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Monthly Archives: Dec 2016

2016: Goodbye to the year of Ignorance (rant warning)

December 27, 2016 | Phil Fersht

I, for one, won’t be too sad to see the back of 2016… it just felt like the world kept becoming an increasingly ignorant place to exist. The Internet became the medium to block out information, not share facts and data points to foster intelligent discussion. It (almost) became acceptable to be racist; it (almost) became acceptable to talk about women as sex-objects, as long as it was playful “locker room talk”.

2016 became a time people complained about immigrants taking away their jobs – even though they’d never work those jobs in a million years. It became a time when we all finally realized so many of our politicians had lost touch with so many of the population that they got booted out… sadly only in favor of alternatives that didn’t make any sense, but it must have felt good for the disenfranchised to stick the middle finger up at the establishment.

It became a time when many of us decided we could no longer tolerate people as our Facebook friends, because they just refused to listen to rational arguments and get beyond their prejudices. Let’s be honest, it was a pretty ignorant year.

Hello to a year of, er, maybe a little common sense

So if we could have some good things happen next year…. 

Trump becomes a pragmatist. Like so many of you here, I am secretly wishing most the guff old Donald was spouting was just, well, guff. As Bernie Sanders told a private meeting of scientists recently, Trump is a very intelligent man. Plus, I believe the guy is not an idealist, he’s a businessman and a pragmatist. It’s my personal hope that he realizes globalization of business is an inevitable occurrence, but I do like his stance on China, and the fact we’ve

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Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyConfusing Outsourcing Information

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My personal unfiltered truths about IT Infrastructure Services Providers

December 23, 2016 | Jamie Snowdon

One of my biggest gripes with some analysts is that they clearly develop preconceptions about service providers and struggle to deliver a balanced view in their research – they have their favourites and struggle to recognize when others are improving their capabilities.  And what’s bothersome here, is that they don’t realize they are doing it. 

So I’ve decided to do something different to make sure I don’t fall into that preconception trap and force myself to give everyone a blank sheet of paper before we embark on our groundbreaking 2017 Blueprint, which will be bolstered by 300 references from Global2000 clients… I’m just going to get all my preconceived opinions out there now, so providers know where they need to prove me wrong, or validate where I am right.

You may have already seen that HfS Research is expanding our focus on the IT services market in 2017 (see press release). An initiative lead by Phil Fersht, myself and Tom Reuner. I will be leading the infrastructure and cloud part of the story. As part of the preparation for the infrastructure management services blueprint, I wanted to write down my own personal bias – those traits that immediately jump into my cynical old brain, when I think of the various infra services providers. So I am clear where I stand and what I need to get past to do a good independent assessment.

So for those that are interested this is where I currently stand. My message to those that want to question any negative opinion is confound me. You know where I stand.

Provider

My Starting Point

IBM

The daddy of infrastructure services. Technically very solid, services still seem unevolved – even with the acquisitions of the likes of Softlayer and Gravitant seem not to have a coherent/consistent message around infrastructure services. The whole cloud story within IBM is disjointed – bluemix, cloud brokerage, hybrid – as a firm it has all the pieces but seems to have trouble bringing it all together – or at least explaining to me how it fits together. Great consulting and transformation capabilities particularly suited for the very largest of enterprises.

HPE

Ignoring the limbo state HP (or whatever it ends up being called) are going through thanks to the spin-off and merger with CSC. HPE had a good hybrid cloud story, I particularly liked the ambition for its cloud ecosystem. Like IBM it has a history of being very capable, particularly with the very largest of deals. Probably one of the few providers to be able to manage the very largest multi-billon dollar infrastructure deals with mass transformation. In some ways HP had the business messaging and cloud story that IBM lack, but a lack of cohesion and financial problems hindered progress.

CSC

CSC embodies what is wrong with traditional outsourcing, which is slightly unfair as the last pure outsourcer left standing. I can’t help myself I associate CSC with change orders, lift and shift, and first generation outsourcing. I think largely unevolved, in spite of some progress toward As-a-Service with the acquisition of ServiceMesh – but tired and now in limbo thanks to HPE deal.

Accenture

Apart from the uninspiring name, I like the Accenture Cloud Platform, I like the agreements with AWS, Microsoft and Google. Accenture is playing to its strengths in infrastructure by looking to be the consultant and advisor leveraging best in class infrastructure provision to deliver customers a managed service experience. It has great long term experience with Microsoft through Avanade. But I’m left feeling that infrastructure is a means to an end with Accenture rather than a passion. Although for a provider like Accenture that is probably right.

Fujitsu

Traditionally a strong infrastructure player, perhaps stronger on the desktop, solid investment in cloud, but not much penetration/mindshare outside of Asia. I suspect Fujitsu have something interesting to say, but I’m not sure if it is able to communicate coherently to customers.

Capgemini

I get the impression that infrastructure is not what Capgemini wants to sell. But infrastructure was a large part of its heritage and it ran some very big traditional outsourcing deals in the past – particularly in the UK. Not sure it has managed to find the right balance in hybrid world, some interesting stories around cloud, but I believe their destiny is elsewhere.

T-Systems

T-Systems has a great deal of technical no-how in development of high end hybrid cloud environments, however, it struggles to get the message to market outside of Germany. In some ways I think technically it is the best at genuine hybrid cloud infrastructure, particularly in situations where real performance or complexity is required, even if it is not the best it is at least in the top 2-3 in terms of the quality of the service delivered.

Atos

Atos have some great partnerships in this space around high end infrastructure management. They have a good roadmap for hybrid and software defined datacenters thanks to VMWare and investments in automation. Atos are in a position to take some big deals based on the quality of the infrastructure they are able to deliver. The issue is a lack of momentum, and ability to articulate a game changing proposition to the market.

TCS

I lazily lump TCS and HCL into the same group in terms of infrastructure. Great at taking on horrible legacy infrastructure and managing it more efficiently. TCS seem increasingly conservative in approach so I’m not sure how cutting-edge the infrastructure will be, but there is no doubting the technical strength and it has plenty of resources to throw at any issues. I always this TCS, with Cognizant, are the hungriest of the offshore players.

Microsoft

Second biggest, second best IaaS (certainly in terms of feature/function). Much more enterprise focused and enterprise ready than AWS, big in-house services team, ability to transform and add value in large partner led propositions. It lost much of it’s arrogance in the late nineties.

