HfS Network

Monthly Archives: Oct 2016

Getting Predictive about Predictive Analytics in HCM

October 26, 2016 | Steve Goldberg

Predictive analytics in human capital management continues its slow but inexorable march out of the sizzle phase and into the steak -- or for my vegan friends quinoa -- phase.  As this phenomenon is occurring, a few topics are getting considerable air time.  

These include:

  • How are predictive engines adapted and applied to the unique business context of every organization – and by whom!
  • What types of predictive capabilities in HCM solutions (largely algorithms coupled with machine learning and human testing) have the most relevance and value to a particular HR/HCM agenda?
  • Will the predictive analytics guide in solving business problems? … and the all-important …
  • How much do data scientists earn and can HR afford them?

Forecasting the winners… more to come (winners and research)

An HCM or Talent Management offering that lacks a compelling predictive analytics strategy and capability set, and is competing outside of smaller companies, is akin to the proverbial “dog that won’t hunt.” (Yes I’ve fully acclimated to living in the South).  Although from the buyer perspective, trying to unpack a vendor’s people analytics strategy, or just distinguish it from other capabilities out there that sound awfully similar, might keep some dogs hunting for a while.  I’ve maintained for years that the HR tech market needs much more clarity around how solutions are different and why the difference really matters, in a language that typical HR professionals relate to.  The absence of this makes the landscape more cluttered and more confusing for buyers.

I’ll be covering key operational and technology dependencies that affect the leveraging of people analytics in my upcoming HfS Blueprint Guide entitled “Predictive Analytics in HR Technology.  This will be published in early March 2017, but way before that, my related HfS POV is coming out in the next week or so.  Among other things, it will offer-up a new industry metric called “Time to Predictive Value.”  For now, here’s a preview.

Assessing a solution’s predictive analytics capabilities – checkmark or not

Here are three lenses to apply when evaluating whether an HR tech product’s predictive analytics will achieve desired outcomes; and by product, I mean HRMS platform, Talent Management Suite or HR Point Solution:

  • Time-to-Predictive Value (“TtPV”) is my stab (POV forthcoming!) at creating a meaningful guidepost to help judge one aspect of a product’s capabilities in this realm. It will hopefully bring some much needed clarity to a domain where, for example, “retention or flight risk” -– not a very meaningful metric in isolation, as most  metrics aren’t –- often gets a vendor a quarter or half-way toward qualifying for a predictive analytics checkmark.

    There are various operational dependencies for leveraging predictive analytics in HCM (or within any business discipline), such as having a large enough relevant data set, sufficient analytics and data science competencies and staff, pursuing closed-loop validations with well defined scenarios, applying appropriate calibrations for different data (e.g., job and organizational) contexts either performed by people or machines (via machine learning), etc.  These dependencies and conditions typically take time to be addressed –- from weeks to months or longer.  Buyers should have a sense of when they will actually see the predictive value manifesting itself, as that influences ROI and is also a major input to my lens #2.
  • Degree of Predictive Analytics Business Impact: There’s a wide range of potential business impact and value to be derived from these capabilities in HCM.  Two factors that seem to correlate with impact beyond TtPV:

    - Whether the best actions or decisions are being guided by the predictive information.  In other words, is the analytic prescriptive as well as predictive?  (A reason why retention risk in isolation probably has less value than what is often hyped.)

    - Is the business problem being solved/avoided, or opportunity created, going to deliver noticeable competitive advantage?  Examples include knowing the most important predictors of job success in a critical role, or what factors materially drive or impede employee productivity or customer retention, or is the organization truly ready to succeed on a strategic initiative?
  • Finally, Innovativeness (yes, it’s a word) of the predictive analytics capabilities: The more innovative a set of these capabilities are, particularly if they lead to practical and measurable business value delivered in relatively short order, the more it inspires other creative ways for solution providers to help solve HCM business problems.  Data correlations and cause-and-effect relationships that are very intuitive to discern or simply the product of good common sense (e.g., freezing salary increases or cutting back on company-paid benefits will likely result in a spike in employee turnover) earn very low marks on the innovativeness scale. 

    In contrast, when Walmart years ago determined that putting diapers on sale will often lead to increased beer sales (somewhat logical, but only AFTER the non-intuitive relationship was discovered), now that’s a winner.

Bottom line

People analytics is hot, and predictive capabilities is a major reason why.  But in order for customers to derive business value commensurate with what they are paying for the surrounding solution, they must look beyond the sizzle and assess the quality of the steak in meaningful and business-relevant ways.

