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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Time for outsourcing service providers to tone down the sales BS

And back to the reality of a freezing cold buyers’ discussion in Chicago last month…

Many enterprise service buyers have made it clear they’re happy they outsourced and admit they should give up more high value work to their providers. So what is holding them back? Why don’t they trust them enough?  Is it because they are simply too insecure to let go, or more because they worry their provider just spins them any old line to get more revenue out of them?  Let’s take a closer look at what annoys them the most about their service provider…

Yes indeed, folks, clients are fed up with being treated like ATMs.  Many (39%) are clearly caught in relationships where the only conversation they can get from their provider is centered on how they can pony up more dough. Whats more, a similar number (35%) still rankle at not receiving the delights they were promised during the courtship phase. Simply put, far too many service buyers feel they have been sold down the river and are getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of focus from their service provider on delivering value and quality.

This is why so many service buyers are holding back from taking their outsourcing relationships to a more intimate level with their service providers – they simply do not trust the intentions of their Read More »


Accenture, Cognizant, Wipro and Infosys are the marketing and digital customer experience services front runners

When it comes managing and enhancing a customer’s touchpoints with an organization, the impact of digital technologies is having a profound impact – not only on the customer experience, but also with the effectiveness of marketing to them.

BPO and operations these days is becoming a lot more focused around the consumer-led needs from enterprises, than merely managing back office processes effectively, which is why we’ve tasked HfS’ Reetika Joshi with spending time in a Blueprint laboratory for consumer-led operational services, in order to come up with an HfS Blueprint Report XVIII, entitled “Marketing Operations and Digital Customer Experience Management“:

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Reetika, How do you see this market evolving and what are the key drivers for marketing operations and digital customer experience management services?

In the emerging As-A-Service Economy, HfS Research sees an increased convergence of the consumer-oriented business functions of marketing, sales and customer care to serve the end customer. Organizations will do this through enabling technologies and innovative service frameworks that create new opportunities for collaboration and redefine the omni-channel Read More »


The Twelve Tenets of Trust

While we were all getting carried away with the As-a-Service Economy, where life and work will be completely digitized, robotized, on-demand, one-to-many, outcome-based – and all available on your mobile device – our Chicago Blueprint Sessions helped us dial back a bit to reality, where one core element is needed for enterprises to get through the next 12 months, let along the next 12 years:  Trust.

When we asked the service buyers to describe their service provider relationship, it immediately became clear that half of them are still “master/slave” in nature:

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So two of our finest analysts, Christa Degnan Manning and Barbra Sheridan McGann (that’s a lot of surnames…), decided to put pen to paper after the vigorous Chicago debates to encapsulate the key tenets both service buyers and providers need to think harder about, if they are all going to end up joining the elite 27% in the promised land of jointly-strategized and executed service behavior:

The Twelve Tenets of Trust

Tell the Trust

Stay Honest

Appoint an advocate

Organize appropriately

Get governance


Enable activism

Build a shared culture

Be responsive

Create transparency

Establish secondments

Consider audits

Barbra Sheridan McGann (left) and Christa Degnan Manning talk Trust. And Twelve Tenets of it (Click to download your free copy)

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The three dirtiest phrases in services

Here are three phrases that are today’s big no-nos:

1) Labor Costs.  These things are just the worst thing ever and have to be eliminated.  Who wants people anymore, when systems can talk to other systems, processes mimicked in drag-and-drop software apps and cognitive analytics can replicate those antiquated human brains. People cost money and need to be gone.

2) Transactional.  Oh my – all you do are transactional activities?  Can you please replace yourself right away with someone either lot cheaper or, even better, a piece of software?  How can you dare exist when you add no “value”?

3) Legacy.  Probably the worst insult anyone can use on any person, process or technology.  You’re done. Dated. Over.  Yesterday’s news.  Time to crawl away and cower somewhere on government handouts.


The raw truth about outsourcing: 83% of outsourcing customers would not go back, despite three-in-four failing to achieve value beyond cost

There is good news – and challenging news – for outsourcing buyers, service providers and advisors:  most enterprises are pleased they moved into an outsourcing model, but have recognized they need to make significant changes to the way they manage their service provider relationships, if they are to realize real value in the future.

