Welcome to the age of Digital cruelty, where two-thirds of operational jobs are under threat

Has anyone noticed a much harsher mentality towards “labor” these days?  I can recall presenting at an HR Outsourcing conference in 2004 where there was a large gathering of anti-globalization protestors outside the hotel bearing placards and shouting obscenities are us through the window.

“Outsourcing” was a truly dirty word, and shame on any callous corporate executives for instigating the use of low cost foreign labor to substitute their own. Even poor old Mitt Romney was associated with evil “outsourcing” practices during his corporate days at Bain Capital, which hurt his (unsuccessful) attempt to become elected US president.

But all of a sudden, noone really seems to care about protecting jobs anymore – if people are just performing “transactional” tasks, for chrissakes automate them quickly, or buy a SaaS platform to get rid of the unnecessary waste. Where are the demonstrators outside of SAP headquarters in Waldorf, or Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores as these firms desperately try to convince the world they are cloudifying their products so their clients can start to do away with some of those unnecessary jobs on-premise software provides.

And what about that evil Workday, which only provides cloud-based software and enables its clients to do away with HR admin people making a living cobbling together archaic hire-to-retire processes? And where are the tears shed for all those lovely marketing admins who used to earn a crust managing customer databases… their jobs literally obliterated by Salesforce.com?  Not to mention those jovial IT maintenance people no longer needed to support crappy old email systems now their companies have started using Google apps or Office365…

Why did companies get such terrible rep for using lower cost overseas labor, but get a completely free PR pass when it comes to eliminating positions altogether through better technology?  At least they were providing jobs somewhere…

Job protectionism really has left the building 

In all seriousness, organizations are already democratizing their decisions to do IT outsourcing and BPO and, instead, looking at ways simply to erase labor altogether (see earlier). If you only outsource your labor to a provider, you’re likely going to be stuck with it for some considerable time – just at a lower price point. You’ve simply passed on your labor costs to someone else to manage for you – more efficiently and cheaply. And once it’s been outsourced, it’s not as easy to eliminate those passed-on labor costs – you have to convince your provider to replace the labor with better Read More »


The 2014 Talent Acquisition Services Blueprint: Which providers are delivering in today’s Digitally-challenged marketplace?

The world of work has become a very, very different place in just a few short years. Today’s workers need to adapt, develop and promote their skills to make themselves attractive in today’s Digital economy – and savvy employers need to try harder than ever to ensure they are finding staff who can do more than simply transact – they increasingly want people who can think, create, analyze, collaborate and sell; people who are embracing today’s technology to create value to their organization. Ambitious employers want talented workers which can align themselves with where they want their businesses to go, not with the legacy environment from where they are trying to evolve.

So what better strategy to adopt than hire a service provider to take care of this talent headache for you?  Surely it’s time to explain to your HR department that fishing through resumes on LinkedIn is unlikely going to net you the best people?  Surely it’s time to partner with a recruiting expert that can quickly understand your business, the talent you need, and how to go out into today’s people marketplace to find it?

So we tasked our global workforce and talent expert, Christa Degnan Manning, to assess those services providers helping organizations fill their open positions. The Talent Acquisition Services Blueprint is the second in a series of HfS Workforce Support Services Blueprints reexamining and redefining how organizations are creating operating models and solution portfolios to support today’s workforces. And here is how the providers today shake out, after Christa had put them through the HfS Blueprint mincer:

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So Christa, what exactly are Talent Acquisition Service providers and how do they fit in with the overall research you are doing?

A key principle of my Workforce Support Services research approach is that the traditional HR “hire to retire” process-driven solution approach is completely obsolete in the modern workplace. We can see from the Power to the People research few people are actually planning to stay with their current firm until retirement, and they are struggling to focus on the right work to stay engaged and be productive.

So companies have to think differently about how they identify the right workers, support them in their collaboration and development on a day to day basis, and recognize and reward them in more meaningful ways. The first Blueprint we did was on Rewards, Remuneration and Recognition services, earlier in 2014 which took a new look at global payroll, benefits, and employee contact Read More »

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What’s the real impact of Digital Technologies on Outsourcing and Shared Services?

Digital, Digital everywhere and no time to stop and think?

