How to avoid being a terrible virtual worker

One growing talent issue I have increasingly become concerned about, is observing people whose career development quickly nosedives when they isolate themselves in a work-at-home model.

I personally believe being able to work effectively within a virtual environment warrants a completely different skillset and attitude, if you want to advance your career and keep developing your potential.

So here’s my guide to being an effective virtual worker in six easy steps:

1. Use voice and video as much as you can.  Staring into a computer relentlessly typing emails for 16 hours a day with little voice contact with your clients/co-workers makes anyone miserable – and anti-social over time.  Make considerable effort to talk to people as much as you can.  Use video for conference calls too – it forces everyone to pay attention (and get dressed) and have a much more personal series of dialogs.

2. Sort out your voice technology.  There’s nothing worse than communicating with people who have a crappy wifi connection, with whom you can never get a clear skype/google conversation without the echos, constant disconnections etc.  If your wifi’s garbage, you can get great quality Skype (for example) over 4g LTE these days on your iPad or iPhone.  Oh, and while we’re at it, stop slurping coffee and eating into your microphone on calls, it’s disgusting…

3. Stop using email for every bloody communication.  Email is a tool for passing along information and instructions. Learn how to be cordial, get your message across and use voice as much as possible to communicate.  Never use email for heated conversations that have emotion (especially negative emotion).

4. Buy an exercise machine and work out everyday.  Without fail.  You’re sitting on your bum most the day burning zero calories and likely visiting the fridge on an hourly basis.  You have to exercise, or you will balloon and die.  Buy yourself an elliptical trainer, exercise bike or treadmill, use it everyday, and after a while you’ll get so fit you can even take calls while you get even fitter.  I would recommend going to a gym, but who has two hours to carve out when you’re an overworked virtual nutcase glued to your machine all day and night?

5. Invest more time getting out to see your clients, your peers and do more networking.  When you see noone bar your family, pets and the plumber on a daily basis, the only way to stay motivated and continue to develop yourself is to go to more conferences, make more effort to visit your clients / peers etc.  You learn the most from your collective discussions with others, from having discreet conversations.  Everyone’s fed up with social-media – meeting people and being social is back in vogue.  Really – get out of the house!

6. Stop complaining about how stressed and overworked you are.  Boohoo – just suck it up, we’re all over-bloody-worked.  It’s all in the mind – so get healthy, get social again, start enjoying your work and you’ll forget about stress and go with the flow.  Just go with the flow, it’s the only way to survive these days.

There endeth my lesson for the day.  Go back to your weekend…

4 Comments

Work smarter, not cheaper: Automation skills have rapidly arrived at the top of the talent agenda

We’re shortly going to release the results of our new study delving into BPO talent, which probes into whether there is a genuine career path to follow for BPO and operations professionals, or whether we’re terminally stuck in the “accidental career” we never intended to venture into. In anycase, I wanted to share one set of data points that show which skills have been increasing in significance.

Click to enlarge.

RPA has arrived as a core part of BPO’s future

Over the past year, the skill where demand and expectations has become the most elevated, more than any other, is automation. 65% of service buyers and 69% of provider professionals cite the need to understand and deploy automation is significantly increasing as a skill requirement – and even 61% of advisors are feeling the pressure to knowledge-up.

Essentially, as the room for additional cost savings diminishes for BPO buyers, the logical next step is to reduce manual tasks (and ultimately unnecessary labor costs). With the heavy marketing coming from service providers and technology firms offering robotic process automation (RPA) solutions, the awareness from the buy side – and pressure on operations managers – to have a more defined, measurable automation strategy, has never been as intense as it is today, and is likely to crescendo for some time to come yet.  At HfS, we are getting calls every week from buyers wanting support developing an RPA plan for their business – it’s becoming the new efficiency drive for many experienced BPO buyers.  Whatever actions buyers eventually take with RPA, they at least need to have some sort of strategy developing to placate the higher-ups questioning where their next 20% of productivity benefits are going to to come from.

The Bottom-line: RPA provides transformation baby steps for buyers wanting away from overdependence on labor arbitrage

RPA provides that logical first step for buyers and service providers to reduce their reliance on throwing lower cost human labor at problems. It provides the building blocks to develop more streamlined end-to-end processes, to perform more meaningful analytics, to create more of a digital infrastructure across the business. Essentially, RPA is the new arbitrage for many, but is unlikely to yield massive cost-savings in the near to medium terms – it is more about helping enterprises deploy their talent on higher value activities. In short, RPA is about working smarter, not cheaper.

