Clients are being subjected to such a load of nonsense about the impending impact of robotics and cognitive computing on enterprise jobs, many are literally terrified. Conversing with the "head of automation" for a F500 organization today, is akin to meeting a Secret Service agent in a clandestine alleyway. These people do actually exist, but most have to conduct their work under a veil of secrecy, due to the level of discomfort and panic our robo-commentators are making in the presses.
Remember the panic about jobs getting shipped offshore? Well, that is child's play compared to the emerging tumult of fear being generated by jobs being completely eliminated by robotics. Net-net, people are frozen stiff with fear, and it's the responsibility of respected analysts, consultants, academics and journalists alike to educate and world using real, substantiated facts. Sadly, the likes of Gartner, McKinsey, Oxford University and our beloved Stephen Hawking, all seem hell-bent on capitalizing on the panic to grab the headlines (read my post earlier this year) as opposed to dispelling much of the ridiculous scaremongering about the impact of automation on job losses.
At HfS, we published a very thorough analysis on the impact of automation on global services jobs, showing there is likely to be modest downsizing of ~9% over the next five years as low-end tasks are increasingly automated across major service delivery locations. And this 9% will be immersed in natural attrition and redeployment of workers to other industries, as global services streamlines and matures as an industry. Yes, there will be impact, and it will be somewhat painful to absorb for some enterprises, but it's not the impending workforce apocalypse these people are predicting.
So why, pray tell, is Gartner, a respected voice in IT research, continually pounding us with continual scaremongering that we're all doomed to the will of the robot, and we may as well start preparing for a life of unemployment, or sandwich making? Oh wait, robots can even make sandwiches, right?
Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's Head of Research, predicted one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025. OK, that's so far out in the future, I think Peter's on pretty safe ground here - he's probably going to have cashed in his Gartner stocks long before then, in any case, and be on a golf cart somewhere, when one very earnest soul decides to dig into the Gartner archives of previous decades to read very old research, with very dodgy predictions, that absolutely noone care about anymore. So we'll let Peter off the hook here - he wanted to make a splash at his Symposium and he achieved exactly that.
But then we get treated to this almighty whopper from Fran Karamouzis, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner...
By 2018, more than three million workers globally will be supervised by "robo-bosses". Wow - isn't this barely more than a year away? Excellent, so Fran's going to be around to declare automation glory when global employment goes through a robo-geddon so seismic, it'll be like all three terminators visited from the future at once to change the world? My god - what is going on here? The suggestion that an employee will be supervised by a machine simply cannot be corroborated by any meaningful research...
So why do we, at HfS, view claims like this as factually incorrect and irresponsible?
There is only one very shaky example of "robo advisors" in the industry. The most cynical implementations of automation that HfS has come across, thus far, where direct replacement of human labor by robots is the declared outcome, are examples such as Royal Bank of Scotland, where virtual agents, deployed as “robo advisors” are solely deployed to replace FTEs. We've also witnessed a service provider radically downsizing some delivery staff claiming success of its robotics strategy (only to find out later these staff were simply redeployed elsewhere). Let's be honest here, the onus so far seems to be about firing people and using "robotics" as the smokescreen. While Intelligent Automation decision-making will undoubtedly increase (view our Continuum here), we see no examples of employees being supervised by bots. At HfS, we are covering every deployment in the industry, and are just not seeing it.
We still haven't had a real debate on the ethics of automation and cognitive computing in the B2B environment. Suggestions that employees will be supervised by bots can be traced to the broader discourse on Artificial Intelligence, where more consumer-facing technologies are discussed with undercurrents of movies, such as the Matrix. These discussions tend to focus on technology capabilities of providers like Google and Facebook. However, we haven’t seen a similar debate in the B2B space. If anything, the B2B urgently needs a debate on the ethics of automation, in light of these nascent cognitive capabilities. But to surmise that robobosses will be so prevalent in barely over a year before we've even had these debates is quite absurd.
The speed of internal organizational change is painfully slow. The tendency from clients with automation is to pilot first, rather than to go full scale, and every ambitious forecast is always waylaid by the reality of interacting with legacy systems. Most of today's Robotic Process Automation(RPA) tools are simply being retrofitted into smoothing over manual processes within legacy technology environments with obsolete processes. They are adding efficiency to broken operations, which may, in the future, lead to a lesser need for headcount in low value work areas. Talking about today's enterprises being so close to investing in Robo bosses is just very wide of the mark. What's more, much of this RPA technology has been around for more than a decade - this stuff isn't exactly revolutionary, it's just becoming more popular as enterprises figure out further efficiencies beyond initiatives such as offshore outsourcing and shared services
Cognitive tools are only just emerging. While IBM has done a stellar job aligning its Watson capabilities with the healthcare industry (read our report here) and software experts such as IPSoft's Amelia and Celaton have some compelling client stories to tell, the focus on self-learning and intuitive cognitive solutions are mainly confined to customer service technology and virtual assistant chatboxes. Talk to the call center BPO providers and they're really only just figuring this out.... forget robobosses, we're still just trying to figure out some basic software to make chatboxes work better these days. Moreover, with Watson, our research shows it's best application today in the medical field is helping flesh out the bad science and saving scientists serious amounts of time doing their research. Meanwhile Celaton, in the UK, has created a really cool tool to help Virgin trains handle emailed customer queries. But the long and short, here, is that Intelligent Automation solutions today are great at augmenting processes and unstructured data pools, not replacing real people who make real decisions doing real jobs.
