Dallas, we have another problem: Too many Advisors are Buying the Service Provider Hype

Just as we thought we’d negotiated a safe landing back to earth for our talent-challenged sourcing advisors, that we discover another mismatch between perception and reality – they just love service providers.

Yes indeed – probably the only time anyone has ever bothered to ask a seriously large number of enterprise service buyers (168) and advisors (154), during our recent industry study with KPMG, what they really think of service providers, yielded quite an alarming response:

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Are some advisors simply out of touch, or are too many buyers suffering from stagnating relationships?

One of the quirks of the services industry that has long-bothered me – and many others – are the cosy relationships some advisors clearly enjoy with some service providers.

Turn up at many of the service provider-hosted industry “analyst” events these days, and there is usually an assortment of advisors added to the occasion to partake in the PowerPoint orgy, the Read More »


David Poole, Robo Conductor

David Poole is Co-Founder and CEO, Symphony Ventures

One of the many nuances of the business process services world is that the same cast of characters just can’t stay away from the action.

Many of the same mavericks who helped build this business from the early days of transformational consulting, CoEs and shared services, through to lift and shift BPO, virtual captives, and, more recently the hybrid services delivery model, are now hopping aboard the train that encompasses the As-a-Service ideals.

These ideals that are centered around the benefits of process delivery in the cloud, where unnecessary manual steps are automated, where systems can interact intelligently with each other, where staff think orthogonally about how things should be done, where enterprises can hive off crappy old back office operations and jump into the world of the new with limited pain.  Yes, it’s time to retire ladies and gentlemen – or shall we call the legendary David Poole himself to figure out how to get ahead of this disruptive nightmare?

David will talk about his illustrious background shortly, but I would like to commend his bravery for setting up his own disruptive advisory shop “Symphony Ventures”  based in London, where he has picked up some exceptionally talented guys like David Brain and Ian Barkin, who’ve cemented solid reputations in the world of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – and are already creating trouble for themselves with some big enterprise clients.

So, without further ado, let’s hear what the Robo Conductor has been up to lately with his foray into the world of entrepreneurialism, and what he thinks about where this train of disruption is really heading….

Phil Fersht (CEO – HfS): David – good afternoon!  So how did you get into this business?

David Poole (Founder and CEO – Symphony Ventures): I started at Price Waterhouse as a consultant back when BPO was in its infancy. My first job was helping BP set up one of their first BPO centers in Caracas. I then worked in sales, transition and delivery and ultimately it was my job to help close down the BPO business because there was a conflict with the audit practice. We sold most of the assets to IBM & Exult. Cap Gemini purchased the Krakow delivery center. That’s how I first met Cap Gemini.

I went on to help set up Cap Gemini’s BPO practice in Europe and the U.S. Over a period of 10 years Read More »


Europe: If you can’t do Arbitrage, then Automate!

We’ve been addressing the massive opportunity for the services industry as we move into times of unprecedented complexity.  However, while complexity brings with it the opportunity to solve recurring problems and design new solutions, it also brings new workforce challenges that could prove insurmountable for many enterprises, without a radical rethink with how they design their business operations to get ahead of their markets where technology is increasingly at the center of their business universe.

As we recently discussed, this is especially the case for many Continental European organizations, where rigid labor laws and a pervasive  “job for life” mentality makes it very challenging to find – and then fund – the new talent that can replace legacy staff struggling to meet the business-relevant needs of the modern workforce. We believe this inability to achieve greater workforce flexibility to gain access to new talent and skills is the main reason driving Continental European enterprises to evaluate alternative means to improve processes and drive more efficiency and effectiveness into their operations.  One of the emerging areas where we are seeing a remarkable level of interest is that of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), where enterprises can develop an automation layer upon which to cement its operations and create a true analytical and digital capability for the As-a-Service Economy into which we are venturing.

Enterprises need skills to help them understand their financial data to make better investment decisions in emerging markets, to redesign process flows that get their products to the right markets quicker, to align revenue opportunities with their global supply chain activities, to understand where to make talent investments, based on high-growth market needs. They need to understand the viability of maintaining legacy products at the opportunity cost of investing in emerging product areas and other innovations. This means they need an operations infrastructure that has the process standards to help extract this data, with the right people that have been trained how to use it effectively – and can develop these skills on a continual basis.