AWS

OK AWS is the biggest and probably the best public cloud, certainly in terms of scale, and feature/function. Very customer centric, always innovating and adding to the platform. Small internal service team, so reliant on partners. Great customer stories and case studies. Although it seems to be run for nerds by nerds. Seems to have inherited the arrogance of a late nineties Microsoft, but if you grew a >$10Bn revenue company in 10 years, you might be arrogant too.

Cognizant

A bit like Wipro (below), I was never 100% sure that Cognizant’s heart was in infrastructure. A growing part of the business, but not as much success as HCL and TCS at grabbing its share of the first generation outsourcing business from the old school incumbents. Yet to really communicate a strong message around future of infrastructure – which may reveal the firms loftier ambitions. Not an organization I would ever count out given its traditional hunger, but its infrastructure message got lost in translation. At least with me.

Infosys

Impressed by Infosys cloud ecosystem hub, particularly in terms of ambition around infrastructure and roadmap, perhaps the best of the offshore providers. At least from what I have heard and absorbed. Although I question the success of this initiative to date.

Wipro

I tend to think of Wipro as an also ran for Infrastructure services amongst the big offshore providers. Like Cognizant, haven’t been as successful at winning business as HCL and TCS in this space – hasn’t been as big a push to innovate as Infosys.

HCL

Similar to what I said for TCS. Strong at lift and shift. Strong at modernizing. Very capable at untying the Gordian Knot of old deals. Although I suspect they are all tactical strength and little strategic direction in infrastructure.

Unisys

OK – this is where it gets hard. Unisys were traditionally a strong IT Outsourcing shop. But, much like CSC there is a whiff of decay about it as a business. Traditionally strong on the desktop – but who cares?

CGI

I am not as familiar with CGI, at least its global proposition as some of the other providers here. Very much an old school service provider. Strong business until the acquisition of Logica just seems to have had its energy sapped by this painful merger and lost its way.

So prove me wrong, or assure me I'm right… drop me a line when you get a chance at Jamie dot Snowdon at hfsresearch.com

Posted in: Cloud ComputingIT Outsourcing / IT Services

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Making sense of Infrastructure Services

December 23, 2016 | Jamie Snowdon

In 2017, HfS is focusing heavily on IT services as a research topic and, thanks to my stint as a cloud and data center services analyst and hands-on experience in infrastructure services over the past 20 years, – I am looking after the cloud and infrastructure part of the market.

Given my recent blog on the infrastructure as a service market. HfS believes that making the right choice of infrastructure services partner is becoming increasingly critical for end-user clients, particularly given the amount of disruptive change the market is going through.

In preparation for this renewed focus, I’ve been looking more in-depth at the market for the main cloud and infrastructure service providers. This has inevitably led me to look through briefing information HfS has collected on the suppliers, talk to end user clients, look at many of the suppliers' websites, and at the various quadrants that are in circulation around this space. One of the most recent ones, which is on Amazon Web Services (AWS) website is Gartner’s Infrastructure as a Service quadrant – which has placed AWS as a leader for six years.

By the way, this is not a critique of this quadrant or an attack on AWS – far from it – the positioning is dictated by the information provided and the customer references, and, given its laser focus on IaaS, I can buy the positioning. It’s hard to argue with AWS’ huge strength in this space, and that it’s a leader…  by some margin. It acknowledges, by Microsoft’s position, that it’s closing the gap. As a slight side, note I do like the euphemistic “niche” player category particularly its use in this quadrant. What niche are these players filling? Do they provide services to organizations that want a crappy cloud? Is that a niche? Not that I want to start a semantic discussion, but I’m not sure IBM is a “niche” infrastructure services player even in IaaS, regardless of your view of the market. Particularly if you buy the IaaS as part of a larger infrastructure engagement, with any perceived shortcoming of the IaaS layer provided by another part of the service delivery.

This is what is missing, for me, the relevance of this research to an enterprise buyer. I see how the quadrant, as it stands, would be useful to a developer looking for the “best” IaaS to use, but for an enterprise looking to plan its cloud infrastructure strategy, I’m not so sure. Although IaaS can  -and is -  bought on its own, it is rarely bought without a context, at least in an enterprise organization. This means the services that wrap around the delivery of the IaaS are probably as important, if not more important than the actual IaaS – particularly in a hybrid environment. Of course, there are some 100% pure public cloud situations, but these are still fairly rare - most enterprise organizations, even in 2017, have a degree of complexity and require a mix of computing types.

My argument is that, in a complex environment, comparing one element is not enough and the excellence of that one component may be lost, as the whole infrastructure is built from interconnecting pieces, and some of the additional services that make the compute component great, are provided by another layer. The fact that there are a lot of additional services on top of the compute layer from AWS, for example, may not be useful to an enterprise looking for commodity compute delivered through a service provider that adds the additional functionality.

The Bottom Line – Who is this Quadrant benefitting?

So is the quadrant suitable only for companies that are looking to buy an IaaS engagement and don’t need to integrate it into any other environment? This would be the one way to make sense of the positioning. There are some uses that are 100% public cloud, and I can see situations where consideration of the overall enterprise architecture is not relevant, but this is quite a limited picture. Again for enterprise organizations.

So is this quadrant for a services firm suitable for an IaaS firm to choose a partner? It does help if the service provider is looking to pick the richest IaaS environment and leverage the brand of the IaaS provider. Which would work if infrastructure were more like a software eco-system, but in many cases, the service provider will want to add value on top of the IaaS. So this doesn’t help select a good basic IaaS service offering.

So what are we going to do about it? Next year we are going to look at the whole infrastructure management space with our own quadrant – an HfS Blueprint. One that takes advantage of our buy side contacts and uses over 200 interviews as the basis for our positioning and a guide to what is critical in the marketplace. The IT Infrastructure Management & Cloud Services Blueprint will take a more holistic view of the market and provide guidance on selecting the best provider for an enterprise organization. Focusing on end to end management of a client’s infrastructure services rather than just one aspect.

 

 

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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Getting The “A” Team From Your Provider – Or, More Realistically, Getting The Team You Deserve

December 22, 2016 | Christine Ferrusi Ross

My colleague Mike Cook and I are in the middle of a blueprint on Managed Security Services, and as we talk to client references and review provider information, I’m reminded again about how difficult it is for clients to feel like they’ve really gotten the best possible team for their engagement, based on their investment outlay.

You might be disappointed with the quality of your team, and maybe you think it’s because it isn’t as good as you thought. Maybe they oversold their capabilities or flat-out lied about what they could do. While this is possible, in my experience, it’s more likely that clients confused the provider’s corporate image with the capabilities of the specific delivery and account team on their engagements. A provider’s capabilities are never evenly distributed across the entire company and the reality is that some delivery people are better than others.  Plus, providers can often be very crafty with how they allocate their best and brightest to their clients.