2 Comments

HfS Research is five years old!

5 year plan HfS

Five-year-plan complete for HfS!

Would you believe it?  That quirky little research firm that started as a blog, at which many people snickered as a flash in the pan… reached 5 years old this week.

But we actually had a plan – and it was a five year one to break into the analyst mainstream and influence our services markets as much as any of the establishment analysts who’ve been around for years.  Have we succeeded in doing that?  I’ll leave that to you to decide…

I would personally like to recognize several characters who have played a part in helping HfS get off the ground and developing our reputation in the market as the destination for unvarnished insight, collaborative debate and plenty of entertainment:  Esteban Herrera, Tom Ivory, Tony Filippone and Jamie Snowdon for having pride and faith in our mission and playing their part.  Reetika Joshi, Charles Sutherland, Ned May, Christa Degnan Manning, Mark Reed-Edwards, Tricia Bolger, Ned May, Pareekh Jain, Khalda de Souza and Thomas Mendel for their ongoing support of the business and preaching the gospel – and putting up with me.

Fred McClimans, Bram Weerts, Hema Santosh and Barbra McGann for throwing their lot in with us recently to take us to a whole new level.  And several friends (and family) who have been active in their support; Deb Kops, Lee Coulter, John Haworth, Sir Alan Fersht, David Poole, Jay Desai and many others.  Also our early clients who have stayed loyal; Sarah Thomas, Shari Wenker, Mike Salvino, Ian Maher, Frank D’Souza, Stan Lepeak, Cliff Justice, Tiger Tyagarajan, Frank Cannata and many, many others.  If I forgot to mention you, please forgive me as so many of you have been amazing with your support.

Now for our second 5 year plan…. what fun and games are in store for us next?

Happy Springtime all =)

Phil

Some fresh faced healthy looking  chap in March, 2010...

Some fresh faced healthy looking chap in March, 2010…

24 Comments

How As-a-Service is your organization?

Is your enterprise ready for what the future has in store for us?

This emergence of “As-a-Service” represents the most disruptive series of impacts to the traditional IT and business services industry that we have seen.

The globalization wave is peaking, and many maturing enterprise service buyers are struggling to find incremental value from the traditional outsourcing model, such as accessing more meaningful data, achieving better automation of processes, deploying end-to-end process delivery and accessing talent with creative business thinking skills. At the same time, service buyers need to keep driving down their operating costs to a minimum, with globally accessible technology platforms, based on common standards enabled by the cloud.

Looking at this next evolution of value, it is coming from technology-driven “As-a-Service” advancements that directly enhance employee, partner and customer effectiveness.

In short, the way service buyers receive services, and the way service providers sell and deliver them, is going to be very, very different in a few short years, and already some process areas where the technology is already available are being impacted.

Ideals-As-a-Service-Survey

At HfS, we have developed Eight Ideals of As-a-Service, that provide a guide for us all to follow as we look to achieving maximum value from our services in the future:

1. Design Thinking
2. Business Cloud
3. Intelligent Automation
4. Proactive Intelligence
5. Intelligent Data
6. Write off Legacy
7. Brokers of Capability
8. Intelligent Engagement

So how is your organization shaping up against these Ideals – and what is most important to you?

Whether you buy, provide or advise on business and IT services, your opinions and intentions are critical for our research, so please spend some time completing our study and you could win an Apple Watch.

Please note that your contact details will only be used for the purposes of sending you the optional executive report and entering you into the prize draw for the Apple Watch.

So please take our survey to air your views and experiences.

Happy surveying!

Leave a comment

Meet Aruna, Capgemini’s kahuna

Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India

Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India

One of the main purposes of NASSCOM is to showcase the strength and direction of the Indian IT and BPO services economy. However, it’s not only about the heritage Indian firms promoting their strengths, it’s also a great venue for leading traditional Western-HQed service providers to brand themselves in India, to help them compete for the top talent.

One such service provider that’s made considerable strides in developing a major brand in India is Capgemini, whose staffing base has rocketed to 55,000 and made sure it had a very strong presence at the Mumbai showpiece this year.  We managed to grab a side-bar with their dynamic CEO, Aruna Jayanthi, recently voted India’s third most powerful business woman by Fortune magazine, to talk a bit more about herself, her firm and her views on talent the future for India’s services economy…

Phil Fersht (CEO, HfS): Good afternoon, Aruna. Thanks for spending a bit of time with us today. Would you start by introducing yourself and how you got into this business?