Some service providers are going to become legacy, some will step up to meet the demands of the As-a-Service Economy, and there will be new arrivals in the future to disrupt the market, which may not even have been formed yet.

What is clear, is that two things are going to happen with most outsourcing relationships in the short-medium term: many existing service providers will be switched out, and contractual terms will need to change to reflect the evolving needs of the maturing enterprise buyer.

During the recent Chicago HfS Blueprint sessions, we asked the enterprise buyers to express how they viewed outsourcing service providers and the nature of their relationships.  As we revealed last week, a good number of buyers (43%) admit they should give up more high value work and responsibility to their providers,  but are struggling to let go because of the change and trust issues at play. However, when probed further, over four-fifths of service buyers would choose not to reverse their outsourcing decisions, and, instead, would make changes to their current contractual terms (44%) or simply look to change provider (33%):

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What this signifies, is that outsourcing is the start of a new way of working for enterprises, but does not provide all the answers in the early days – it sets the agenda for how they intend to operate in the future, where third-parties provide lower operational costs, increased scale and – hopefully – added capability. However, what is clear, in the initial phases of outsourcing, is that achieving lower cost and added scalability of resources are the real outcomes three quarters of service buyers actually expect:

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The Bottom-Line: It’s time to dial-back the rhetoric as most services buyers are still getting to grips with cost

We can bemoan for days the struggles so many outsourcing clients are going through trying to achieve value beyond cost, however, the happy reality of today’s outsourcing business, is that most services buyers are only expecting their service providers to be agents of cost-reduction and efficiency.

These expectations change as processes become more efficient and governance skills develop, which is when service providers will be held to task to bring new capabilities to the table, namely automation, analytical prowess and process reinvention, which we will reveal shortly.  However, for now the industry is – by and large – a reasonably happy place to be.  It’s the next phase of business transformation with will separate the wheat from the chaff… a phase we have already entered, even though many have not yet realized it.


Gianni Giacomelli… he lived in Delhi

Gianni Giacomelli is SVP, Product Innovation and CMO for Genpact (Click for Bio)

Did you hear the one about the Italian process wonk who gave up his E-Class Benz, his job-for-life at SAP and his Frankfurt home to uproot his family to spend a year in Delhi devising strategy for an India-heritage BPO provider which, at the time, was barely out of its start-up phase?  Yes, that actually happened.

I have known Gianni Giacomelli well for 10 years now, and have always described him as a misplaced analyst foraging a career on the sell-side – always one of the smartest guys to talk strategy, and great fun to bring to our HfS summits to face the fury of the buyers. Gianni today has found himself as product innovation and marketing lead for the largest business process services pureplay of all, Genpact, and moved his family from Delhi to the confines of Westchester County, New York.

So without further ado, let’s find out what’s going to happen in the world of business process operations..

Phil Fersht, CEO, HfS Research:  Good afternoon, Gianni – it’s great to get some time with you today.  I think we last featured you on HFS (see post) about maybe seven or eight years ago right at the beginning of the blog.  So it’s nice to circle back after all this time and hear from you again.  You have had a pretty colorful career in the services and software industries, so maybe you could just take us through some of the highlights.. and how you ended up doing what you’re doing today.

Gianni Giacomelli, SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Genpact:  Yeah, thanks Phil, and it’s especially good to see how you guys have evolved as well.  I mean seven years ago, certainly a bunch of talented people – you never have thought that you would end up disrupting the analyst model so it’s good to have seen you growing like that.

I would actually like to make a parallel.  I mean, you guys have grown and I think it takes perseverance and a lot of work but then it also takes innovation and agility – this stuff takes you, careers take you to an unexpected place.  Frankly, I never would have expected starting 25 years ago working in consumer products marketing and analytics then in consulting for BCG and so forth and ending up in SAP, product innovation in a business services companies.  I guess it’s a little bit of a hallmark of our times, right?  You don’t quite know where you are going to end up being.  I think all that matters is the diversity and what you call colorfully diverse.  Because when you have diversity, you actually see things from different perspectives and you end up in places that you wouldn’t know but there is a logic, there is portability and I do think that is the crux of what I’ve Read More »

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Why we need to stop boring ourselves to death and focus on what really matters: building TRUST

Suddenly, everyone is a bloody analyst.  I must get at least five posts a day from a completely random selection of individuals attempting to educate me on how robotic automation, digital technology, IoT, big data and outcome-based pricing are going to be the biggest game changers to disrupt the business world since the invention of the desk.

