Why IBM should acquire TCS

As-a-Service Graphic

When IBM announces a 12th consecutive quarterly decline, when practically every other service provider is trying to mask layoffs and austerity plans as strategic moves to delink revenue from headcount, you have to hold your hands up and admit the services industry is going through a secular transition that is going to get considerably more painful, before it eventually reemerges in the As-a-Service Economy.

Service providers need to address the transition years we are currently in, to reach the As-a-Service promised land

With consolidation of the current environment clearly very much on the minds of senior leaders in the service providers (e.g. Capgemini and iGATE widely mooted to be close to tying the knot), it’s pretty clear that we’re distracting ourselves from entering the As-a-Service world anywhere as quickly as we should be. There are simply too many operations and IT careers tied to legacy ERP and business processes, and too many providers making too much money feeding off this legacy, for the change to happen at anything bar a snail’s pace.  There simply is no burning platform for change – no Millennium Bug, no Dot.com bust, no Great Recession in the offing (perish the thought…).

It is my belief that we’re at the start of a ten-year cycle of interim change as operational human labor is gradually replaced by automated platforms that are in turn augmented by analytical and creative talent and cognitive computing.  The smart service providers are those which are going to address this ten-year phase of transition head-on and not get distracted by maximizing their position in the old model.

So let’s pick on the biggest service provider of all in the middle of this industry transition, IBM, to assess its options:

The cool stuff is all great, but the dollars are relatively small

While IBM is making many right moves investing for the long-term, it’s this long drawn out medium-term period that’s the real problem. Watson, Apple and Twitter alliances, its new $3bn IoT unit, Softlayer etc.  all create As-a-Service mojo, but it’s going to take years to get to the revenue levels that can replace the traditional services dollars that are in gradual decline.

IBM needs to work with clients at the pace they are comfortable with, if it wants to maintain its wallet-share with them.  The problem with the current business is that prices are getting squeezed and second tier providers are getting desperate and practically buying deals with the hope of making them profitable down the road and keeping their investors happy.

The solution:  Buy TCS and create a dominant giant to crush its competitors

It’s simple – make a move on the largest, most aggressive and dynamic of the Indian-heritage providers:  TCS.   Together, they would crush the market across all aspects of delivery, all verticals, Read More »


Accenture and Cognizant battle it out in Population Health’s Winner’s Circle… with EXL knocking

With the HfS Blueprint season now in full swing, we can celebrate the coming-out party of one of our rising star analysts, Barbra McGann, who’s put together one of our finest pieces of research (yet) looking at the rampant Population Health and Care Management business services industry:


There’s such a loud call for change in the U.S. healthcare industry these days, Barbra.  Please tell us a little bit about what you see going on…

Healthcare is just too complex. Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we all have the right to access healthcare, but for a lot of people it’s still difficult and expensive to do so. Healthcare providers and payers are on a mission to take the “sting” out of healthcare. The goal is Read More »


Tom Reuner rolls up to rev up our research

HfS new Managing Director, Tom Reuner with wife Ayesha

Meet Tom Reuner, HfS new Managing Director for IT Outsourcing Research, with wife Ayesha

As you all undoubtedly know by now, at HfS we are relentlessly dragging the world of IT and business operations kicking and screaming into the As-a-Service Economy.  So what better than to convince the only other analyst with real chops in autonomics and cognitive computing (who wasn’t at HfS) to come and become part of our bandwagon of belligerence?

Not only does the arrival of Tom Reuner corner the analyst market in autonomics and cognitive computing for us, he also brings real depth in IT services and adds to our growing European analyst presence.  He’s also a terrific bloke with great taste in premier league football teams.

So, without further ado, let’s hear a bit more about the latest excellent addition to the HfS analyst ranks…

Welcome to HfS, Tom.  What on earth went wrong in your life to have ended up doing this?  Tell us a bit about your background…

Cheers Phil, I am really excited to join HfS. And well, unlike my lovely wife I hadn’t learned anything proper. Back in the days I was expecting to become a lecturer in history and as part of that I planned to stay for half a year in London to do research for my PhD. But as so often in life things Read More »


Why most advisors are just so Un-as-a-Service

UaaS EconomyIf I told you that only 13% of sourcing advisors have plans to invest in cognitive computing and 15% in Robotic Process Automation skills, you wouldn’t believe me, right?