The definition of robo bosses, and the potential value, of robobosses is missing. There is, however, something to be said for the value of increased automation combined with analytics to better understand the impact — measured by targeted business outcomes — in a more realtime way during a contract with a “gig economy” worker (or any worker). Such knowledge can help us intervene and train/coach a project “going south” sooner, or catch fraud fastest, or identify a worker to “gets it faster”. Along these lines, we see value in "robo advice", but the point also needs to be made that these "robobosses" (give me a break) do not work alone, such as with Watson and health / medical diagnosis and treatment, they work in tandem with doctors / clinicians, changing and refining the dr/clinician job (freeing up that person to be more targeted and more of a coach than a statistician) with the intent of better medical results. These robo tools (or whatever we call them) do not replace the doctor / clinician.
Monitoring software has existed for decades... so when does it become a "Roboboss"? Currently, there are probably a million or more workers just in the UK (for example) managed by extreme monitoring of some kind. The Amazon style warehouse pickers, fast food cooks, many call center agents, delivery drivers, assembly line factory workers are subject to time monitoring and computers giving them tasks. We're just not sure when this turns into a roboboss?
Bottom Line: The real "roboboss" is the human worker who can use Intelligent Automation tools effectively
It today's swirl of gibbering noise around the social media presses, it's the responsibility of leading analysts, advisors and academics to be the voices of sanity and reason, when it comes to topics as critical as the future of work elimination through Intelligent Automation technology. The vendors love the hype as it gets them attention with clients, but analysts who like to take money from these vendors have a responsibility to articulate the realities of these technologies to their clients. They are great at augmenting work flows, and even aiding medical discoveries, but this is the real value - it's not about sacking people. It's about making operations function better so people can do their jobs better. The real "roboboss" is the human enterprise operator who can use smart Intelligent Automation tools to enhance the quality of their work.
Net-net, industry analysts, advisors, robotics vendors, academics and service providers need to engage with clients around how all these disruptive approaches will affect talent management as well as organizational structures. Even without these apocalyptic scenarios, some job functions are likely to either disappear or be significantly diminished (as our 9% forecast reveals). Equally, we need to talk about governance of these new environments, touching upon ethical, but also practical, issues. This is not only a necessity for the broader adoption, but also offers high value opportunities.
I'll probably get a few nasty messages as a result of this piece, but I sincerely hope this has the outcome of steering our industry conversation in a more realistic direction, backed up by real data and experts who prefer realistic conversation that mere headline-grabbing and panic creation.
A special shout out to Cartoonist and Innovation evangelist Matt Heffron for penning this little gem:
We set out a few weeks' ago, with support from NASSCOM, to test the views of service buyers, advisors and providers on what the BPO industry needs to do to make the leap from delivering mere efficiency to one that can provide genuine strategic value to clients (if this is indeed possible).
As we filter through the first results, what immediately leaped out at me was the following:
Clients want more women leaders and real case studies... more than anything else
"Why are these providers and advisors dominated by boring men in gray suits?" bemoaned several clients at one of our HfS Summits recently (where more than half the buyers executives present were actually female). This is a serious issue, folks. Our industry has - somehow - become dominated by too many dinosaur service provider executives with their lavish air-miles accounts and two iPhones* (why do some people insist on having more than one iPhone? Are they really that popular?), who have, at the same time, somehow lost all records of actual client success stories that justify their new vernacular around "digital transformation" and "automation".
In fact, during one service provider briefing last week (which will remain nameless), we asked an executive to explain how he defined "Digital Transformation" (after many utterances of said phrase) and the poor chap was positively floored that he was asked to define what he was talking about. These people seem to be obsessed with recanting the vogue buzz phrases, without the need anymore to know what they really are. Can we just call it "technology" again and go back to sharing real examples of how technology can enable and transform client performance? Can we just explain what all this hype is surrounding automation and emphasize that most of today's RPA technology has actually been around for more than a decade in many shapes and forms?
Here, it's abundantly clear that we need to see more women - and, dare I say it, more youthful executives, who can simply connect better with the clients. Everything has become so dominated by the men in gray suits, who talk in increasingly more impressive riddles that are becoming increasingly distant from reality. Moreover, we need to dispel much of the hype surrounding automation and jobs impact: Gartner's unsubstantiated claim that "more than three million workers globally will be supervised by robobosses in just 18 months' time", is simply irresponsible and unprofessional. It's time to make it real and drop the hype and scaremongering...
The Bottom Line: It's time for progressive change from within to break ourselves out of this legacy holding pattern
The industry has spoken, and it's not pretty - clients are fed up with the same old selling, the same old unsubstantiated hype and the same old cronies dishing it out. Change only comes when we look at progressive change, not successive change. This means we must stop making the same old mistakes by replacing jaded middle managers with more faceless middle managers with a hype-upgrade; this means we must stop plastering out turgid marketing that was really a rip-off of the other ten competitors, with a different logo slapped on it.
