HfS Network

Category Archives: Global Business Services

Rescuing BPO from its trough of directionless boredom: Make jobs challenging and creative

April 17, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Bored BPO CatWhen your enterprise is increasingly dependent on hiring "Millennials" with digital skills and lower wage needs, you'd better figure out a plan for creating exciting, challenging career paths, or you're pretty much already doomed.

Sadly, our Talent in BPO study from last year tells a very depressing tale when you ask BPO delivery executives what they think of their BPO career:

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What's alarming is the failure of enterprises to create and communicate a viable BPO career path for seven-out-of-eight professionals with under two years' experience.  And - while 63% of newbies strongly agree their job is vital to business performance, a depressing one-in-eight are actually excited by their career choice.  When people get past the first couple of years, their experience clearly improves, but the concern here is how can we attract top (or even middling) talent into BPO careers, when there is such a negative perception of the potential of the job.  If we can't attract the talent, the industry will never progress beyond a cost/efficiency play.

What can we do to attract the "Digital Generation" into the BPO business?

Start new hires on activities that require creativity and critical thinking. Working in BPO has to be about delivering capabilities beyond rote, operational processes.  Today's college graduates are simply not coming out of school willing to perform mundane routine work.  Just look at the new WEF jobs report to see how skills requirements are quickly shifting, as business needs evolve - especially the need for creative skills, going from number ten to number three in merely five years:

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In the past, for example, an accountant would often earn his/her chops processing accounts and doing routine GL work, before progressing to controllership activities, such as budgeting, quality audits, FP&A, forecasting and risk assessment work.  With much better technology and offshoring

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Posted in: 2015 Talent in BPO StudyAnalytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)

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IBM, Infosys, Accenture and Cognizant lead in the industry's first Design Thinking Blueprint

January 24, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Unprecedented pressure being applied to operations leaders to drive more value, without huge investment increases, is forging a dire need for the vast majority of service buyers and their providers to change how they work together.  The legacy model of "we pay, and you deliver for cheap and we don't really want you getting involved with helping us do things better" has to change.  Otherwise, enterprise leadership will find new service partners and operations heads to take them forward.

The simple fact that 80% of services buyers simply aren’t engaging with their providers in a collaborative way, as revealed at last month's buyers working summit in Harvard, emphasizes how critical it is to infuse the methods of Design Thinking into most of today's flagging engagements:

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So we set out on a unique Blueprint research exercise, led by myself (Phil Fersht) and supported by HfS analyst Hema Santosh, where we interviewed a host of enterprise clients on their experiences with Design Thinking exercises with their service providers, using our new Blueprint Methodology to assess their innovation and execution performances.  Many of these clients were not the usual rose-tinted reference clients heavily wined and dined by the providers - they were from the HfS buyer community, who could give us an unvarnished, honest appraisal of their Design Thinking exploits.

We focused on those leading service providers, currently involved with Design Thinking as a key component of their As-a-Service delivery model.  While we acknowledge there are many design boutiques and consultancies out there, we specifically focused this Blueprint on the capabilities of the leading outsourcing service providers.

And this is how the emerging service provider landscape is taking shape:

Design Thinking Blueprint

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Phil, why is Design Thinking so relevant to the future of outsourcing?

Most of the outsourcing industry is still trying to figure out what's possible beyond doing labor arbitrage really well - because that's what we do. Sorry, but there I said it - we officially have an identity crisis.

We're trying to forge a new identity for ourselves and re-imagine what our careers, our services and our platforms could be like if we only figured out how we can define, prioritize and realize business outcomes that are valuable, as opposed to merely keeping the same old factory ticking over at the lowest possible cost.

Digital technologies, robotics software, analytics tools, BPaaS platforms and artificial intelligence can only be effective and impactful once enterprises have re-designed their processes in a way that drives them towards their desired business outcomes. This has always been the case with (now legacy) ERP implementations, where thousands of clients have blown billions of dollars on enterprise software they simply never could mold effectively to their businesses. They weren't finding problems to solve, they were creating new ones they didn't need in the first place. 

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Posted in: 2015 HfS Buyers SummitBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best Practices

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Three very handsome CEOs take on three advisors... only on HfS

January 20, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Posted in: Analytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best Practices

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10 issues defining the services industry in 2016

December 31, 2015 | Phil Fersht

We've pooled all the big discussion topics from our recent service buyers summit in Harvard and let our analysts loose to demand 10 big things the industry needs to address if we are going to drag ourselves away from legacy land and avoid becoming massage therapists... and venture into the promised land of the As-a-Service Economy:

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1. Outsourcing is now part of a broader management capability; it is not a standalone profession. Outsourcing is a competency that is learned on the job and through real experience as opposed to a qualification or certification. It is an ongoing, amorphous capability that has no end-state or stamp of perfection, it is the ability to partner to improve constantly processes, outcomes and performance. Outsourcing is a means to improvement, access to resources and better capability, usually not the means to a specific end.

