial services firms and retail firms tend to look globally for ‘best of breed’ technology implementations. Foreign firms such as IBM and Accenture, are well placed to bring expertise created from projects outside Japan, to Japanese clients. This is more challenging in industrial sectors where Japanese firms consider themselves to be ahead of the curve. Nevertheless, in recent years, Japanese firms have shown more interest in what has been happening in Germany and its ‘Industrie 4.0’ initiatives.

The highly regulated Japanese healthcare sector offers some interesting opportunities. The world’s oldest population has focused on innovative new technologies to offer cost-effective care to the elderly. Huge investments in elder care robots have been made by the Japanese government and Japan leads the way with this technology, some of which is being used in Japan. The use of sensors and other devices that can allow remote care is also very advanced in Japan. Again, IT services firms are needed to implement and manage this technology.

The Bottom Line: Japan’s skills crisis is driving automation at a breakneck pace

If IT services firms are serious about growing in Asia, they need to develop a strategy for Japan. This is the biggest market. It is hard to say that you have an Asian presence if you are not visible in Japan.

Japan’s demographic characteristics, combined with its rigid keiretsu-based business culture are forcing companies to automate processes rapidly. Indeed, Japanese firms are blending information technology, often supplied from outside the relevant keiretsu, with operational technology, to drive out costs, engender innovation, and address skills shortages.

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesAsia-Pacific

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Why even the Beeb needs sourcing standards

April 24, 2017 | Phil Fersht

 

When you're one of the last vestiges of commercial-free television trying to compete in a media world gone mad on digital and traditional advertising, you need to be pretty savvy when it comes to managing the coffers when you're still reliant on public TV license frees each year to maintain your program quality.  So who better to talk with than the Beeb's Jim Hemmington, who sits on the corporation's external expenditure on goods and services, which includes several key outsourcing relationships. We also invited Chris Halward of the Global Sourcing Association (which engages with HfS as its preferred research partner), who leads the GSA's global standards accreditation program to the conversation...

Phil Fersht, Chief Analyst and CEO, HfS Research: Good morning gentelmen. Let's get started with the introductions, shall we?          

Jim Hemmington, Director of Procurement, BBC: Yes, of course, Phil. I’m Jim Hemmington, Director of Procurement at the BBC. I am responsible for external spending on goods and services. That’s about 1.4 billion pounds a year. It's about 19% of the BBC 's licensing. I look

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesGovernance Practices and Tools

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By golly, HfS hires Ollie...

April 22, 2017 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

From staring at his fish tank to working on an IT service desk... to becoming an analyst, then ending up at HfS.  Now that is unlearning personified for Ollie O'Donoghue (see bio), our latest recruit covering the IT services landscape from the UK.... so let's learn a bit more about this curious fellow...

Welcome Ollie!  Can you share a little about your background and why you have chosen research and strategy as your career path? 

Hi Phil! My career started in IT Services after I graduated from University with a History degree. Luckily for me, by the time I graduated, IT organisations had become more focused on service as opposed to technical ability – of which I have none.

I joined a large public sector organisation and moved around to a few different positions in the three years I was with them. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but my real passion lies in research, so I jumped at the opportunity to join an organisation as an Industry Analyst covering IT services. After a year or so, I made the jump to Head of Research and Insight which allowed me to develop and drive the research agenda. 

It was around this period I started on the IT Service speaker circuit. At the time, the industry was particularly concerned about the impact of automation, so I tailored my presentations to bring data and research to the party which, at the time, was being overrun with sensationalism from the mainstream media. Finding good data and sources for my sessions brought me into contact with HfS who, unlike some of the other analyst firms, were mirroring what I saw taking place in the industry. 

Why did you choose to join HfS... and why now?

As they say, all good things come to an end. Covering the service and support industry was great fun, and I made some amazing friends and contacts. But after a few years, I felt the need to expand my coverage to encapsulate a lot of the other key areas and trends at play in the wider business landscape.

When it came down to it, moving to HfS was an easy decision, I just asked the question: Do I want to join the Blockbuster of the analyst industry, or the Netflix?

HfS have been busily disrupting the industry for years with their freemium model and high

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Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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Automation will destroy, then save outsourcing: The industry has spoken

April 15, 2017 | Phil Fersht

For those of you who made our New York Digital OneOffice Summit a couple of weeks ago, we had a rumbustious mix of seasoned outsourcing buyers, service provider leaders, advisors and robo vendors under one roof to cogitate, discuss and argue where the hell the industry known as outsourcing and operations is truly heading. Let's just lay down what the hell is really happening in the only unvarnished way we know how...

There is a fast realization that the outsourcing industry has reached a phase of almost insufferable tension.  Why?

Several of the RPA (Robotic Process Automation) solutions vendors are painting an over-glamorous picture of dramatic cost savings and ROI. RPA software firms are claiming - and demonstrating - some client cases where ~40% of cost (or more, in some cases) is being taken off the bottom line. While some of these cases are genuine, there are many RPA pilots and early-phase implementations in the industry that have been left stranded because clients just couldn't figure out the ROI and how to implement this stuff. This isn't simply a case of buying software and looping broken processes together to remove manual efforts... this requires real buy-in from IT and operations leaders to invest in the technical, organizational change management, and process transformation skills.