We’re just about to close off our new study that probes into the ideals of the As-a-Service Economy where 716 industry stakeholders reveal how they are faring with their As-a-Service readiness, intentions and aspirations.  And one major services market influencer, the local friendly sourcing advisor, is seriously missing the mark when it comes to sawing off some of the old, to embrace the new.  Simply put, at least half of today’s advisors are pretty much, well… Un-as-a-Service.  Let’s take a closer look:

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Advisors have been schooled on driving out their clients’ costs, as opposed to adding real expertise and value. Encouragingly, 49% of advisors are getting sucked into As-a-Service because their clients are demanding it, but the sad fact of life is that two-thirds of them still think it’s still really all about driving out cost.  As-a-Service is all about providers delivering and buyers receiving Read More »


The 2015 Enterprise Mobility Services Blueprint: IBM, Cognizant, Accenture, TCS, Infosys and Capgemini in the Winner’s Circle

The world of enterprise mobility continues to unravel at a breathless clip, with a host of application, infrastructure and niche specialist service providers claiming to deliver (much) more than a bunch of Blackberries, mobile servers and basic help-desk support to enterprise clients.

Enterprise mobility has quickly propelled into the corporate mainstream, with almost every consumer-facing, employee-engaging, supply-chain-enabling process requiring critical mobility interfaces and integration points to avoid becoming obsolete. And with so many processes now going completely native to the mobile world, from membership programs for healthcare insurance schemes, through to governance productivity tools, through to tax management applications etc., the mobility prowess, from a business transformation aspect, is the Holy Grail the winning service providers are seeking to stay ahead of this fast-commoditizing digital marketplace.

So, without further ado, let’s focus on how the 2015 enterprise mobility services environment is shaping up with HfS’ digital research guru, Ned May’s, new release of the 2015 Enterprise Mobility Blueprint:

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Hi Ned, what has changed in the enterprise services mobility market over the last year?

I am pretty amazed at how fast the market has shifted. In the year that’s passed since my last Blueprint, we now see a majority of enterprises undertaking efforts to integrate their mobility portfolios deeper into legacy systems. Few enterprises were at that stage a year ago when it was the build out of point solutions that dominated the activity sourced from service providers in mobility. Even just a year ago, efforts to integrate these apps were largely aspirational but now it is Read More »


HfS and NASSCOM sharing the love @ the 2015 BPM Strategy Summit

HfS+NASSCOMWe’re proud to announce our role as exclusive research and content development partner for NASSCOM’s Business Process Management Summit 2015, to be held in Bangalore, on September 24th-25th.

We’ve been closely working with NASSCOM in designing this year’s theme: “The Emerging Digital Economy: Thrive, Survive or Die”, developing session topics, identifying speakers, supporting content for key speeches and producing a definitive white paper on the Digital theme, in addition to supporting the marketing and promotion of the event. This year, I will be hauling myself back to India along with Charles Sutherland to deliver a keynote presentation on the Emerging Digital Economy and its impact on the BPM industry, along with helping organize the other sessions and content themes.

At the NASSCOM BPM summit, participants will debate the emergence of digitally empowered business process services in horizontal areas such as finance, procurement, supply chain and HR, in addition to industry domain specialties, such as financial services, healthcare, life sciences, retail and manufacturing.

Key Digital Themes being discussed at the 2015 NASSCOM BPM Strategy Summit 2015:

  • Embracing Design Thinking: Generating creative solutions by understanding the business context
  • Smartly Automating: Blending of automation, analytics, and talent
  • Intelligently Managing Data: Applying analytics models and techniques to achieve meaningful business insights
  • Writing-off Legacy: Use of platform-based services to make many tech investments redundant
  • Being Brokers of capability: Governance staff managing towards business-driven outcomes
  • Entrepreneurial Intelligent Engagements: Striving for relationships based on expertise, gain-sharing and outcomes

For members of the HfS global knowledge community interested in speaking at the summit, please email bpmsummit@nasscom.in .

We hope to see you in Bangalore!

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IBM, Accenture, Cognizant, Wipro, TCS and Infosys make the 2015 Enterprise Analytics Services Winners Circle

I recall back in late 2010 when an eager young research firm practiced what it preached and scoured talented resources on the Indian subcontinent to support our research reports.  One such resource was a bright young woman called Reetika Joshi, who worked with us to produce the industry’s first ever assessment on “Offshore Analytics Providers.”