We need real people selling and delivering our solutions, who can listen to what clients need and can really empathize with them, who are diverse across the genders, the age groups and the ethic backgrounds. We need to start talking real English again, and less of the manifested garbage we can't resist spewing out to mask our insecurities. As our whole 2017 research theme at HfS is centered on... it's simply time to start making everything real again and redefine our industry as something that is geared up for our clients' real needs, not needs we are trying to convince them they have!
*In full disclosure, the author of this article has been seen once sporting a gray suit and did possess two iPhones for a brief period of time. He has since changed his ways...
Perhaps the best example of the evolving As-a-Service delivery model that immerses all the value levers of global delivery; namely offshore talent, cognitive automation tools, analytics and the digital customer experience, can be found in the burgeoning mortgage processing industry. With banks going all out to sell highly competitive mortgages at record low interest rates, the onus to manage the whole process both efficiently and intelligently, while battling all the regulatory demons, has never been so great.
Two years after our inaugural Blueprint in Mortgage BPO Services, we took a fresh look at this industry… here’s announcing the findings of the HfS 2016 Mortgage As-a-Service Blueprint, led by HfS banking analyst, Reetika Joshi.
The concept of delivering mortgage As-a-Service, using plug and play digital business services is still in its infancy. We’re not quite at “push button, get mortgage” as an industry – and the verdict is out on whether this is the right message to send for a lending environment that is still rebuilding itself, seven years after the 2008 housing crash. How do you do this without raising eyebrows? You’ll have to ask Quicken Loans, as they learn from the backlash of their Super Bowl campaign with that very slogan.
Reetika, how do you view the 2016 Service Provider Landscape?
Our HfS Blueprint methodology assesses service providers based on two critical axes: Execution and Innovation. We gather data to support our analysis from client reference interviews, market interviews, RFI submissions and exhaustive service provider briefings.
In this Blueprint, we identified four As-a-Service Winners: Accenture, Cognizant, TCS and Wipro. These service providers have the strongest vision for As-a-Service delivery in the mortgage industry, and are driving collaborative engagements with clients to bring this vision to life. They are making significant investments in future capabilities in automation, technology and borrower experience to continue to increase the value over time.
The High Performers in this year’s Blueprint are a highly competitive set of service providers: Genpact, Infosys, ISGN/Firstsource, Sutherland Global Services and WNS. They have high execution capabilities and are growing their client bases as a result of investments in future capabilities and innovation. These service providers have the pieces in place for As-a-Service delivery, and need to focus on consistently bringing these capabilities to clients and scaling up with broad, multi-client solutions. We expect them to challenge the Winner’s Circle leaders in the next couple of years, with each building on unique strengths and assets in this vertical.
We see Unisys and Xerox as the Execution Powerhouses. These service providers are strong in operational excellence with ubiquitous technology platforms in their respective markets, and need to focus on value chain expansion and innovation in their services stack:
Why does mortgage needs to have a different approach and response to “digital disruption”?
Despite this sensitivity, other industry forces still march on; regulation, homebuyers and a new breed of disruptive fintech firms are steadily shifting the entire mortgage industry towards generally being more digitally enabled. Lenders have this big ask today: how to carefully balance their investments in new technologies, with changing consumer needs, volatile rate
As someone who has profited very nicely from social media (I helped build an analyst company with blogging and social at the heart of our culture), I am probably not the most appropriate person to speak out against the negative side of social media’s impact. But, as Gerald Ronson once famously espoused to the editor of the Guardian newspaper, “Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one”, I just can’t help myself, so I’ll give you mine…
2008 was a financial disaster fueled by greedy bankers; 2016 a political disaster fueled by social media wankers. Opinions on politics. My god – back in the day, people pretty much kept quiet on their views until they had some facts to back them up. Today, they just have a bloody opinion and want to get it out there, regardless of whether they can justify it or not. When they get into an argument, they just try and shout louder, rather than listening to reason. David Cameron has been guilty of one of the biggest political snafus of modern times, where he went to the public with a complex decision to be made. Instead, all he succeeded in doing was allowing every opinionated idiot with a twitter account to air his or her views on society at large, until the vote become one about him and the establishment and not whether Britain should remain in the EU. (And you wonder why Hitler loved referenda…)
All social media has achieved is providing a platform for people to spout off unsubstantiated rubbish, as opposed to a collaborative opportunity for them to learn more about what’s truly going on in the world. Then we advance to the lovely US media and the most insufferable election in history, where reality got somehow lost in a maelstrom of hype, tweets and many unsubstantiated facts that really dumb people actually believe. All I can say is that I cannot wait for the election to be over so we can actually get back to some normalcy of running a country again.