Buyers are backed into a corner with broken delusions of automation grandeur as their CoEs fail. Buyer leaderships are being fed all this rosy information and are under incredible pressure to devise and execute an RPA strategy, with some sort of set of metrics, that they can demonstrate to their operations leadership.  Many are quickly discovering they simply do not have the skills inhouse to set up automation centers of excellence and are frantically turning to third parties to help get them on the right track.

Outsourcing consultants are selling RPA before they can really deliver it. Sourcing advisors are claiming they are now "RPA experts" who can make this happen, while struggling to scale up talent bases that can understand the technology and deal with the considerable change management tensions within their clients.  RPA is murky and complex, and not something you can train 28-year-old MBAs to master overnight.  Meanwhile, we are seeing some advisors simply do some brokering of RPA software deals for small fees, only to make a hasty exit from the client as they do not have the expertise to roll-out effective implementation and change management programs. 

RPA specialist consultants few and far between. Pure-play RPA advisors are explaining this is not quite so easy and requires a lot more of a centralized, concise strategy.  There are simply not enough of these firms in the market, especially with Genfour having been snapped up recently by Accenture. With only a small handful of boutique specialists to go around, these firms can pick and choose their clients and command high rates.

Service providers will set the pace, but many will destroy each other in the process. Service providers are claiming they can implement whatever RPA clients need, but are not willing to do it at the expense of reducing their current revenues. Meanwhile, smart service providers are aggressively implementing RPA into their own operations to drive down their delivery costs and reduce their own headcount.  So we can expect to see providers aggressively attacking competitive clients with automation-led solutions that should create unbearable pricing pressures for service providers looking to retain the talent they need to implement this stuff. Hence, services providers will be hell bent on destroying each other and the winners will be those who eventually succeed in winning more work than they lose amidst all the destruction. This is a war of many battles being fought - and the winners will be those who are in this for the long haul, who can absorb some short-term losses to pick up the larger spoils further down the road when they have a fully equipped intelligent automation delivery capability that can deliver highly-competitive and profitable As-a-Service offerings.

The good news is that half of today's buyers want to turn to service providers to make this work

When we privately polled 60 senior outsourcing buyers, at the recent HfS New York Summit, on what would improve the quality and outcomes of their current services relationships, the answer was pretty conclusive - half want to work with their providers to rollout their automation and cognitive roadmaps, while only a third think they should pull back work in-house to figure this stuff out for themselves:

The Bottom-line: The automation gauntlet is now in full effect and the casualties will mount up as the outsourcing industry plays out its most perilous battle for survival yet.  But all is not lost if we eye a longer-term prize...

So we've reached crunch time. Whichever way we look at it, RPA has created a lethal environment, which was only just coming to terms with providers and buyers working together to get the basics of delivery right. Most outsourcing buyers have to look to automation to save their jobs and please their ambitious leaders, no longer content with the ~30% they saved on offshore-centric outsourcing just a few short years ago (see our recent State of Outsourcing and Operations data on 454 major buyers). 

So, in the meantime, for all the reasons outlined above, this industry will literally go into a destructive war over automation. The skills to make automation a massively profitable reality are few and far between, while greedy corporate leaders demand cost savings that simply are not achievable if their organizations fail to make the necessary investments and partnerships to make this achievable. Did companies become world class at HR overnight because they bought an expensive Workday subscription?  Or stellar at sales and marketing because they slammed in a Salesforce suite?  So why should they become amazing at cost-driven automation simply because they went and bought some licenses from an RPA vendor promising bot farms and virtual labor forces?  

RPA and Intelligent Automation have sparked a major war in the worlds of outsourcing and operations, where many battles are being fought - and the winners will be those who are in this for the long haul, who can absorb some short-term pain in order to benefit from the larger spoils further down the road. While automation is killing outsourcing today - costing many people their jobs, their reputations and destroying the profitability of legacy engagements, those who can hunker down, focus on self-contained projects where they can fix one broken process at a time, can get stakeholders onside by demonstrating meaningful, impactful outcomes without major resource investments, will be the winners.  Start with one process at a time, prove how to fix in, then onto the next, then the next... that is the only true way to be successful in this destructive automation-infested world. 

Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process Automation

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With reckless abandon, here's Manish Tandon

April 14, 2017 | Phil Fersht

In today's perilously paranoid services industry, many ambitious executives are resurfacing in smaller sized service providers, which can compete on smaller scale contracts that are arising with mid-market firms, in addition to being nimble enough to compete for business at the high end. What's more, many savvy buyers are feeling more secure investing in emerging providers that are not weighed down by the legacy contracts of older times and greedy investors eager to jump ship once they sense the gravy train has stalled.

One such character is the affable Manish Tandon, who made his name at Infosys, where he led some major divisions, before recently popping up at customer experience and IT provider CSS Corp.  So let's hear what life is like moving from the very large to the medium-sized provider... 