Posted in: Analytics and Big DataHR OutsourcingHuman Resources As-a-Service



So, how can you actually get more “As-a-Service”? 5 Key Elements from Procurement Services

October 25, 2016 | Derk Erbé

Procurement BPO has changed substantially over the last decade. Growing maturity of procurement technology and commodification of significant parts of the procurement value change altered the value proposition of procurement BPO: From very large lift and shift outsourcing deals, heavily dependent on labor arbitrage, to smaller (about a fifth the size of ‘legacy’ deals) engagements leveraging procurement platforms, advanced analytics and intelligent automation. This exemplary of the shift in services we call the “As-a-Service Economy”. As we interview service buyers and service providers for the 2016 Procurement As-a-Service Blueprint, we home in on five facets representing Procurement As-a-Service:


  1. Continued use of automation and robotics in services. Transactional procurement has changed tremendously. Not only by better platforms (see #5) leading to fewer and fewer exceptions in processes, and processes and exceptions that can’t be handled on a platform can be done with Robotic Process Automation. As an illustration: in spend analytics automation is used to automatically aggregate, cleanse, validate, classify and report spend data. Further areas with lots of intelligent automation potential are invoice processing, purchase order management, contract management, auto-routing of exceptions to stakeholders, invoice matching procedures, payment status and tracking.

    Traditionally, the 'higher value' activities in contract management, category management and strategic sourcing have been consultancy driven. Skills are scarce and hard to repeat and scale.

    It's about knowledge and expertise and labor intensive processes. The market sees an accelerating talent issue, as category and sourcing experience is scarce and you can't buy experience. Really good sourcing or category experience is built over a minimum of 10 years and many experts are retiring at a higher rate than new talent can be brought on. So there is a need for knowledge management and an opportunity with cognitive and AI becoming more mature to solve a part of this puzzle.

    With cognitive platforms maturing, we will see a change in the more strategic parts of procurement.

  2. Strategic sourcing and category management expertise and capabilities. Sourcing and category management drive a lot of value for clients, for instance in tail spend. There are many small categories, small sourcing events and potentially poorly sourced products in enterprises, which don’t warrant building in house category expertise. Procurement As-a-Service providers are expanding internal category management and sourcing capabilities by attracting and retaining more sourcing talent, arming sourcing and category talent with more and better analytics, insights and market intelligence and nurturing an ecosystem of partners, growing in the role of brokers of capability.

  3. End-to-end capabilities. Service providers increasingly bring in traditional sourcing consulting skills into Procurement As-a-Service delivery, opening new doors to buyers looking for consulting skills at lower (BPO) costs, enhancing capabilities across the value chain. Procurement As-a-Service covers the entire Source to pay (S2P) Value Chain. The growing role of technology is enabling closed loop processes, with advanced analytics creating continuous feedback loops. New value creation in transactional procurement hinges on one to many solutions and services, deriving data and bundling insights across multiple client engagements. The game in procurement business services is scale, being able to deploy limited skilled resources across multiple clients, not on the project basis but on concurrent, day to day, shared basis.

    Providers’ ability to bring sustainable change to the client organization is key to Procurement As-a-Service. Traditional challenges are compliance with procurement policy, contributing to transforming the procurement function and stakeholder management as part of continuous change management, beyond the transition period.

  4. Commercial models. HfS’ research shows that while As-a-Service delivery is gaining ground in many horizontal and vertical offerings, the adoption of As-a-Service commercial models is lagging behind. Gain-share was popular in the early days of procurement outsourcing, but its popularity seems to have faded since in many cases the wrong behavior was incentivized. Determining actual savings and which part of the savings should be contributed to whom proved a nightmare. We are having a good look at how service providers supporting the As-a-Service vision introduce new commercial constructs and if they are bringing those into existing client engagements.

  5. Platforms. Procurement technology is now much more integrated in platforms, where much of the technology of the past was separate, heavily customized and bespoke (point) solutions.  SaaS enabled technology platforms such as Ariba, Coupa, SMART by GEP, Tradeshift, Accenture’s Radix and Capgemini’s IBX have taken a significant role at the core of procurement. In a nutshell, platforms consolidate a set of suppliers, automate most processes and put (commoditized) processes at the fingertips of buyers.

    Platforms are eating into the traditional procurement outsourcing model. The mega deals of the past slimmed down due to the degree of technology being sourced, reducing human labor dependency in procurement. Key ingredients of Procurement As-a-Service are usage of platforms, services with embedded platforms, services around platforms and integration of platforms in service delivery.


What To Watch

Winners in Procurement As-a-Service are those providers going beyond merely providing a replacement or extension of existing procurement, by providing a vision and strategy for the future of procurement.

This vision includes:

  • Leveraging multi client insights, experience and buying power
  • Models for Customer management 
  • Providing smart solutions for indirect (tail) spend
  • Expanding expertise in strategic sourcing and category mgmt
  • Putting Intelligent Automation at the core of (digital) procurement operating models
  • Leveraging procurement platforms (proprietary and 3rd party) in engagements and the ability to provide technology management across clients in a one to many model
  • Building closed loop processes
  • Data and information foundations
  • Using advanced analytics for (near) real time information and insights 
  • Skills in consulting, technology and relationship management
  • End to end supply management
  • Creating communities for clients

The 2016  HfS Procurement As-a-Service Blueprint will investigate the progression service providers have made on the As-a-Service Journey, their vision for the future of procurement and their ability to bring this vision into the real world of procurement.

Posted in: Procurement, Engineering & Supply Chain Outsourcing



NGA Targets Mid-Market Success with the As-a-Service Mindset.

October 24, 2016 | Mike Cook

Click to enlarge.