The tech and services industry has complete lost itself in the socially-driven hype. So let’s reflect on what happened to our industry over the last couple of years. For a while, social media was fun – we could debate the trials and tribulations of real services and real technology and how to improve ourselves. Suddenly, the facts have got lost somewhere are we’ve arrived at this dark place where it’s more about who’s making the loudest noise than who’s talking the most sense. Every supplier of tech and services talks up “Digital” but never defines it – with few to no clients to reference their capabilities. They talk “automation” with little clue how to do it, with (again) no clients as reference points. Myself and my team have sat through hours and hours of deathly dull briefings where we’ve actually had analysts bemoaning the fact that the providers failed to brief them on the subject at hand. It’s really that bad.
The Bottom-line: It’s time to find our way (somehow) back to reality
Let’s be brutally honest - we’ve all lost the plot. Why are tech and service providers so obsessed with sounding the best as opposed to proving they’re the best? Why do so many analysts and consultants just parrot each other, as opposed to having real opinions and real substantiated viewpoints? Why have so many enterprise buyers buried their heads under the bedcovers, scared to come out until someone dared to explain to them what this new bullxxxt was all about?
It’s time to make things real again… we owe it to ourselves and our clients to talk about how buyers/end-users adopt these emerging solutions - what are they doing, which processes are being impacted, what outcomes are being achieved. We need to focus on real industry dynamics to learn why is digital so relevant to retail; omni-channel to travel; block chain to banking; cognitive to healthcare etc. We need truly to understand and articulate how today's workforce grasps these emerging concepts and drives them in practice - how can experienced professionals reorient their capabilities, and the younger generation be embraced into the workforce? What are the career progression plans in these areas? While technologies advance, how are staff advancing (or failing to advance) with them?
Unless we really dig deep to stop using our social foghorns to spout the loudest and start focusing on being the more real, we are truly doomed to a future of increased stupidity, naiveté and confusion. It’s time we all broke form these habits and refocused on what is really happening in the world.
We're excited to fly over some of the HfS star analysts to meet with the delegates at this year's NASSCOM BPM Strategy Summit, where HfS is the exclusive content partner with the theme "The Next Big Goal - From Effective to Strategic, can BPM get this one Right?". And the more discerning of you will notice that the theme is centered on HfS' own Eight Ideals of the As-a-Service Economy.
So what are you waiting for? Book your flight and place now!
Venue: Hotel Leela Bangalore
Date: 22-23 September 2016
And if you'd like to meet with some of the HfS team, drop us a quick note and we'll see what we can do.
For the first time since Al Gore and Donald Trump founded the Internet, I am braving a few days in the analog world on a camp-site up in Canada somewhere. In fact, I don't think this place has even undergone analog disruption yet...
Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless Comedy
Question: Why are we becoming so obsessed with Automation and As-a-Service relationships?
Answer: Because outsourcing has worked so effectively, we can now look to new levers to pull to find that next threshold of value
Question: Will the next person who says “Outsourcing is just so Passé" get a punch in the face?
Barely three years’ ago, we were still lamenting that nagging lack of innovation in outsourcing relationships and the inability of service providers to deliver those transformational delights to their clients after they had come through with their promised cost savings. But let’s face it, the FTE-based labor arbitrage model has really worked – and a lot better than we thought it would, during those heady days of offshore screw-ups. I can barely remember the last time I sat on the receiving end of a group of clients throwing their service providers under the bus because they couldn’t get the procure-to-pay transition right, or got caught sneaking through change-orders to fix their dodgy coding.
Service relationships are more stable than ever, but focus is shifting to As-a-Service delivery and Intelligent Automation
You only need to look at the intentions of 371 major enterprise buyers towards their outsourcing contract renewals from our new Intelligent Operations Study to get the picture that this isn’t an industry in delivery turmoil, about to self-combust because deal flow isn’t growing at quite the clip it was a couple of years’ ago. In fact, only one-in-four IT services clients today are even considering ditching their current partner, and a even lesser proportion with their BPO provider. However, many do want to make the switch to As-a-Service contracts:
The focus on automation is the logical next phase of value once stability of global service delivery has been reached.
The availability of smart automation tools and platforms from the likes of Automation Anywhere, BluePrism, IPSoft, Nice, UIPath, WorkFusion and Redwood have really been conversation catalysts to get the automation conversation to the table. In fact, most of the buyers we’ve been interviewing in our current Intelligent Automation blueprint are still in the
Usually when there is an acquisition in the tech/services space, you can always appreciate why the deal was done; no matter how cynical you try to be, there is always some gold in there to dig out.
However, in the case of Dutch staffing giant Ranstad buying the shriveled remains of a legacy resumé-based online recruitment firm that made its name during the dot-com days, my reaction is simply one of “Why? Just why?” The business was cratering (albeit slowly, but steadily) in a world where most people just don’t use Monster anymore to do their recruiting and job hunting—it’s a business from a bygone era. But there’s always someone out there ready and willing with the ego to resurrect a dinosaur (or a Monster in this case). So I asked the question to our HR-as-a-Service analyst, Mike Cook, to give us the answer...
Mike, Is there a Monet in the Monster or has LinkedIn already Rinsed the Shop?
Phil, Once Randstad blows off the dust from Monster, will it like what it finds? In the thrift shop of the recruitment market there are treasures to be found but in a market that has been turned on its head by the LinkedIn juggernaut, there isn’t much left.