Fast-forward four years and said analyst has now survived her first Boston winter (she did nearly perish) to produce a fine assessment on where today’s  far more sophisticated analytics services market is today headed:

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Hi Reetika, how do you see the enterprise analytics services market evolving?

The 2015 HfS Enterprise Analytics Services Blueprint Report is a refresh on our initial assessment in November 2013. Compared to 2013, the market is seeing an overwhelming change – an increased focus on applying business context and doing more meaningful analysis, rather than the isolated procurement of analytics tools and technologies. This is impacting the stakeholder dynamic, the decision-making process and day-to-day relationships with service providers for services buyers. It also spells great news for service providers with analytics consulting backgrounds and/or domain Read More »

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HfS officially exits the sourcing advisor business (even though we were never in it in the first place)

No, I am not an advisor...

No, I am not an advisor…

After our dramatic fake announcement that we had entered the sourcing advisory business on 1st April, our phones have been ringing off the hook from service providers desperate to get included in our deal pipeline (no joke).

While, in hindsight, HfS& would likely have been a roaring success disrupting the legacy sourcing advisory business, we fundamentally have no desire to be an advisor shop. Sorry. Back to the research grindstone…

And for all of you who sent congratulatory notes, please do read beyond the first paragraph next time we announce something. Especially on April 1st =)


HfS announces its entry into the outsourcing advisory market

HfS_Logo_2_OrangeHfS Research, the leading analyst firm covering outsourcing strategies, today launched HfS Advisory (abbreviated to “HfS&”) and announced its exit from the research analyst business.  The firm, once lauded for disrupting the research industry by giving its research away for free, finally conceded there is actually no money to me made from a business model where there the core product does not have an associated price tag.

As part of its relaunch as HfS&, the firm announced the following new advisory service lines, designed to disrupt today’s outsourcing advisory marketplace:

1) FTE-Lite .  HfS& will disrupt the traditional outsourcing transaction marketplace by offering a Read More »


Service providers blame their clients, advisors and analysts for their As-a-Service failure

We couldn’t resist sharing a quick snippet from our new “Eight Ideas of the As-a-Service Economy” study that reveals some rather alarming news:  service providers are blaming everyone bar themselves for obstructing their progress towards As-a-Service.

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At fault number 1 – the Clients. Top of the lists are their clients themselves, with 78% of service provider executives (from a pool of 238) citing their unwillingness to venture into risk/gainshare models with them. Considering most enterprise clients we talk to complain that their provider refuses to budge from their predictable, profitable FTE delivery model, baffles me here.

At fault number 2 – the Advisors. Next up are sourcing advisors – those lovely folk who bring them to the table and horsetrade to get deals done.  Apparently, they are not selling the evolving model to enterprise clients and are just not very capable.  We are starting to see more As-a-Service traits in some mid-tier deals, where there is less wiggle-room to make huge profits on wage arbitrage, and these frequently are too small to warrant several hundred grand being spent on an advisor.  The advisor model is still built for the old world of big scale deals, not the new world where analytical and creative skills, technology enablement and automation are the watchwords.

At fault number 3 – the Analysts. And third on the list appears to be a pot shot at analysts, where providers claim a “Lack of quality research to educate the industry on the benefits of As-a-Service models”.  We apologise and promise to write more coherently… and this time make sure you read it, Mr and Mrs provider executive, because we know how much time you spend trawling your way through analyst reports these days….

Least at fault – the Providers themselves. And very last on the list (no sh*t) is the fact that they are struggling with their own inhouse talent to shift the model to As-a-Service.  Well that’s great news, as I thought it might be a bit of a struggle for providers to retrain their developers and project managers to think analytically, help clients with design thinking, laying out an automation roadmap etc.  Now we can all rest easy with the knowledge that the providers will save the day, while the rest of us clients, advisors and analysts can all go away and die somewhere on the scrap heap of legacy labor models, SLAs and dull irrelevant research.

Bottom-line:  We’re all pretty much at fault for perpetuating the old models.  This is a collective learning effort across all stakeholders to adopt the ideals of As-a-Service

As we reach the end of the runway with the legacy model (which still has a way to go for many enterprises) there needs to be a much better effort collectively to discuss the actual measures enterprises need to adopt to take better advantage of the technology enablers and hone our skills accordingly.  Many advisors are clearly still making a good living advising on the old model, otherwise many would cease to exist, while analysts clearly do a poor educating the market on real world examples of how to make the shift (and persist on an old world model themselves to engage with clients).  Meanwhile, if service providers are as good as they think they are, they need to find better ways to convince their clients to trust them more, to work with the on joint projects of discovery etc.  Lee rhetoric, more dialog among the key stakeholders and better real-world education is the only real formula for success here.