Aruna  Jayanthi (CEO, Capgemini India): I started with Capgemini 15 years ago. I now run Capgemini India, and before that I ran global delivery for our outsourcing business. I was part of the core team that setup India, and when I joined there were 80 people in India. Today, we are a little over 55,000 (couldn’t say this then due to impending results announcements – will be good to mention the new headcount number as this is current view).

Phil: 55,000. That’s a large number!

Aruna: It is a large number. But in the end, it’s not only numbers that matter; what matters is the value you deliver to your customers.

Phil: Right… so would you talk a bit about your career progression and how you ended up leading the India business for Capgemini?

Aruna: It’s a strange story, because twice in my life I was tempted to get out of the industry and do something else, but somehow I got back in. I started my career with TCS, fresh out business school. Read More »

4 Comments

The 2015 Progressive F&A BPO Blueprint

Almost two years to the day since we launched our first Blueprint Report, we finally circle back to the core horizontal services function providing the fulcrum for BPO and shared services:  finance and accounting.  For our 20th Blueprint, authored by analysts Phil Fersht and Hema Santosh, we deliberately focused on the proven “progressive” skills, investments, domain acumen and as-a-service potential of the leading providers in finance and accounting service delivery.

In order to pull together the most comprehensive view of this market, we created importance weightings for the key categories of services innovation and execution, that were based on the opinions of 1109 services buyers, advisors and provider executions in our 2014 State of Outsourcing Study, conducted in conjunction with KPMG.  In addition, we conducted exhaustive interviews with more than 100 F&A service buyers, many of whom are members of the HfS Sourcing Executive Council.  We didn’t rely 100% on reference clients ponied up from the service providers themselves – this is the genuine, unvarnished view of how providers are performing today from the people experiencing their services:

HfS-Blueprint_Finance and Accounting-BPO_Axis

Click to Enlarge

So, Phil, what’s happening in the F&A space these days?  Is the market slowing down as BPO services commodotize?

Not at all, one of the reasons why people hear about F&A “slowing down” is the diminishing role of sourcing advisors on F&A deals (only 30% of competitive F&A deals in 2013-14 were advisor-led,  and 17% of sole-sourced used a advisor).  A third of the deals were also sole-sourced, and very, very few were publicly announced.  So the lack of “noise” causes people to incorrectly assume that activity in F&A is slowing down.  In addition, we saw a lot more mid-sized businesses take the plunge for the Read More »

Leave a comment

Are sourcing advisors really the new analysts?

What are we becoming?

What are we becoming?

Each year, most of the service providers like to bring together their multifarious assortment of “influencers” to pitch their capabilities, reinforce their strategies and make sure their key executives have some sort of relationship with the key people in their space who talk to their clients.

Having been in and around the analyst and consultant community for the last 20 years, these gatherings were typically 90% attended by industry analysts, namely Gartner, Forrester, IDC et al and a few small boutiques, independents, bloggers etc who mattered to them.  Then, about five years ago, most the service providers had the bright idea of tacking on a handful of sourcing advisors who could also benefit from the same experience of being influenced.  All of a sudden, these events have become about 60% advisor, 40% analysts.  I think only Accenture and IBM are the only service providers left which actually separate the analysts from the advisors these days.

As a recent example of this, I had the privilege of attending Capgemini’s influencer day in an arctic Chicago last week.  And I was impressed at the line up of legends attending from the sourcing advisory world – characters like Peter Allen (Alvarez & Marsal), Harvey Gluckman (ISG), Kevin Parikh (Avasant), Chip Wagner (Alsbridge), Peter Bendor-Samuel (Everest), Tom Torlone (PwC) – all accompanied by teams from their advisory firms.  I have to hand it to Capgemini’s advisor relations team – no-one has ever assembled a gaggle of advisors together in one place quite like they managed.  I then popped into WNS’ influencer day in New York and a similar line up ensued there… with additional SWAT teams from KPMG and Deloitte adding to the festivities.

This change in dynamics is having the following impact on the way these service providers interact with their influencers:

Pros 

Much better questioning from advisors.  It’s almost a relief to hear sensible, real-world questions from advisors during these sessions.  Long gone are those days when you’d get analysts piping in with their drawn-out abstract thought-patterns, which actually were never really supposed to be questions, more statements of how clever they were.

Advisors are much more social.  Most the advisors like to network – even with their competitors.  Always good to exchange views with (some) them over a glass of wine.  Most analysts just disappear to their hotel rooms at 8.30pm, never to resurface.

Advisors have more energy and passion.  Most of the advisors enjoy what they do – they are passionate about services and are hungry to learn more.  Most of the analysts have been doing this for decades, are clearly jaded and exhausted by these dog n’ pony shows, and are just going through the motions these days.