However, if you cannot make the swift changes you need to augment your overall base of operations talent, surely the advent of effective Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platforms is providing an increasingly appealing alternative path for many enterprises to take: when you cannot augment your process people, why not replace them with automated process platforms? And, as the following chart clearly shows from our new global study conducted with KPMG, emerging interest in Read More »

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Dallas, we have a problem: Advisors struggling to deliver Expertise-as-a-Service

The IT and business services industry is now navigating unchartered waters, where the common challenge for today’s enterprises is simple:

“How can we design our businesses and operations to run more effectively, so we’re geared up to get ahead of our markets where technology is increasingly at the center of our business universe. How can we understand data to respond to our market needs, and how can we be smarter and more creative about how we operate and go to market?”

The answer is pretty straightforward, really – go get the help you need to be this effective, whether you hire it, retrain what you have, outsource it, or simply buy on-tap consultative expertise.

We’ve recently discussed the fact that many service providers are struggling to find this talent, while many buyers also need real help to access business-relevant skills.  So let’s now look at the great intermediary which can readily plug those talent gaps for a paltry $500/hour… the consulting firm.  Surely these MBA-qualified guys and gals have these skills in spades for the needy enterprises ready and willing to pay for them? Read More »


Speed dating their way to a quick divorce… Rick Simmonds talks up his new advisory firm Aecus

Rick Simmonds, Founder and Managing Partner, Aecus

We recently had the pleasure of hearing from Alsbridge’s CEO, Chip Wagner, regarding his firm’s organic expansion plans into Europe as his firm cements its growing reputation in the sourcing advisory market.  But what about the  UK advisory firm formerly known as “Alsbridge Plc”?  Answer, it renamed itself “Aecus“, named after one of the sons of Zeus, renowned for wisdom and piety, and his fairness as a judge. He was a resolver of disputes between the gods.

So we caught up with the firm’s founder and managing partner, Rick Simmonds, to find out more about his renamed business, the split with Alsbridge mothership, the renewed focus on the new firm and whether their famous “speed dating” approach to provider selection is effective for clients…

Phil Fersht (HfS): Good morning Rick – can you share your background with our readership? When did you get into this outsourcing business?

Rick Simmonds (Aecus): I’ve been in outsourcing for a long time. I started in the late 1980s with Andersen Consulting in the pre-Accenture days, working for David Andrews who went on to set up Xchanging. Then I helped Ernst & Young set up its outsourcing practice in the 1990s. They sold this division to Cap Gemini; which I left in 2002 to set up ALS Consulting.

Ben Trowbridge was a partner of mine at Ernst and Young; he left to start Trowbridge Group. We Read More »


Skill not Scale, Part II: Europe poses the biggest opportunity as As-a-Service models emerge

We’ve talked a lot about the massive opportunity for the services industry as we move into times of unprecedented complexity.  However, while complexity brings us much opportunity to solve problems and design new solutions, it also brings skills challenges that could prove insurmountable for many, without external support.

New data findings from our soon-to-be released report “From Human to Digital, the Future of Global Business Services”, conducted with KPMG, covered 492 industry services stakeholders and reveals some marked regional differences, when it comes to enterprises better aligning internal operations  with their corporate goals and directives:

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Better IT, service provider collaboration and talent are the missing ingredients for European enterprises

Settling for the status quo is clearly not a viable option for 43% of European firms viewing a formal change management effort, or simply bringing in new talent, as essential actions to get themselves out of their current predicaments to get better value from their operations. While the need for better IT systems from all global enterprises comes as no surprise, the open admission, from more than half of European enterprise operations executives that they would benefit greatly from better collaboration with their service providers (compared to a third of their North American counterparts), brings us to the conclusion that the majority of large-scale European firms are in dire Read More »


Cost is the New Black: The Overbearing Paradoxical C-Suite Imperative for 2015

“C-Suite leaders want to drive out cost?  Tell us something new…”  OK, I will, because this time, this cost imperative is different, as the traditional means of driving out cost are reaching their limits.  60% of enterprise C-Suites are actively seeking to reduce their reliance on labor in their operations – but most are discovering they need to work smarter before they can work cheaper.