How to avoid being a terrible virtual worker

One growing talent issue I have increasingly become concerned about, is observing people whose career development quickly nosedives when they isolate themselves in a work-at-home model.

I personally believe being able to work effectively within a virtual environment warrants a completely different skillset and attitude, if you want to advance your career and keep developing your potential.

So here’s my guide to being an effective virtual worker in six easy steps:

1. Use voice and video as much as you can.  Staring into a computer relentlessly typing emails for 16 hours a day with little voice contact with your clients/co-workers makes anyone miserable – and anti-social over time.  Make considerable effort to talk to people as much as you can.  Use video for conference calls too – it forces everyone to pay attention (and get dressed) and have a much more personal series of dialogs.

2. Sort out your voice technology.  There’s nothing worse than communicating with people who have a crappy wifi connection, with whom you can never get a clear skype/google conversation without the echos, constant disconnections etc.  If your wifi’s garbage, you can get great quality Skype (for example) over 4g LTE these days on your iPad or iPhone.  Oh, and while we’re at it, stop slurping coffee and eating into your microphone on calls, it’s disgusting…

3. Stop using email for every bloody communication.  Email is a tool for passing along information and instructions. Learn how to be cordial, get your message across and use voice as much as possible to communicate.  Never use email for heated conversations that have emotion (especially negative emotion).

4. Buy an exercise machine and work out everyday.  Without fail.  You’re sitting on your bum most the day burning zero calories and likely visiting the fridge on an hourly basis.  You have to exercise, or you will balloon and die.  Buy yourself an elliptical trainer, exercise bike or treadmill, use it everyday, and after a while you’ll get so fit you can even take calls while you get even fitter.  I would recommend going to a gym, but who has two hours to carve out when you’re an overworked virtual nutcase glued to your machine all day and night?

5. Invest more time getting out to see your clients, your peers and do more networking.  When you see noone bar your family, pets and the plumber on a daily basis, the only way to stay motivated and continue to develop yourself is to go to more conferences, make more effort to visit your clients / peers etc.  You learn the most from your collective discussions with others, from having discreet conversations.  Everyone’s fed up with social-media – meeting people and being social is back in vogue.  Really – get out of the house!

6. Stop complaining about how stressed and overworked you are.  Boohoo – just suck it up, we’re all over-bloody-worked.  It’s all in the mind – so get healthy, get social again, start enjoying your work and you’ll forget about stress and go with the flow.  Just go with the flow, it’s the only way to survive these days.

There endeth my lesson for the day.  Go back to your weekend…


Work smarter, not cheaper: Automation skills have rapidly arrived at the top of the talent agenda

We’re shortly going to release the results of our new study delving into BPO talent, which probes into whether there is a genuine career path to follow for BPO and operations professionals, or whether we’re terminally stuck in the “accidental career” we never intended to venture into. In anycase, I wanted to share one set of data points that show which skills have been increasing in significance.

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RPA has arrived as a core part of BPO’s future

Over the past year, the skill where demand and expectations has become the most elevated, more than any other, is automation. 65% of service buyers and 69% of provider professionals cite the need to understand and deploy automation is significantly increasing as a skill requirement – and even 61% of advisors are feeling the pressure to knowledge-up.

Essentially, as the room for additional cost savings diminishes for BPO buyers, the logical next step is to reduce manual tasks (and ultimately unnecessary labor costs). With the heavy marketing coming from service providers and technology firms offering robotic process automation (RPA) solutions, the awareness from the buy side – and pressure on operations managers – to have a more defined, measurable automation strategy, has never been as intense as it is today, and is likely to crescendo for some time to come yet.  At HfS, we are getting calls every week from buyers wanting support developing an RPA plan for their business – it’s becoming the new efficiency drive for many experienced BPO buyers.  Whatever actions buyers eventually take with RPA, they at least need to have some sort of strategy developing to placate the higher-ups questioning where their next 20% of productivity benefits are going to to come from.