Phil Fersht, Chief Anaylst and CEO, HfS Research: Good morning Manish. It’s great to have you on HfS today. You've had a very illustrious career in the services industry, spending a long time at Infosys where you climbed the ladder, and you recently took the CEO job at CSS Corp. Did you expect such an illustrious career in services - and what's exciting about this move for you?

Manish Tandon, CEO, CSS Corp: Thank you, Phil for having me, and great talking to you, as always. I would say I have always liked the services business tremendously. As a graduate from one of the top management institutes, I had the pick of jobs in most of the top financial institutions and so on, but I always liked technology and particularly technology services. Primarily, because this is one area you get to work on something new, something different, something challenging every one or two years, every assignment is different, so I have always

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Posted in: Outsourcing Heros

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DXC’s challenges represent a microcosm of a services industry in perilous transition

April 09, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonTom Reuner

April 3rd saw the long-anticipated creation of a new IT and BPO powerhouse service provider – DXC.technology. However, DXC’s challenges represent a microcosm of a services industry in perilous transition.

This is a crucial event in the services industry, not only because it isn’t often a “new” $25 Billion services firm is created, but because of what it signifies about the uncertain state of the current market and the huge challenges facing service providers in the near future.

Read our complimentary analysis of the merger on the HfS Research website by clicking here.

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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An idiot’s guide to buying and selling services in APAC

April 07, 2017 | Phil FershtAndrew Milroy

We're delighted to unveil Andrew Milroy (see announcement and bio) to head up the new HfS Singapore Office, driving the firm's APAC operations.

I worked with Andrew in IDC UK in the late 90s, and in IDC Asia/Pac in the early 2000s when I was based in Singapore and Andrew was in IDC Australia - and we've kept in touch for most of the past two decades. Andrew is a big deal in the region, having led Frost and Sullivan's APAC IT and comms practice from Singapore for the last 9 years. He also single-handedly established NelsonHall's US research business, prior to that.

Extending our coverage of global markets is critical to our future direction at HfS, so I wanted to have Andrew introduce himself to our readers with a simple guide of the region and give you a snippet of his insight as we firmly get to grips with services and operations dynamics in Asia/Pac.  Over to you, Andrew...

An idiot’s guide to buying and selling services in Asia: Some Key Considerations

After a break of nearly 7 years, it is great to start blogging again with the analyst industry’s most successful socially-driven analyst firm: HfS Research. I have had the privilege to spend most of the last 7 years, living and working in Asia. I say ‘privilege’ because the experience has been truly enriching professionally, intellectually and personally.

My learning curve steepened the day I started to work in the world’s largest, most populous, and richest continent. Much of the understanding of Asia that I developed, while working in the

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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Worried you're failing at your job? Here are six simple questions to ask yourself...

April 06, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Posted in: Global Workforce and Talent

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Accenture adds European Automation Brains and Brawn with Genfour Acquisition

April 03, 2017 | Phil FershtTom Reuner

As an addendum, many of you have reached out to us since publishing this blog, regarding whether this was the right time for an emerging star in automation, like Genfour, to sell. There is a lot of runway in Intelligent Automation and there is no doubt in my mind that Genfour's architect, James Hall, could have held out for longer and continued along his growth path as one of the few attractive pureplays in the space worth acquiring.

As our recent analysis of them revealed, the current bunch are not very well established, hence some want a quick cash-out and exit, while others are hunkering down to play the longer game.  It is our view that Intelligent Automation and AI will evolve like the digital market, with service providers crying out for "press release buys" that give them credibility.  Hence, this is as good a time as any to establish your own pureplay Intelligent Automation shop and throw yourself into the mix.  But good luck finding the talent... there's a real shortage of it out there!  

So why did Accenture acquire Genfour and does this make market sense?

In times of disconcerting political and macro-economic events, where #fakenews and a traditional outsourcing model officially running out of value, getting predictions right is becoming increasingly difficult for an analyst.  Hence, the more pleasing it is when you can gloat about predicting an acquisition.

Case in point, Accenture’s acquisition of UK-based Genfour, a pure-play automation services provider that will become the cornerstone of a newly formed Center of Excellence (CoE) for Intelligent Automation, located in Wales. Back in December 2016 we did gaze deeply into the automation crystal ball and suggested that similar to the acquisition of Alsbridge by ISG, the

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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Yamazaki, Macallan and Redbreast lead the inaugural HfS Premium Whisky Blueprint

April 01, 2017 | Phil FershtBram Weerts

We've talked long and hard about the extent of digital disruption of traditional business models, so we decided to extend our research coverage into growth markets where the impact of digital is always positive.  When you look at the premium whisky, for example, our research shows its impact promotes new ideas, helps foster greater team collaboration and can even provoke new Design Thinking principles. Let's have a look at how the leaders in this space are positioned, based on our Blueprint Research Methodology:

At HfS we are expert analysts at peering into markets and evaluating the performances of the major players, so we thought "why not extend our coverage into adjacent markets where some of our analysts have years of practical, hands on experience?".  Personally, I have had more innovative client discussions comparing the various merits of single malt whiskies than which automation tools vendors have better control features.  