Enterprise leaders can’t keep dipping into their operations functions to find more staff to shift into cheaper locations, or simply remove them – they are having to explore the emergence of As-a-Service solutions as that next lever to pull. The shift from labor to digital is happening, and this insatiable thirst to operate businesses as cost-effectively and flexibly as possible is the overwhelming driver behind this change.

Our new study, conducted with KPMG, shows an impetus on cost take-out coming from the C-Suite at an intensity never seen before:  90% now view cost reduction as an increasingly important-to-critical imperative for their operations.  In addition, a similar number are very focused on achieving cost-effective, flexible services to support their businesses.  And this desire to drive out cost is far more intense than other “value-based” imperatives for operations, such as addressing risk, analytics and talent:

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A paradoxial shift from human to digital has begun in earnest

This reemergence of cost as a key driver clearly indicates that executives believe significant inefficiencies remain in their current operations. It is, therefore, a priority for many executives to Read More »


The greatest nearshore location of all… Nova Scotia

Where better to process your insurance claims?

Anyone who knows me best, is privy to the information that I disappear up to the lakes, forests and pubs of Halifax, Nova Scotia, for my summers. Having spent so much time in the region over the last 15 years, and having both a sister-in-law and brother-in-law lead service delivery teams for a major provider and a major bank up there, I have, believe it or not, learned a thing or two about the province’s rich fertile ground for delivering IT and BPO services.

People are smart, very pleasant, well educated, and are a short hop into all major US cities… no wonder the likes of ADP, Convergys, IBM, Hinduja and all the major Canadian banks rely on the local Read More »

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Skill not Scale: The Massive Opportunity Awaiting the Services Industry

I was recently inspired by a refreshingly simple and unvarnished blog on the The Inflexion Point for the IT Service Industry by Deepak Shenoy of Capital Mind.

Where Deepak hits the nail on the head, is how IT services executives are promoting themselves out of relevance in the India-heritage firms (which is not too dissimilar from practices we observe in many Western-heritage services firms too).  In plain terms, we’ve got lazy and arrogant, we’ve developed a sense of entitlement, where all we need to do is print money from the profits of maintaining legacy enterprise practices.

I won’t regurgitate all of what Deepak discusses, but do have a think about the advice he leaves us with, for services executive worried about losing their relevance:

  • Learn a new skill – either back to code and processes in newer technologies, or in a completely different domain. This could take months or years, but it’s necessary
  • Invest and create alternate sources of income
  • Keep debt manageable so a job loss will leave you with at least a year’s expenses in the bank
  • Stay humble: the people who reported to you could be your next boss

The context here is simple: the enterprise services gravy train is slowing down for those executives Read More »


Unveiling the 2015 Robotic Premier League Table: HP, TCS and IBM are setting the pace

Back in April, we released the first Robotic Premier League Table to capture the “pre-season” placement of 20 different BPO service providers who were in the early stages of adopting robotic process automation (RPA).  We shook up the market with what is still the most comprehensive assessment of the strategies, marketing and delivery of today’s emerging RPA capabilities. In fact, it’s the only comprehensive assessment of the strategies, marketing and delivery of RPA capabilities.

Well, eight months is a very long time in the fast-evolving world or process robotization, so we’ve decided to update our analysis and provide a new RPL table to start 2015 to account for the early activity and investments being made in the space.

For this release, our resident RPL Commissioner Charles Sutherland caught up with several dozen service providers to look at just how far their RPA capabilities had evolved since April…

Congratulations to HP, TCS, IBM, Sutherland Global Services and Genpact for topping the table this time around and for Genfour and Symphony Ventures in setting the standard for a new emerging category of RPA specific service providers.

To establish these positions, Charles assessed each service provider using the criteria developed in his HfS RPA Maturity Model.

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It is still early in the evolution of RPA inside the outsourcing services market. Service providers are industrializing their capabilities to meet current and future client requirements.  By the time we release our next RPL later in 2015 we expect to see the level of standard capability across service providers to have significantly matured further and for RPA to be part of most major outsourcing deals across the market.  In short, RPA is becoming an arrow in every ambitious service provider’s quiver.