The Bottom-line: RPA provides transformation baby steps for buyers wanting away from overdependence on labor arbitrage

RPA provides that logical first step for buyers and service providers to reduce their reliance on throwing lower cost human labor at problems. It provides the building blocks to develop more streamlined end-to-end processes, to perform more meaningful analytics, to create more of a digital infrastructure across the business. Essentially, RPA is the new arbitrage for many, but is unlikely to yield massive cost-savings in the near to medium terms – it is more about helping enterprises deploy their talent on higher value activities. In short, RPA is about working smarter, not cheaper.


HfS Research is five years old!

5 year plan HfS

Five-year-plan complete for HfS!

Would you believe it?  That quirky little research firm that started as a blog, at which many people snickered as a flash in the pan… reached 5 years old this week.

But we actually had a plan – and it was a five year one to break into the analyst mainstream and influence our services markets as much as any of the establishment analysts who’ve been around for years.  Have we succeeded in doing that?  I’ll leave that to you to decide…

I would personally like to recognize several characters who have played a part in helping HfS get off the ground and developing our reputation in the market as the destination for unvarnished insight, collaborative debate and plenty of entertainment:  Esteban Herrera, Tom Ivory, Tony Filippone and Jamie Snowdon for having pride and faith in our mission and playing their part. Reetika Joshi, Charles Sutherland, Ned May, Mark Reed-Edwards, Tricia Bolger, Ned May, Pareekh Jain and Khalda de Souza for their ongoing support of the business and preaching the gospel – and putting up with me.

Fred McClimans, Bram Weerts, Hema Santosh and Barbra McGann for throwing their lot in with us recently to take us to a whole new level.  And several friends (and family) who have been active in their support; Deb Kops, Lee Coulter, John Haworth, Sir Alan Fersht, David Poole, Jay Desai and many others.  Also our early clients who have stayed loyal; Sarah Thomas, Shari Wenker, Mike Salvino, Ian Maher, Frank D’Souza, Stan Lepeak, Cliff Justice, Tiger Tyagarajan, Frank Cannata and many, many others.  If I forgot to mention you, please forgive me as so many of you have been amazing with your support.

Now for our second 5 year plan…. what fun and games are in store for us next?

Happy Springtime all =)


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How As-a-Service is your organization?

Is your enterprise ready for what the future has in store for us?

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 globalization wave is peaking, and many maturing enterprise service buyers are struggling to find incremental value from the traditional outsourcing model, such as accessing more meaningful data, achieving better automation of processes, deploying end-to-end process delivery and accessing talent with creative business thinking skills. At the same time, service buyers need to keep driving down their 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” advancements that directly enhance employee, partner and customer effectiveness.

In short, 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 some process areas where the technology is already available are being impacted.


At HfS, we have developed Eight Ideals of As-a-Service, that provide a guide for us all to follow as we look to achieving maximum value from our services in the future:

1. Design Thinking
2. Business Cloud
3. Intelligent Automation
4. Proactive Intelligence
5. Intelligent Data
6. Write off Legacy
7. Brokers of Capability
8. Intelligent Engagement

So how is your organization shaping up against these Ideals – and what is most important to you?

Whether you buy, provide or advise on business and IT services, your opinions and intentions are critical for our research, so please spend some time completing our study and you could win an Apple Watch.

Please note that your contact details will only be used for the purposes of sending you the optional executive report and entering you into the prize draw for the Apple Watch.

So please take our survey to air your views and experiences.

Happy surveying!

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Meet Aruna, Capgemini’s kahuna

Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India

Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India

One of the main purposes of NASSCOM is to showcase the strength and direction of the Indian IT and BPO services economy. However, it’s not only about the heritage Indian firms promoting their strengths, it’s also a great venue for leading traditional Western-HQed service providers to brand themselves in India, to help them compete for the top talent.

One such service provider that’s made considerable strides in developing a major brand in India is Capgemini, whose staffing base has rocketed to 55,000 and made sure it had a very strong presence at the Mumbai showpiece this year.  We managed to grab a side-bar with their dynamic CEO, Aruna Jayanthi, recently voted India’s third most powerful business woman by Fortune magazine, to talk a bit more about herself, her firm and her views on talent the future for India’s services economy…

Phil Fersht (CEO, HfS): Good afternoon, Aruna. Thanks for spending a bit of time with us today. Would you start by introducing yourself and how you got into this business?

