HfS Network
Phil Fersht
 
CEO and Chief Analyst 
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Robo's best-kept secret? Not any more... meet Redwood
July 25, 2017 | Phil Fersht

 

There's nothing worse than being the "best-kept secret" in an industry... sure, it sounds cute at first, but after a while it gets frustrating as people aren't learning about you.  And there's nothing worse than being a best-kept robo secret in a market obsessed with propaganda, ignorance and bad analysts, many of whom have no clue what they are talking about.

So let's change this for one solution vendor, Redwood Software, which has quietly gone about helping enterprises automate processes around SAP workflows. When we bemoan rigid, poorly integrated processes, it's often borne out of legacy systems and ERP that have the effect of pouring concrete into a firm's operations. So what better than to develop both robotic and digital automation capabilities around SAP's R3 finance platform, helping financial leaders renovate more of that they have, without the costly and disruptive need to invest millions in expensive system upgrades that often only succeed in delivering a whole new suite of integration problems. Sounds like a simple way to make money? Well, it actually takes decades of practice and experience, so let's hear a bit more from the firm's CEO and Founder, Tijl Vuyk. and his Chief of Staff, Neil Kinson, about how they got here and where they are taking this very well-kept, soon-not-to-be so secret Redwood product...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Good morning Tijl and Neil - it's great to have both of you talking to us today. Perhaps we can start with a little background on Redwood, where you have come from and what you do?

Tijl Vuyk, CEO and Founder, Redwood (pictured left): Thanks Phil. Well it’s been about 25 years since we were founded and we started in the application space where we were building Oracle applications. We saw the need for automating these applications because there were a considerable amount of manual activities running all kinds of processes within Oracle, and later on with SAP. When we started, we created a tool that would help customers build their own automated processes. In the last five to eight years we discovered that building these automations were a challenge for many of our customers. So we tried to productize the whole idea of automating these business processes and now we call this robotics - where we use the application's functions to automate the processes normally undertaken by humans. I think that's where we are. We came from a technology background where we built enterprise strength applications to automate primary business processes, and now we are trying to make this as easy and slick as possible to implement those processes without having customers spend too much money on services and maintenance. There is more to say about what we do, but these are the highlights.

Phil: Sure, so you've been around for 25 years, how did you end up in this automation space? Was it a deliberate move or was it something that evolved over time?

Tijl: I wouldn't say a deliberate move but I love automation. If I do something twice, I ask myself, “can I do this easier and faster or not do it at all?”  And that is the attitude we have

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When automation becomes your only option...
July 22, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Ian Maher... Sourcing Star
July 18, 2017 | Phil Fersht

As the fog slowly lifts from our beleaguered world of operations, we can start to put the pieces together regarding where we truly are, when it comes to building the backbone for successful businesses of the present and the future:

No - not all our firms have been wiped out overnight by disruptive digital competitors (sorry all you hypesters who've been beating that drum, but most our 'legacy' firms are doing just fine).  

No - not all of us have been replaced by robotic software that can mimic our rote behavior and render us useless (if only more customers will actually admit they are finding RPA a lot more challenging than they thought).

No - outsourcing isn't dead, it's just under pressure from commoditizing services, too many competitive service providers, greater global location choice and the emergence of specialist niche firms, which can do complex work at a much smaller scale than our juggernaut firms can afford to deliver. 

In short, our enterprises are caught between innovation and renovation, where they need to make the most out of what they have, while making the shrewd investments in the innovation the need to stay relevant in their markets. So with whom better to chew the fat than a very old friend and great supporter of HfS over the years, Ian Maher, who's been the dynamic busybody behind Hanover Insurance's sourcing and operations activies over the last decade. You won't meet many customer executives who deal with technology firms, automation vendors, outsourcing providers, procurement executives, HR, IT - you name it - and still always has a smile on his face. Maybe it's his stubborn devotion to his under-achieving soccer team, Everton, which keeps the chap so positive and focused....

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Good morning Ian. It's great to catch up with you again. Could you tell HfS readers a little more about you and your background in the industry, where you've come from, and what you're doing today?