The business world is fundamentally shifting, but do our organizations really need to reinvent their operating models to stay ahead of the curve? Well worry your brain no longer, as we roll out the definitive research study on said topic to understand how today’s enterprise buyers, advisors and providers are approaching Digital Transformation, the current and future expected impact, the technology and business skills that we all need to get the most out of these technologies  - and how this changes the game for outsourcing, shared services and global business services strategies.

Please take 15 minutes of your time to complete the study and we will send you an executive report of the findings – and you can enter our prize draw for a Nexus 10:

As always, we sincerely appreciate your time investment to contribute to our research,

Digitally Yours,

The HfS Research team

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Eugene eulogizes about managed governance services

Eugene Kublanov, Managing Director for KPMG's Managed Governance Services

Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to interview many of the key characters who have helped develop and shape the global services industry as we know it today.

And one gentleman who has quietly spent many, many hours in executive boardrooms all over the world helping craft some extremely complex – and sometimes very simple – global services management strategies, is the great bald eagle of sourcing himself, Eugene Kublanov.

And when Eugene hasn’t managed to get his family lost somewhere in the wilds of his adopted Arkansas or coaching , he is busily growing and developing one of the industries’ first platform-based managed governance services solutions at KPMG.  So, in a long overdue interview, we a delighted to have Eugene with us today to give us his own story…

Phil Fersht, CEO, HfS Research: Good afternoon, Eugene, and thank you very much for taking the time with us today. I think we first met seven or eight years ago, and I seem to remember that you were running a lot of outsourcing engagements and offshoring localization work. Can you talk a bit about your background and how you got into this business?

Eugene Kublanov, Managing Director, Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory, KPMG: Sure, Phil. Thank you; I appreciate the opportunity to catch up. I started in the outsourcing advisory business in 1999, and that was really through a combination of circumstance and accident. I had spent the early part of my career at a consulting firm advising clients on market entry strategies for the former Soviet Union, living and working in Russia for a good bit of the ’90s.

Then in 1998, when things sort of came crashing down in that part of the world, I went back to Read More »

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Cognizant, Sitel and TCS rock the retail operations Winner’s Circle

No industry has been, is currently – and will continue to be – so wholly and fundamentally disrupted by impact of Digital Technologies than retail. And how can retailers survive and prosper in this post-Amazonization world where good ol’ firms like Radioshack and Brookstone are on life-support? How can they constantly stay ahead in an environment where the channels to market are forever blurring, the places to market and advertise are increasingly complex to understand and target, and the supply chain strains to respond to increasingly unpredictable demand signals from ecommerce and social media, in addition to traditional retail channels.  Staying ahead of the retail curve is harder than ever, but the rewards are also potentially much greater for those which uncover new market channels and make sense of the proliferation of available data.  In order to extract some sense from this intricate market, HfS analyst Reetika Joshi set about developing a Blueprint analysis on the space…

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Reetika, how did this market evolve and what is driving buyer interest in Retail Operations today?

The retail operations marketplace has evolved over the last decade in an opportunistic manner. Buyer demand has primarily addressed traditional IT services and horizontal BPO needs (including customer service, finance & accounting and human resources outsourcing). In the last five years, buyers and service providers have also started to venture into outsourcing retail-unique processes to a limited extent. These include service support for areas such as storefront operations, merchandizing and replenishment, ecommerce channel support (content, web development and Read More »

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Great to see Gartner adopting our HfS Blueprints!

We woke up this morning to a wonderful endorsement from the mighty Gartner for all the hard work the HfS team has been putting into developing our HfS Blueprints over the last couple of years, when we proudly launched our revolutionary HfS Blueprint crowdsourced methodology for evaluating business and IT service providers.  Yes indeed folks – Gartner has announced it is doing its own “Blueprints research”!

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Since we released the first Blueprint Report almost 18 months’ ago, the HfS Blueprint has become one of the industry’s best known and most popular methodologies for assessing provider capability and competitive market landscapes, with fourteen Blueprint reports now published (you can view all the HfS Blueprint highlights here).  Enterprise buyers have used the Blueprint Reports exhaustively as an assessment guide for their provider portfolio management, and many advisors rely on it to sanitize their own provider selection processes with their clients.