The rise of cloud-based HCM platforms has been a key driver in pushing the business case of HR to the c-suite and making HR one of the primary focus areas for IT managers. Further highlighting this point, in a recent study (attached chart) HfS identified HR as been the leading business unit adopting cloud implementation and BPaaS support. This movement is leading to the days of the dreaded green screen fading into the distance and slicker, user-friendly and more compliant HR cloud platforms becoming the norm, thanks to SaaS. 

Whilst these platforms have largely been extremely positive for HR managers and employees alike, process change management and continuing integration issues have made these systems far from fool proof. Continuous updates are a headache for organizations to absorb, incomplete compliance functionality is a constant thorn in legal’s side, and piecemeal buying of these platforms has hindered the benefits organizations can glean from them. 

NGA has just introduced a new offering into this market that is designed to be fit for purpose and globally compliant. It’s built around SAP SuccessFactors as a bundled software offering including the NGA’s proprietary MyHRW, and PEX platforms. PEX allows for integration with payroll systems.  cleaHRsky will be front ended by SuccessFactors Employee Central and include an interactive case management portal, AskHR as well as transactional automation in support of processes, reporting, and interfaces.

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Posted in: Cloud ComputingHR OutsourcingHR Strategy



How to Get Started With Design Thinking in Shared Services and Outsourcing

October 23, 2016 | Barbra McGann

From An Interview with Charlotte Bui, Global Lead of Design Thinking at SAP

Recently a colleague in common introduced me to Charlotte Bui, Global Lead of Design Thinking at SAP, and I chatted with her about how design thinking is used with SAP clients. I’m sharing snippets of this interview to get you thinking about how to use design thinking in your work, and in your partnerships and outsourcing engagements to drive new levels of innovation and impact from them. Consider it a way to address the challenge Phil laid out in his October 2nd blog: “let’s make outsourcing great again”… because there is a lot of untapped potential …

Charlotte, how do you bring design thinking into your work?

We ask questions to uncover and discover the true needs of our customers as it relates to their business and their customers. What that means is that we often dig deeper to better understand the “why” behind their needs, their motivation. We ask questions about how the work they do impacts stakeholders and customers, such as: Why do they need this? Why do they care? What’s missing? These questions can be applied to any situation to get focused on how to solve problems with a human-centered, customer first approach, versus a business-centric, solution first approach. And by leading with listening, we work with them to help uncover what’s missing or even what could potentially change their entire business model.

Business process services and IT services is a process driven industry; what can you tell us about how to structure an approach to work that uses design thinking?
We share customer stories and we talk through our method; there are many design thinking methods that all share a same common theme. At SAP, we use “look-think-do.” (link) It is about understanding WHO you are doing it for, cultivating ideas, finding the one (or more) that is real and can be implemented, and execute it. That last step is where the value is realized from the design thinking driven work. We use design thinking to understand what clients need, then work to define and apply the right solutions to bring those ideas to reality. 

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Posted in: Design ThinkingOneOffice



Accenture, IBM and Cognizant lead the industry's first Intelligent Automation Blueprint

October 23, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Finally... exactly four years after HfS introduced the concept of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to the services industry, we can reveal to the world how our service provider and advisor friends are performing with the industry's inaugural HfS Blueprint report on Intelligent Automation.  

Back in 2012, HfS brought the topic of RPA (see link) to the attention of the sourcing industry by challenging its dependency on low cost labor made widely accessible through the ubiquity of global sourcing resources. The report, “Robotic automation emerges as a threat to traditional low‐cost outsourcing,” examined whether affordable, easy‐to‐develop software robots would eventually supplant many offshore FTEs to drive down the cost of outsourcing to an entirely new digital level. We concluded that robotic automation, or Robotistan as we affectionately called it nack then, had immense potential to be a highly disruptive and a transformative technology for buyers and service providers that would forge a whole new services industry landscape that incorporated truly global operating models that not only took advantage of globally available labor, but also accessible technology that could help digitize, streamline and standardize business processes. This wasn't only about making thing run more affordably, but this was about helping enterprises digitize their business operations more effectively to respond to their customers', partners' and employees' needs... as those needs arose.  That was then, and was just RPA.

Fast forward 4 years, and the broader notion of Intelligent Automation (IA) is not only top mind of BPO executives but across the whole industry as all the facets of IA are about decoupling routine service delivery from labor arbitrage. However, despite the high profile, the understanding of how IA is impacting the industry is at best blurred as the marketing communication is both scarce and often confusing. Normally, no topic is small enough to be hyped, to be shamelessly exaggerated. Yet, in the context of automation the usual suspects, the service providers, ISVs and sourcing advisor remain coy and largely on the sidelines. Probably the two key reasons for that are that the impact on revenue models is not well understood and the disruption among workforces, the fear factor, the connotations around the topic. As such as our own Lee Coulter aptly put it, in the context of IA we have something akin to the Tower of Babel. We have many languages but can’t understand each other. Enough reasons for our Intelligent Automation expert in residence, Tom Reuner, to take stock as to where the development of IA has advanced to.