Ian Maher, VP, Head of Sourcing, The Hanover Insurance Group: Phil, good morning, it's great to catch up again. As you know, my background is on both sides of this interesting equation, from both a sales  and a buy-side perspective. When I was originally in the UK, I spent the first decade of my career working for what is now Fujitsu. As the development of consulting services, on the back of technology solutions, I was fascinated by how firms created new revenue streams on the back of product sales. In the late ‘90s, I moved over to the States and joined Gartner. With roles, in account management support and financial services in the North East of the US, I then started to work more closely with the research leaders in Sourcing and especially BPO, spending a lot of time working with CIOs and similar leaders, helping them understand what was going on from the BPO point of view as it started to seep away from a technology space, into the realm of mainstream business decision makers.

One of my previous clients is the company I'm with today. I've been at Hanover for nearly 10 years. We are a growing P&C business, largely in the US but with a UK operation via our Lloyds of London syndicate. In this role, I look after a variety of functions, including, traditional procurement, contract risk and governance. But more interestingly, perhaps to me at least, is the role of trying to fix together how the ideas from the outside world can be brought to benefit, what is pretty much, a traditional insurance business. I've led a couple of major

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Time to get worried about being automated... very worried
July 15, 2017 | Phil Fersht

With Natural Language Processing, Interactive Voice Response, cognitive virtual agents, Robotic Process Automation, the very essence of our corporate existence, the conference call itself, is in grave danger of going robo.  I think we're done folks... 

IBM partners with Automation Anywhere: Great for AA, but IBM’s cognitive automation strategy just got more confusing
July 14, 2017 | Phil FershtTom ReunerOllie O’DonoghueSaurabh Gupta

If you’ve been covering the legacy world of Business Process Management (BPM) software and the emergence of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software for the past two decades, it’s fascinating to see the two solutions to mesh together, as customers need the full gamut of automation help:  the digitization of manual work, the scripting, and integration of static data that provide the foundation for the automation of the digital processes.

Then you can get to the really exciting stuff of recognizing data patterns, taking advantage of machine learning to make systems self-remediating, and, ultimately, the injection of intelligence to make them absorb everything around them to become predictive and human-like in the way they operate. This is why we’re seeing the likes of Pega peering into the RPA space, Blue Prism partnering with Appian and AutomationAnywhere now partnering with IBM’s BPM software solution.  We’re also seeing some novel approaches, such as intelligent automation provider WorkFusion donate free RPA software to the world to bridge the divide between the manual and the digital quandary.

Yes, people, there appears to be a fair bit of life left in the HfS Intelligent Automation Continuum. Despite some critics who believe RPA is a very separate solution than digital autonomics, machine learning, cognitive and AI, the fundamental thought-process behind the HfS Continuum model still rings true: all the approaches illustrated are both overlapping and interdependent:

Notwithstanding all the feverish excitement on RPA and Cognitive, we still need to include all the less exciting - but critical – activities, like runbooks and scripting, and how these approaches must be integrated into broader digital process workflows. True Digital OneOffice only works when all breakpoints and silos are effectively automated.  If you truly want all touchpoints and processes across your organization focused on executing your vision of customer experiences and building foundational capabilities that support this entire philosophy, you have to address the entire Intelligent Automation Continuum if you want a data backbone that operates in synch across your customers, partners, and employees.

This is the context in which the announcement of IBM’s partnership with AutomationAnywhere comes in.

As part of the agreement, the two companies plan to integrate Automation Anywhere’s RPA platform with IBM’s portfolio of digital process automation software. The main focus will be on integrating Automation Anywhere with IBM’s Business Process Manager and Operational Decision Manager. Crucially, integration is meant to be on code level and therefore goes beyond more loosely integrated partnerships between BPM and RPA players. These enhanced

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HCL's CEO CVK talks three lane growth strategy: Mode 1-2-3
July 12, 2017 | Phil Fersht

One of the leading service providers is also one of the most understated:  Hindustan Computers Limited, or its better-known abbreviation, HCL. This company has grown its revenues by more than 75% in the last 5 years and maintained its profitability to surpass $7 billion this year, while running Wipro close to being the 4th largest Indian heritage IT services firm. Its reputation is one of having a very strong engineering pedigree, a "roll the sleeves up" attitude and a no-nonsense approach to business. The fact it has never bothered to spend millions on a fancy new logo, or glitzy marketing posturing, speaks volumes for this determined, humble and very focused firm, quietly - but aggressively - going about its business as becoming one of the heavyweights of the IT services industry, and one of the best positioned to weather the current malaise caused by flagging demand, too many competitors, and creeping automation. 

So when I got a chance to spend some time with its new, young dynamic CEO, C Vijayakumar, or "CVK" as everyone calls him, I just had to share some of our conversation with the HfS community...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: CVK, tell us about your journey to becoming the CEO of HCL Technologies? What is your secret sauce?