A while back, I was at an event, and chatting with several vendor executives. A vendor management person from a buyer client that we all knew came over and started chatting. He looked at the company names on everyone’s badges and mentioned that his company worked with every provider represented there. Then, company-by-company, he pointed at each one and said things like “Yup, we hate you guys. We’re suing you. Your team is terrible. You never give us good people.” That broke up the circle quickly as everyone made excuses to move to other conversations!

And afterwards, two things that stuck with me: the first was that buyer getting up as a speaker at the event to talk about creating shared value and better relationships with suppliers (I kid you not!) The second was one of the providers sharing with me privately his frustration with that particular buyer, saying “he wants the “A” team, but he’s paying for the “C” team. And even still, all he talks about is cutting our rates in the next negotiation. Why would I invest in a client like that?”

This story highlights several reasons that a company many not get the “A” team from a supplier that have nothing to do with the supplier at all:

1. You aren’t mature enough. Providers can tell what your internal team is capable of – both for execution and understanding. A supplier won’t give you “A” level resources if they think you can’t appreciate the value. Now, of course, the question is “if you can’t tell the difference, how do you know it’s not the ‘A’ team?” And the answer is, you probably can’t put your finger on it but you’re vaguely unhappy and realize things aren’t progressing the way you want even if you don’t know why. Smarter clients get smarter teams.

What to do about it: This one starts with increasing your own expertise first so you can ask better questions, understand the answers better, and make your own suggestions of how to remediate so you can have productive discussions with the provider. When the provider sees that you know what you’re doing, they’ll give you better resources. In the story above, you wonder why the company was suing a provider – that’s the kind of thing that happens when you didn’t scope properly or weren’t smart enough to ask for the right things.

2. You’re cheap. I hear this one a lot. As a client, you’re complaining that you got the “B” team. But when you look at your rate card, you’re getting “C” team pricing. You may even have gotten the “C” team instead of the “B” team. This is exactly what frustrated the provider executive in the story – he was delivering better resources than the client paid for and yet the client wasn’t grateful, instead the client only complained that the resources weren’t good enough!

What to do about it: If you pay for the “C” team and got the “B” team, be happy. You’re doing better than most others in your situation. If you’re paying for the “C” team and actually have the “C” team, then you need to have a discussion internally about what your goals are. Maybe you’re actually ok with the service you’re getting and the complaints are just water cooler venting. If you’re actually having a delivery problem, then you need to look at increasing what you’re paying or changing the delivery model. You can change a delivery model by seeking to automate some part of the engagement and paying a little more for the resources you’re keeping.

3. You’re a bad client. Maybe you complain about things that aren’t actually wrong. Maybe you blame the provider for problems that really resulted from your internal team. Maybe you constantly want things that aren’t in the contract and get mad when you don’t get them. There are lots of variations on this theme. Here’s the thing: no one wants get abused as work, and top talent doesn’t have to put up with bad behavior. They’ll get switched to better clients. Or, worse, you HAD the “A” team and you beat them down until they’ve devolved into “C” quality work. While I don’t know the inner workings of the buyer’s organization, I can tell you that in this conference setting where provider normally love the chance to socialize with their buyer clients, providers avoided this person at all costs. That speaks to the poor relationships this person built.

What to do about it: Of course, if there are legitimate problems with the provider’s work, address it. But if the problem is really your team, then fix your internal situation. You can train your team to address challenges differently, swap your internal provider liaison or even fire staff that are creating a bad environment. You definitely need to get realistic about your expectations of the engagement. Then let these internal changes get demonstrated to the provider staff to show them you’re no longer the client from hell.

4. You’re not important. Sometimes you can be a great client from all sides – you pay well, you’re a pleasure to work with, and you have interesting work. But maybe you aren’t a big client, or you’re not a brand name, or you in fact have a weak brand (the “loser in your industry?) The provider is likely putting top talent onto clients that spend a lot of money or that have brands that with star power or they use as client references. In the story above, the client was important in its industry but had a reputation as a bad place to work, so there wasn’t the “star power” that often comes from a well-known brand.

What to do about it: This one’s trickier than the rest, because the only way to really fix it with your existing provider is to spend more money until you’re a bigger and more important client. Sometimes you can fix it by being willing to be a reference client, tell your account team if they fix the talent situation, you’ll agree to be a reference for future prospect or analyst calls. However, if you’re willing to go through a transition, you can solve this one by switching providers. You can look for a smaller provider so you can become a “bigger fish in a smaller pond” or a player who specializes in your industry so your brand becomes more important to that provider.

The Bottom Line: You’ll only be satisfied with your service providers when you deal with your own responsibilities to the engagement.

Get more realistic with your expectations based on the factors above and decide what’s good enough for your needs. Hold the supplier’s feet to the fire, but do the same to your own team. Addressing these internal issues will give you more value from your existing deals and also position you better for future work with your key suppliers.

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesSecurity and Risk

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From Day One: Design Thinking the Patient Experience with Lawrence General Hospital and Sutherland Global Services

December 22, 2016 | Barbra McGann

There’s no two ways about it. I’m excited to be on the cutting edge of a Design Thinking-led services engagement in healthcare to address patient experience. Thank you to Lawrence General Hospital (LGH) and Sutherland Global Services for inviting me through the door and into this initiative…. and especially for agreeing to let me blog about it! We are constantly looking for where companies are “taking a detour with design thinking” and finding results to share. This time, we’re bringing you along on the journey.

We’ll start with a workshop led by Sutherland Labs, and follow their version of this human-centered, iterative innovation methodology over the next few months. The goal is to re-think the patient experience at LGH, and I’ll be sharing the progress here in my blog as we go. After months of researching, interviewing, and writing about Design Thinking and the value it can bring to a services engagement, I will be able to give you an inside look as well. If you have done this before, you can compare it to your own experience and perhaps find some new ideas; and if you haven’t, here’s a way to get some further exposure to a work in progress 

Design Thinking can play a strategic role in helping healthcare organizations to better service the consumer as the patient, member, caregiver, clinician, etc… and rethink operating (and business!) models.

We believe design thinking can help bring about a more healthcare consumer focused type of engagement, which is so needed in health care today. With the latest news burning the wires that in the U.S., premiums are going up yet again, healthcare consumers are just going to get more discerning about how and what services they are receiving for their money. Value – always defined by the beholder – is changing for healthcare consumers. Being aware of that, and aligning the organization –front, middle, and back office – is simply becoming an imperative to the future health and success of healthcare providers, period. And service providers can play a role in doing so.