In its strategic priorities for 2015-2016 Randstad aimed to capture positive growth opportunities as well as be in the top 3 scale positions in each market it participates in. Over the last 12 months this strategy has been bearing fruit—following the acquisitions of twago, Careo Group, Obiettivo Lavoro and RiseSmart.
However, these acquisitions have just been dwarfed with Randstad announcing the acquisition of one of the true veterans of the online recruitment market—Monster, for $429 million in cash. This represents a sale price of $3.40 per share, a premium of 63.7% over Monday's closing stock price. But it's worlds away from Monster's $8 billion market cap achieved in early 2000. With much of the market questioning the 47% premium Microsoft paid for (a still extremely relevant) LinkedIn (see post), one should wonder about the wisdom of paying such a price for a site that is declining in popularity.
Monster was one of the original online recruitment leaders but has struggled to stay ahead of the pack and has lost significant market share in recent years. Direct competition is fierce in this industry and recent acquisitions, such as Indeed.com taking over Simply Hired, have highlighted this.
So what does this acquisition mean for Randstad?
Outside of these takeaways, it is difficult to see the value for Randstad in this deal. Monster looks to be the pensioner still wearing high tops, shades and a tank top, with its platform now largely outdated and its market share no longer what it once was. The likes of LinkedIn have disrupted this market to such a degree that legacy online recruitment sites are struggling to survive. This bid for survival is being played out in the massive consolidation currently taking place in this market. The one card that online recruitment sites still have to play is in the contingent workforce market, but with Microsoft is looking to steamroll its way into this area, through LinkedIn—and the forecast looks less than sunny.
HfS readers are used to us relentlessly preaching the inexorable journey toward the As-a-Service Economy. And you still aren't get familiar with the Eight Ideals, then you must have locked in solitary confinement for the last year...
But there are many missing pieces in that big jigsaw. Service management, while unspectacular, is a critical component of the digital underbelly of the OneOffice as HfS has termed it. As ServiceNow is aiming to expand the notion of service management to evolving into the “third estate between CRM and ERP,” providing a new cloud-based level of efficiency between front and back office, we have asked our Intelligent Automation expert in residence, Tom Reuner, to take stock as to where the ServiceNow ecosystem has advanced to.
Tom, there appears to be a buzz around ServiceNow in the industry? Is the hype justified and where does it fit in strategically for buyers?
Amidst the marketing noise in our industry, ServiceNow still stands out. And that, Phil, is quite an achievement as service management is really not among the sexiest of topics. You can see that in thousands of developers and partners having made their pilgrimage to Knowledge 16, ServiceNow’s customer event in Las Vegas this year. Crucially though, ServiceNow has
Anyone with a real history in the services industry will be familiar with the insights of one Christine Ferrusi Ross, who spent many years leading the services and sourcing practice for Forrester Research, during the firm's heighday. And in pre-HfS days, I used to enjoy meeting Christine for lunches when we would bemoan the state of the research analyst industry and what needed to be done to revitalize how analysts do research. Little did we realize back then we would be able to shake up the analyst industry together in an analyst firm not beholden to the whims of their paying suppliers and analysts confined to covering tiny slices of software markets. So when we got the opportunity to bring Christine, or "CFR" as her colleagues like to call her, to help shape our events and research strategies, it wasn't a difficult decision... especially when you hear her views about moving to outcome-based contracts.
Welcome Christine! Can you share a little about your background and why you have chosen research and strategy as your career path?
If you run any type of business operation or P&L, you're quickly realizing your number one challenge is getting your people to help you achieve the results your business needs to be successful. Your strategy has to be about promoting a mindset where people focus on what they are contributing to the business, not the amount of hours they spend "at work".
Whether you are a workaholic slogging an 80-hour a week, or a 20-hour a week work-at-home mom/dad, you are going to be measured on what you are contributing to the business - so it's really all about setting the right outcome expectations with your employer. Simply sending through a weekly timesheet with a bunch of vague activities is a waste of everyone's time. Agree in advance with your boss what outcomes are expected of you and focus your time on meeting them... and if you can achieve them working 10 hours a week sitting by a pool in the sun, or slaving away for 100 hours in your basement really doesn't matter anymore - it's whether you delivered those outcomes expected of you. You just need to decide whether that job suits you and your own goals in life. Today's successful working relationships are being defined by employers and workers sharing outcomes that both are motivated to meet. If those outcomes do not gel, then that working situation will not survive.
And this isn't some fancy new vision for talent only a few businesses are adopting - this is the only way firms can really function today, if they want to be successful. Everyone on the payroll needs to add tangible, easy-to-explain value… otherwise why are they on the payroll? It’s easy to turn your PC on in the morning and forward emails around the place, but what is your real value?
The only six questions that matter when it comes to outcome-based employee performance
Cutting to the chase, if you think all you have to do is turn on your PC on at 9.00am and shut down at 5.00pm, mindlessly immersing yourself in forwarding and adding to chains of emails between your hourly Facebook visits, bi-hourly LinkedIn visits and your twice-daily moronic retweeting of some crap you never really bothered to read (but the title sounded impressive), then you’re pretty much done. Go check on your pension plan, because you may be hitting those funds long before you had anticipated.