2. Intelligent Automation has emerged as a core competency for operations staff. Like outsourcing,Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a means to improve processes and applications, but rarely the ideal end-state - it typically is retrofitted to make legacy applications and processes function more automatically and efficiently. Legacy operations delivery and BPO can only achieve a certain level of efficiency, without a well-planned Intelligent Automation roadmap. RPA is one of the leading technologies to provide efficiency improvement in rules based tasks and processes, but Intelligent Automation (see link)  is also now including the adoption of real time self-learning techniques, predictive analytics and cognitive computing.

3. Ambitious providers will cannibalize their revenues when their buyers give them more to work with. Moving forward, buyers will need to make some new investments in Intelligent Automation (especially RPA) technology and expertise, while the service providers will ultimately have to concede they may need to reduce the FTE provision on their side, as automation takes effect. A service provider must prove it can redeploy "freed-up FTEs" on their clients’ higher value

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Posted in: 2015 HfS Buyers SummitAnalytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)

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HfS is back in Cambridge University for another no-cheese bake off of services leaders

December 21, 2015 | Phil Fersht

The Event: The European HfS Service Leaders Summit

The Date: 21-22nd March 2016 (click for details)

The Venue: Gonville & Caius College Cambridge

The Theme:  Avoiding the Race to Irrelevance

To Apply for a Seat / lead a session (buyers only):  Email us here

This promises to be another UK style "throw the kitchen sink at everything crappy about our service industry"

We're back at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge this Spring (Click to learn more)

We're back at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge this Spring (Click to learn more)

Join these core discussions where we'll finally address these issues:

The Race to Irrelevance: Are we on a race to the bottom, or are we genuinely in the midst of change: Are service providers really selling what service buyers actually need?
Europeans v Americans: Who’s outsourcing smarter and where can we improve to get to the As-a-Service Enterprise?
Demystifying all that Robo Hype: What is the realistic place for a Robotic Process Automation strategy inside the enterprise - and what should Service providers be doing to support it?
Digital Transformation: It's really all about the business, stupid!
Beyond the Transition: How can service buyers and providers really share their risks to achieve longer-term gains?
Ending the Master/Slave Model: Can service buyers and providers leverage "Design Thinking" to fashion a collaborative relationship with a common purpose, common values and jointly desired outcomes?
Getting beyond the Paperwork: What does it really take, in today's environment, to execute and manage a meaningful, effective and lasting contract?
Getting past that "outsourcing career track" discussion: Is the outsourcing "profession" now part of a broader management capability?
The Message we have to Send Back to the Industry: How can we fix this industry to deliver the As-a-Service Enterprise?

Service buyers email us here to apply for your seat...

None of that famous Cambridge cheese, honest!

None of that famous Cambridge cheese, honest!

Posted in: Buyers' Sourcing Best PracticesCaptives and Shared Services StrategiesDesign Thinking

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The HfS 2016 Blueprint Research Agenda ...at your service

November 22, 2015 | Phil Fersht

2016 will mark our seventh year as an analyst firm and will be our most expansive as we tackle many emerging areas and industries.  Yes, we have come an awfully long way since the days people thought we "only covered BPO":

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The analyst industry's most ambitious 2016 research agenda tackles the continuum from legacy operations to the As-a-Service Enterprise across talent, technology and process

Earlier in 2014, we introduced to the world the concept of the As-a-Service Economy and how it is fundamentally impacting how business and IT services have to be fashioned, solutioned and delivered. Enterprise service buyers and providers have little choice but to evolve how they manage their services, or face extinction.

This means both parties need to make genuine investments in their underlying process architectures, reorient their talent capabilities and make some short-to-medium term sacrifices in their financial models to remain viable in the As-a-Service Economy. The same issues apply to sourcing advisors and analysts that face increasing irrelevance if they fail to adjust to the shifting demands of what it means to be an “As-a-Service Enterprise” in this new economy.

The legacy model of IT and business services sales and delivery that has dominated the industry for decades has rapidly become obsolete in our increasingly digital world, where speed, agility, flexibility and re-invention are no longer optional, but core characteristics for the success of any As-a-Service Enterprise.