Cons

Advisors have become quasi-competitive with most service providers.  As the outsourcing service providers look to move further up the value-chain with their client engagements, they are essentially offering the same services as most the advisors.  All I hear from the leading advisory firms, today, are how they are running consulting practises in digital transformation, robotic process automation, CFO services, GBS etc. These ambitious advisors want service providers who are only really focused on the efficiency-driven services further down the value stack, so they can profit from the consultative and governance-driven services they can layer on to their clients’ outsourcing engagements.  However, the more complex clients’ needs are becoming, the blurrier the line is becoming between what service providers and advisors deliver.

Advisor “influence” is  much harder to track.  With analysts, the goal for service providers is simple:  dazzle them and hope they will write about them to their readerships and social followings.  Tracking their influence is easier when there is a tangible outcome, such as a piece of research or a blog post.  Most advisors won’t write anything – even with a gun to their heads. The service providers simply hope the advisors are moving them up their evaluation curves and pushing more deals their way.

Most advisors with deep client engagements do not have time for service provider days.  Having been on the advisor side myself, I can tell you that I never had the time to take entire days out to hobnob with service providers, unless I had a lucky week of break-time in between client engagements.  Most of the advisors who do have the time for these service provider influencer days are clearly the executive-level leaders not so ensconced with the day-to-day execution of advisory services. Hence, the service providers are hoping this bedazzling of the advisor leaders is somehow translating its way to the advisor deal teams doing the site visits, service provider selection sessions etc.

The Bottom-line:  The influencer model is clearly broken in the services industry – a new breed clearly needs to emerge that advises, analyzes AND influences

In short, the evolving confusion over advisor and analyst roles is a result of the lack of real influencers in the industry – experts who not only talk to buyers on a daily basis, but also share real insights and leverage data for them.  In today’s world, advisors and analysts are very different animals – and the winners will ultimately be the ones which can fuse together the two worlds.

19 Comments

The Infamous Sourcing Savants are back!

Sourcing Savants_Promo_Pic

Oh no! We’re back on your laptop screen this 26th March at 11.00am ET.

Yes, that sad little attempt by HfS to assemble a cacophony of industry advisor gurus onto one webinar platform just refuses to go away…

And we can see that you just can’t stay away from the entertainment either, so let’s just launch into our latest attempt to create a little bit o’ clarity to your confusing worklife.

Please join our latest suite of sourcing savants of sourcing soliloquy later this month as we violently argue (or agree) on the the following burning topics:

  • What are the burning platforms driving enterprises to make real changes to their IT and Operations infrastructures?
  • First we get hit with “Digital”, then “Robotics”, then “Artificial Intelligence”.  Is the dear lord of sourcing smoking something, or is there some real substance into what is happening in our industry?
  • Does this mean that our traditional outsourcing industry is dying?  Are enterprise clients really evolving this quickly to these As-a-Service models?
  • Is our talent keeping up with this As-a-Service revolution – across buyers, advisors and service providers?  And what can we do to retrain ourselves and our staff to get with the program?
  • So what does our future really look like is this new world into which we’re venturing, when we show up to work in our iCar and are served coffee by a robot?
Yes, we will really answer all those questions for you once and for all, or at least our esteemed panelists claim they will:

Click here to Register Your Spot on 26 March at 11.00am ET, 4.00pm BST 

We hope you can join us on March 26th!  And it’s free so what’s there to complain about..

Leave a comment

OneSource Virtual: Born in the RPA Cloud

OneSource VirtualThese are really exciting times for the services industry, where little upstart “Born in the Cloud” As-a-Service providers can sneak up on the traditional service providers and deliver pure cloud-based services in a model that was designed to be in the cloud.

And when you design services for pure cloud delivery, they have to be seamlessly automated at their very core. The services ethos is about enterprises operating smarter, not cheaper… and as a result will likely save a ton of money because they end up simply running more effectively.