Click to enlarge

Tom, there appears to be a lot of noise around Intelligent Automation in the industry? Is the hype justified and where does it fit in strategically for buyers?

Noise is probably a good way of putting it, Phil. While many talk about automation or least refer to it, few actually provide insights about the market dynamics or even educate stakeholders about the many implications of IA. In my 20 years of being an analyst and consultant I can’t

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



The Real World of Internet of Things Services

October 20, 2016 | Oliver Marks


Although it’s not immediately obvious with all the talk of pilot projects and proofs of concept as businesses experiment with 'the art of the possible’, there is a great deal of large scale and serious build out of modern digital stacks fed by modern sensor data transmission, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Like most competitive business differentiators, strategically important work is being planned and executed in great secrecy, which can skew perceptions of what the landscape looks like. 

An illustrative example of the importance and power of the various data streams created and consumed around the IoT is precision farming.

Smart farming equipment is relatively mature, with multiple data flows about all aspects of, as a specific example, planting seeds. Heavy equipment manufacturers are under pressure to not become ‘dumb iron’ and therefore a price pressured commodity.

To avoid losing out to seed manufacturers over control of data streams and aggregated intelligence ownership, equipment manufacturers must compete by not just supplying the relevant industrial internet hardware.  They must aim to control the farmer’s user interface and experience by providing the best data flows through continuous digital innovation.

Providing farmers with real time planting intelligence and best practice is the center of equipment manufacturers market leadership and survival, and data is the currency.

It’s a commercial battle: whoever is able to provide the most useful, intuitive and intelligent assistance to the farmer wins their trust, business…and their data, which can be aggregated and resold.

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Posted in: Digital TransformationMobility



Wippirio could leave its Indian heritage competitors in the cold... if it gets this one right

October 20, 2016 | Phil FershtKhalda De Souza

Consolidation in the SaaS services market continues apace with the boldest move yet by an India-headquartered service provider into the SaaS services market to date. Wipro has announced its intention to acquire Appirio, one of the strongest and most respected independent cloud services brands in the world for $500m. 

This is a significant deal in a services industry struggling to find fresh paths for future growth, with revenues slowing and the traditional model of outsourcing around SAP and Oracle environments commoditizing.  This has especially been the case with the Indian majors, whose leaderships are starting to panic with their hyper-growth days now a thing of the past. In our view, Wipro is stepping up to the plate right where the future growth lies, by adding significant capabilities around Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow platforms, in addition to bolstering its

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesSaaS, PaaS, IaaS and BPaaS



How To Buy When You’re Not Sure What You’re Buying: HfS’ First Evaluation Of Blockchain Service Providers

October 19, 2016 | Christine Ferrusi Ross

The funny thing about innovative projects is that everyone likes to talk about buying them as if innovation is a product you just pick up off the shelf at the store. But real innovation – exploring ideas, opportunities, risk, and implications of change – means you likely don’t even know what you’re buying. You’re not buying a packaged piece of software or a defined solution. You’re really buying someone who can be a co-creator with you, helping you wade through the mass of tangled and often conflicting options available to discover and build something that adds a unique value to your business.

When you’re experimenting with business opportunities it’s complicated enough, but when you add a technology or solution area that’s just emerging, it gets doubly complicated because often the service providers don’t have tons of experience themselves in the new area. Blockchain is a perfect example – most service providers are themselves exploring what blockchain can do for their clients and vertical industries. My latest research into emerging blockchain services shows this, with most providers still in the early days of the blockchain efforts (see Exhibit 1)

Exhibit 1:

Click to enlarge.

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Posted in: Buyers' Sourcing Best PracticesHfS Blueprint ResultsBlockchain



Market Momentum Challenges Buyers and Providers of Workday Services

October 19, 2016 | Khalda De Souza

The Workday services market is growing rapidly, but remains relatively immature. With many of the service providers still finalizing their specific  areas of market focus and are trying to find a clear identity and position in the service ecosystem. At the same time enterprise buyers  are learning the intricacies of SaaS deployment and service provider relationship lessons in real time.

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Posted in: SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and BPaaS



Life Fitness Finds “Smart” Translation on Demand with Lionbridge

October 19, 2016 | Melissa O'Brien

In order to stay competitive, speed and simplicity are of utmost importance to marketers today.   Lionbridge is providing “smart” translation services by really thinking about how to make the marketing person’s job easier – through a simple, fast, self-service, and automated capability. We recently spoke with Life Fitness, a fitness equipment manufacturer, about their use of translation services for marketing materials.  Life Fitness uses Lionbridge’s onDemand online service, a portal for uploading files to be translated in various formats, providing instant quotes for the timing and cost of completing the translation project. 

As an international company, Life Fitness uses this service for translation and localization of all kinds of content, both customer facing and internal in 11 languages (Lionbridge serves 120 languages total).  The content being translated includes MS Office documents, website content, email communications, YouTube videos and software on the cardiovascular products.  The translation is done by employees, but Lionbridge onDemand automates the workflow process including: file analysis, quoting, delivery estimates, routing to translators, application of glossary and terminology, quality reviews, delivery notification and file delivery.