So let's talk to a few of our contributing analysts to understand how this market played out:

Bram Weerts, COO, HfS Research:

"I've tried each and every one of these buggers and you can't beat the old Yama 18.  I do love the Mac, but Yama hits the spot everytime"

Tom Reuner, SVP Intelligent Automation Research:

"I believe I've sampled all of these whiskies, especially when I am out at analyst conferences. I haven't a clue which is the best, but wanted my name on the report, so I endorse whatever Bram and Phil came up with."

Derk Erbé, VP Research:

"I believe the whisky market is ripe for digital transformation.  Emerging brands like the Walmart Fireball are poised to rip the bottom out of the market"

Jamie Snowdon, Chief Data Officer:

"There's no way I could get through our quarterly forecasts without sampling a few of these first.  And the way the industry's going, the old Walmart Fireball will only increase in popularity"

Phil Fersht, CEO:

"We may worry about robots stealing our jobs, but those bastards will never be able to drink our Scotch."

Bottom-Line:  This is only the beginning, HfS is going to extend into new markets everywhere as digital disruption takes hold

We believe we are qualified to become experts on any market where money changes hands and greats ideas emerge. Stay tuned for our forthcoming blueprints:

"Tequila Transformation - it can really change things"

"The least disgusting low-carb beers of 2017" and

"Organic wines that you really want to avoid As-a-Service" 

And of course... this was an:

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Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyDigital TransformationHfS Blueprint Results

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The spreading outsourcing disease: barely a third of buyers see real value in their current provider relationships

March 30, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Oh dear - here are the private views of about 60 outsourcing clients we polled today at the HfS Summit in New York.  Close to half the room are either feeling let down by their provider over-promising, or merely feel they are only really getting cheap labor from their relationship. Moreover, barely a third of them actually believe their provider can come up with the goods, provided they pay for them via the legacy FTE pricing model. Now, these buyers are highly experienced and sophisticated, so this data is particularly hard for the outsourcing industry to digest.

So a few simple takeaways from this:

Service providers have to stop the over-promising and start over-delivering.  Over-promising may result in some short-term wins, but the implications of long-term damage caused by missing client expectations are much more hazardous. Sadly, investor pressures to sustain unrealistic growth is forcing several service providers to over-sell without the talent resources to deliver anything beyond low grade offshore delivery.

Many providers are proving their competency, but failing as proactive co-innovators.  As we recently revealed, a third of senior management does see real potential in their service providers to become genuine co-innovation partners, but there is a stark difference between fantasy and reality.  Providers need to prove they are willing to share risks, really roll up their sleeves with their clients - and clients need to work harder to create an environment of trust that they'll stick with their providers, provided they are willing to co-invest with them. Design Thinking anyone?  Maybe it's time to get in a room together and figure this whole thing out.  

Bottom-line: We're going to see a lot of chopping and changing of service providers in this volatile environment.  

Several buyers cited they felt their providers were too comfortable with them and were not worried they would get ejected from long-term outsourcing relationships.  However, with advisors, competitive providers and RPA vendors all touting the magic 40% of cost savings through automation, the leadership layers are exerting unprecedented pressures on outsourcing governance leads to demand change. In many cases, buyers are simply bringing in advisors and RPA tools vendors themselves and running their own pilots, but eventually, they are likely to put their existing deals out for rebid to find providers willing to guarantee the RPA savings.  And that is where the market is going - lots of cut-throat rebids, higher degrees of risk-taking to win business and more clients being over-promised.  We're in a vicious cycle where desperation is trumping good, pragmatic partnerships where both buyers and providers can figure out how to work together in trusted, risk/reward sharing environments.  

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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Welcome to Judgement Day, where the real future of Outsourcing and the Digital OneOffice will be decided in NY this week!

March 26, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Dear Friends,

Our day of judgment is upon us! Can we really “unlearn” the last two decades and change how we buy, sell, behave and operate? Do we really have what it takes - deep down inside - to get ahead of this maelstrom of change and come out the other side with wealth, happiness and another two decades of double-digit growth?

Of course we can! But only if you book your last-minute spot to the services event of the year, in Midtown Manhattan next week… Join me, my colleagues and the industry’s finest as we engage in the richest dialog yet on how to tackle the most crucial transition our industry has ever faced, and how to come out the other side re-energized and happy to go to work again.

Service Buyers get complimentary access - only a few seats left, so apply now!

To name a few companies which will be represented...

And a few of the power brokers debating the big outsourcing reset in New York...

Find the full line-up here. See you in New York this Thursday, I hope!

Cheers,

Posted in: Digital OneOfficeOutsourcing Events

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The traditional outsourcing model is officially out of value, but the future is bright for co-innovation partnerships

March 19, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Remember all those juicy reasons why companies jumped into outsourcing? Like driving out cost, standardizing processes, perhaps even finding a few nuggets of innovation along the way with better access to talent and technology? Well our new 2017 State of Operations and Outsourcing Study of 454 major enterprise buyers gives a pretty gloomy picture of the current value impact of today’s outsourcing engagements:

 

Click to Enlarge

What made us happy in the past no longer passes muster

If there was ever one home-banker benefit from outsourcing, it was always the ability to take 30%+ off the bottom line cost of running a process or set of processes.