C Vijayakumar (CVK), President and Chief Executive Officer, HCL: More than the secret sauce that I bring to the table, the question is, what is really special about HCL, and what is that secret sauce that has developed a range of leaders within the company. They may seem different and diverse on the surface, but all our leaders embody a core culture within, and that’s fairly constant. I have had the good fortune to be part of some great milestones and worked with some excellent teams at HCL. I have also worked across multiple business functions - strategy, practice, product management, sales, business development and delivery. This has helped me to get a well-rounded view and brought me to this position today.

Phil: So what is the number one issue with HCL and the business... what is keeping you up at night?

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136 enterprise RPA users have spoken and 58% are positive about the business value
July 08, 2017 | Phil Fersht

When we revealed Gartner's bullish 96% of clients are getting real value from RPA bombshell (see post) six weeks ago, everyone close to the action was incredulous:

 

Now we have the real data to prove where satisfaction levels currently sit, where we interviewed 136 major enterprises currently experiencing RPA installs:

 

My personal experience has tended to be about half of enterprise RPA clients today are experiencing positive progress, while the other half are struggling or aborting RPA projects altogether, so this data is pretty positive, especially when you consider that the same number are positive about both the cost and business impact of RPA.  

The Bottom-line: RPA is making sense in this era of renovation and the current satisfaction results reflect this

What I love about RPA is the fact it's making us fix a lot of the systems we're currently stuck with, using sensible, affordable technology. We spent years bemoaning the fact that enterprises couldn't just "saw off" their broken processes and replace with costly new systems and services, but the reality is that most enterprises are not ready to write off their technical debt and invest in change, especially when the outcome is not particularly clear. What is clear

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The Market Outlook for Robotic Process Automation
July 01, 2017 | Phil Fersht

One of the things I've been at pains to convey is the critical link between digital transformation... and the role RPA plays it making so much of it possible. Digitally-driven organizations must create a Digital Underbelly to support the front office by automating manual processes, digitizing manual documents to create converged datasets, and embracing the cloud in a way that enables genuine scalability and security.

Organizations simply cannot be effective with a digital strategy without automating processes intelligently - forget all the hype around robotics and jobs going away, this is about making processes run digitally so smart organizations can grow their digital businesses and create new work and opportunities.

So click here to download my full session at the recent packed-out Blue Prism World in London town:

Why have so many sourcing advisors failed with automation?
June 24, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Remember when sourcing advisors has become the "new analysts" and dominated so many outsourcing discussions?  Remember when it was the norm for clients to bring in the sourcing specialists whenever they needed a deal done, not only to get a good price, but also to make sure they selected the right partner and had a strategic view of the future?  Remember when most advisors were not only contract experts, they were also strategists, researchers, sounding boards and respected brands you could hang your hat on... Just look at our 2011 study when advisors lorded the influence over everyone bar direct peer feedback:

Fast forward to today, with all the sourcing advisors doubling-down in RPA to compensate for the drying up outsourcing deals and confidently hoping their outsourcing clients will immediately turn to them to help them grapple with the new outsourcing-cum-automation model.  Surely their ability to craft deals for clients will put them in pole position to take their clients down the RPA path...

Let's visit our brand new (still-in-the-field) study on the 2017 State of Automation, and it's telling us a very different story when we spoke with 56 enterprises actually deploying RPA:

Less than half the RPA buyers view either consultants of sourcing advisors as influential in their automation sourcing.  Even conferences are impacting automation buyers more.

So what's gone so wrong with advisors in automation?

Credibility. Suddenly many advisors who were previously hawking their deep understanding of HCL versus TCS's FTE rate cards are now suddenly adding their names to white papers on automation and trying to insert themselves into serious client conversations about said topic.  It's just not credible.

Smarter clients.  The swirl of information over social channels is so intense these days that most clients' knowledge isn't that far behind the experts.  In many cases, you'll learn more about RPA talking with a client in beta mode than an advisor or analyst trying to impress you at

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A third of enterprises are making significant investments in RPA
June 22, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Tired of the RPA hyperbole?  Well, you'd better get used to it continuing, as key industries have already made significant short-medium term commitments:

Our 2017 State of Operations and Outsourcing study with KPMG, covering 454 major enterprises, shows the hi-tech and financial services industries leading the way with, respectively, 53% and 44%  already making significant investments in RPA over the next couple

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