Suddenly, there’s going to be minimal need for human labor anymore, so we’ll just sit at home all day running our lives from our mobiles devices sequencing our own genomes using some cool analytics app that we only need to pay for once we’ve added 10 years’ to our life expectancy. Somebody please shoot me now… let’s dial this dialog back to reality for a few minutes.

During our Blueprint Sessions in a very, very chilly Chicago this week, we started with the vintage discussion, “How can we re-set these stale services relationships to drive more value beyond labor arbitrage and standard operational delivery”. Yes, the old chestnut conversation has to take place, just incase there has been a dramatic, unexpected shift in these relationships in the last six months. But, alas, as per usual, most service buyers in the room were still pacing the treadmill of operational ordinariness with little clue how to move the needle.

So we asked them one very simple question:

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Oh my god.  After all the whining about things like, “All they do is sell to us”, and “All that cool stuff they promised us during the sales process and never delivered”… the real reason behind this stagnation is the simple fact that most buyers are just struggling to let go!

So there we have it, folks.  Rather than spend another minute reading the latest riveting diatribe about how “big data is about mining meaningful insights”, let’s focus on the real issue at hand here: TRUST.  Why do 43% of buyers today admit they need to give up more high value work to their service providers to drive value into their relationships?  Quite simply, this is an admission from buyers that they are scared of change – they worry that giving up control to a third party will minimize their own value, and their provider simply does not make them feel comfortable enough to take more of a risk.

The Bottom-line: The biggest disruptive trend on the horizon is TRUST

The solution, then, is simple:  service providers need to earn that trust – and prove they can enhance the value of their clients’ governance teams by taking on higher value work from them.  This means many need to change behaviour… the overselling needs to stop and the demonstration of real value needs to start.  Service providers need to take a long, hard look at the personalties of their account managers to make sure they are providing consultative value to their clients.  Service buyers do not “let go” until they know they have a safe pair of hands to trust with their beloved processes… so let’s refocus on the one real business value item that matters:  TRUST.


And what happens when you cram advisors and buyers on a stage?

Scenes from the HfS Blueprint Sessions in Chicago

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So what happens when you cram 9 service provider leaders together on a stage for an hour?

Scenes from the HfS Blueprint Sessions in Chicago

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Did you get with the As-A-Service program in Chicago?

For the last decade, and longer, we’ve been debating and bemoaning how we can encourage services relationship to drive better collaboration, better automation, better talent development, throw off better data… and shift us away from a labor-based model that will not survive the test of time.  Next week, in Chicago, we will stare at that wall we’ve hit, and collectively figure out how to jump over it.  So without further ado, pop in your headphones, turn up the volume and enjoy!


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The Evolving Maturity of Robotic Process Automation

Is it possible to make it through a single day with the word “robotic” being uttered somewhere?

Indeed it is not, ever since HfS Research first began covering the emergence of the new technologies in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) back in 2012.   Since then, we have seen RPA take off and become one of the dominant topics in the BPO and IT services market (read more here).  RPA is now on the strategic agenda of every service provider, third party advisor and increasingly on the minds of enterprise buyers as well.

But, until now, there wasn’t a way to contrast how different service providers in particular were both thinking about and acting on the opportunity created by the emergence of these new RPA tools.  Instead, every activity by a service provider seemed unique and it was hard to get a picture in anyone place as to how mature this capability was and how central it might be to the future operating model of the BPO service providers.

So, after dozens of interviews with service providers over the last several months, we have created the HfS RPA Maturity Model based around 10 Elements and 3 Levels that define what it means to have a mature strategy and delivery capability for RPA in today’s marketplace.    The HfS RPA Maturity Model is a useful way for enterprise buyers, third party advisors and service providers to guide conversations within the BPO and IT services ecosystem about RPA and to assess where an individual service provider sits with regards to the maturity of its RPA strategy and program.