The VPs and below are those who are managing the engagements – and not even a third of them view their engagements as being very effective at driving out significant cost or making their operations more flexible and scalable. Their bosses are slightly less cynical, but still the vast majority is underwhelmed.

"But how can they be unhappy, we saved them so much money?" I hear frustrated providers cry… 

Well, the answer is quite simply that those costs have been removed from the balance sheet – they no longer exist. Managing operations in a global environment is now the new normal – money that was saved was a onetime experience in the past. It’s like trading in your Hummer for a Prius… you don’t think to yourself, everytime you fill up with gas, “Wow, I’m saving $50 per tank”, but you might even think, “Hmmm… maybe I’ll get a fully electric car next and save even more on my running costs”.

We can go on to bemoan the disappointing lack of effectiveness from analytics, automation and cognitive from over four-fifths of outsourcing engagements, but we know clients are unlikely to have invested actual funds in these areas as part of most of these engagements today – they are getting what they have paid for in the past.

All is not lost as many operations leaders want their service providers to change with them

However, the next wave of engagements have to be set up in a very different way to bring back delights to these jaded customers, which is where the brighter news appears:

Click to Enlarge

What's encouraging here is that buyers, by and large, do not view their service providers as mere efficient cost take-out vehicles, which was how well over half viewed them a couple of years ago. While 43% of SVPs and above see service providers as competent partners who can deliver the goods, another 35% actually view them as real innovation partners who can work with them to achieve co-defined business outcomes.  This is a breakthrough for the services industry.

The Bottom-line: The door is wide open for ambitious providers willing to invest in developing their talent, but closing firmly shut for those perpetuating what worked in the past

There has never been a time in the history of services where we've arrived at such a pivotal turning point - what used to work for clients is now commodity, and those service providers wanting to avoid this drain-circling spiral into transactional insignificance must make serious investments in their internal capabilities to partner with their clients.  This means more people who can work in close proximity to their clients with real capabilities rolling out automation roadmaps, designing digital business models, working with clients to develop predictive data models and smart cognitive strategies.  Sadly, there isn't much of an available pool of eager college graduates ready to leap into these roles at low wage rates, so providers need to reinvent themselves radically as true learning establishments and universities for their emerging talent... ambitious people will want to invest their careers with firms who are prepared to invest in their talent.  The future isn't about buying packaged consulting, it's about partnering with services firms whose stakeholders want to co-invest in themselves and their clients with a long-term vision and definitive plan.  The model has changed forever... and we can only watch, learn and work with it as it unravels piece by piece.  

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT Services2017 State of Industry Study

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Genpact becomes the first provider to acquire an AI platform

March 14, 2017 | Phil FershtReetika JoshiTom Reuner

While most of the services and operations industry obsesses with Robotic Process Automation to streamline its rudimentary back office processes, one provider that’s never shied away from making bold moves to disrupt illustrious competitors is Genpact, with an imaginative move to integrate true artificial intelligence with its business process service offerings by acquiring the impressive Boston-based Rage Frameworks.

It's almost history repeating itself from a decade ago, when the (then privately held) Genpact turned the BPO model on its head with its disruptive virtual captive proposition that significantly challenged the pricing models and ability to integrate offshore capabilities into the old BPO model. Now, the firm is breaking the mold, yet again, by making real inroads into infusing AI into business processes and introducing these concepts to its huge global community of finance leaders.  

Let’s get to the rub: RPA is all about digitizing the back office, but Artificial Intelligence is where we see the true marriage of business processes with clever technology and self-developing algorithms. We’ve danced for years trying to prophesize when BPO will truly integrate with IT, but we’ve now had reality unveiled: RPA platforms streamline the back office, while AI brings the middle and front together to create that true Digital OneOffice experience. The Digital OneOffice is not about collecting and archiving historical data simply to discover what went wrong, it's about being able to predict when things will go wrong and devising smart strategies to get ahead of them. The Digital OneOffice is about embedding smart cognitive applications into process chains and workflows, it’s about learning from mistakes and new experiences along the way. This is the emerging “organization neural system”, where the needs of the customer can be intelligently supported by real-time, self-learning intelligent operations:

 

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Why is this acquisition significant?

In a nascent market where stakeholders stumble through smoke and mirrors to make any sense of the many claims around Intelligent Automation, M&A is a clear indicator that the market is starting to mature. When in December 2016 ISG bought Alsbridge and CA acquired Automic, HfS suggested that Intelligent Automation was at an inflection point and that the focus on automation tools will shift toward the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook around deep learning and the integration of unstructured data. While we have not yet seen the Internet giants play their hand, Genpact’s acquisition of Rage Frameworks is underlining exactly these market dynamics. And this is the first time that a service provider is driving automation capabilities through M&A.