Despite the potential, and early success stories in and outside of the industry to date, the use of Design Thinking in healthcare for impacting business outcomes through operations is fairly nascent, as seen in Exhibit 1 from our recent Intelligent Operations Study, which included 45 Healthcare Operations Services Buyers. Only 23% of the respondents say they are using Design Thinking today, so we see LGH and Sutherland as pioneers here. For those of you who have not yet jumped into the waters, you can also find some ideas on how to get started in my recent interview with Charlotte Bui, Global Lead of Design Thinking at SAP… and stay with us here as this story with Lawrence General Hospital and Sutherland Global Services develops.

The LGH and Sutherland partnership to put patient experience at the center of reimagining the hospital business operations – the use of Design Thinking – exemplifies one of the 8 Ideals that HfS Research considers critical in the move to more “intelligent business operations.” As it is also one of the least mature of the Ideals in this services industry, they are breaking some new ground here.

Exhibit 1: The Maturity of Design Thinking in Helping Achieve “Intelligent Operations” in Healthcare Organizations

At the same time, fellow HfS analyst Hema Santosh, and I will be launching an update to the Design Thinking for the As-a-Service Economy Blueprint we published with Phil Fersht in early 2016. We expect to hear more about how service providers are using Design Thinking and incorporating innovation into their engagements, to be more forward thinking and investing in the long-term value of outsourcing services partnerships.

If you have a story to share, questions to ask, or challenges to pose, please fee free to post them here, or contact me at barbra.mcgann@hfsresearch.com. And, stay tuned…

Posted in: Design ThinkingHealthcare and Outsourcing

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Cognitive Computing in HCM: Walking the Line between Cool and Creepy

December 20, 2016 | Steve Goldberg

Cognitive computing generally refers to having a system mimic the way people think, learn, solve problems or perform certain tasks. In HCM systems specifically, the system leverages what it knows about us -- including our job, social network, and interests – to yield solid benefits in areas such as social recruiting and social learning.

We are also seeing take-up of some newer entrants into using NLP (natural language processing) in the form of chatbots and intelligent agents. Examples highlighted in my recent POV “Intelligent Automation in HR Services and Solutions” included an employee having a conversation with the system about an error on their timesheet that the system had the wherewithal to resolve … or the HR technology platform proactively pre-filling a timesheet based on items in the person’s calendar and previous timesheets.

So far, generally no controversy surrounding these type of cognitive capabilities … efficiency gains and better customer service without any apparent downside. But what if a near-future incremental step in the cognitive HR tech journey goes something like this:

Employee: Hi there, kindly initiate a PTO time off request for me for this Thursday and Friday after confirming that I still have the 2 PTO days to use.

HR System: I can certainly do that sir, but are you sure you want to take 2 days off this week given you have a major project deadline next Monday, the project seems behind schedule, and as you know, you were late on your last major project deliverable?

Can we say C-R-E-E-P-Y?

The norms regarding leveraging these capabilities in the HR/HCM realm will likely not be established anytime soon. We probably need a few high-profile lawsuits to be the catalyst, followed by consultants developing practices as quickly as they did for Y2K. In the absence of this, it’s reasonable to assume companies will start to get feedback from employees and job candidates that they were put off by the intrusive nature of their HR system interaction.

Until such time, here are four cognitive capabilities in HCM that go beyond (or way beyond) intelligent HR agents and chatbots. Some may still become standard HR systems capabilities and practices in the months or years ahead. For the time being, this is arguably a matter of weighing business benefits (ranging from efficiency gains to improving employee satisfaction/engagement) against potential liabilities that could include a total distrust of using the HR system -- for anything!

  • Upon “clocking out” late one evening, the system notices that excessive hours have been worked by that employee in the last 2 weeks, and auto-emails the person’s supervisor a suggested communication advising the employee that … “the company values work-life balance, and they may want to consider getting back to a more normal schedule.”
  • The system recommends internal or external training courses to look into, or even a personal development coach, based on formal or informal feedback received (the latter from corporate social collaboration tools).
  • The system alerts a business unit head that a certain employee has initiated the processing of a leave of absence or early retirement, and identifies key “institutional knowledge” they possess (again based on formal or informal feedback) that should be transferred to other colleagues at the earliest.
  • A personalized, auto-generated on-boarding communication from soon-to-be team members who let the new employee know they have some things in common … e.g., school attended or outside interests or reside in same part of the city or birthday … and also expresses how excited they are to have them as a team member. (Of course, in this example, the “sender” would receive it first and have a chance to modify.)

Bottom Line: Cognitive capabilities within HCM systems will keep pushing the envelope, perhaps until lawsuits, governance issues or perceived creepiness get in the way.

 

Posted in: Cognitive ComputingHR Strategy

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The real unfiltered truth behind the lack of RPA use cases

December 20, 2016 | Phil Fersht

My good pal, Steve Rudderham, formerly of Genpact, Capgemini and Accenture fame... and recently anointed the great GBS leader at Kelloggs, posed the irresistible question to me on our Robotic Premier League blog:

Phil, One thing we've struggled with is really where the rubber hits the road in terms of credentials. There are a lot of good innovation "stories" around RPA but several of the players on your list have really struggled to articulate savings and examples outside of their own in-house improvements using macros in excel. When do we expect more maturity in this space in terms of client stories that the rest of the industry can get behind? 

Fair enough, Steve, great question... so here's my answer:

@Steve Rudders -

It's early in the morning, the filters are off so I'll just answer your question as bluntly as possible: We live in ignorant times - people are blindly groping for that next vehicle to drive out cost, and RPA currently fits the bill.

I, personally, thought the hype would die down this quarter as companies struggled to figure out what not to automate. Don't get me wrong, the RPA value proposition is tremendous - taking high throughput, high-intensity processes that require large amounts of unnecessary

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Posted in: Robotic Process Automation

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Is Account Management Location Holding your Client Back from a BPaaS Engagement?

December 19, 2016 | Mike Cook

For outsourcing to continue to grow contracts need to move beyond simply removing cost and in addition add true value to the client. In HfS’s PoV, Defining the Seismic Shift from Legacy BPO to BPaaS we uncovered what BPaaS really entails. In this study, we identified that BPaaS is not simply platform-enabled BPO as some would have you believe. BPaaS contracts are fundamentally defined to deliver business outcomes such as revenue growth, with KPIs and SLAs like average handling time being more about tracking and reporting on progress as opposed to being the only reason for payment.  This approach requires a significant level of trust between the service buyer and the service provider – trust that is based on experience, credibility, or the combination.