As an employer myself, I gave up caring what staff do during the day – trust me, you’ll drive yourself insane if you go old-school with the old micro-management. New school management is simply asking staff those 6 questions - and requiring answers to them.
So what activities should outcome-centric employees do during the day?
The Bottom-line: we must change our work habits if we are to survive in this work-outcome environment
Personally, I never thought the work environment would reach some of the current depths it has today for so many people, but the impact of “digital” has not been very good, when it comes to the productivity and effectiveness of so many workers. So many people are just burned out from picking up terrible digital work habits (and many at quite a young age). So change how you work. Just do it, and you’ll start to experience a very old feeling you’ve probably long forgotten: job satisfaction.
Ever wondered who the leading 50 BPO providers are across the globe, when we add up all relevant revenues? Well, you need look no further:
Source: HfS Research 2016 estimated from services provider financials. Revenues are fitted to nearest calendar year. We attempt to make the BPO services numbers as close to HfS definitions as possible. The market primarily used for this list is the horizontal BPO processes of F&A, HR, Customer Care/CRM, and Procurement. Some industry-specific back office processes are included but we have excluded specialist categories, for example, banking securities.
We have segmented the providers into 5 broad categories: HRO specialists, Customer Care specialists, Multi-process BPO, Multi-process IT & BPO and document management providers. The specialist areas: document management, customer care and HRO should be fairly clear—the vast majority of the services these company provides in BPO is related to this category. The IT multi providers and BPO multi providers—divides the companies that provide multiple types of BPO services into those with an IT heritage and those without. These categories are subjective; we based these splits partly on the type of services they provide and individual company background. For example, Accenture provides multiple types of BPO service and has a sizable IT services business so we have described as a IT multi.
HfS subscribers can download the full report, authored by Jamie Snowdon, Barbra McGann and Phil Fersht by clicking here
The most "tangible" value of cognitive automation, in today's consumer-centric enterprise, is the use of the virtual agent, where customer engagement is increased without heavy incremental investments in support staff. This isn't about simply replacing a real customer service rep with an avatar, it's augmenting the existing customer experience, usually using the same or similar resources.
For example, if you have a bad travel experience, or purchased a product that wasn't quite what you expected, the chances are you would simply shrug it off and get on with your life - and probably avoid using those same sellers again in the future, if given the choice. However, if those sellers used interactive technologies that were very familiar, or very easy to find and use, where you could simply type in your issue, in your own time, without the need to pick up a phone and wait in some queue (or write some email to some anonymous address), you may just find the effort to input a couple of lines saying "my experience just wasn't that good".
That information is critical to the seller - and how they choose to deal with it could make the difference between them winning out or losing in this market. Just think about how easy Uber, AirBnb, Amazon et al make it for you to deal with them - you will continue to use those services because the digital customer experience is just so much better... they make you feel like they listen. Customers today like effortless interaction, where they just need to click and type what they want in their own time - and what makes it come alive is when they feel they are engaging with someone and not merely sitting in a queue as an open help desk ticket number waiting to be closed.
If you get a chance to kick the tyres with one of the most exciting cognitive virtual agent solutions, IPSoft's Amelia, you start to realize that customer service can be radically improved by incorporating the virtual agent to augment the real one. And the beauty of this is, the sellers do not need to spend huge incremental sums to increase their consumer engagement - they are essentially doing a lot more with what they currently have using smart cognitive technology.
So it's no surprise that I got just a little bit excited when Amelia's mothership enterprise, IPSoft, announced a comprehensive partnership with Accenture to build an industry leading practice in the cognitive customer experience. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this discussion between myself, IPSoft's CEO, Chetan Dube and Accenture's Chief Technology Officer, Paul Dougherty.
Phil Fersht, HfS CEO and Chief Analyst: So let's get straight to the point here, Chetan and Paul. Why have you come together and what is so unique about this partnership?
Paul Daugherty, CTO, Accenture: Hi Phil - great to be here. Let me start and then Chetan can add in. You know that the immediate reasons we've come together, the obvious reason we came together is we see a real market with our enterprise clients for artificial intelligence based solutions. And we've been working with Chetan the team at IPsoft for a while and with Amelia we see a real potential to be at the vanguard of working with IPsoft to pioneer new use cases in terms of using AI to tackle business problems in a new way. So the first reason is we see the market we see the technology being ready. We are excited about what IPsoft has done with Amelia and we see an opportunity. I guess, stepping back from that, this is also to me a very important step in what we are seeing in the evolution of enterprises really transforming to the digital economy.