For HfS, As-a-Service is about continuous progression, where enterprises do not pause at a status quo state. Instead they are continually exploring better ways to automate processes, access rapid meaningful data, and advance self-learning capabilities in a secure, trusted environment.

Our thinking about the Ideals of the As-a-Service Enterprise also has progressed this year. We now segment the ideals into Change Management Ideals and Solution Ideals that intermingle and build upon each other on the journey to the As-a-Service Enterprise. This journey will require significant change management, and through the course of 2015, we have seen encouraging examples of that throughout the industry, especially with efforts to simplify and automate increasingly unwieldy legacy operations and technology.

We could write and talk for hours about the unwillingness of enterprises to change the status quo to achieve better results. But ultimately it all boils down to the leadership of the enterprise having the appetite to go out and find a trusted partner that is motivated to share the risks of this transition within a financial model that works for all parties. Middle management will always resist anything that doesn’t pay them more, make them happier and more excited, or more motivated to perform. The only way forward to achieve genuine plug-and-play digital business solutions is for service providers and enterprises buyers to embrace real design thinking concepts and work together continuously in a much more collaborative and transparent fashion. This means they need to invest in talent, in training, in change fundamentals—and ultimately in solution fundamentals.

The Ideals of the As-a-Service Enterprise explained

In sharing our thinking on the Ideals of the As-a-Service Enterprise through countless client strategy sessions, industry-wide webinars and briefings this year, we have had the chance to test these Ideals with industry stakeholders to understand their relevance and practical applications.

What came out from these sessions was that the Ideals fell into two key themes: Change Management Ideals and Solution Ideals. In many cases enterprises approach these ideals sequentially.

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To move toward the As-a-Service Enterprise, it is beneficial to begin with a willingness to write off the legacy technology and operations and with that adopt Design Thinking as a way to look at business challenges and opportunities with a fresh perspective. Then an enterprise can orient governance and relationships toward building service solutions with the optimum capabilities,

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Posted in: Analytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best Practices

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Provider, provider on the wall, who's delivering Trust for Digital?

October 18, 2015 | Phil Fersht

Anyone who knows me well has seen how hard we've been pressing the importance of security and trust in a global services delivery environment, since we founded HfS.

In short, we're moving into a world where reactive fixes to security breaches is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.  Savvy enterprises simply have to deploy proactive, holistic management practices of their data flows across systems, people and processes.  What's more, with all these new investments going into digital technology, SaaS platforms, global outsourcing initiatives and automation bots, the risks out there with our data flying all around the place - and the trust in people needed to manage these risks - is second to none.

So who better than an analyst legend of the networking and computing boom era, the founder of analyst firm Current Analysis himself, and now a year-long member of the HfS team, Fred McClimans, to have a serious deep dive into what we are calling... Trust-as-a-Service:

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Click to Enlarge

So Fred, why a Blueprint on security, or perhaps the better question, why trust as a Blueprint topic?

The transformation from an analog to a digital economy has been profound, giving rise to a whole new wave of business and economic models that place the consumer first and corporate assets online. This is a huge shift from the legacy models where brands controlled the message, consumers ate what was available, and managing risk meant not much more than a solid business plan, a line of credit, and Master locks on the front and back doors. That game ended a long time ago.

With most, if not all, corporate data now available online, and a massive consumer-driven omnichannel engagement model, we’ve literally given competitors and “evil-doers” a map of where

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Posted in: Analytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)Cloud Computing

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Glenn gives us Government-as-a-Service (GaaS)

September 08, 2015 | Phil Fersht
Glenn and Carol Davidson, the braintrusts of public sector operations

Glenn and Carol Davidson, the braintrust of public sector operations (Click to access our new Government-as-a-Service report)

Mention the words "outsourcing" and "public sector" in the same sentence and there is only one true lord and master of this realm. The one person who's genuinely devote his career to advising this industry... from British Telecom's ePeopleserve to Accenture, to founding and leading Equaterra Public Sector to its eventual acquisition by KPMG, and finally back to Accenture's Federal Services for one final hurrah to drag public sector operations out of the dark ages.  Meet Glenn Davidson, the man bringing a new type of GaaS to the services industry:  Government-as-a-Service.

The public sector – that oft overlooked and much-maligned part of our world that we can't live without – is squarely in our focus in the wake of our new research report "Government-As-a-Service: How the “Eight Ideals of As-a-Service” Help Federal Agencies Find New Value." The report sheds light on the impact of new technologies and operating models on business operations, and how this is impacting US Federal Agencies.  So we thought we'd catch up with Glenn to get the lowdown on why As-a-Service could get a real game-changer for public sector bodies seeking to escape from legacy technologies, obsolete processes and manually-intensive tasks that slow everything down and drive up our taxes...