HfS Subscribers can click here to download the full 2015 HfS Robotic Premier League Table

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The Ten Tenets Driving the As-a-Service Economy

The globalization wave is peaking, and many maturing enterprise service buyers are struggling to find incremental value from the traditional model, such as accessing more meaningful data, deploying end-to-end process delivery, and driving down operating costs to a minimum, with globally accessible technology platforms based on common standards enabled by the cloud.

Looking at this next evolution of value, it is coming from technology-driven “As-a-Service” advances that directly enhance employee, partner and consumer effectiveness.

This emergence of As-a-Service represents the most disruptive series of impacts to the traditional IT and business services industry that we have seen.

The way service buyers receive services and the way service providers sell and deliver them, is going to be very, very different in a few short years, and already is already impacting some process areas where the technology is already available.

For those legacy service providers still thinking this is a passing fad, it may already be too late…

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The Ten Key Tenets Providing the Foundation of the As-a-Service Economy

As the As-a-Service Economy continues to emerge and evolve, it is the belief of HfS that the model will follow the following tenets:

1. Services and technology are available on an as-needed (plug-and-play) and/or subscription based model.  Traditional commercial models from pricing to contract durations will be replaced by “As-a-Service” solutions meeting an increasing buyer expectation that flexibility is at the core of Read More »


Here are our Autonabilized 2015 HfS predictions

We predict... we predict... we predict

Ugh… What are we doing?  We hate predictions.  Predictions are lame, predictions are cheesie, predictions are either wrong, or just so generic that they could be automated every year with a “substitute this big trend for this one” script.

Hey – that’s actually not a bad idea, so why not throw a bunch of trends from the HfS analyst team into a cognitive application, add some robotics technology to mix them up with some humanoid analyst mimicry, and see whether the outcome could quite feasibly have been the product of some big legacy analyst house.

So without further ado, here are 17 predictions that will all come true.  Just for you…

1. Old-school outsourcing becomes heroic as digitization of process becomes the new political enemy of the corporate masses

Suddenly, labor-arbitrage deals are good things for society. At least jobs are being created somewhere in the world, as opposed to being eliminated altogether by robots.  This shift from “Labor to Digital” takes center stage across the whole operations, consulting and professional services industry.  Outsourcing will no longer be a dirty word, as enterprises realize the digitization and robotization of business and IT processes is the only real lever to pull to provide them with future value and efficiency. However, this will create a level of fear and uncertainty much more intense than the old worries about having your job shipped off to India.  “I’ll be back” becomes the watch-word of anti-robotics protestors, as those haunting words from Arnie’s 1984 Orwellian classic come back to bite us.

2. “Autonabalism” becomes central to ambitious BPO service provider strategy

With Robotic Process Automation (RPA) becoming more central to the strategy of BPO service providers, we think 2015 will be the year that a few BPO service providers institutionalize their RPA capabilities and decide to cannibalize the revenues of their existing FTE contracts in order to encourage the end to end transformation of their own businesses. This strategic retrenchment using automation and cannibalizing revenues is what we refer to as “autonabalism”, and a few bold and forward thinking service providers will be undertaking this next year.

3. The emergence of the As-a-Service Economy will see several niche As-a-Service providers smash the old model

Those traditional providers which fail to autonabilize their models, will come under increasing threat from the emerging wave of specialist As-a-Service providers, which can deliver standard processes enriched with value-added services at much lower cost, and easier “plug and play” capability.  Examples already include the likes of OneSource Virtual, Aasonn, Genfour, Bluewolf, Fruition, Symphony and CloudSherpas.  We also predict that we will see new BPaaS-driven firms spring up that have not even be formed yet.

4. Focused service providers will decide definitively where they want to play to survive

It’s nearing crunch time for service providers and those which haven’t figured out their game-plan are going to fade away pretty fast.  Heritage providers have to make brave divestments and investments to stay ahead of the curve.  2014 already saw IBM sell off its CRM BPO business, HP split up its broader business, Xerox sell its ITO business.  We’ve witnessed Cognizant double-down on healthcare and Infosys transform it’s leadership.  We’ve seen Accenture merge operations, cloud and BPO and Wipro take-on Watson with his trusty sidekick. These are just forerunners on many more big things to happen in 2015.  We expect a lot of carving up, tuck-in buys right across the board.  It’s going to be one helluva active year for restructuring activities.