And Chetan will remember a lunch we had when we met for the very first time. We got very excited as we talked to each other a couple of years ago about what we saw as AI evolved and as the digital technology revolution continued, we saw a point coming where AI would allow companies to really rethink the way that they do business and rethink the way that they conduct business processes within their organizations. And that's I guess why this is such an important relationship from my perspective strategically, because we are starting to see as we move through the digital revolution as we help clients transform they need new approaches and new solutions to deal with the speed of business, to deal with the masses of data that they have, to deal with the new demands that they have as they move to the digital wave. And we see Amelia really serving a purpose there and helping to really rethink and revolutionize the way we conduct some of the business processes. That’s the way I’d answer it. Chetan, I’d be interested in your view on it, too.
Chetan Dube, CEO, IPsoft: Yeah. I would echo what Paul said. Yes, I remember that lunch, Paul, when we had brainstormed. AI is totally disrupting everything. But what is required for true value creation for the companies? Some have realized tremendous value and the others have been somewhat slow to realize value creation in their digital quest. What is required? Well, you do need the digital labor component.
But that's not all that you need. You need business transformation—and Accenture brings business transformation brilliance. And there are many companies that are experts in strategies and there are many companies that are experts in implementation. Accenture is one that amalgamates both. Couple that with cognitive technologies and you have the potential of realizing the true outcomes that were promised by the digital age. So that's what brought us together. How high the technology is going to allow some people to soar is going to be determined by the people who are captaining the ship. And in this case we have an incredible deal of confidence in Paul and his team at Accenture and how much transformation they will be able to bring by harnessing true cognitive abilities together.
Phil: So Chetan, for our global audience which might not be so familiar with Amelia, can you briefly summarize its value and potential? What can Amelia do which other cognitive solutions cannot?
In the old days of labor arbitrage centric outsourcing (which of course doesn't happen anymore) we had two quite clearly defined sets of service provider -
Then the likes of Accenture, IBM and Capgemini realized the offshore firms had eaten their lunch and they rolled out their own offshore delivery functions in 2005-2010 to circumvent the heavy flow of dollars to the Indian-centric majors. Accenture and IBM managed to catch up and compete on price when they needed to, while Capgemini really needed to acquire IGATE last year to be more effective as an offshore provider, in addition to being an integrator. Meanwhile, you had the likes of Deloitte, PwC and E&Y, which chose to stay out of the offshore game and sell integration capabilities as consultants, rather than managed service outsourcers. The losers in all of this were the traditional IT/BPO services providers, such as HP(EDS), CSC, Xerox(ACS) et al whose lunch was eaten by the offshore providers, struggling to compete on price, scale and flexibility.
Then along comes Digital and Automation as the new value drivers and suddenly the game is changing again – labor arbitrage is still a key cost lever, but it needs to be balanced with automation to drive down the cost and increase the productivity even further, while the broader goals of the ambitious C-Suites are to create real digital capabilities to create their markets, not play constant catch up to avoid being disrupted.:
So what are these two emerging groups of service provider?
OneOffice Enablers - focused on designing and enabling the digital customer experience and tying the front to the back to make it all happen (see below). This is
I think I just read one of the most (brutally) honest and practical articles by a guy called Len Kendall, an LA-based marketing executive with a clear penchant for writing. His piece is based on two premises:
OK – we all kind of know this. But where this gets interesting is where the discussion shifts to what he constitutes “expensive” workers.
"Thanks to advancements in technology, jobs are becoming more automated. Assuming that we can eventually automate all basic jobs and allow artificial intelligence to conduct more skilled work, there will only be a need for a small group of educated, experienced, but inexpensive workers."
Last week (see post) we revealed the true impact of the emergence of Intelligent Automation on the global industry of 15 million IT services and BPO workers, revealing a net decrease of 9% and ~1.4 million jobs.
The HfS future workforce impact model predicts the likely impact of the most recent wave of automation on the IT Services and BPO industry. We estimate that the current total IT Service and BPO industry employs c15 million in 2015, with ~3.5 million in India, ~1 million in Philippines, ~5 million in North America and ~4 million in Europe.
The workers within the worldwide industry have been divided into 3 categories: low skilled, medium skilled and high skilled. Low skilled workers conduct simple entry level, process driven tasks that require little abstract thinking or autonomy. Medium-to-High level workers undertake more complicated tasks that require experience, complex problem solving, ability to learn on-the-job and to work autonomously. The model then applies underlying growth rates for each category linked to market growth. Each scenario has a different set of parameters that will impact each level of worker setting out likely degree of automation for each group and the probability that the job will be automated and in what time frame this is likely to happen. You can read a fuller description of our methodology for our future workforce impact model here.
So what does this look like when we drill down to the country levels of the main global delivery locations: UK, US, India and Philippines? Let's start with the low-skilled positions, greatest at risk from robotic process automation (RPA):
(Click to Enlarge)
As the graphic illustrates, India is set to lose 640,000 and the US 770,000 low-skilled positions by 2021 - these are decreases of 28% and 33% respectively. This is largely because there are a large number of non-customer facing roles at the low-skill level in these countries, when you take into account the amount of back office processing and IT support work that are likely to be automated and consolidated across a smaller number of workers. On the flip side,
The vote for Brexit wasn't really about debating the finer points of EU membership - it was a big thumbs down for the establishment from over half the UK voters who feel disenfranchised. This is a reflection of the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the working classes, the educated and the uneducated, the socially-connected ambitious younger generation and the disconnected older generations, who've lost interest in the direction of the modern world that no longer represents their interests.