Phil Fersht, CEO HfS Research: Glenn, I think we've known each other for, I don't know, about 12, 13 years now. I remember your career in services starting way before mine even in the early days of BPO … when Accenture created its e-peopleserve partnership with British Telecom in HRO. During your career, you’ve been a buyer of services, a provider, and, prior to re-joining Accenture, an advisor to those in the public sector thinking about their service delivery options. What strikes you as the most significant change in this industry today?

Glenn Davidson, Managing Director at Accenture Federal Services

Glenn Davidson, Managing Director at Accenture Federal Services

Glenn Davidson, Managing Director, Accenture Federal Services: The most significant industry change to me is the “As-a-Service” concept – the idea that we can provide the technology and the services to our clients on a transaction basis. Organizations no longer have to make massive upfront capital outlays for applications’ licenses, implementations, or ongoing operations and maintenance. They don’t have to hire more people to handle related transactions. They merely have to specify outcomes – what they want – and have providers deliver the services via the Cloud.

Phil: So when we look at what's going on in the public sector, to what extent is As-a-Service having an impact? Is it creating as significant a disruption as it is in the commercial sector?

Glenn: Phil, as you know, the US public sector is not a monolithic industry vertical. It’s made up of multiple sub-sectors – NGOs, multi-laterals, and governmental organizations at all levels.

Because many state governments have balanced budget requirements, they were among the first public sector entities to adopt alternative service delivery and sourcing models. Declining revenues bring a commensurate reduction in ongoing operating costs or increase in taxes or

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Posted in: 2015 As-a-Service StudyBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best Practices

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Good heavens, it's Liz Evans...

August 17, 2015 | Phil Fersht

If I had a dollar for every scuba-diving triathlete mom who specializes in the art of service buyer/provider relationship management and governance strategy for a big 4 management consultancy... I really wouldn't be very rich.

Liz Evans

Liz Evans is KPMG Managing Director for Governance (Shared Services & Outsourcing Advisory)

Liz Evans has been at this for several years now, from the early days of Equaterra, where she was marriage counseling for most of the broken outsourcing deals in the industry, through to KPMG where she has molded her craft into the GBS governance functions of many of the largest enterprises in the world.

Not bad for a nice lass from a town called Middlesbrough, somewhere up in the north of England, who's firmly implanted herself as a governance therapist in many North American boardrooms (when she's managed to yank herself away from her Lego-addicted kids).

So, after all these years since we last spoke, we thought high time to get reacquainted with Liz to find out just how much things have changed in the industry...

Phil Fersht, CEO, HfS Research: Liz, it's great to talk with you again. I think it's been five years since we last spoke to you on the blog. You've built quite the reputation at KPMG these days for leading a lot of the governance strategy and how clients are maturing post-transaction. I think our readers would like to hear a bit from you about your background and some of the early days in your career, and how you ended up becoming such a respected governance and relationship management practitioner in the industry.

Liz Evans, Managing Director Governance, KPMG:  Thanks Phil - it's great to speak to you. You know, I did a conference—a Governance roundtable last October—and one of the sessions was on talent management. The first question I asked the audience was, "Put your hands up if, when you left university, you wanted to be a governance professional." Shockingly, no-one raised their hands. And I have to say I am in the same boat. So I think the route into governance and this industry is often an interesting one.

I started off doing outsourcing deals way back in the mid-‘90s. And I actually focused much more on service levels. And then was asked to look at the structure of how you manage those on an ongoing basis. It kind of led me down the road as well. Service levels and service credit really are not all there is to a relationship—it's much broader. I think the rest, as they say, is history from there. When I joined EquaTerra in 2005, I had the opportunity to really spend my time focusing on

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best PracticesCaptives and Shared Services Strategies

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Hello As-a-Service Economy, goodbye Outsourcing, Part I

August 09, 2015 | Phil Fersht

As-a-ServiceWhen we coined the term "The As-a-Service Economy" a year ago (remember our famous Ten Tenets post), we never quite anticipated we were helping define the future model the services industry would adopt for business, technology and operational service delivery.

As-a-Service replaces Outsourcing

We've perennially debated the (toxic) term "outsourcing", long vilified as the substitution of onshore jobs with cheaper offshore people. The outsourcing community has continually struggled to find new defining terminology, as NASSCOM replaced "BPO" with "BPM" and the IAOP has refused to shift from the past, staying true to the O word as its core identity.