Aruna  Jayanthi (CEO, Capgemini India): I started with Capgemini 15 years ago. I now run Capgemini India, and before that I ran global delivery for our outsourcing business. I was part of the core team that setup India, and when I joined there were 80 people in India. Today, we are a little over 55,000 (couldn’t say this then due to impending results announcements – will be good to mention the new headcount number as this is current view).

Phil: 55,000. That’s a large number!

Aruna: It is a large number. But in the end, it’s not only numbers that matter; what matters is the value you deliver to your customers.

Phil: Right… so would you talk a bit about your career progression and how you ended up leading the India business for Capgemini?

Aruna: It’s a strange story, because twice in my life I was tempted to get out of the industry and do something else, but somehow I got back in. I started my career with TCS, fresh out business school. Read More »


The 2015 Progressive F&A BPO Blueprint

Almost two years to the day since we launched our first Blueprint Report, we finally circle back to the core horizontal services function providing the fulcrum for BPO and shared services:  finance and accounting.  For our 20th Blueprint, authored by analysts Phil Fersht and Hema Santosh, we deliberately focused on the proven “progressive” skills, investments, domain acumen and as-a-service potential of the leading providers in finance and accounting service delivery.

In order to pull together the most comprehensive view of this market, we created importance weightings for the key categories of services innovation and execution, that were based on the opinions of 1109 services buyers, advisors and provider executions in our 2014 State of Outsourcing Study, conducted in conjunction with KPMG.  In addition, we conducted exhaustive interviews with more than 100 F&A service buyers, many of whom are members of the HfS Sourcing Executive Council.  We didn’t rely 100% on reference clients ponied up from the service providers themselves – this is the genuine, unvarnished view of how providers are performing today from the people experiencing their services:

HfS-Blueprint_Finance and Accounting-BPO_Axis

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So, Phil, what’s happening in the F&A space these days?  Is the market slowing down as BPO services commodotize?

Not at all, one of the reasons why people hear about F&A “slowing down” is the diminishing role of sourcing advisors on F&A deals (only 30% of competitive F&A deals in 2013-14 were advisor-led,  and 17% of sole-sourced used a advisor).  A third of the deals were also sole-sourced, and very, very few were publicly announced.  So the lack of “noise” causes people to incorrectly assume that activity in F&A is slowing down.  In addition, we saw a lot more mid-sized businesses take the plunge for the Read More »


Are sourcing advisors really the new analysts?

What are we becoming?

What are we becoming?

Each year, most of the service providers like to bring together their multifarious assortment of “influencers” to pitch their capabilities, reinforce their strategies and make sure their key executives have some sort of relationship with the key people in their space who talk to their clients.

Having been in and around the analyst and consultant community for the last 20 years, these gatherings were typically 90% attended by industry analysts, namely Gartner, Forrester, IDC et al and a few small boutiques, independents, bloggers etc who mattered to them.  Then, about five years ago, most the service providers had the bright idea of tacking on a handful of sourcing advisors who could also benefit from the same experience of being influenced.  All of a sudden, these events have become about 60% advisor, 40% analysts.  I think only Accenture and IBM are the only service providers left which actually separate the analysts from the advisors these days.

As a recent example of this, I had the privilege of attending Capgemini’s influencer day in an arctic Chicago last week.  And I was impressed at the line up of legends attending from the sourcing advisory world – characters like Peter Allen (Alvarez & Marsal), Harvey Gluckman (ISG), Kevin Parikh (Avasant), Chip Wagner (Alsbridge), Peter Bendor-Samuel (Everest), Tom Torlone (PwC) – all accompanied by teams from their advisory firms.  I have to hand it to Capgemini’s advisor relations team – no-one has ever assembled a gaggle of advisors together in one place quite like they managed.  I then popped into WNS’ influencer day in New York and a similar line up ensued there… with additional SWAT teams from KPMG and Deloitte adding to the festivities.

This change in dynamics is having the following impact on the way these service providers interact with their influencers:


Much better questioning from advisors.  It’s almost a relief to hear sensible, real-world questions from advisors during these sessions.  Long gone are those days when you’d get analysts piping in with their drawn-out abstract thought-patterns, which actually were never really supposed to be questions, more statements of how clever they were.

Advisors are much more social.  Most the advisors like to network – even with their competitors.  Always good to exchange views with (some) them over a glass of wine.  Most analysts just disappear to their hotel rooms at 8.30pm, never to resurface.