The focus and purpose of BPaaS are not on how results are achieved, but the fact of achieving them (or not). In some cases, the service provider is paid based on the outcome, such as incremental revenue that is recovered in a collections operation. In other cases, while there is a specific business outcome in the contract, such as increasing medical adherence, the payment is based on a transaction, such as number of patients managed, or number of payrolls processed. For example, Webhelp’s contact center contract with UK retailer ShopDirect, whereby Webhelp is paid through a combination of FTE pricing and an outcome based model that varies according to service line, examples of outcomes include revenue gained, first call resolution rates etc.

With the amount of control placed in the service provider’s hands, trust is the key building block in BPaaS contracts.

BPaaS contracts are very seldom undertaken by first generation outsourcers. The level of trust involved in handing over complete control of processes is not something buyers are willing to undertake lightly. More often than not these BPaaS contracts evolve from well-established and successful BPO deals.

Another aspect to consider and something I have recently witnessed firsthand as I’ve visited a few South African BPO service providers (jealous much?), is the location of account management teams. Almost without exception, traditional BPO contracts I have witnessed have a top-down directive account management team based onshore with the client. This creates a further barrier to communication between service delivery and service destination, which can potentially hinder the development of trust needed to move to a BPaaS contract. Conversely, all BPaaS contracts I’ve covered during my time here have a dual account management function with one onsite at the delivery location and the other onshore near the client’s head office.

Is this dual account management function a symptom of a BPaaS or is it a key enabler of making these BPaaS contracts happen? The answer, more than likely, lies somewhere in the middle. This dual account management function creates a more fluid communication channel between the delivery center and the client. This communication helps to dispel the fear of complete loss of control from the client side and lead to a greater degree of trust.

Bottom Line: The key takeaway, however, is that this dual account management function could be a key factor in facilitating the transition from traditional BPO contracts to BPaaS partnerships by increasing communication, trust, and onsite presence.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and BPaaS

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New Year’s Resolution For All Of Us: Put More Business Into Our Security Discussions

December 15, 2016 | Christine Ferrusi Ross

Security’s a hotbed of complexity – many different kinds of threats, technology that’s evolving all the time, and businesses can’t keep up. Changing standards and incredibly complicated threats make most non-technical buyers either throw the problem over the wall to their technology team (and miss out on the value of a business-led security approach) or their eyes glaze over at the mere mention of security and never really give it the attention it requires.

And what’s worse is that this complexity isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. That’s why we all need to get over our apprehension, fear, boredom, and whatever else is keeping us from really understanding what we need to do in security. The best way to do that is to keep a business-value focus on it, making sure we learn what we need without digging too deep into the weeds and getting frustrated?

Bridge the divide between the highly complex and the need-to-know by focusing on three core, interrelated areas:

  • Digital trust: Your ability to succeed in the digital environment requires that your trading partners (customers, suppliers, external stakeholders) trust you to be ethical, legally operating, and practicing up to date security procedures to protect their data and IP. If others start to doubt your ability to secure your own data or theirs, you are dead as a business. It’s pretty simple as a concept and amazingly complex when executing.
  • OneOffice: Digitization and the renewed rise of customer-centricity mean that the wall between back office and front office has collapsed – everyone in a company is customer facing in this age where customers have significant visibility into our internal operations. That means your security policies, procedures, and risk approaches need to be brought up from the basement and shared across your entire organization.
  • Shared responsibility: Security isn’t just something you worry about within your four walls anymore. As data and IP get shared across trading partners, the need for a shared view on securing digital assets becomes critical. Everyone in a trading network owes the other members a secure environment, so sharing accountability for security will become the new normal.

We started our security resolution early by publishing new research that defines the eight prerequisites of digital trust, including data integrity, business alignment, and device security, among others. And then we’ll be building on that by publishing our findings on how well service providers can help clients with managed security services for digital trust in February 2017.

Don’t be intimidated by security challenges, put them in the context of your business and make progress toward digital trust. Here’s to a secure, business-focused 2017!

Posted in: Security and Risk

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It’s a Database, So Why Not Keep VALUABLE HR Data In It?

December 14, 2016 | Steve Goldberg

The range of information managed in HCM Systems is quite impressive, and in most leading platforms, encompasses data relating to the 3 legs of the proverbial (HR data) bar stool: Administrative, Transactional and Strategic data. Administrative covers what’s needed for policy and regulatory compliance and core HR process support (on-boarding, payroll and benefits admin, etc.). Transactional covers the events in an employee life cycle (changes to job, organization, supervisor, compensation, etc.) or personal life event updates that impact employee benefits for example.

Strategic data covers … hmmm … maybe just see Administrative and Transactional.

Is this HR heresy?  Is it a yearning for the simpler days of Personnel Management when key business strategy decisions often excluded HR executives, HR/HCM systems largely weren’t used outside HR Departments, and Talent Management was a term reserved for Hollywood? No, it’s only a lead-in to a question I’ve asked myself over the years, namely: Are we missing something when we point to data tracked on HCM systems like performance ratings, compensation and job progressions, training courses taken or competencies displayed and say this allows us to be very strategic in managing human capital?

Yes we are probably missing something. It seems the data we track in these technology assets, while broadly useful, might sometimes be obscuring the real mission at-hand: The need to manage and provide ready access to WHATEVER people data enables a highly engaged and productive workforce, and the proactive management of business risks and opportunities … thereby creating and enhancing sources of business value and competitive advantage.  

So What Needs to Change?  

For one thing, let’s not forget the aforementioned mission at-hand. Let’s also not forget that employee engagement, retention, productivity – and business innovation and agility – are all HCM-related themes but they are NOT HR processes with routinely defined steps that can be system-tracked or enabled.  Perhaps just as important, these themes rarely have a single process owner with a budget (for enterprise software) that solution vendors can sell to. The main implication of this is that while HR Tech circles continue to espouse moving away from being too process-centric, and being more ‘desired business outcomes’ centric in our systems design and usage, the HR/HR Tech disciplines can perhaps be faster on the actual uptake of this.