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Posted in: Contact Center and Omni-ChannelCRM and MarketingDigital Transformation



HfS strikes HR tech gold with Steve

October 19, 2016 | Phil FershtSteve Goldberg

Steve Goldberg (click for bio) is Research Vice President, HR Technology and Workforce Strategies at HfS Research

Back when enterprise time began and God was handing out the technology dollars, why was the Chief HR Officer always seemingly at the back of the queue?  Why did so many of our beloved enterprises become plagued with the clunkiest, funkiest legacy systems we never could have dreamed up in our worst nightmares? Especially when you consider the data critically and sensitivity of one's employees - their profiles, their health records, their compensation, their performance etc...

So it's no surprise that the advent of the SaaS based HR suite has been embraced like manna from Infosys heaven. Suddenly, our HR-technology plagued enterprises can hatch a plan to rip out the cancerous legacy and slam in something that's standardized, has hire-to-retire process that are sort of adequate, and doesn't require that cobol transformation project each time you try to push through an exception payment. So what better timing than for HfS to bring aboard Steve Goldberg - a true veteran of the HR tech world - to lead our thinking in the space and is freshly returned to his desk from the HR Technology show (read his blogs here).

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

Sure Phil.  I've basically operated on all sides of HR Technology, so a real diversity of experiences.  This includes HRIS and Talent Management practitioners in the U.S. and Europe,

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Posted in: HR OutsourcingHR StrategyOutsourcing Heros



HR Tech solutions get personal

October 18, 2016 | Steve Goldberg

Another takeaway from the HR Tech Conference

One of the age-old knocks on the HR profession is that it attracted those who prided themselves on “being good with people.” I was never really sure what this meant when I selected HR / HR Systems as a career path way back when, but it seemed better than being good with hazardous waste. This notion was eventually borne out by the fact that my shortest corporate HR stint was with a Waste Management industry leader.

So how does this relate to the recent HR Tech Conference? Well, beyond what was discussed in my last post about smaller players doing their share to drive product innovation, another realization hit me: Dozens of newer HR technologies are not just “good with people,” but “really smart about people.” This means knowing personal if not unique drivers, how to engage and motivate, and leveraging that context for the benefit of both the organization and its individuals. Employing different talent management and employee engagement approaches for different talent pools (e.g., early career vs. later career or more experienced employees, high potentials, high-value candidates, change-resistors, etc.) makes very good sense.

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Posted in: Human Resources As-a-Service



The tide is turning for talent acquisition

October 17, 2016 | Mike Cook

The market for talent has seen massive fluctuations over the last eight years. The 2008-9 global recession caused massive employment contractions across all major regions; however, the tide has now really started to turn. In recent years we have been witness to one of the longest sustained periods of economic growth in the last 100 years, and with this, the need for fresh talent is on the rise.

Coupled with the rise of the intelligent digital business, these two market dynamics have changed the way organizations have to approach recruiting new expertise and mindsets. With employees now augmented by this technological innovation, the potential for increased efficiency gains and quality of service delivery is greater than ever.

Here’s the talent challenge now: Employees now, more than ever, need to bring the ability to truly impact an organization’s bottom line, and recruiters need to find and attract them into their companies.

Candidates, particularly passive candidates, are in the driver’s seat and are becoming increasingly particular about which companies they will work for, doing their due diligence to find their right match, using the abundance of information at their fingertips. For today’s candidates, work-life balance and a fulfilling work environment are now at the forefront of candidate’s decision-making process. In addition, many candidates are now exploring contractual work; and this, coupled with increasing project specific assignments in the workplace, is leading to an increasingly active contingent labor market.

So what does this talent acquisition challenge mean for RPO?

Traditional Recruitment Process Outsourcers (RPO) that aim to purely fill permanent positions are no longer often an ideal, forward-looking fit for many companies.

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Posted in: Digital TransformationTalent in Sourcing



The Intelligent OneOffice - the endgame for the new generation enterprise

October 15, 2016 | Phil Fersht

We're rapidly evolving to an era where there is only "OneOffice" that matters 

The OneOffice paradigm is all about creating the digital customer experience and an intelligent, single office to enable and support it. In a few months, we won’t be talking nearly as much about automation and digital technology as the critical “value levers” for operations, as they become an embedded part of the fabric of the future operations platform for new generation enterprises. Instead, we will be talking a lot more about OneOffice, where an integrated support operation has the digital prowess to enable its enterprise to meet customer demand - as and when that demand happens.

OneOffice is when the needs and experiences of the customer are front and center to the entire business operations, where the old barriers between corporate operations functions (often referred to as “front” and “back office”) are eroded and the constraints of legacy ERP systems are minimized to allow the business to invest in digital technologies and capabilities that enable it to cater proactively for its customer needs at the forefront of its markets and be a very fast responder if these needs change expectantly.

In short, OneOffice is the endgame, where the digital enterprise can work in real time to cater for its clients. It’s where the intelligence, the processes and the infrastructure can come together as one integrated unit, with one set of unified business outcomes tied to delighting customers.