So does this mean Gartner will take onboard the key tenets of the HfS methodology, in addition to leveraging the broad community data we gather from 1000′s of industry constituents, when it develops its own “Blueprints”?  Let’s recap how we develop and execute on the HfS Blueprint methodology – and you can make up your own mind whether you think Gartner will deviate away from its Magic Quadrant process for assessing tech suppliers:

The Tenets and Objectives of the HfS Blueprint:

  • To assess services providers without being reliant on the arbitrary viewpoint of a single analyst;
  • Provide a credible methodology (see here) to gauge the performance of service providers against “real” innovation and execution capabilities;
  • Deliver a performance assessment of providers that apportions importance weightings of each innovation and execution category based on data from our annual State of Outsourcing Survey, conducted with the support of KPMG, covering 1200 enterprise buyers, influencers, advisors and provider executives each year;
  • Evaluate performance assessments of providers where exhaustive inputs from buyers and influencers shape the scoring (not solely a handful of rose-tinted client references that the providers served up themselves);
  • Enable a customizable assessment tool where enterprise buyers re-calibrate the weightings to assess their provider-fit based on their own unique needs.

Good luck Gartner – we can’t wait to see these new Blueprints of yours’ hit the market!

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Yes, it’s true… one in three Apple engineers is really Indian

We have heard a lot about Apple’s manufacturing outsourcing, where the firm has ~500,000 people subcontracted via Foxconn in China to crank out its iPhones, but very little about its IT outsourcing habits.

So… does Apple also leverage large scale IT outsourcing? If answer is yes, then what kind of IT outsourcing is done by Apple, and how it has been changing with time?

With these questions in mind, our ever-curious India-based analyst (note: also keen novelist now seemingly developing a penchant for investigative journalism), Pareekh Jain, started studying Apple’s IT outsourcing initiatives, and the results surprised us: Apple doesn’t outsource its core software technologies that go into its products, but it does outsource Enterprise Applications, Business Intelligence, ADM and other software initiatives to a combination of TCS, Infosys, Wipro, TechMahindra and Exilant (which we know of). Quite simply, as Apple is growing, so is the scope of its Indian-centric IT outsourcing to support it’s ever-increasing needs.

Another related aspect that cropped up during Pareekh’s research, is the increasing use of global engineering talent by Apple. According to our estimates, Apple leverages Indian engineering talent heavily as indicated from its sizable H1B and GreenCard applications.

We shared our research findings with Times Of India (The World’s largest English daily newspaper), which went as far as a story on this interesting little topic on today’s front page.

We’ll be sharing our research report on Apple’s outsourcing  strategy with our readers shortly….


The Digital Transformation Services Blueprint Primer is unveiled: Accenture, Cognizant, IBM, Infosys and TCS are the front runners

2014 has shaped up to be the year Digital Transformation took root as a unifying theme for IT and business services. What’s been exciting about Digital is much of the technology is already available, and it’s the digitization of business processes to enable plug-and-play services, more meaningful data and more seamless business models designed for mobile and cloud business environments.

Digital is not really about digitizing the way we’ve always done things, it’s about digitizing the way things need to be done to be more competitive and effective in the future. Digital is also about progressing our talent to operate with digital mindsets, by adopting analytical, creative approaches to help their enterprises progress from creaking, legacy business practices.

Nearly every major IT and business services provider is now using the term Digital in its go-to-market messaging today. But that level of activity and interest means the phrase has taken on an extraordinary breadth of meaning. So much so, perhaps, that one might argue it is becoming increasingly meaningless as a descriptor of activity.

HfS’ Ned May recently set out to clarify our definition of Digital Transformation and to explore the positioning of the leading IT and business services providers in the today. Rather than narrowly define and coral the topic, he cast a wide net with the goal of highlighting the full range of activity currently underway. His rationale for this approach being that Digital Transformation does not merely represent a new external market opportunity for service providers, but it is also a major catalyst to reconfigure the very markets in which they are operating.

To this end, we have published what we are calling a Blueprint Primer Report that evaluates this emerging Digital Transformation services landscape, the significant participants and their early positioning and achievements as they vie to take many of their clients into this digital dimension of service delivery and capability.  So how did the early front runners shake out?