The 10 Elements of the HfS RPA Maturity Model include:

  1. Primary Goal of RPA. What does the service provider want to achieve through their RPA program, is it skills augmentation or labor cost reduction for example?
  2. RPA Program Owner. Who owns the RPA program within the service provider’s organization?
  3. Vision of Deployed RPA. How sophisticated a vision does a service provider have for how the Read More »


Is your Service Provider genuinely investing in As-a-Service Capabilities?

Yes, we’ve bemoaned the stubbornness of some service providers, which are protecting the profitability and predictability of their labor arbitrage businesses, and laid out the key tenets of the emerging As-a-Service Economy.  So what steps can we now take to figure out who’s on the As-a-Service train, and who’s just pretending to be?

Click here to access the new POV "Does Your Service Provider Have A Winning Investment Strategy for the As-A-Service Economy?" by analysts Charles Sutherland, Barbra Sheridan McGann and Phil Fersht

In the As-a-Service Economy, the service provider will not be a stand-alone entity; the cost of doing business this way is simply too high. The partnership ecosystem of how technology vendors and service providers forge workable alliances over the long term, with effective investment practices and product management, will be a key factor in having a portfolio of As-a-Service options that are flexible, scalable, and in tune with these evolving times.

But how can buyers really see past the pretty PowerPoint and claims of future value?  

Simple: Here are nine key questions that can quickly clarity what’s really going on behind the scenes, when it comes to service providers making the financial commitments needed to be effective in the emerging As-a-Service Economy.  Find answers to these and you’ll have a much more realistic picture of where a service provider’s future direction is heading:

1) Is this As-a-Service platform, or new capability, funded year-to-year, or with a multi-year commitment, including CAPEX?

2) How is the first (or first few) client(s) of your As-a-Service platform being charged – and do they Read More »


Why some service providers are grimly clinging onto the labor-arbitrage model

As I was finalizing client interviews for our forthcoming Blueprint on “Progressive F&A Services”, my overwhelming conclusion is how unprogressive many of today’s BPO relationships still are.

To epitomize our findings, to quote one major enterprise client, “We worked really hard to move onto a transactional pricing model with our service provider – and they worked with us to achieve that outcome.  However, once the service provider started taking a drop in revenues from us they insisted on moving back to the FTE-based set up.”

Now re-read that quote one more time – what does that tell you?  Yes, people, some of today’s service providers depend on the legacy effort-based labor model to keep their revenue numbers up.  Having their clients shift to more fluid volume-based models is costing them money, and they don’t like it. What’s more disturbing here, is the fact that the profitability generated by the service provider is through the margins on selling the labor, not the margins on selling the services.  Changing the legacy model does not sit well with some service providers, as pricing by FTE Read More »


If anyone can, Barbra McGann can…

You may have seen, earlier today, we announced a couple of very exciting analyst additions to the HfS teams in the US and UK this week.  So let’s start with one very talented individual who plies her knowledge trade just outside of the city of Chicago… Barbra McGann Sheridan.

Barbra Sheridan McGann joins HfS as Senior Vice President, Research

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

As the saying goes, my parents wondered what I would do with my Bachelor’s Degree in English if I didn’t want to teach… it would have been so much more practical to stick with Engineering. And yet, what I’ve learned over the [many] years is that the skills I developed in earning that degree, and since, have helped move me into this direction… listening, researching, analyzing, distilling down issues, ideas, and problems, and finding ways to communicate messages to different audiences with different interests.

Why did you choose to join HfS… and why now?

There is a lot of energy and forward thinking at HfS, grounded in practical realism and surrounded by a depth of knowledge and experience. At the heart of HfS is the ability to communicate a point, challenge the status quo, generate a conversation, and collaborate with a client to dive into a challenge and drive a desired result. I’m looking forward to both participating in the BPO to business process ‘as a service’ Read More »

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Why Cloud-centric services are critical to the survival of service providers in today’s As-a-Service Economy

In today’s worlds of services and software, all roads these days are leading directly into the Cloud. Last month alone, SAP announced it was spending a jaw-dropping $8.3 billion on an aging SaaS platform and Larry Ellison used the majority of his opening keynote at Oracle’s annual end-user conference to lay out his own vision for the Cloud. The very next day, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, focused on the opportunity in a public appearance as well.