3 Examples of (Non Process-Centric) HR Data Worth Tracking

  • Employee Value Indicators … present a broader picture of the employee’s value to the organization, far beyond performance ratings or competencies. These dimensions or data points might relate to referring candidates who became top employees, serving as a mentor to new employees, suggesting ideas that led to new revenue sources or operating efficiencies, or forwarding personal contacts that were great sales leads and became customers.
  • And speaking of competencies, how about Latent Competencies … those that employees possess that might be invisible to the organization, and therefore not leveraged, because they are not relevant to an employee’s current job function. These would be pretty handy when a major shift in business strategy is considered which has implications in terms of re-tooling the workforce. Also Competency Value Trajectory (or “CVT”) would be a simple way to note on the system which competencies are becoming more important to the organization due to impending business undertakings.
  • And finally, one that arguably qualifies as not seeing the forest through the trees, all the valuable data that could be tracked around Career Goals … including how an employee’s goals change over time, progress toward achieving them, and what the organization has done to support them. This way of driving employee engagement could fly by the positive impact of employee surveys or various (non-sustaining) forms of employee recognition for 2 reasons: Employees perceive their needs/interests as being important to their employer; and management decisions about leveraging their people better align with those needs/interests.

Bottom Line: HR Tech'ers should not forget about the virtually limitless potential of these platforms to house strategic, and often non-process centric data

A focus group I conducted a few years ago with a dozen CHRO’s addressed where HR Technology was -- or wasn’t -- making a difference in their organizations. The consensus was that managing the potential fallout from downsizings, or the people aspects of M+A's were areas where HR Technology was not playing a major role ... both obviously more about potentially game-changing events than defined HR processes.

As HCM system configurability and extensibility capabilities have achieved new heights in recent years, addressing these perceived (historical) system shortcomings have perhaps become a matter of customers doing a better job of defining decision support needs and related data capture processes, and simply leveraging their HR Technology assets better in general.

 

Posted in: Analytics and Big DataHR Strategy

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And here's the 2016 RPA Premier League

December 13, 2016 | Phil Fersht

We did in once, we did it twice... and I bet you never thought we'd do it a third time. Yes, amigos, it's the 2016 airing of how effective the leading service transformation providers are in that beloved RPA space that just refuses to go away...

Source: HfS Research 2016 - Click to Enlarge

Ever since HfS bought the topic to the attention of stakeholders back in 2012, the robotic thrum of RPA throbs louder and louder. With the conference circuit over-flooded with more and more RPA conferences, robotically repeating the same rhetoric, the actual RPA deployments are significantly scaling up and M&A in the space is gaining momentum. Yet, true meaning and definition of what truly constitutes “RPA” are as blurred as ever, as more people jump on the bandwagon who couldn't define cognitive vs digital vs autonomics, if their job really depended on it. Enough reasons to take stock where this industry is at, and add some definition and clarity to this fuzzy world into which we're stumbllng. With that in mind, we asked our analytical Automation Overlord, Tom Reuner, to talk to the industry’s stakeholders who buy, sell, implement and generally go nuts over this stuff... and take a fresh look at the market dynamics.

(HfS subscribers can click here to download their freemium copy of the 2016 RPA Premier League table and analysis, authored by Tom Reuner and Phil Fersht.)

So, Tom, amidst all this noise what is really going on in RPA these days?

Noise is a good way of describing it, Phil. Yet, underneath the surface, we are seeing clear signs of maturation. This maturity manifests itself in different ways. The pace of change in which the suppliers are building out automation capabilities is nothing short of astounding. Most providers are embracing a holistic notion of Intelligent Automation ranging from RPA to Cognitive Computing to AI all the way to self-learning and self-remediating engines. However, we must be careful not to confuse building out capabilities with traction in the market. At the same time the leading tool providers such as Blue Prism, UiPath and AutomationAnywhere are

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Posted in: Robotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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And here are the 2016 RPA pureplay specialists...

December 12, 2016 | Phil Fersht

So who do you call when you want a robot? When we embarked on the 2016 RPL, we had to evaluate all the professional services firms operating in the space - both to help clients develop an RPA roadmap, evaluate the RPA software options and alignment with their processing requirements, and ultimately get some help implementing the solutions, developing out the RPA team and creating a workable robo/human governance structure.  In addition, many clients find themselves in conflict with their BPO providers and need third party help to bring them together to find workable risk-sharing compromises.  

What has transpired is several smart people, mostly working for BPO firms, eyed the RPA value proposition emerging, shortly after time we introduced RPA to the services industry in 2012, and they hatched plans to jump ship, club together and do lots of consulting work to build up their organizations.  

(HfS subscribers can click here to download their freemium copy of the 2016 RPA Premier League table and analysis, authored by Tom Reuner and Phil Fersht.)

Due to the murky, complex - and often very technical - needs of RPA, the demand for skilled expertise from real specialists is unprecedented - which is why we've seen the Big 4 leap into this space - but also why we're seeing some of these small, highly-focused, players in real demand. And they're not only making money working with clients seeing to RPA-ify BPO and shared services environment, they are also training many of the service juggernaut services to implement RPA for their clients.  In short, there's a lot of business to go round and you will often see these curious RPA pureplay folk huddled in the corners of conferences, sharing war stories and even passing business over to each other because they ae simply too overwhelmed with client demands to take it all on. 

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the seven candidates out there in all their naked glory....

Source: HfS Research 2016 - Click to Enlarge

Posted in: Robotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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Wipro’s analytics wing is trying new ways of driving collaborative engagements

December 12, 2016 | Reetika Joshi

Wipro has recently been firing on all cylinders to get going on its ‘drive the future’ strategy for growth. We wrote about their smart move on acquiring Appirio with the opportunity to bring together consulting, IT integration, BPO, and global delivery scale. From my recent conversations with its analytics leaders, I’ve seen a similar “combination” strategy resonate around Wipro’s analytics stack.

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Posted in: Analytics and Big Data

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Musings on the Future of Procurement

December 11, 2016 | Derk Erbé

As we dived deep into procurement for the Procurement As-a-Service 2016 Blueprint, we had a lot of almost philosophical conversations about the future of procurement.
About the fun stuff, not the procurement grunt work like invoice processing, PO matching, accounts payable. No, about cognitive procurement, predictive analytics, procurement being completely automated and invisible.

Amara’s Law concluded about the future and our estimations thereof: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
Bill Gates famously paraphrased: "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

So, here are our overestimations and underestimations for procurement in two and ten years’ time:

Overestimations … within two years:
* Service providers successfully scale the knowledge of their scarce category experts with brilliant cognitive solutions.
* P2P platforms completely automate away manual transactional procurement.
* Suppliers are completely digitized on what we used to call Supplier Networks or Business Networks and now know as collaboration platforms.
* Service providers have adopted on-demand As-a-Service to the extreme – they don’t talk about multi-year contracts or total contract value anymore - just about number of subscribers, active users, churn, annual and monthly recurring revenue (ARR / MRR) growth.
* Amazon takes over the B2B Marketplace (if in Asia - Alibaba). Amazon Business is the de facto marketplace in B2B.
* If you’re looking for the Procurement department, follow the signs: Brokers of Capability.
* Competition from outside outsourcing or procurement disrupts outsourcing of specific categories - like DHL in logistics.
* With Blockchain cemented into the core processes, we also pay in Bitcoin.