Advisors have more energy and passion.  Most of the advisors enjoy what they do – they are passionate about services and are hungry to learn more.  Most of the analysts have been doing this for decades, are clearly jaded and exhausted by these dog n’ pony shows, and are just going through the motions these days.


Advisors have become quasi-competitive with most service providers.  As the outsourcing service providers look to move further up the value-chain with their client engagements, they are essentially offering the same services as most the advisors.  All I hear from the leading advisory firms, today, are how they are running consulting practises in digital transformation, robotic process automation, CFO services, GBS etc. These ambitious advisors want service providers who are only really focused on the efficiency-driven services further down the value stack, so they can profit from the consultative and governance-driven services they can layer on to their clients’ outsourcing engagements.  However, the more complex clients’ needs are becoming, the blurrier the line is becoming between what service providers and advisors deliver.

Advisor “influence” is  much harder to track.  With analysts, the goal for service providers is simple:  dazzle them and hope they will write about them to their readerships and social followings.  Tracking their influence is easier when there is a tangible outcome, such as a piece of research or a blog post.  Most advisors won’t write anything – even with a gun to their heads. The service providers simply hope the advisors are moving them up their evaluation curves and pushing more deals their way.

Most advisors with deep client engagements do not have time for service provider days.  Having been on the advisor side myself, I can tell you that I never had the time to take entire days out to hobnob with service providers, unless I had a lucky week of break-time in between client engagements.  Most of the advisors who do have the time for these service provider influencer days are clearly the executive-level leaders not so ensconced with the day-to-day execution of advisory services. Hence, the service providers are hoping this bedazzling of the advisor leaders is somehow translating its way to the advisor deal teams doing the site visits, service provider selection sessions etc.

The Bottom-line:  The influencer model is clearly broken in the services industry – a new breed clearly needs to emerge that advises, analyzes AND influences

In short, the evolving confusion over advisor and analyst roles is a result of the lack of real influencers in the industry – experts who not only talk to buyers on a daily basis, but also share real insights and leverage data for them.  In today’s world, advisors and analysts are very different animals – and the winners will ultimately be the ones which can fuse together the two worlds.


The Infamous Sourcing Savants are back!

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Oh no! We’re back on your laptop screen this 26th March at 11.00am ET.

Yes, that sad little attempt by HfS to assemble a cacophony of industry advisor gurus onto one webinar platform just refuses to go away…

And we can see that you just can’t stay away from the entertainment either, so let’s just launch into our latest attempt to create a little bit o’ clarity to your confusing worklife.

Please join our latest suite of sourcing savants of sourcing soliloquy later this month as we violently argue (or agree) on the the following burning topics:

  • What are the burning platforms driving enterprises to make real changes to their IT and Operations infrastructures?
  • First we get hit with “Digital”, then “Robotics”, then “Artificial Intelligence”.  Is the dear lord of sourcing smoking something, or is there some real substance into what is happening in our industry?
  • Does this mean that our traditional outsourcing industry is dying?  Are enterprise clients really evolving this quickly to these As-a-Service models?
  • Is our talent keeping up with this As-a-Service revolution – across buyers, advisors and service providers?  And what can we do to retrain ourselves and our staff to get with the program?
  • So what does our future really look like is this new world into which we’re venturing, when we show up to work in our iCar and are served coffee by a robot?
Yes, we will really answer all those questions for you once and for all, or at least our esteemed panelists claim they will:

Click here to Register Your Spot on 26 March at 11.00am ET, 4.00pm BST 

We hope you can join us on March 26th!  And it’s free so what’s there to complain about..

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OneSource Virtual: Born in the RPA Cloud

OneSource VirtualThese are really exciting times for the services industry, where little upstart “Born in the Cloud” As-a-Service providers can sneak up on the traditional service providers and deliver pure cloud-based services in a model that was designed to be in the cloud.

And when you design services for pure cloud delivery, they have to be seamlessly automated at their very core. The services ethos is about enterprises operating smarter, not cheaper… and as a result will likely save a ton of money because they end up simply running more effectively.