Rage Frameworks drives pre-built automation engines deep into unstructured territory

Whereas the broader market remains misguidedly focused on the intricacies of RPA, Rage’s focus is not on automating specific process steps, often on sub-process level, but on developing a broad ranging platform (RAGE Enterprise) for custom solutions with a deep vertical footprint. While RPA is largely focused on structured information, Rage will take Genpact deeper into integrating semi and unstructured data. Their development effort over the last two years to build enterprise applications for financial industry processes (wealth management, commercial loan processing and financial statement spreading) is shifting the focus from automation tools and capabilities to providing an end-to-end process leveraging a model driven business transformation platform.

In our view, the value proposition of Rage Frameworks is centred on leveraging Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to build out highly vertical engines in Financial Services, Capital Markets, and Supply-Chain. The functionality of these engines ranges from managing business rules to real-time integrating content to data access and NLP all built around a process assembly engine. These engine building blocks can then be assembled for custom solutions that automate business processes or can be used as one of three pre-assembled financial services industry applications: LiveWealth, LiveCredit, and LiveSpread. In addition, broader capabilities including front desk automation, real-time intelligence, and pricing are transforming how commercial lending, policy underwriting, financial statement analysis, investment research, and multi-system reconciliation can be performed.

RAGE’s industry applications are a big part of the allure for Genpact, which has spent the last few years going deeper into its commercial banking and capital markets operations accounts with data and analytics solutions trying to solve the same client operational challenges as Rage. In our recent HfS Capital Markets Operations Blueprint, Genpact placed in the Winner’s Circle, with an HfS callout about its need to bring more technology enablement to capital markets. The service provider has examples of using emerging technologies such as machine learning, automation, dynamic data extraction, etc., in LOBs as retail banking. What Rage brings to the table for Genpact is a more strategic approach for impacting client operations through technology-led change.

Genpact continues to lead the automation discussion from the front

From Genpact’s perspective, the acquisition is reinforcing the perception of being a pioneer in Intelligent Automation. Having led the market with the first publicly announced partnerships with AutomationAnywhere, Exilant, and Automic around its Rapid Automation program, Rage Frameworks fits in well with Genpact’s holistic approach to automation. Within that context, Rage’ assets will further advance the integration of unstructured data: Genpact has invested heavily in analytics and big data with a dedicated research lab in Bangalore, India. They have developed a Data Engagement Platform using big data technologies, in order to be able to harness structured and unstructured data from multiple sources. Thus, its Lean Digital strategy is aligned with HfS OneOffice concept. But the company has to demonstrate that it is starting to link up back, middle and front-office.

The broader market will follow with accelerated M&A activity

Regulations and risk management requirements are forcing banks to rethink the way in which they capture, store, manage, and distribute the growing volumes of transactional and trade data. Structured data from multiple departments and asset classes are maintained in silos, and unstructured data present new challenges as well as opportunities for automation and analytics.

Despite the continuing noise around RPA, we believe the market will shift toward operational analytics and the broader notion of AI. Not only are the leading RPA tool providers expanding in that direction, but we expect the investment focus to progress toward Deep Learning, Neural Networks, and broad NLP capabilities. While it might sound trite, data really is becoming the new currency. But this currency needs to be integrated into delivery backbones on an industrial scale. Thus, service providers need to reinforce their efforts on service orchestration. We haven’t seen many proof points for a successful expansion into data-centric scenarios, but those deployments will be a clear demarcation between the leaders and the also-runs.

Central to this will be the articulation and delivery of business outcomes for specific industry functions through the use of operational analytics, RPA, BPO and AI. Can Genpact put together a financial spreading function by leveraging its operational expertise in BPO and RPA, the RAGE LiveSpread application and analytics interventions to deliver more efficient and effective credit risk management?

Bottom-line: Genpact is progressing toward True Digital OneOffice capabilities

Genpact’s announcement can be crystalized to its ambition of blending RPA in the back-office with AI in the middle-office, which is why the firm, still regarded by many as a "pureplay BPO" managed to break the top 10 in the recent Digital OneOffice Premier League, despite not dragging a multi-billion dollar IT services business around.

Thus, BPO is ever more changing to becoming technology-led. We expect that this strategy will be increasingly underpinned by neural networks and notions of self-remediation to enhance the Digital Underbelly and the Intelligent Digital Processes of the OneOffice concept. While Rage Frameworks is one of the superior suppliers across the Intelligent Automation Continuum, the more providers that are progressing toward the notion of AI, the more inflated the valuations for M&A will become. Against this background, valuations for RPA providers could look like peanuts very quickly. But then again, M&A is rarely rational in today's foggy market.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Cognitive ComputingFinance & Accounting BPO

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Deconstructing Q4 2016 – Growth in the Traditional Services Model close to Flatlining

March 10, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie Snowdon

The traumatic Q4 results season has finally ended and our Chief Data Officer, Jamie Snowdon, is able to report on the final Q4 standings...

We’ve visualised the latest set of results for Q4 in the diagram, the top chart shows our usual margin v growth view (excluding AWS). With a chart showing the quarterly growth for Q4, an estimation of the annual (calendar) growth and the Q4 operating margin.