5. Crowd-sourcing will play a role in the service delivery model for sourcing

In business functions like marketing and industry-specific health, where there are ad-hoc projects like product releases and surges of demand for processing such as enrollment periods, an enterprising buyer/service provider will experiment with a crowd-sourcing approach. It will allow Read More »

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2015: Time to salvage yourself from your digital wreckage of a work-life

10 years ago, you most likely checked your email once in the morning, once after lunch and once at the  end of the day.

You actually spent your day being productive, writing reports, presentations, attending meetings that actually had agendas, going to client meetings that had been organized weeks’ ago. You might even have had time to read things and educate yourself… In short, you probably had some semblance of an organized work day, and there was a clear delineation between your work life and your own life.

And after work, you’d perhaps meet some colleagues for a drink and a bite to eat, then (heaven forbid) go to a karaoke bar or hit a dance floor. In those days we were physically social with each other. You interacted, you got stuff done, you had fun, you let your hair down occasionally.

Today, you probably wake up at 6.00am and wearily reach out to your mobile device to check your email, before you’ve had time to even think about anything else.  And you’ll probably spend your entire day checking it at a minimum rate of once every 15 minutes, getting precious little work done, reacting to memos, getting added to meetings with no agendas (that you probably should never have been invited to in the first place) that have zero follow-through or real purpose.

That ppt deck you started at 6.45am has barely progressed, as you decide to check your LinkedIn updates for a third time that morning to see who else had viewed your profile, or join into electronic congress with someone who trusts you, even though you have no recollection of ever having met said person.  It’s now 11.00am, and finally you’re ready to write your name on the front cover of that ppt deck, but then – lordy lord – you just realized you’d (gasp) forgotten to check your twitter feed all morning.  A welling of fresh excitement bubbles up into your electronic life as you check out those three retweets from your late night tweeting bonanza, but this quickly extinguishes Read More »


When Blood is Sikka than Water: Vishal’s Infy Honeymoon has some Legs

Vishal Sikka (pictured right) is CEO, Infosys Technologies

The most eye-opening personnel decision in the services industry this year has been the appointment of Vishal Sikka as Infosys CEO. I recently spent some time with Vishal and his executive team, along with some of the HfS crew, and we quickly noticed a marked uptick in their feverish enthusiasm for their business. Not only that – they seemed happy.

Was this really the same Infosys that was fighting to rediscover its mojo, or has it now got it back – in Vishal?  Indeed they seem to – and at the heart of it is the infectious passion, energy and insightful curiosity of their new CEO. The one who personally ensured the bar stayed open for a few extra hours so he could spend more time just relaxing with his staff.  But now we’re almost 6 months in, surely the honeymoon is over?  It seems not, so let’s hear more from Vishal himself…

Phil Fersht (CEO, HfS Research): Good afternoon Vishal – and delighted you’re happy to talk to our HfS readers… so what do you think of your new firm?

Vishal Sikka (CEO, Infosys): There’s an incredible amount of energy, and an incredible amount of passion. Yet in many ways, I get the sense that we lost some confidence along the way, and part of the job I see at hand is to restore that. To a certain degree, that loss of confidence is something Read More »


Atos and Xerox exchange holiday gifts, but can they disrupt a market asleep at the wheel?

So it turned out that there was a “Secret Santa” exchange going over the last few months, as Atos and Xerox worked out the terms of their exchange of Xerox’s IT Outsourcing business and an ongoing support contract for cash considerations of $1.05 Billion.

Yes indeed folks, two traditional incumbent service providers are getting active in a market that’s been caught in somewhat of a holding pattern for some time, with many grimly clinging onto their labor-driven models in denial that big changes are already in the works to disrupt their cosy legacy worlds. So let’s hear what the HfS analyst team thinks about it all…

The As-a-Service Economy beckons… and it’s time for the contenders to step up and get focused

HfS believes that this was a good move for both service providers as it allows for each to concentrate on their core offerings, while leaning on the other for ancillary capabilities (IT from Atos to Xerox, HR and F&A from Xerox to Atos). Both service providers have had a relationship for some time, especially with Xerox’s global BPO provision of services for Atos, and this will strengthen Read More »


TCS, Accenture and Tech Mahindra take the Top Spots for Telecom Operations Services

And now for Blueprint XVIV… the first time we’ve peered into the telecoms operations space.