Underestimations, or what we’ll see (!) in 10 years:
* Algorithms will decide the preferred supplier du jour.
* Algorithms will determine what, how, where and when to buy, show you options and recommendations.
* No one touches an invoice or a purchase order. Blockchain and smart contracts take care of transactions.
* Some categories disappear (probably office supplies - as we go paperless, you can bring your own pen or pencil (BYOP).
* Connected assets (IoT) in value chains will tell algorithms what to buy and when.
* No need for approvals, the algorithm got it.
* Predictive analytics decide what you need – the system knows our needs better than we do.
* When I want to buy something algorithms, and analytics didn’t figure out already, I just tell Alexa to get it for me.
* Stuff will unexpectedly appear on your desk or doorstep.
* Fedex and UPS will help return stuff you, after all, didn’t need….by a drone or an Uber.

Bottom Line: The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed yet
To end with the famous quote from William Gibson. All the forces impacting procurement and driving our overestimations and underestimations are here today. Some very nascent and aspirational – cognitive procurement, IoT, Blockchain, true predictive analytics. Others have been embraced by the market and broadly implemented into procurement and Procurement As-a-Service offerings – procurement platforms, supplier networks, intelligent automation. Ask yourself; will you be on the overestimated or the underestimated side of this transformation? Figure out what the future looks like for your procurement function and start preparing now or risk becoming obsolete.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Cognitive ComputingDigital Transformation

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What Pokemon Go! can teach us about outcome-based performance management

December 08, 2016 | Barbra McGann

How do you change a workforce and shift performance management from status reporting and check-ins to an outcome-based approach?

With Pokemon Go! hot news in the press and, frankly, in my house, this summer, I was reminded of an example of gamification used effectively for performance improvement, financial impact, and employee development and engagement at a US healthcare system.

The director of revenue management and patient financial services brought in gamification, along with training and outcome-based performance management, as part of a change and quality management program. Along with an increase in AR staff productivity and engagement, the impact on the business included an increase in payments, a decrease in net days in accounts receivable, and a decrease in denial turnaround time.

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Posted in: Design Thinking

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Here, there, automating anywhere... meet Mihir

December 08, 2016 | Phil Fersht

There's been an awful lot of focus on the emerging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions since we unveiled the concept to the services industry in 2012. While early movers, like Blue Prism, have stolen most of the early headlines in the space, we've seen other very effective tools and platforms emerge, such as Kryon Systems, UIPath, WorkFusion and Nice.

However, one solution has been especially rampant in the BPO space (especially in finance and accounting) - Automation Anywhere - whose team has been working tirelessly with leading providers such as Genpact, Accenture and EXL to streamline processes and drive all the associated benefits of automating high volume, high throughput tasks that were previously plagued by unnecessary and costly manual interventions.

So we felt it time to sit down with Automation Anywhere's brainchild and co-founder Mihir Shukla, to learn a little more about what is driving this unprecedented demand for RPA, and where this is all leading as we venture into curious times...

Phil Fersht, Chief Analyst and CEO, HfS Research: Good afternoon, Mihir Shukla. You've been at the forefront of so much of the new thinking and ideas in RPA and Intelligent Automation in the last couple of years. Automation Anywhere almost came out of nowhere. So I'd love to hear a bit more about your background and how you really ended up leading this firm. What was the journey?

Mihir Shukla, CEO, Automation Anywhere: Good to talk with you again, Phil. It's interesting when you look back, how you end up with something. I came to the US to do my PhD around the time when the Internet was just coming around. So I got the disruption bug, and it was a lot more fun disrupting different industries than doing a PhD. 22 years later, I look back and I’m fortunate enough to have led five or six large disruptions in various capacities. First, I started at Netscape, where I had a chance to shape the era of the Internet. Then I worked at Infoseek, which was one of the early search engines, where I got to help define how to access the Internet, how you discover things, and we built an early eCommerce platform. Then I had a chance to be an advisor to OmniSky, creating the first Internet-enabled smartphones. I still remember the time when I was one of the 14 guys in Silicon Valley who could go anywhere in the world and find the nearest restaurant. Today, there are a billion of us who can do that.

There was lots of learning along the way. The genesis of Automation Anywhere came from one of my last disruptions, which was at E2Open, where I had the opportunity to integrate the supply chain of the top 10 high-tech companies. At that time I had a chance to use various BPM tools, enterprise application integration tools, and ETL tools. It was during that experience that I saw the challenges faced in trying to integrate a global supply chain that includes hundreds of applications and thousands of people.

I thinking at that time was there must be a better way to do this.

So in 2003, we started Automation Anywhere—and that was a genesis of RPA. Of course, it wasn't called RPA back then. But the idea was to simulate human behavior on a computer and be able to automate everything we do on a computer screen. And 13 years later, we're the largest provider of RPA solutions. So that's how it all started, and that's where we are today.

Phil: So what can you share with us about Automation Anywhere secret sauce? What is it that makes you guys tick? What is it that you feel has been the catalyst to this hyper-growth that you've been experiencing?

Mihir: There are quite a few things that we do very differently, that are unique to us. First of all, we're the largest and most fluent platform on RPA today. We have over 500 enterprise

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Posted in: Outsourcing HerosRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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HfS is named analyst of the year by our fellow professionals

December 07, 2016 | Phil Fersht

It's quite the humbling experience when your fellow professionals recognize your achievements. The HfS Research team should be very proud of being awarded both Independent Analyst Firm of Year and Analyst of the Year for 2016 by the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR), which covered 170 analysts and all the global and boutique analyst firms. 

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Posted in: None

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It’s automation M&A time - Can the establishment suppliers risk not investing?

December 07, 2016 | Tom Reuner

The market dynamics in the world of Intelligent Automation are hotting up. Two acquisitions within a single week and the market is awash with fresh rumors about more M&A.  We already know about two other ones imminent – one a done deal and the other closing in.