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Ned, let’s start with what you mean by Digital Transformation. Can you elaborate?

Thanks, Phil. As you are aware, it can mean many things but in its purest sense we see Digital Transformation as the changes that must occur when a business moves away from a physical task. For example, the shifts that occur in underlying processes and infrastructure when one sells goods Read More »


Accenture makes significant As-a-Service play by bringing together Operations, Cloud and Infrastructure

It’s time to wake up and smell the roses, people. The services industry is going through its most seismic challenge as increasingly sophisticated enterprise clients are looking to reduce their reliance on labor-based services and clunking archaic on-premise technology.  While some services and consulting firms have their heads buried in the sand, clearly in denial that the services model has already entered into a fundamental shift, others are recognizing that they need to get ahead of this – and fast.

The services industry is going through a secular change and it will never be like it was, where trillions of dollars were spent maintaining dysfunctional systems and funding huge armies of staff to fumble their way through managing non-standard and often obsolete processes. Those days are fading fast and that pie is shrinking for providers and consultants still feeding off the legacy enterprise operations beast.

We ran a study earlier this year that explored the role of technology when enterprises outsource their business operations, and the findings from almost 200 major enterprises couldn’t be clearer: half of today’s enterprises are expecting to take the leap to enable their business operations with new technology tools and platforms in barely a two-year time-frame.

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Operations leaders don’t have the luxury of ten-year improvement programs anymore – corporate leadership expects to see tangible results in much shorter timeframes. You only have to look at the growing number of unemployed CIOs to understand what happens when functions become overly-operational and limited value and innovation is achieved.

It’s the same for CFOs, CPOs, supply chain heads and other function leaders – most are under a renewed pressure to continue driving out costs, while delivering ongoing improvements to data quality and having greater alignment with front-office activities.  The old “we need to fix our ERP first” excuse just isn’t cutting it as much these days.

This is why 49% of today’s enterprise buyers expect to move to a “wide-scale transformation of Read More »


Apple goes all corporate on us

Ned May, SVP Enterprise Mobility and Digital Services Research, HfS

Remember the days when standard corporate issue to enterprise staff was the monster-sized Dell laptop that only seemed to be made for the mass-market corporate crowd and needed a huge ugly Targus case to lug it around…  and a low-end Blackberry, where the only redeeming feature was brickbreaker that could keep your brain amused for hours on those middle seats at the back of coach?

In fact, it was for these very reasons that executives slowly came around to realizing that the only cool technology they could get access to would come from their own personal investments, which is how Apple crept into the executive suite. Apple was just so anti-enterprise; YOU were in control and YOU could develop you whole digital persona using your iPad and iPhone.

There have been some insightful pieces penned on the landmark IBM/Apple alliance signed this week – notably from Larry Dignan and Peter Allen that go into the far-reaching potential consequences of this deal, notably the potential of providing iOS apps and embedded analytics tools to enterprises and disrupting traditional services models, potentially not too different from Workday’s impact on HR.

However, I wanted to draw your attention to HfS’ enterprise mobility analyst, Ned May, who focused on the simple fact that this alliance finally gets Apple into the enterprise through the front door…

“Apple has never understood the enterprise very well. While it has attempted to become ‘more friendly’ over the years and extended a few fig leafs in the terms of iOS updates that address enterprise grade concerns like security, Apple’s success in the enterprise has mostly been driven by its success as a consumer device. It has largely entered the enterprise through the front door in an executive’s purse or pocket not via a box on the loading dock that was backed up to IT. Further, Apple has been notoriously difficult to work with often to the frustration of a CIO. In short, while Apple’s support might be “legendary” it has not been the type of story that ends with someone riding off into the sunset. Which brings us back to the impetus behind this deal. At its core, it is about Apple realizing it will never understand the enterprise and that there is no better partner to get them over that challenge than IBM.

“In exchange, IBM gets to offer a message of safety to anxious IT departments who nervously watched iOS devices sweep into their formerly locked down playgrounds and ultimately opened them up to the chaos known as BYOD. As we pointed out in our Enterprise Mobility Services Blueprint (see link), the market is now reaching a stage of maturity where IT departments are being asked to rationalize the disparate mobile activities underway around the enterprise. As they do, many are looking to apply their traditional approaches to managing the challenges these new environments brings.”