Click to Enlarge

 Why is digital the new language of business?

In a nutshell, people simply want to operate digitally these days, whether they are an employee, customer or partner. They want to use interactive technology, mobile apps, social media, text, online chat etc. to get things done. People are used to using sophisticated digital technologies in their personal lives, and now expect to use them in their professional lives. Whether they are buying products, groceries, renting accommodation, ordering Starbucks, takeout, applying for mortgages, insurances policies etc., digital technology is the new language of business.

The issue facing many traditional business today is the fact that while the consumer is increasingly digitally sophisticated, many enterprises are still beholden to legacy technologies

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Posted in: Digital TransformationOneOfficeThe As-a-Service Economy



Dinner with Watson, Coulter and Holmes...what’s on the menu?

October 12, 2016 | Phil FershtLee Coulter

If there's one character, on the client side, who's really take on the mantel of "Chief of the Robo-Buyers" it's Lee Coulter, the year's Chairman for the HfS Sourcing Executive Council.  

He probably won't appreciate the moniker, as his standards group has already dropped the term "Robo", but we'll call him that anyway...  So without further ado, let's hear more from Lee as he gathers his thoughts after the recent HfS Cognition Summit: 

Server: “Hi there, my name is HAL, and I will be your server. Can I get you started with something to drink? Sparkling water or something else perhaps?”

Watson: “I’d like a Hadoop martini, Drilled not Dremeled.”

Holmes: “That’ll be fine for me, too, but with some Flume and a touch of Pig”

HAL: “Sure. And have you had a chance to look at the menu? Do you know what you’d like?”

Watson: “I’d like the Presto with Storm please. Can I get a side of Sqoop as well?”

Holmes: “I’d love some Oozie with the Mongo preparation and Thrift as a starter.”

Server: “Very good. I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”

A few weeks ago, at Phil’s event in White Plains, I got to hang out with some of industry's best and brightest. Of course, as we have been doing at HfS for years, we looked to the future for trends, disruption, and new capabilities that will influence what the SSO industry will be facing. I also had the privilege to hang out with Gerd Leonhard for a couple hours over a drink. That was a real treat.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of talk about automation, machine learning, AI, cloud, aaS, and so forth. I remarked to Phil that gone are the days when we were wrestling with how to do transitions well, how to contract for BPO, location strategies, and even the years-long discussion about why we aren’t getting innovation from our service providers. In the last three years, the conversation has totally changed. Whether you are a Utopian or a dystopian, the

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingIntelligent Automation



HR Tech Conference 2016: the little guys have arrived

October 12, 2016 | Steve Goldberg

Notwithstanding having my 13th HR Technology Conference participation cut short by needing to return home to Florida to deal with a hurricane, one major observation stood out for me. It was also a fairly pleasant surprise, something that doesn’t come easy after attending so many of these events—as enriching as they usually are.

In fact, the hurricane actually contributed to the observation. How? Well, in having to unfortunately cancel briefings with major HR Tech vendors to leave early on Thursday, I had to rely more on quick-hitting discovery sessions in the exhibit hall, generally with lesser known vendors. They are typically not as schedule-constrained at the conference.

So, here it is: I found it just as easy to see meaningful HR Tech innovations in the booths of “little guys” and emerging players as I did in their much larger and more established counterparts. I’ll define ”meaningful product innovations” as practical, obviously value-creating (vs. largely “wow factor”) advances where the system’s intelligence is leveraged without a lot of heavy lifting or major change adoption needed by the customer organization … dependencies often under-estimated by vendors and customers.

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Posted in: HR StrategyHuman Resources As-a-Service



So what should healthcare operations do when IT hinders rather than helps?

October 11, 2016 | Barbra McGann

Focus everyone on the shared outcome: The healthcare consumer experience

“We are, frankly, still at a stage in which healthcare technology often hinders, rather than helps, physicians trying to provide better care,” says Andy Slavitt, Acting Director of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The examples he shared at HIMSS16 still resonate with me: feedback from physicians who have told him, “To order aspirin takes 8 clicks on the computer. To order full strength aspirin takes 18.” Another said, “I can’t track my patient’s referral; I sent them to the hospital and can’t track them.” 

Despite the increased, even prolific, use of IT in healthcare with member and patient portals, electronic records, and online billing and payments, the clinician or healthcare consumer experience has yet to change fundamentally for the better. To truly become digital, healthcare organizations have to rethink their use of IT. In many cases, where they have software vendors and service providers involved, they also need to revisit their engagement strategy, especially as the industry shifts to value-based care and payment based on results.

A single-minded focus on the customer—patient, member, employee, clinician, etc.—can break down the barriers in and across organizations to drive meaningful processes and use of IT

Digital healthcare, in its purest form, is all about transforming the healthcare business to create, support and sustain the healthcare customer experience – customers being, at times: plan members, patients, physicians, caregivers, etc. The “end user” can be the same person in different roles, or working with people in other roles, creating a complex network of constituents with varying wants, needs, and motivations. So, creating a healthcare experience is not a job for a solo artist, either – it takes the whole orchestra playing together to create a musical masterpiece and not just a cacophony of sound.