One such irritant to the traditional services model is OneSource Virtual (OSV), which has built up a compelling business delivering business process service offering for clients around Workday’s HR and F&A SaaS platforms.  OneSource Virtual is an As-a-Service provider – there is no transition to becoming one, it was born as one with As-a-Service as it’s intended delivery. And when you consider one of OneSource’s clients is Uber, it just makes for one harmonious As-a-Service mash-up…

The exciting value OSV is bringing to the table is its services are focused on real business support areas, such as organizational design and workforce analytics, in addition to the transactional needs of clients in areas such as payroll fulfillment, or accounts payable. And this also creates exciting jobs for onshore staff who can apply more consultative, value-based capabilities to service their clients.  This is the As-a-Service Economy, where service jobs are becoming more challenging and interesting, where real business services are delivered on-tap and clients can access services designed to meet the needs of the modern business, not just some legacy back office designed on a mainframe cluster back in the late 1970s…

Anyways… while I’ve been getting obsessed with OneSource’s delivery model, our resident RPA uberlord, Charles Sutherland, dragged himself away from his painful conversations with clients about how to blow up the legacy model, to spend two hours in a dark room on a Friday afternoon being treated to a genuine “Born in the RPA Cloud” experience… over to you, Charles.

OneSource Virtual’s service delivery was built with RPA at its core

We’ll admit it. We didn’t see the robots for the trees. We’ve been so focused on how Robotic Process Automation is being implemented across legacy application environments, we missed how it is also being rolled out in “Born in the Cloud” business environments.

Last Friday (as Phil mentions), I spent time with the As-a-Service provider OSV, which has built business process service offerings around the Workday SaaS platform for HR and F&A. While it is true that Workday itself has automated many processes that require more manual intervention in other applications, OSV has gone taken this one step further.

With the development of its proprietary service delivery environment Atmosphere, built on force.com, OSV has created a platform for the extraction – and then automation of – recurring processes across their base of hundreds of clients.   This is a critical development, because together, with consistency in the code base of Workday across clients, the automation in Atmosphere allows OSV to establish very high levels of productivity in tasks where human agents are still required.

Especially compelling is that fact that OSV has not developed its Atmosphere and this model of shared automation after years of running individual silos of client delivery, as several other service providers are now trying to do. Instead, OSV was founded on this principal of shared automation from its inception.

In essence, this means that OSV is already operating at the highest Level of the HfS Maturity Model for Robotic Process Automation that we released in November 2014. This Level, “Institutionalization” describes a common theme of broad strategic commitment by a service provider to the transformational potential of RPA on their clients’ business and operations. Any service provider characterized by this Level is making a sizeable investment in RPA, with a view to creating a fundamental change in the commercial and delivery operations of their clients’ business operations.

Other service providers are striving to move aggressively into the Institutionalization Level, however, they are doing it by retrofitting RPA into their established business, as opposed to develop new client delivery environments with RPA at the core.

Net-net, it’s time to really get down and dirty with RPA as a core component of the service delivery platform – get ahead of this unstoppable trend as opposed always chasing it…

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Mike Sutcliff, Digitally Distinct

Mike Sutcliff is Group Chief Executive, Accenture Digital (Click for bio)

Two buzzwords have re-ignited the world of global services since “offshoring” became so passé… Digital and Automation.

And the two are inextricably linked – you can’t really digitize your business processes until you have effectively automated them.  And if your industry requires you to have that digital interface with your customers and suppliers to survive (and that pretty much includes all industries today), you’re pretty much done for, if you haven’t build that automated process layer as the foundation.  And if you need more evidence of this, please take some time to read our recent report on the impact of Digital on business services.

So surely this is the gravy train for ambitious service providers to jump to the needs of their clients to save the day?  Or is the business world changing so dramatically that this is simply going to be one insurmountable challenge too far for many enterprises, and they might as well give up now?

So let’s hear from the one service provider that dusted off the “Digital” terminology from the dictionary and reapplied it to the world of services.  We managed to get some face-time recently with Accenture’s Mike Sutcliff at his firm’s Global Shared Services Conference (GSSC) in Prague, to hear about how his group is developing its digital capabilities and applying them to the world of business operations and shared services…

Phil Fersht (CEO, HfS): Mike – Good to connect again! Tell us about your background. How did you come to lead the digital practice for Accenture?

Mike Sutcliff (Group Chief Executive, Accenture Digital): I’ve been at Accenture for 27 years. In the early 1990s, I founded the Finance Management Group which developed our shared services business. Then I got the opportunity to establish a new business. I became interested in analytics; I wanted to understand how analytics could bring more value to companies. I studied how enterprises created data as a mass that they then could leverage across the organization. I combined my Read More »