Click here to access the full complimentary POV “The Day Apple’s Enterprise Strategy Came in from the Cold” 

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Capgemini, Accenture, HAVI and Entercoms make up the first-ever Winner’s Circle for Supply Chain BPO

When we look at the future potential of BPO, one of the markets with the most untapped potential is that of supply chain services, which could be as large as $300 Billion in annual expenditure when today’s emerging offerings really begin to mature, and an increasing number of buyers have to tap into third party technology and services specialization.

When you think about the scope of this space, we’re talking about the management of orders, inventory, manufacturing and transport to get products to market, and then the whole additional services tied to after market needs, master data management and sustainability management:

The need for supply chain process, domain and analytics expertise, supported by the necessary technology tools platforms – at a global scale and depth – has never been as intense it today’s buoyant and globalized market place, where decisions needs to made faster than ever to keep many companies in business.  So HfS analysts Pareekh Jain and Charles Sutherland set about the analyst industry’s first-ever attempt to flesh out the leading providers in this market with the 2014 Blueprint Report in Supply Chain Management BPO Services:

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So, Charles and Pareekh, what is driving buyer interest in Supply Chain Management BPO today?

For most enterprises the costs of goods sold is the vast majority of their income statement and the with SG&A having in many cases being squeezed extensively over the last decade they are looking for new ways to both reduce COGS but also to improve performance of their supply chains as well. As the world continues to globalize and both suppliers and customers become more distributed and Read More »

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Sometimes the best strategies are the most obvious…

This was an actual bank robbery in Detroit…

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Isn’t it time individuals stopped pretending they’re companies?

Buy my stuff!

One of the trends we’ve been seeing with the proliferation of independent analysts, bloggers, consultants, journalists and other pundits, is for many of these characters to launch their own “firms”, when the product is, really, just them.  Or them and a few freelancers they could tack on to their website to make them look like an actual company of people.

Now, if an individual was actually planning to grow a company over time – and genuinely adding real staff which does more than organize their mailshots, calendar or spell-check their reports, they can be forgiven, however, there are far too many people out there masquerading as company CEOs Read More »


Steps the outsourcing industry needs to take to survive

Outsourcing: Making the same mistakes over and over and expecting people to stop moaning

One of the the core issues we discussed at last week’s Blueprint Sessions was the frustrating and seemingly never-ending issue of providers over-promising delights to clients to win engagements and then failing to deliver on them.  However, the group of 45 industry stakeholders all agreed that all of the entities are at fault in setting up too many of these engagements to fail:

Buyers:  Thinking that they are going to get wads of free transformational consulting that will miraculously appear from the provider – even thought they haven’t actually paid for any;

Providers:  Promising wads of free transformation consulting to augment their operational obligations, even though they probably will not really give the client any (but who cares, as it’ll be too late for the client to back out in two years’ time and they aren’t contractually obliged to provide it);

Advisors:  Strong-arming providers to respond to RFPs in three weeks and allowing very little (if any) interaction time for providers to interact with their clients in advance to develop the right solution and get a stronger balance between delivery capability and desired outcomes.

So what happens when you look at a culmination of many buyers’ first five years’ experiences after signing a contract?  Let’s take a look at some collective journeys:

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Four steps this industry needs to take to avoid engagement failure in the future

1) Less focus on the deal, more on the relationship. Providers are all-too-frequently being forced in the position of saying what they need to win the deal, as opposed to having a  structure to propose a realistic partnership that works for both sides, with specific milestones and balanced delivery expectations.

Possible Solutions: Advisors need to create a more collaborative RFP process that allows for more interaction between the buyer and interested providers. Advisors also need to set better expectations for their clients and potentially get their governance consultants involved earlier in the Read More »


The new table-stakes: Fixing the Analog Present for a Digital Future

As we digest the incredible dialog from the HfS Cambridge University blueprint summit this week, the overwhelming mood from enterprises is one of frustration to get beyond this tactical status quo of legacy operations, in which so many find themselves wedged.