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For each of the providers the results look like this:

 

Growth Q4 (%)

Growth 2016 Calendar Year (%)

Margin Q4 (%)

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Accenture

6.3%

7.1%

15.6%

Good quarter for Accenture with plenty of success stories around digital, cloud and security. Constant currency growth around a percentage point above the actual growth for the quarter. Annual services growth is 7.1%.

Atos

6.8%

9.7%

9.6%

Coming down from the highs of its recent acquisition-fuelled growth of the last couple years - Atos remains solid with organic growth at 1.8% for the year and 1.9% for the quarter. Benefiting from strong execution and its investments in analytics, security and automation.

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Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesTrends Analysis

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Watson and Einstein Sitting In A Tree: IBM-Salesforce join forces to give you more ways to buy AI

March 10, 2017 | Phil FershtReetika JoshiTom ReunerKhalda De Souza

The time for smart partnerships to drive real innovation and new thinking in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing is now. This means we need to see the industry’s deep-pocketed innovators become increasingly open – and eager - to working together to help the services industry make the shift to true digital, intelligent, cognitive capabilities.

Recent HfS research shows adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing to enhance operational analytics and Machine Learning is strongly accelerating, with 72% of senior operations executives citing cognitive as becoming a critical component of the future operations strategy:

Digital and Cognitive are Driving Enterprise Operations

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Source: “Intelligent Operations" Study, HfS Research 2016; Sample: Buyers = 371

While the market perception around these topics remains refreshingly blurred, AI is a critical building block as organizations increasingly look to progress from legacy labor-driven service delivery to progress toward notions the As-a-Service Economy and the Digital OneOffice (see link). While AI is capturing the imagination of many PE investors and VCs and is being used to hype up media reporting and conference circuits, the market dynamics are far from clear.

Against this background, the fundamental question being posed is “Who will be in the driving

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Posted in: Analytics and Big DataCognitive ComputingIntelligent Automation

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Crush that cobol... at last a standard org chart for your disruptive digital hierarchy

March 07, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Finally! We've just saved you hours upon hours of mind-numbingly dull hangouts trying to figure out all your fancy new digital job titles and reporting lines... now time to get combatting all that disruption to make your firm a true transformative digital pioneer in this emerging quantum era, where you can be a digital Michael Phelps diving into your own datalake:

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyDigital TransformationDigital OneOffice

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IBM, Accenture, Cognizant, Deloitte and Infosys lead the first Digital OneOffice™ Premier League

February 26, 2017 | Phil Fersht

As the market for enabling and supporting the digital organization reaches fever pitch, HfS’ analyst team has run a detailed assessment of service provider capability to deliver the Digital OneOffice experience across the five pillars that align the front, middle and back offices. We believe it essential to evaluate how service providers’ emerging capabilities are stacking up, not just in each distinct category, but how they align to the holistic Digital OneOffice Framework across these five key pillars:

Pillar 1) The Digital Customer Engagement (Weighing 25%)

Pillar 2) Design Thinking: Designing Digital Outcomes (Weighting 15%)

Pillar 3) The Digital Underbelly (Weighting 20%)

Pillar 4) Intelligent Digital Support Functions (Weighting 20%)

Pillar 5) Intelligent Digital Processes (Weighing 20%)

This is HfS’ very first Digital OneOffice Premier League ranking exercise. We have taken the 5 key components of the Digital OneOffice described above, and scored each service provider on each category and subcategories as applicable (see the Digital OneOffice Organization illustration below). Using materials from recent research projects, namely Blueprint reports and many client reference discussions, we leveraged our broad analyst team’s collective knowledge of the industry to perform this analysis, involving analysts Phil Fersht, Melissa O'Brien, Barbra McGann, Jamie Snowdon, Tom Reuner, Derk Erbé, Reetika Joshi, Pareekh Jain, Khalda de Souza and Steve Goldberg.  

HfS subscribers can download their copy of the 2017 Digital OneOffice 2017 Premier League here.

The result below is the ranking of the top 25 service providers and how comprehensively each is aligned to the Digital OneOffice framework overall and enabling its clients to become more intelligent organizations that ultimately improve customer experience. 

Why The Digital OneOffice is the Future of Outsourcing

The Digital OneOffice Framework is all about the design and implementation of the organizational digital experience and the creation of an intelligent, single office to execute and support it. In a few months, we won’t be talking nearly as much about intelligent automation and digital technology as the critical “value levers” for operations, as they become an embedded part of the fabric of the future operations platform for new generation organizations. Instead, we will be talking about an integrated support operation having the digital prowess to enable its organization to meet customer demand - as and when that demand happens. Everything about the digital organization is about engaging people by responding to their needs instantaneously, giving people their choice of medium to interact with it, be it voice, chat box, text, Facebook messenger, email, virtual agent, etc.

In this context, "Digital" describes the interactive channels that drive customer engagement, such as cognitive agents, interactive tools, mobile, social, text and chat. "OneOffice" describes the enabling technologies, such as unified analytics and cognitive automation, that enable real-time predictive capabilities and an engaging digital experience that unifies all the stakeholders across the organization: the customers, partners and employees. In short, the Digital OneOffice is where the organization's people, intelligence, processes and the infrastructure come together as one integrated unit, with one set of unified business outcomes tied to exceeding expectations.