The reason why we struggled with our identity was because outsourcing, by and large, has really always been about people.  It's hard to change processes, drive common standards across clients, build a utility model that can be scaled and made cost-efficient, when you're really just moving work around the world with the goal of getting it done cheaper. And that's really been the story of outsourcing to-date - service providers battling it out, at varying levels of effectiveness, to deliver people-based services more productively, promising delights of delivery beyond merely doing the existing stuff significantly cheaper and (hopefully) a bit better.

But outsourcing hasn't failed. Only 13% of service buyers in our new Ideals of As-a-Service study believe there is no more value to be found in the current outsourcing model.  Outsourcing is the starting point towards driving out bloated labor costs, centralizing the delivery staff within a service provider, and creating some basic common standards across processes.  However, it's not the end-solution for ambitious firms, it's merely the start of the journey towards this future vision of "As-a-Service".

We also hear a lot of hype about Robotic Process Automation, which is another accelerator towards As-a-Service, but like outsourcing, RPA isn't necessarily the end-solution either  - many applications have a lifecycle and are replaced over time, and many of today's processes become obsolete as businesses evolve. RPA merely acts as a further conduit, coupled with outsourcing, to smooth the ultimate journey towards destination As-a-Service.

Defining the evolution to the As-a-Service Economy with Eight Ideals

The game-changer is centered on today's services work gradually becoming a genuine blending of people-plus-technology that helps us inch towards an ultimate destination of services value, accessible on-tap, empowering service buyers to focus on proactive value-identification with help from their service partners through meaningful and secure data, enabled by intelligent automation and digital tools... all made possible by smart people working together.

So let's examine the Eight Ideals of As-a-Service, into which we delve in-depth in our new defining report, "Beware of the Smoke: Your Platform is Burning", that canvasses the views, dynamics, aspirations and intended actions of 716 service industry stakeholders:

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The journey to As-a-Service is all about simplification

Business services, today, are one of speed to business impact. They are about simplification.  They are about removing the blockages and obstacles diluting this business impact.  Anything less is not taking advantage of the experience and capability that has been developed in the global services market, over the past three decades. In this time, enabling technologies, talent, sourcing operating models, and macro-economic trends, such as globalization of labor, high growth emerging markets, new business models and consumerization, enable service buyers, advisors, and service providers to engage increasingly in a more flexible and collaborative manner. The ambition is to achieve renewed business results with speed, quality, and effectiveness. When we get there, we will be in the As-a-Service Economy.

The transition to As-a-Service is all about simplification — removing unnecessary complexity, poor processes, and manual intervention to make way for a more nimble way of running a business. It is also about prioritizing where to focus investments to achieve maximum benefit and impact for the business from its operations.

The emerging As-a-Service Economy will be more agile and dynamic, featuring on-demand plug-and-play services in a one-to-many fashion targeted to impact what matters to consumers as well as businesses. The two are increasingly intertwined as consumer insights, decisions, and loyalty carry increasing weight on the success or failure of an enterprise in any industry.

The Bottom-line:  The As-a-Service Economy is a vision for the future, building on today's achievements

It's easy to deplore how poorly our business are run,  how dysfunctional are our processes, how badly integrated are our technologies, how reactively and transactionally our staff perform. But this is the evolution of business, this is how we got here today. When you talk to service buyers, they are unlikely to tell you their businesses are running worse every year. In fact, most have improved immensely over the last five years with improvements in global scale delivery, cloud computing etc.

Survival in today's global business environment, for most, is a marathon, not a sprint. Not every industry has been Uberized over-night - most are being disrupted with technology-driven business models that we can learn from, adapt, adjust and try to get ahead of. Most enterprises suffer from the same woes and face similar challenges to clear their path towards their desired As-a-Service Ideals.

The new challenge is to prioritize which Ideals really matter and how to work with the smart people and partners around us to get there. In subsequent posts to this theme, we will analyze our study findings further to understand the priorities, obstacles, expectations and anticipated dynamics to unravel how we will eventually arrive at the As-a-Service Economy, and what we can do as an industry to get there and prosper.

And Part II is now up - click here to read!

Please download a copy of our new Industry Report "Beware of the Smoke: Your Platform is Burning", authored by analysts Phil Fersht and Barbra McGann, that analyzes findings from 716 service industry stakeholders in our new Industry study that defines the future of services and the emergence of As-a-Service Economy. 

Posted in: 2015 As-a-Service StudyAnalytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)

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