And most services providers aren’t going to come to the table with the technology and talent until their customers clearly dictate and demand what they need to cross this chasm. And those providers which simply do not have the Digital capabilities their clients demand to address these gaps, run the risk of being relegated to the class of legacy staff augmentation provider that performs only the low-value grunt work, or  ditched from many client provider rosters altogether.  And this is already happening with some ambitious determined clients.

When we surveyed 312 enterprise buyers on their two-year expectations from their current outsourcing relationships, it becomes abundantly clear that those desired business outcomes from yesterday’s outsourcing era have quickly become today’s table-stakes:

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Clients are rapidly losing patience with services providers that aren’t working proactively with them to provide more value than the basic terms of the original contract.  I feel like we’ve had this conversation before, but this time many clients are doing a lot more than having a quiet moan that they aren’t really getting value beyond very basic service provision. This time, many are actively Read More »


HfS Cambridge University Blueprint Sessions: In Good Company!

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The HfS Cambridge University Blueprint sessions: Where “Rubber Chicken” and “Orlando” are foreign concepts…

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And the HfS roadshow hits Cambridge University

Looking forward to a phenomenal couple of days… a great opening buyers session was enjoyed by all!

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Outsourcing and shared services investment intentions at record high as the Integrated Global Services model takes center stage

It’s official:  outsourcing is not dying – it’s simply become a key part of a broader enterprise operations strategy: Integrated Global Services.  312 buyers recently shared their investment intentions over the next two years during our 2014 State of Outsourcing study, conducted with support from KPMG, and their operations strategy clear:  one in four are reinvesting heavily in their global shared services operations, while seven-out-of-ten are continuing to make (largely moderate) investments in their outsourcing delivery.

The long and short of this is that 93% of enterprises today have shared services and 96% are outsourcing some element of their back office IT and business operations, while 27% are actually reducing their investments in their own internal business units. What’s more, 56% are already increasing investments in their centralized hybrid governance function to manage their mix of service delivery models. To this end, the increasing majority of enterprise buyers today are investing in an integrated global services model that orchestrates their process delivery across all available vehicles of sourcing:

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Let’s delve a bit deeper here and view how these investment intentions have shifted over the last three years, comparing this with the 2011 and 2013 State of Outsourcing studies:

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Shared Services makes its strongest re-emergence as a delivery model for a decade.   While the broad number of firms increasing their focus on both the outsourcing and shared services models is relatively consistent over the past 3 years, the difference today is the intensity of investment.  Outsourcing has slowed to a more moderate pace, while a number of large-scale enterprises are focusing on moving more work into their internal shared services centers – the first time in a decade we are really seeing shared services making a reemergence of this magnitude.

Buyers are shifting more of their higher-value work into their offshore shared services operations.  It’s become abundantly clear that buyers are now aggressively globalizing their Read More »


Parikh preaches, prophesizes and prognosticates… Part 2

As with the airline industry, consulting firms have become highly commoditized with little client service and the willingness to serve others

 -Kevin Parikh, Avasant, June 2014

In Part 1, Avasant’s CEO Kevin Parikh talked about his emerging advisory firm and how it intends to help its clients tackle digital transformation.  In Part II we warm up the talk to cogitate the impending talent crunch, the democratization of sourcing and the new levers enterprises can pull in their relentless quest to find new productivity…  so without further ado, here’s Part 2:

Avasant CEO Kevin Parikh addresses some big industry issues with an ambitious consulting approach

Phil Fersht, CEO, HfS Research: Kevin, traditionally outsourcing advisors were focused primarily on reducing labor cost more than anything else. But now it looks like the decisions of driving out labor costs are democratized within companies. Let’s say they came out to look at Cloud; they can look at crowd sourcing type solutions. They can look at robotics. They can look at a lot of things and not just outsourcing. In fact, in many cases outsourcing is like a band-aid. Do you feel today’s advisors are really equipped to help their clients think through all these variables?

Kevin Parikh, CEO and Senior Partner, Avasant: Phil, I love how you put it—the democratization of sourcing selection. We all have a vote. We can take what we want.

Phil: Exactly…

Kevin: And I think Cloud has enabled us to do that. Are the typical advisors prepared to enter this market? Absolutely not. The traditional outsourcing advisor is focused on towers of service, offering templates and financial models. This really requires a strategy-oriented Read More »