Simply stated, a pivotal factor for being truly effective in delivering the vision of better health and care at a more reasonable cost for the industry is a coordinated, interactive, and interoperable approach in operations, what we at HfS call the Intelligent OneOffice. OneOffice is all about how people use data and digital technology to bring together the front, middle and back office to enable a user experience that matters, thereby having an impact on health, care, and the viability of healthcare organizations and businesses.

Everyone in the industry has a role to play in supporting this person-centered approach. In some cases, the impact is more obvious and intuitive, such as the front line staff of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists directly discussing a patient’s care plan, therapy and medications. However, roles that are more removed from these direct touch points also have an impact on health, medical, and administrative outcomes. For example, operations support staff processing claims are analyzing data to identify care gaps and opportunities for new interventions, making sure patients are informed through the design and input into systems that automate outreach and reminders through phone, email, or text, for example. So much of how the touch points in healthcare can be more effective depends on the data, digital technology, and relationships that extend from “hidden” roles in “the back office.”

People who can identify and articulate problems and coordinate across internal and external organizations to focus on the end-consumer, are key to bringing together IT and operations

Generating the kind of synchronistic flow from less customer-facing processes to support the healthcare customer experience is no easy task. What will help drive change is finding and/ or cultivating “brokers of capability”—people who can articulate a business problem or opportunity, the desired outcomes, and then coordinate and facilitate across internal and external entities to reach those results. In healthcare, we see brokering going on to create networks such as for ACOs and hospital systems leading to data stores and insight-driven interactions to better manage a patient’s health and care, end to end, covering socio economic/financial and medical needs.

Who are your brokers of capability? People you identify in your organization with critical thinking and networking skills, people who put people first. Taking this approach also creates a more attractive workplace and can play on a naturally altruistic synergy as many people enter the healthcare profession to “help others.” No matter what role they play, as a nurse, doctor or physician, or a claim processor or medical coder, there is an opportunity for everyone to impact the customer experience and gain a greater level of satisfaction and engagement.


Note to readers: Our study on achieving Intelligent Operations, with input from Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work and Business Process Services practice, canvassed 371 major buy-side enterprises and had 45 healthcare executive participants. Link to The Journey to Intelligent Operations in Healthcare and download for free after registering on the site.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Digital TransformationHealthcare and Outsourcing



Accenture enriches its cloud capabilities and ecosphere with Google alliance

October 09, 2016 | Jamie Snowdon

Although we expect to see more and more core IT moving to the cloud in the coming months and years, largely this is preceded by successful use of public cloud for new application development and deployment. This continued uptake in the use of public cloud eases the pressure on large organizations, with the availability of on-demand flexible computational power that scales rapidly to cater for changing business and customer needs.

For example, the rapid deployment of more customer applications as part of a digital strategy, or trying to collect more data from IoT devices, or making better use of SaaS applications are typical drivers of the thirst for on-demand scalable computing power. The issues for enterprise enterprise functions and their IT departments with cloud remain: managing cloud alongside existing infrastructures, making sure the solution complies with security and other enterprise risk concerns, ensuring they have the skills and resources to manage it effectively, performs to the right standards, is genuinely scalable, and, of course, is cost effective.

One solution to this problem, for many enterprises, is moving to a more holistic software defined datacentre model - or a hybrid cloud platform – which gathers together cloud instances and, in some cases, legacy IT into a manageable framework. This is what Accenture, and many of the other infrastructure outsourcing service providers, are doing as a way to continue to be relevant and add value in the cloud world.

In this vein, Accenture has formed another cloud-centric alliance as part of the firm’s Cloud First strategy, by teaming with Google.   While this encompasses pure cloud computing from Google, it also includes other Google-specific technologies, namely Android, Google apps, analytics, augmented reality, big data, IoT and machine learning. Accenture has integrated the Google Cloud Platform into its own multi-cloud platform, the originally named Accenture Cloud Platform (ACP) – ACP existing partners include AWS, Microsoft Azure, and NTT. ACP helps manage enterprise IT and cloud resources across multiple public and private cloud instances – helping to manage and automate infrastructure requirements.

The likely success or failure of such a move depends on your position on cloud platforms and their long-term future in infrastructure management. As you can see in the diagram, HfS took a position on this last year posting our view of the three most likely scenarios for enterprise cloud adoption over the next five years.

HfS stands by this schema and is increasingly of the opinion that the eventual outcome will be two or even three – with the timeframes for two perhaps stretching beyond 2025 – largely because this is the nature of prediction. Everything takes longer than people think or you desire, when it comes to replacing legacy IT. However, the big deciding factor will be the success or failure of orchestration platform layers and cloud ecosystems. However, even if scenario 2 is the ultimate winner, it still provider us with a healthy runway for cloud platforms - and these platforms are likely to be retained for enterprise environments if only to make sure the client receives the best price and cloud operators continue to innovate and provide good value.