“So tell us something new” We hear you cry

Indeed… why, suddenly, is all the attention on a technology trend that has been emerging for years (and remember that 2010 study)?  Because we have now reached the tipping point where Cloud-centric delivery is the only true direction providers can take, if they want to be around in another Read More »

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Murphy’s BPO Law

The more time I spend with some of the top services account leads for providers, the more impressed I become with how some of them manage incredibly complex client relationships, which only seem to be getting even more complex in today’s climes.

Carole Murphy is Capgemini's Head of BPO Business Transformation Services

The good account managers literally have to know everything about their clients, from their quirky custom built systems, their internal politics, their process flows, their changing directives from leadership, and so on. And when you get into BPO, it’s not like consulting where you can parachute into clients, devise impressive roadmaps for them to follow and make a hasty exit before the real work begins. Nope – in BPO you need to craft the game-plan and handhold your client through the quagmire for many years to come. As someone one told me, “you’ve got to eat what you kill”…

One person who lives and breathes these complex client transformations is Capgemini’s Carole Murphy, who today heads up the firm’s BPO transformation services. When we managed to drag her away from her reserved seat at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium  (a team which can certainly benefit from her transformation skills), we managed to pose some questions on where this BPO business is heading and what she’s experiencing with her clients…

Phil Fersht, HfS: Carole, it’s great to have you on our interview docket today. You’ve been in the BPO industry for quite some years now and are very hands-on with several clients I know. Would you give us a little more color on your background and how you’ve found yourself so involved int he BPO industry?

Carole Murphy, Capgemini: Like many of us in Capgemini BPO, I started off as an accountant. I worked for British Steel and for Kraft Foods, and in about 1996 I joined what was then Ernst & Young Consulting because I was really interested in finance and accounting and transformation. Finance transformation has been the core of my career since then. Five or six years ago I started exploring how we could use Capgemini BPO’s assets to best help our clients to transform, delving deeply into how transformation really works and how we could bring more impactful transformation to our clients. As time went on, I got increasingly interested in how BPO delivers the promise of transformation. I think there’s something quite exciting about the BPO industry in that you’re able to help clients not only make transformation happen, but also sustain that transformation because it’s part of what we do every day.

Phil: We’ve had countless discussions over the years about how clients can achieve operational results with BPO and meeting their core performance metrics. Suddenly, many buyers we speak with expect transformation, and if a provider can’t bring that to the table, it’s not going to last very long. Do you feel that client expectations are a lot higher than they were three or four years ago?

Carole: I’m finding it surprising that some clients’ expectations of what a BPO can deliver is still limited to the simple lift and shift, or just transactional activities, or the impression that ‘surely the Read More »


Deconstructing your manual BPO activities for the As-a-Service Economy

With the increasing momentum of Robotic Process Automation and comprehensive business platforms solutions in BPO, it seems like a good time to step back and take a look at what really occurs “under the covers” of most BPO delivery.  Let’s hear what HfS’ Charles Sutherland has to say about deconstructing those “human” elements of processing work – and how they will evolve with all the technology-enablement underway…

HfS' Charles Sutherland (pictured right) and Tom Ivory deconstruct BPO in a Dallas parking lot

When you get right down to it, BPO isn’t all that complex and, regardless of whether it is a horizontal or industry vertical based process solution, there are only a few basic components that are used to construct a solution.   Understanding this will be critical to making BPO work in the new “As-a-Service Economy”.

Architecting a BPO solution is not all that different from being a writer of a comedy movie, whether that writer happens to be based in Hollywood, London, Paris or Mumbai.  If you watch closely, most comedies are based on the interweaving of a few recurring plots involving the key cast members.   These might include:

  • Mistaken identity (in all forms)
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend that got away returns to town
  • A couple works together for the first time
  • Eccentric in-laws come for a visit
  • Friends feel that someone is hiding something and decide to investigate
  • A family vacation
  • Dad gives horrible advice to son/daughter about dating/relationships
  • A protagonist suffers accidental memory loss
  • Competition for a prize
  • Unexpected arrival of a windfall of $
  • A surprise party/birthday/pregnancy
  • Accidental ingestion of a mind-altering substance

The only difference, therefore, between most generic comedies, whether they involve Kate Hudson, Read More »