First, ISG acquired Alsbridge, not just for their rapidly expanding RPA advisory and implementation capabilities, but RPA is likely to have been a key consideration as ISG was lagging both in terms of traction, as well as skill sets. Second, CA announced its intention to acquire Automic. This is a strong indication that the juggernauts appear to be not only willing to overcome innovator’s dilemma, but are expecting that offerings around Intelligent Automation will ringfence their leadership position rather than erode their bottom line.  Moreover, the risk of not investing in Intelligent Automation is clearly outweighing doing nothing and hoping this feverish wave of interest dies down (which is not doing).

Sourcing advisors are currently not bringing automation deals to the supply side the way they used to with the people-scale centric legacy deals. As part of our research for the Intelligent Automation Blueprint, we tested this assumption with all the participants. Yet, at the same time, we are seeing the Big 4 play an increasingly important role in implementing transformational RPA deals. Thus, they have significantly moved on from largely doing top level advisory and tool selection. This is shifting the market from a narrow focus on task automation with short-term cost considerations. However, this shift and acceleration are being curtailed by an acute scarcity. In the broader market talent that understands the impact of innovations around the notions of Intelligent Automation on broader process efficiency remains a rare breed. Therefore, we expect more M&A predominantly by the Big 4 with pure plays like Symphony Ventures, VirtualOperations, GenFour and thoughtonomy likely to be high on their shopping list.

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Posted in: #CrazymergerideasCognitive ComputingRobotic Process Automation

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Learn about our 2017 research plans: the Year of Making it Real

December 07, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Nothing better to do next Thursday? Fancy spending an hour with the award-winning HfS analyst team, hearing about our research plans for 2017 - and why we are focusing so intensely on the reality of technology-inspired business operations versus the hype? Have nothing better to do than sip on a festive mimosa and hear our happy band of analysts get all excited about their research?  Pray tell... what more could you want... 

Thu, Dec 15, 2016 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Register now

Digital disruption is no longer new – some industries have already been shaken up by evolving digital business models, while others are in the throes of being impacted. This is the new normal for enterprises, and we need to develop actionable strategies to survive and compete in this post-digital world. In 2017, it’s all about enterprises being digitally capable of engaging their customers in real time using immersive communication channels, supported by intelligent unified operations that can enable their business to pivot to remain competitive. 

The HfS 2017 research theme is all about “making it real”. We will explore the experiences, dynamics, intentions, challenges and opportunities of thousands of enterprises in their quest to align their operations to meet the rapidly changing needs of their clients. 

In this webinar, the HfS analyst team will share our 2017 vision for the industry and our  plans for the 2017 HfS research agenda.

Hear about our plans for 2017 research across the following areas:

  • The Intelligent OneOffice: Taking an “outside-in” approach to Intelligent Operations, breaking down the barriers between the front and back offices.
  • The Post-Digital world for IT Services and Strategy, Business Operations and BPO and Cognitive Automation
  • Industry-specific dynamics for banking, insurance, energy, utilities, manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences, travel and retail industries 

Thu, Dec 15, 2016 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Register now

 See you next week!

Posted in: Outsourcing Events

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Has the WAHA Security Conundrum Been Cracked?

December 06, 2016 | Melissa O'BrienMike Cook

The Work At Home Agent (WAHA) model of contact center outsourcing is increasing in adoption. My colleague Melissa O’Brien is set to release some interesting findings of the growth of the WAHA model in the coming weeks. The growth that WAHA is set to enjoy, however, has been hard fought as there are key inhibitors (often perceived as opposed to actual) to the model. These include lack of control, service consistency, and most notably security.

For regulated industries, the idea of having a completely virtual workforce dealing with customer payment and other sensitive data fills them with dread. But what is the real story? Well, according to numerous service providers I’ve spoken to there is a lower average instance of security incidents from the WAHA environment as opposed to the traditional brick and mortar equivalent. We recently spoke to home based agent pure play BPO Granada’s new CEO Felix Serano and CTO AJ Flores. When asked about on the issue of security it turns out that Granada has not had a single security breach from its WAHA population over the last 12 months. Given the frequency of cyber threats we see in the news at present, this is encouraging.

So, what are service providers doing to address the security needs of clients in the WAHA environment?

  • Hiring the right people: Ultimately security needs to start with the right people. Due to the nature of the working model, at home programs are typically able to recruit a more seasoned and experienced type of candidate (the majority of WAHA hires are 35 years and up in age), enabling the potential for more sophisticated and more importantly trustworthy contact center support. Also, service providers generally tailor hiring approaches to target individuals with a university qualification.
  • Train: Next is to train agents on security protocols. Clean desk policies, not repeating information out loud when speaking to a customer-- all these measures need to be reinforced to the agent, even in the work at home environment. Training is just as important in a brick and mortar facility, but from a cultural perspective is critical to ensure the concepts are digested with the absence of physical “team huddles” and the like.
  • Physical security measures: There are two overarching categories to look at from a WAHA physical security perspective. One is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model and the other is using a service provider supplied thin client device. For the sake of this discussion we will look at the BYOD model as this has been gaining traction in recent years and is, by and large, the most cost effective WAHA model. In 2013 I did a report on the WAHA market, at that time we were seeing some extreme physical security measures rolled out by service providers. These included keyboards with integrated keyboard entry analysis, multi-layer biometric analysis, etc. These measures were all extremely costly and often not that effective due to limitations in the technology. Now what we are more commonly seeing is simple fish-eye cameras, installed at an agent’s home workstation, through which service providers can perform randomized audits. Another interesting side note is that brick and mortar service providers are seeing cyber thieves targeting call center agents outside of physical centers and extorting them to steal credit card information; in this sense, the physical security risk is heightened in a home agent model.
  • Software: This is where we have seen the biggest advances in security measures and hence why many of the more extreme physical security measures are no longer needed. A desktop layer, such as Citrix ZenDesktop, is used to replicate in-center desktops. This is then locked down to prevent cut and paste, print screen, etc. Payments and sensitive information are handled by an IVR system to exclude the agent. VOIP is often embedded into the desktop to provide continuity when transferring to IVR systems. Interestingly, Granada tracks the internet latency of agents and can automatically remove them from the workflow if internet speed drops below predefined parameters.

As I’ve mentioned, many of the security measures used in WAHA today seem much less extreme compared to what we saw a few years ago, however they are considerably more effective. With WAHA expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, it seems service providers have finally cracked the code for security and can now provide extended track records of fraudulent free delivery from this model. Service providers offering the WAHA delivery model seem to get it now that the key to security is as much about intelligent and foolproof software as it is finding and developing the right people.

Posted in: Contact Center and Omni-Channel

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