So it seems that, at least for the time being, these platforms will be part of the on-going story for infrastructure management, particularly in complex and risk-averse enterprise environments, for several years to come. Before AWS cries fowl and says our customers tell us that they’re going 100% cloud without a platform. Or that a hybrid platform creates a lowest common denominator of cloud services. I need to explain that this is a generalisation aimed largely at the enterprise space and there will be many organizations that will choose to use AWS, Azure or Google as the window into Cloud. But there are still significant numbers that don’t want to be locked into a single provider, the investment in legacy is too much to abandon and that have complicated requirements that one solution won’t work.

OK so now the question is who will win the battle of the cloud platforms? In the old legacy IT outsourcing world there were many “winners” with providers winning deals based on complex sets of criteria and there was scope for differentiation outside of pure technology skills or efficacy – largely because the engagements were all heavily customized and deciding which provider would deliver the best service was based very much on whether an enterprise was important enough to the provider to warrant its best resources and get the “A Team”. A provider’s ability to deliver value over and above the technology in IT infrastructure management engagements will persist somewhat but will be diluted by benefits that flow from the platform itself. The big changes we’ll see with selecting a hybrid cloud platform will be: The big change with selecting a cloud infrastructure platform will be:

  • A large part of the success of the platform will be the richness of the ecosystem – both regarding quality of partner and number of services/partners in the ecosystem.
  • The actual functionality of the platform will also be crucial to its success. So functions like plug and play analytics, brokerage, and automation.
  • Finally, the way the platform deals with commercial aspects of cloud management will also be key to its success. Platforms that allow flexible methods of payment and structuring of engagement will be key. We can envisage the most flexible platforms being able to offer a full range of pricing options at a fixed monthly price managed service approach to fully pay per use cloud model.

The Bottom Line: Accenture has a firm handle on the most diverse and complex cloud capabilities to support its long-term roadmap

A key aspect of the deal between Accenture and Google is it helps to make sure the Accenture’s cloud ecosystem is a rich and diverse as possible. One of the most important, if not the most important criteria for any hybrid platform will be its ecosystem. This is likely to mean there will be competition for the "best" ecosystem, and perhaps the most important gauge, for the time being, will be who has the richest set of partners. So it makes sense that Accenture adds Google to its list of partners, not just to give another compute option, but also to leverage Google's investments in other technology like AI, analytics, and automation. This a great opportunity for Google to tap more directly into the enterprise space with Accenture’s credentials – similar to the benefits AWS is hoping to enjoy from its arrangement with Accenture.

More widely we expect to see more partnerships looking to build out cloud ecosystems. We expect this to happen at the infrastructure layer and also the DevOps layer. So more partnerships between PaaS platform operators and service partners – as although PaaS environments success is around broad capabilities/functionality, access to ready pools of skilled developers who use the platform is essential.

Posted in: Cloud ComputingSaaS, PaaS, IaaS and BPaaSThe As-a-Service Economy



Bye bye bricklayers?

October 09, 2016 | Phil Fersht

When you see major advances in disruptive robotics, such as the soon-to-be-unveiled Hadrian X, which claims to build a house in two days, moving four times faster than human construction workers, you realize that making invoice process workflows more automated is small-time, when it comes to achieving real robotic efficiencies:

The robot, named Hadrian after the Roman emperor who built defence walls in England, is being primed to work day and night, lay 1,000 bricks per hour, and could potentially build 150 homes in a single year. That's a lot of construction workers who may just not be needed anymore... and where you get genuine hard cost savings because you're removing actual labor, not merely automating some annoying manual steps in a process chain.

Posted in: Robotic Process AutomationThe As-a-Service Economy



A glimpse into the contact center of the future: the digitally enabled contact center

October 06, 2016 | Melissa O'Brien

When I set out to do a spinoff Blueprint on the future of contact center services, I thought of this concept that only seemed logical to explain as “digitally-enabled contact center.” Initially, I think this inspired more confusion and uncertainty than it did to define the future of contact center services.  I confused the service providers, who were convinced they had already provided their best digital story, and the buyer references, who had way more examples of traditional call center work than true digital enablement.  I’m admitting this, hoping that we can learn from the lesson that sometimes it takes a lot of battling through confusion/hype/ attempted brainwashing to figure out what’s really going on in the markets we cover.

The most important question this exercise inspired is: how can the contact center break free from legacy butts in seats engagements that force customers into bad conversations they don’t want to be having-- and create a customer experience that serves the digital customer, and inspires greater satisfaction and loyalty?

What is a digitally enabled contact center? 

At the most basic level, embracing “digital” channels: social media, web self-service including mobile apps and visual IVR, video kiosks and chat is the start of digitally-enabled contact center.   Also important is seeking to use automation to create efficiencies; and the really smart contact center operators are trying to figure out how to involve increasingly intelligent automation into the mix. 

It’s more than just implementing these channels, though, it’s the design of how each channel fits into the overall customer journey, and the understanding of how talent fits into the equation-- talent that not only can handle communication on varied channels that demand different styles (yet consistency!) but can also take contextual information from multiple sources and use that in a way that benefits the customer.  From an analytics perspective, it’s all about using the data to better understand customers, enable personalization and be more predictive. 

Read More »

Posted in: Contact Center and Omni-Channel