Moreover, this rebellion against the establishment can be clearly mirrored in many of our enterprises, where similar issues of disenfranchisement are rapidly permeating.
Rote jobs are being eliminated with limited reorientation and progression planning
We talk a lot about the new work and career opportunities being created by digital disruption and digital business models, but these require greater problem solving skills, critical thinking and creative capability, if the World Economic Forum's new jobs report is to be believed:
And while we can complacently talk about all the exciting work creation the As-a-Service Economy is bringing, we've already precisely pinpointed that 30% of routine, low-value positions
It’s time we dispelled the scaremongering and hype and gave you the true picture of how advances in automation tools and methodologies, such as RPA and autonomics, will impact the global IT services and BPO industry over the next five years.
The current debate on these issues is as polarizing as it is confusing. On the consumer-facing side of technology, we have a fervent and far-reaching debate about the ethics of artificial intelligence and automation, led by executives from the likes of Google and Facebook. On the enterprise side, we frequently see quotes from studies from firms such as McKinsey and Gartner predicting seismic job losses through the impact of disruptive technologies that could have a devastating impact on the global economy and society in the next few years.
Yet, many of the leading stakeholders much closer to the true deployment of emerging enterprise Intelligent Automation tools and platforms—namely the service providers, the ISVs and the sourcing advisors—remain on the sidelines when it comes to discussing the true impact of automation as it’s adopted by many enterprises today.
We’ve been talking, for the best part of two decades, about how to “transform” business and IT processes after the cost benefits of labor arbitrage have been maximized. Well, the simple fact is that much of these arbitrage costs are close to optimization for mature services providers that have well-honed global delivery machines. As enterprise clients demand further cost advantages, and as competitors become increasingly aggressive with their service pricing, the focus shifts toward clients attaining outcomes that are not always directly linked to lower headcount rates.
“Intelligent Automation-as-a-Service” is a genuine lever for enterprises to pull for further productivity gains beyond low-cost offshore labor
Consequently, many enterprises that have chosen to externalize their service delivery can enjoy even more cost effective services, as ambitious service providers further rationalize their delivery organizations by taking advantage of automation to standardize and scale service delivery to their clients. In short, while many enterprises can invest directly in Intelligent Automation into their own processes, they can also simply outsource those processes to service providers, which can embed further productivity gains tied to automation, in addition to labor arbitrage. “Intelligent Automation-as-a-Service” is quickly emerging as a significant productivity option for enterprises as part of their service delivery.
Sadly, greater productivity and effectiveness through “digital labor” comes at a societal cost—jobs that were once required are no longer needed. However, we would point out that the jobs that are being phased out are no longer being recreated in any case, and much of this shrinkage will likely come from natural attrition as some people leave the service industry for more relevant jobs in other industries.
The Impact of Automation on Services Jobs
The following graphic shows three Automation Impact Scenarios for the IT and BPO services industry, ranging from a modest/conservative prediction which is a continuation of current RPA use to a scenario we consider more likely where adoption of RPA and more Intelligent Automation increases to an aggressive scenario, where automation adoption hits a broader range of the skills. If we examine the most likely outcome, Scenario 2, we see strong growth for highly and medium skilled personnel—with highly skilled positions in our industry increasing by 56%, and medium-skilled by 8%. However, low skilled, routine jobs drop 30% as many of these roles get phased out over the next 5 years, resulting in a net loss of 9% of jobs, totaling 1.4 million:
The following graphics shows Scenario 2, the Likely Scenario, in more detail, outlining the number
When the news broke last month about the second largest IT services merger of all time (after the 2008 HP-EDS whopper), the reaction among the services cognoscenti was - and has continued to be - one of confusion. Big services mergers have just not done very well over the years. HP/EDS was a culture clash of immense proportions - and occurred right before the great recession, while other mergers, like Dell's acquisition of Perot, has resulted in the old Perot business being flipped over to NTT Data at a significant loss, and the Xerox/ACS merger has been shaken up and spun off and needs a major reinvention under new CEO Ashok Vemuri to get the company back on track. Meanwhile, Capgemini and IGATE are still figuring out the best pieces of each other to mesh together, while not taking their eye off the ball, during the services industries' most cut-throat transition phase.
We heard HPE CEO, Meg Whitman, excitedly address the firm’s key clients and industry analysts at HP’s recent Discover event in Las Vegas, with an obsessive focus on “digital transformation” and the impending impact of “digital disruption”. However, the real opportunity for HPE isn’t really in the design of digital business models for clients, it’s the enablement of them – it’s the provision of the agile “digital underbelly” to make digital change really happen for enterprises.
It's easy to be cynical about legacy IT services, but there's an awful lot of it to scrap over as enterprises are forced to fix their plumbing
Digesting the merger of these two struggling services giants has resulted in more rumination than most, considering the timing, sheer scale, transitional uncertain market and motivation. This is not a time when most traditional service providers are looking to add more global delivery scale to already large foundations – most are trying to slim down their delivery armies and sales forces,