One such irritant to the traditional services model is OneSource Virtual (OSV), which has built up a compelling business delivering business process service offering for clients around Workday’s HR and F&A SaaS platforms.  OneSource Virtual is an As-a-Service provider – there is no transition to becoming one, it was born as one with As-a-Service as it’s intended delivery. And when you consider one of OneSource’s clients is Uber, it just makes for one harmonious As-a-Service mash-up…

The exciting value OSV is bringing to the table is its services are focused on real business support areas, such as organizational design and workforce analytics, in addition to the transactional needs of clients in areas such as payroll fulfillment, or accounts payable. And this also creates exciting jobs for onshore staff who can apply more consultative, value-based capabilities to service their clients.  This is the As-a-Service Economy, where service jobs are becoming more challenging and interesting, where real business services are delivered on-tap and clients can access services designed to meet the needs of the modern business, not just some legacy back office designed on a mainframe cluster back in the late 1970s…

Anyways… while I’ve been getting obsessed with OneSource’s delivery model, our resident RPA uberlord, Charles Sutherland, dragged himself away from his painful conversations with clients about how to blow up the legacy model, to spend two hours in a dark room on a Friday afternoon being treated to a genuine “Born in the RPA Cloud” experience… over to you, Charles.

OneSource Virtual’s service delivery was built with RPA at its core

We’ll admit it. We didn’t see the robots for the trees. We’ve been so focused on how Robotic Process Automation is being implemented across legacy application environments, we missed how it is also being rolled out in “Born in the Cloud” business environments.

Last Friday (as Phil mentions), I spent time with the As-a-Service provider OSV, which has built business process service offerings around the Workday SaaS platform for HR and F&A. While it is true that Workday itself has automated many processes that require more manual intervention in other applications, OSV has gone taken this one step further.

With the development of its proprietary service delivery environment Atmosphere, built on force.com, OSV has created a platform for the extraction – and then automation of – recurring processes across their base of hundreds of clients.   This is a critical development, because together, with consistency in the code base of Workday across clients, the automation in Atmosphere allows OSV to establish very high levels of productivity in tasks where human agents are still required.

Especially compelling is that fact that OSV has not developed its Atmosphere and this model of shared automation after years of running individual silos of client delivery, as several other service providers are now trying to do. Instead, OSV was founded on this principal of shared automation from its inception.

In essence, this means that OSV is already operating at the highest Level of the HfS Maturity Model for Robotic Process Automation that we released in November 2014. This Level, “Institutionalization” describes a common theme of broad strategic commitment by a service provider to the transformational potential of RPA on their clients’ business and operations. Any service provider characterized by this Level is making a sizeable investment in RPA, with a view to creating a fundamental change in the commercial and delivery operations of their clients’ business operations.

Other service providers are striving to move aggressively into the Institutionalization Level, however, they are doing it by retrofitting RPA into their established business, as opposed to develop new client delivery environments with RPA at the core.

Net-net, it’s time to really get down and dirty with RPA as a core component of the service delivery platform – get ahead of this unstoppable trend as opposed always chasing it…

Leave a comment

Mike Sutcliff, Digitally Distinct

Mike Sutcliff is Group Chief Executive, Accenture Digital (Click for bio)

Two buzzwords have re-ignited the world of global services since “offshoring” became so passé… Digital and Automation.

And the two are inextricably linked – you can’t really digitize your business processes until you have effectively automated them.  And if your industry requires you to have that digital interface with your customers and suppliers to survive (and that pretty much includes all industries today), you’re pretty much done for, if you haven’t build that automated process layer as the foundation.  And if you need more evidence of this, please take some time to read our recent report on the impact of Digital on business services.

So surely this is the gravy train for ambitious service providers to jump to the needs of their clients to save the day?  Or is the business world changing so dramatically that this is simply going to be one insurmountable challenge too far for many enterprises, and they might as well give up now?

So let’s hear from the one service provider that dusted off the “Digital” terminology from the dictionary and reapplied it to the world of services.  We managed to get some face-time recently with Accenture’s Mike Sutcliff at his firm’s Global Shared Services Conference (GSSC) in Prague, to hear about how his group is developing its digital capabilities and applying them to the world of business operations and shared services…

Phil Fersht (CEO, HfS): Mike – Good to connect again! Tell us about your background. How did you come to lead the digital practice for Accenture?

Mike Sutcliff (Group Chief Executive, Accenture Digital): I’ve been at Accenture for 27 years. In the early 1990s, I founded the Finance Management Group which developed our shared services business. Then I got the opportunity to establish a new business. I became interested in analytics; I wanted to understand how analytics could bring more value to companies. I studied how enterprises created data as a mass that they then could leverage across the organization. I combined my Read More »

5 Comments

NASSCOM 2015: More MBA, less ABAP is the recipe for India’s Digital success

There’s nowhere better to test the temperature and mood of the global IT and Business Services industry than at India’s NASSCOM Leadership Forum, where the bigshots from all the major India-heritage providers, and the leaders from the major Western-centric providers’ India operations, get together for three main purposes:

1)  To be seen as a player at IT services’ premier networking fest;

2) To partake in presentations and panels that are all pretty much sung from the same hymn sheet;

3) To have great conversations that cut through the glossy digital lipstick veneer and elaborate entertainment, to debate the reality of whether this industry can truly evolve beyond its current “all about scale” predicament.