In fact, it’s probably the first time anyone’s peered seriously into the telecom’s operations services space. And who better to do the peering that my perceptive peer Pareekh Jain

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Pareekh, how do you see this market evolving and what are the key drivers for telecom services?

We see telecom operations services evolving to the As-a-Service economy, where business processes of wireline and wireless operators across network, fulfillment, assurance, and billing are being delivered as BPaaS on specialized technology stack. Social, mobility, analytics, cloud, and Read More »

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Missed the 2015 HfS Research Agenda Web-Session? Then here’s the replay…

Don’t tell me you missed our webcast this week, where we shared our 2015 HfS Blueprints schedule and how the “As-A-Service Economy” will drive the services industry in 2015…

Click here for the Slides and…

 Click here to listen to the Web-Session Replay

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Gartner, HfS and Forrester top the Analyst Firm of the Year awards, voted by 1100 research consumers

The Analyst Firm of the Year 2014 Awards combines the opinions of 1,100 worldwide users of analyst firms who voted in the Analyst Value Survey, led by the worldwide acclaimed analyst of the analystsDuncan Chapple.  It is the only credible study today conducted on the analyst firms, that incorporates the views of a very large, statistically-significant community of research consumers:

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Duncan and his colleagues deserve a lot of credit for their hard work reaching out into the industry of end users and vendors to get the real, unvarnished view of this world and educating the masses on who is really influencing and performing.

I also wanted to praise the hard work of the HfS analyst team for working so hard to get our voice and brand above the deluge of noise in today’s industry and making such long term commitments with us to get us where we are today.

You can read Duncan’s full post on the awards here.


When you may get better outcomes using speech recognition software…

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Finally… the great Alsbridge Europe mystery unravelled

In the murky world of outsourcing advisory, there are many mysteries… such as why did TPI change its name to ISG, such as what do advisors need to do to top the IAOP advisor rankings, such as why Gartner never got in on the game..  and such as why big management consulting firms dabble in it, but desperately try not to use the term “outsourcing”…

But, perhaps, the biggest mystery of all has been the curious existence of a UK-based Alsbridge firm, which has long been widely-rumored not to be actually owned by its much larger US namesake.  However, all this mystery finally unravelled itself recently when the Alsbridge mothership announced it was building its own organic European empire, and the company formerly known as “Alsbridge Europe” was spinning off on its own direction – and attempting to move further up the alphabet – sporting the name “Aecus“.

Still clear as mud?  Well fear no more, as we caught up with Alsbridge CEO Chip Wagner to explain more about what’s been going on with all these name changes, spin-offs, takeovers and investments…

Phil Fersht (CEO, HfS Research): Chip – firstly, it’s great to have you on HfS – I believe this is the first time since you were appointed CEO.

Chip Wagner (CEO, Alsbridge): It is, Phil, and thanks for the invitation. Glad to be on HfS!

Phil: Chip, can you give us a quick download on what’s been happening with the firm since the investment made by LLR?

Chip Wagner is Chief Executive Officer, Alsbridge (Click for bio)

Chip: We have thoroughly enjoyed the two years since LLR invested in Alsbridge; they have been a fantastic owner and advisor.  Shortly after the LLR investment, Alsbridge’s founder, Ben Trowbridge, left his CEO position in July 2013 and then moved on from the Board in July 2014.

After assuming the CEO role and later a position on the Board, I’ve been working with the team to push a number of initiatives that include changing our corporate culture, restructuring the organization, establishing a delivery center in India, launching a new service line to deliver ongoing vendor management, opening new offices in Canada and Germany, and expanding our UK presence.  We’ve been busy and so far we’ve had great success experiencing 32% organic revenue growth, increasing EBITDA margin and hiring a group of all-stars to carry us forward into 2015.

Phil:  So what’s different about Alsbridge these days?

Chip: As part of a rebranding initiative, we have embraced a new Alsbridge tagline of “Challenge the Future” for both our external clients and internal operations.  We believe that smart businesses challenge everything – especially conventional thought, existing behaviors and perceived best practices.

From an internal perspective, we have managed to unlock potential in our team, strengthen accountability, introduce a much more transparent culture, and empower the talented people we Read More »

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