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The Bottom-line: The Winning Service Providers are those who can become Digital OneOffice Organizations themselves

The bottom line is that digital is all about realigning the organization to the customer; even those processes and roles which aren’t even remotely customer facing still play a critical role in supporting the digital customer experience. The service providers we have evaluated all play different roles in enabling that for clients. Those which scored well in the rankings are doing the best at bringing together the cross-organizational Digital OneOffice concepts for clients, but in the age of frequent and abrupt disruption, things can change. In 2017, we’ll continue to see service providers making moves to invest in and build out more comprehensive Digital OneOffice capabilities as well as those which will double down in the pillars of The Digital OneOffice where they excel. These are still early days, and we anticipate the next iteration of the Digital OneOffice Premier League will produce winners which have proven they can integrate the pieces most effectively, driving transformation across the pillars leveraging their strategy, consulting, Design Thinking and operational enablement prowess.

To conclude, people simply want to operate digitally these days, whether they are an employee, customer or partner. They want to use interactive technology, mobile apps, social media, text, online chat, etc. to get things done. We are used to using sophisticated digital technologies in our personal lives, and now expect to use them in our professional lives. Whether we are buying products, groceries, renting accommodation, ordering Starbucks, takeout, applying for mortgages, insurances policies etc., digital technology is the new language of business. The issues facing many traditional businesses today is the fact that while the consumer is increasingly digitally sophisticated, many organizations are still beholden to legacy technologies and processes that are fast sinking into obsolescence. In addition, many have employees in the “back office” who are so steeped in the legacy way of doing things, they are facing a double-edged issue: how do they drag their operations kicking and screaming out of the dark ages to support their digital customers? The answer, believe it or not, is quite simple: break down the barriers between departments, involve the digital customer experiences into all the business processes and practices, by creating a Digital OneOffice where an organization’s customers, partners and employees are all entwined together to deliver the end customers the ultimate experience, and the operations function a genuine connection with the true running of the business from back to front.

Net-net - every touch point of the modern business needs to be digital - and to achieve that you need to be a digital business right at your core, where the most rudimentary of processes are automated to enable the building blocks of the digital experience. The winning service providers will be those which are true digital organizations that can partner with their clients to feed off their DNA and culture.

HfS subscribers can download their copy of the 2017 Digital OneOffice 2017 Premier League here

Posted in: Digital TransformationDigital OneOffice

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It's here, it's real... it's the 2017 RPA Blueprint deal!

February 22, 2017 | Phil FershtTom Reuner

At a time where alternative facts and fake news open doors to a parallel universe, where global labor markets are being disrupted by various flavors of travel bans to the United States, the specter of a wall being built at the US-Mexico border that costs more than the entire Space-X program, a reform of H1B visas that could likely dismantle the traditional outsourcing model, and a curious thing called Brexit that could change the global trade landscape forever, one might be forgiven for feeling slightly disoriented.  Yes, people, we've arrived at a time where the very foundations for service delivery models across the industry are being put at risk, where there is no written rule book for how to get ahead of this. So what better time than to add a sprinkle RPA into this global potpourri of disruption? Maybe a food dose of process automation will give us all something to cling onto during these heady days?

Against this slightly perturbing background, what is the state of the RPA market, the emergence of the virtual workforce - and how will it affect the broader markets? Is RPA the silver bullet to overcome many of these issues and obstacles? Back in December, we already chartered the service provider capabilities around RPA. As a result, we not only got a strong endorsement for our findings, but stakeholders were asking us to provide a similar assessment for the RPA tool providers themselves. To get more clarity on these pressing issues, we have sent our automation overlord Dr Tom Reuner back into the RPA community to separate the wheat from the chaff... the bots from the clots.

Based on his findings, Tom and I went into conclave, compared notes and war stories, as well as cranking the numbers for the evaluation. And finally, we have white smoke. Thus, we are pleased to share the new 2017 RPA Blueprint grid and the key findings with you.

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Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst: Despite all the noise, many stakeholders still struggle to comprehend what RPA is all about. Tom, can you help these lost souls to get up to speed before we dive into the details?

Tom Reuner, SVP Intelligent Automation: I wish that would be so easy, Phil. Despite all the noise RPA is still an undefined market. To make matters worse, the IT juggernauts, the service providers, and management consultancies are only very gingerly educating the market. Two

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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Sticking to his education NIIT-ing... meet Arvind Thakur

February 20, 2017 | Phil Fersht

There's never been a better time than this for the specialized midtier services partner which isn't dragging around billions of dollars of legacy contracts and isn't reliant on massive people-scale deals to sustain its growth and profit margins.  Clients are increasingly looking for shorter, sharper engagements - with immediate impact - that drive executives and their staff back to the classroom... the type of engagements which may simply not be attractive enough for a Tier 1 service provider which isn't built for smaller, focused engagements that require higher level talent to lead real change management programs.  In addition, most clients today do not want to drop millions of dollars on consultants to change things for them... they would rather have someone come in who can teach

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Posted in: Digital TransformationIT Outsourcing / IT Services

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