And this year, did we get just that – with a new energy that has been lacking in recent years since the recession.  What I love about this networking event is the sense of common purpose, community and belonging you get as part of the services industry, which you do not get at most other events (especially Stateside, where some conferences still seem to be stuck somewhere in 2004…).

At NASSCOM, you don’t feel that outsourcing was that “accidental career” choice you just happened to fall into because you could never figure out what you wanted to do with your life.  You actually feel part of something – and part of history as well as the future.  Just bumping into the legendary (and very fit and energized) Pramod Bhasin (the founder of Genpact), who could (and probably should) be lying prostrate on some beach checking the number of zeroes on his bank balance – and hearing his passion for doing more for the Indian services industry – tells you something about the DNA that will keep brand India at the forefront of technology-driven business services for a very long time to come.

How India’s services stars can shine with their Digital lipgloss

But let’s not get too carried away by the hype of the moment. India’s services economy has some big challenges, but it really does have the nuts and bolts to lead the way into this unraveling Digital future, and play a significant role in the emerging As-a-Service Economy.

There are three dimensions we need to consider when we evaluate India’s ability to continue on its services growth-path:

1)    Leading with digital technology and an appetite to cannibalize short-term revenue for longer-term profitability and value.  HfS success probability =  90%

For example, the more I learn about Robotic Process Outsourcing (RPA), the more convinced I am that some of the ambitious Indian-heritage firms will be at the forefront of development and capability here.  I am already witnessing a strong appetite to cannibalize some shot term revenue with clients to develop beta solutions that can be re-used for the future, and scaled across multiple clients.  The common-sense to transform a $10m engagement that has 20% profit margin into a $7m engagement at 50% profit, is not just lip service from the service provider executives attempting to placate cynical analysts, we hear this from an increasing number of clients.

Meanwhile, too many of the traditional Western-centric providers have massive scale deals involving hundreds, and even thousands, of FTEs and have a real problem when it comes to changing the pricing model at the risk of taking a hit on short term income.  Sadly, most of the incumbent service Read More »

21 Comments

Dallas, we have another problem: Too many Advisors are Buying the Service Provider Hype

Just as we thought we’d negotiated a safe landing back to earth for our talent-challenged sourcing advisors, that we discover another mismatch between perception and reality – they just love service providers.

Yes indeed – probably the only time anyone has ever bothered to ask a seriously large number of enterprise service buyers (168) and advisors (154), during our recent industry study with KPMG, what they really think of service providers, yielded quite an alarming response:

Click to Enlarge

Are some advisors simply out of touch, or are too many buyers suffering from stagnating relationships?

One of the quirks of the services industry that has long-bothered me – and many others – are the cosy relationships some advisors clearly enjoy with some service providers.

Turn up at many of the service provider-hosted industry “analyst” events these days, and there is usually an assortment of advisors added to the occasion to partake in the PowerPoint orgy, the Read More »

5 Comments

David Poole, Robo Conductor

David Poole is Co-Founder and CEO, Symphony Ventures

One of the many nuances of the business process services world is that the same cast of characters just can’t stay away from the action.

Many of the same mavericks who helped build this business from the early days of transformational consulting, CoEs and shared services, through to lift and shift BPO, virtual captives, and, more recently the hybrid services delivery model, are now hopping aboard the train that encompasses the As-a-Service ideals.

These ideals that are centered around the benefits of process delivery in the cloud, where unnecessary manual steps are automated, where systems can interact intelligently with each other, where staff think orthogonally about how things should be done, where enterprises can hive off crappy old back office operations and jump into the world of the new with limited pain.  Yes, it’s time to retire ladies and gentlemen – or shall we call the legendary David Poole himself to figure out how to get ahead of this disruptive nightmare?

David will talk about his illustrious background shortly, but I would like to commend his bravery for setting up his own disruptive advisory shop “Symphony Ventures”  based in London, where he has picked up some exceptionally talented guys like David Brain and Ian Barkin, who’ve cemented solid reputations in the world of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – and are already creating trouble for themselves with some big enterprise clients.

So, without further ado, let’s hear what the Robo Conductor has been up to lately with his foray into the world of entrepreneurialism, and what he thinks about where this train of disruption is really heading….

Phil Fersht (CEO – HfS): David – good afternoon!  So how did you get into this business?

David Poole (Founder and CEO – Symphony Ventures): I started at Price Waterhouse as a consultant back when BPO was in its infancy. My first job was helping BP set up one of their first BPO centers in Caracas. I then worked in sales, transition and delivery and ultimately it was my job to help close down the BPO business because there was a conflict with the audit practice. We sold most of the assets to IBM & Exult. Cap Gemini purchased the Krakow delivery center. That’s how I first met Cap Gemini.

I went on to help set up Cap Gemini’s BPO practice in Europe and the U.S. Over a period of 10 years Read More »

3 Comments

Europe: If you can’t do Arbitrage, then Automate!

We’ve been addressing the massive opportunity for the services industry as we move into times of unprecedented complexity.  However, while complexity brings with it the opportunity to solve recurring problems and design new solutions, it also brings new workforce challenges that could prove insurmountable for many enterprises, without a radical rethink with how they design their business operations to get ahead of their markets where technology is increasingly at the center of their business universe.

As we recently discussed, this is especially the case for many Continental European organizations, where rigid labor laws and a pervasive  “job for life” mentality makes it very challenging to find – and then fund – the new talent that can replace legacy staff struggling to meet the business-relevant needs of the modern workforce. We believe this inability to achieve greater workforce flexibility to gain access to new talent and skills is the main reason driving Continental European enterprises to evaluate alternative means to improve processes and drive more efficiency and effectiveness into their operations.  One of the emerging areas where we are seeing a remarkable level of interest is that of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), where enterprises can develop an automation layer upon which to cement its operations and create a true analytical and digital capability for the As-a-Service Economy into which we are venturing.

Enterprises need skills to help them understand their financial data to make better investment decisions in emerging markets, to redesign process flows that get their products to the right markets quicker, to align revenue opportunities with their global supply chain activities, to understand where to make talent investments, based on high-growth market needs. They need to understand the viability of maintaining legacy products at the opportunity cost of investing in emerging product areas and other innovations. This means they need an operations infrastructure that has the process standards to help extract this data, with the right people that have been trained how to use it effectively – and can develop these skills on a continual basis.

However, if you cannot make the swift changes you need to augment your overall base of operations talent, surely the advent of effective Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platforms is providing an increasingly appealing alternative path for many enterprises to take: when you cannot augment your process people, why not replace them with automated process platforms? And, as the following chart clearly shows from our new global study conducted with KPMG, emerging interest in Read More »

Leave a comment

Dallas, we have a problem: Advisors struggling to deliver Expertise-as-a-Service

The IT and business services industry is now navigating unchartered waters, where the common challenge for today’s enterprises is simple:

“How can we design our businesses and operations to run more effectively, so we’re geared up to get ahead of our markets where technology is increasingly at the center of our business universe. How can we understand data to respond to our market needs, and how can we be smarter and more creative about how we operate and go to market?”

The answer is pretty straightforward, really – go get the help you need to be this effective, whether you hire it, retrain what you have, outsource it, or simply buy on-tap consultative expertise.

We’ve recently discussed the fact that many service providers are struggling to find this talent, while many buyers also need real help to access business-relevant skills.  So let’s now look at the great intermediary which can readily plug those talent gaps for a paltry $500/hour… the consulting firm.  Surely these MBA-qualified guys and gals have these skills in spades for the needy enterprises ready and willing to pay for them? Read More »

21 Comments

Speed dating their way to a quick divorce… Rick Simmonds talks up his new advisory firm Aecus

Rick Simmonds, Founder and Managing Partner, Aecus

We recently had the pleasure of hearing from Alsbridge’s CEO, Chip Wagner, regarding his firm’s organic expansion plans into Europe as his firm cements its growing reputation in the sourcing advisory market.  But what about the  UK advisory firm formerly known as “Alsbridge Plc”?  Answer, it renamed itself “Aecus“, named after one of the sons of Zeus, renowned for wisdom and piety, and his fairness as a judge. He was a resolver of disputes between the gods.

So we caught up with the firm’s founder and managing partner, Rick Simmonds, to find out more about his renamed business, the split with Alsbridge mothership, the renewed focus on the new firm and whether their famous “speed dating” approach to provider selection is effective for clients…

Phil Fersht (HfS): Good morning Rick – can you share your background with our readership? When did you get into this outsourcing business?

Rick Simmonds (Aecus): I’ve been in outsourcing for a long time. I started in the late 1980s with Andersen Consulting in the pre-Accenture days, working for David Andrews who went on to set up Xchanging. Then I helped Ernst & Young set up its outsourcing practice in the 1990s. They sold this division to Cap Gemini; which I left in 2002 to set up ALS Consulting.

Ben Trowbridge was a partner of mine at Ernst and Young; he left to start Trowbridge Group. We Read More »

3 Comments

Skill not Scale, Part II: Europe poses the biggest opportunity as As-a-Service models emerge

We’ve talked a lot about the massive opportunity for the services industry as we move into times of unprecedented complexity.  However, while complexity brings us much opportunity to solve problems and design new solutions, it also brings skills challenges that could prove insurmountable for many, without external support.

New data findings from our soon-to-be released report “From Human to Digital, the Future of Global Business Services”, conducted with KPMG, covered 492 industry services stakeholders and reveals some marked regional differences, when it comes to enterprises better aligning internal operations  with their corporate goals and directives:

Click to Enlarge

Better IT, service provider collaboration and talent are the missing ingredients for European enterprises

Settling for the status quo is clearly not a viable option for 43% of European firms viewing a formal change management effort, or simply bringing in new talent, as essential actions to get themselves out of their current predicaments to get better value from their operations. While the need for better IT systems from all global enterprises comes as no surprise, the open admission, from more than half of European enterprise operations executives that they would benefit greatly from better collaboration with their service providers (compared to a third of their North American counterparts), brings us to the conclusion that the majority of large-scale European firms are in dire Read More »

8 Comments

Cost is the New Black: The Overbearing Paradoxical C-Suite Imperative for 2015

“C-Suite leaders want to drive out cost?  Tell us something new…”  OK, I will, because this time, this cost imperative is different, as the traditional means of driving out cost are reaching their limits.  60% of enterprise C-Suites are actively seeking to reduce their reliance on labor in their operations – but most are discovering they need to work smarter before they can work cheaper.

Enterprise leaders can’t keep dipping into their operations functions to find more staff to shift into cheaper locations, or simply remove them – they are having to explore the emergence of As-a-Service solutions as that next lever to pull. The shift from labor to digital is happening, and this insatiable thirst to operate businesses as cost-effectively and flexibly as possible is the overwhelming driver behind this change.

Our new study, conducted with KPMG, shows an impetus on cost take-out coming from the C-Suite at an intensity never seen before:  90% now view cost reduction as an increasingly important-to-critical imperative for their operations.  In addition, a similar number are very focused on achieving cost-effective, flexible services to support their businesses.  And this desire to drive out cost is far more intense than other “value-based” imperatives for operations, such as addressing risk, analytics and talent:

Click to Enlarge

A paradoxial shift from human to digital has begun in earnest

This reemergence of cost as a key driver clearly indicates that executives believe significant inefficiencies remain in their current operations. It is, therefore, a priority for many executives to Read More »

7 Comments

The greatest nearshore location of all… Nova Scotia

Where better to process your insurance claims?

Anyone who knows me best, is privy to the information that I disappear up to the lakes, forests and pubs of Halifax, Nova Scotia, for my summers. Having spent so much time in the region over the last 15 years, and having both a sister-in-law and brother-in-law lead service delivery teams for a major provider and a major bank up there, I have, believe it or not, learned a thing or two about the province’s rich fertile ground for delivering IT and BPO services.

People are smart, very pleasant, well educated, and are a short hop into all major US cities… no wonder the likes of ADP, Convergys, IBM, Hinduja and all the major Canadian banks rely on the local Read More »

1 Comment

Skill not Scale: The Massive Opportunity Awaiting the Services Industry

I was recently inspired by a refreshingly simple and unvarnished blog on the The Inflexion Point for the IT Service Industry by Deepak Shenoy of Capital Mind.

Where Deepak hits the nail on the head, is how IT services executives are promoting themselves out of relevance in the India-heritage firms (which is not too dissimilar from practices we observe in many Western-heritage services firms too).  In plain terms, we’ve got lazy and arrogant, we’ve developed a sense of entitlement, where all we need to do is print money from the profits of maintaining legacy enterprise practices.

I won’t regurgitate all of what Deepak discusses, but do have a think about the advice he leaves us with, for services executive worried about losing their relevance:

  • Learn a new skill – either back to code and processes in newer technologies, or in a completely different domain. This could take months or years, but it’s necessary
  • Invest and create alternate sources of income
  • Keep debt manageable so a job loss will leave you with at least a year’s expenses in the bank
  • Stay humble: the people who reported to you could be your next boss

The context here is simple: the enterprise services gravy train is slowing down for those executives Read More »

26 Comments