HfS Network

Monthly Archives: Dec 2016

HfS is named analyst of the year by our fellow professionals

December 09, 2016 | Phil Fersht

It's quite the humbling experience when your fellow professionals recognize your achievements. The HfS Research team should be very proud of being awarded both Independent Analyst Firm of Year and Analyst of the Year for 2016 by the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR), which covered 170 analysts and all the global and boutique analyst firms. 

Posted in: None



What Pokemon Go! can teach us about outcome-based performance management

December 08, 2016 | Barbra McGann

How do you change a workforce and shift performance management from status reporting and check-ins to an outcome-based approach?

With Pokemon Go! hot news in the press and, frankly, in my house, this summer, I was reminded of an example of gamification used effectively for performance improvement, financial impact, and employee development and engagement at a US healthcare system.

The director of revenue management and patient financial services brought in gamification, along with training and outcome-based performance management, as part of a change and quality management program. Along with an increase in AR staff productivity and engagement, the impact on the business included an increase in payments, a decrease in net days in accounts receivable, and a decrease in denial turnaround time.

Read More »

Posted in: Design Thinking



Here, there, automating anywhere... meet Mihir

December 08, 2016 | Phil Fersht

There's been an awful lot of focus on the emerging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions since we unveiled the concept to the services industry in 2012. While early movers, like Blue Prism, have stolen most of the early headlines in the space, we've seen other very effective tools and platforms emerge, such as Kryon Systems, UIPath, WorkFusion and Nice.

However, one solution has been especially rampant in the BPO space (especially in finance and accounting) - Automation Anywhere - whose team has been working tirelessly with leading providers such as Genpact, Accenture and EXL to streamline processes and drive all the associated benefits of automating high volume, high throughput tasks that were previously plagued by unnecessary and costly manual interventions.

So we felt it time to sit down with Automation Anywhere's brainchild and co-founder Mihir Shukla, to learn a little more about what is driving this unprecedented demand for RPA, and where this is all leading as we venture into curious times...

Phil Fersht, Chief Analyst and CEO, HfS Research: Good afternoon, Mihir Shukla. You've been at the forefront of so much of the new thinking and ideas in RPA and Intelligent Automation in the last couple of years. Automation Anywhere almost came out of nowhere. So I'd love to hear a bit more about your background and how you really ended up leading this firm. What was the journey?

Mihir Shukla, CEO, Automation Anywhere: Good to talk with you again, Phil. It's interesting when you look back, how you end up with something. I came to the US to do my PhD around the time when the Internet was just coming around. So I got the disruption bug, and it was a lot more fun disrupting different industries than doing a PhD. 22 years later, I look back and I’m fortunate enough to have led five or six large disruptions in various capacities. First, I started at Netscape, where I had a chance to shape the era of the Internet. Then I worked at Infoseek, which was one of the early search engines, where I got to help define how to access the Internet, how you discover things, and we built an early eCommerce platform. Then I had a chance to be an advisor to OmniSky, creating the first Internet-enabled smartphones. I still remember the time when I was one of the 14 guys in Silicon Valley who could go anywhere in the world and find the nearest restaurant. Today, there are a billion of us who can do that.

There was lots of learning along the way. The genesis of Automation Anywhere came from one of my last disruptions, which was at E2Open, where I had the opportunity to integrate the supply chain of the top 10 high-tech companies. At that time I had a chance to use various BPM tools, enterprise application integration tools, and ETL tools. It was during that experience that I saw the challenges faced in trying to integrate a global supply chain that includes hundreds of applications and thousands of people.

I thinking at that time was there must be a better way to do this.

So in 2003, we started Automation Anywhere—and that was a genesis of RPA. Of course, it wasn't called RPA back then. But the idea was to simulate human behavior on a computer and be able to automate everything we do on a computer screen. And 13 years later, we're the largest provider of RPA solutions. So that's how it all started, and that's where we are today.

Phil: So what can you share with us about Automation Anywhere secret sauce? What is it that makes you guys tick? What is it that you feel has been the catalyst to this hyper-growth that you've been experiencing?

Mihir: There are quite a few things that we do very differently, that are unique to us. First of all, we're the largest and most fluent platform on RPA today. We have over 500 enterprise

Read More »

Posted in: Outsourcing HerosRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation



It’s automation M&A time - Can the establishment suppliers risk not investing?

December 07, 2016 | Tom Reuner

The market dynamics in the world of Intelligent Automation are hotting up. Two acquisitions within a single week and the market is awash with fresh rumors about more M&A.  We already know about two other ones imminent – one a done deal and the other closing in.

First, ISG acquired Alsbridge, not just for their rapidly expanding RPA advisory and implementation capabilities, but RPA is likely to have been a key consideration as ISG was lagging both in terms of traction, as well as skill sets. Second, CA announced its intention to acquire Automic. This is a strong indication that the juggernauts appear to be not only willing to overcome innovator’s dilemma, but are expecting that offerings around Intelligent Automation will ringfence their leadership position rather than erode their bottom line.  Moreover, the risk of not investing in Intelligent Automation is clearly outweighing doing nothing and hoping this feverish wave of interest dies down (which is not doing).

Sourcing advisors are currently not bringing automation deals to the supply side the way they used to with the people-scale centric legacy deals. As part of our research for the Intelligent Automation Blueprint, we tested this assumption with all the participants. Yet, at the same time, we are seeing the Big 4 play an increasingly important role in implementing transformational RPA deals. Thus, they have significantly moved on from largely doing top level advisory and tool selection. This is shifting the market from a narrow focus on task automation with short-term cost considerations. However, this shift and acceleration are being curtailed by an acute scarcity. In the broader market talent that understands the impact of innovations around the notions of Intelligent Automation on broader process efficiency remains a rare breed. Therefore, we expect more M&A predominantly by the Big 4 with pure plays like Symphony Ventures, VirtualOperations, GenFour and thoughtonomy likely to be high on their shopping list.

Read More »

Posted in: #CrazymergerideasCognitive ComputingRobotic Process Automation



Learn about our 2017 research plans: the Year of Making it Real

December 07, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Nothing better to do next Thursday? Fancy spending an hour with the award-winning HfS analyst team, hearing about our research plans for 2017 - and why we are focusing so intensely on the reality of technology-inspired business operations versus the hype? Have nothing better to do than sip on a festive mimosa and hear our happy band of analysts get all excited about their research?  Pray tell... what more could you want... 

Thu, Dec 15, 2016 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Register now

Digital disruption is no longer new – some industries have already been shaken up by evolving digital business models, while others are in the throes of being impacted. This is the new normal for enterprises, and we need to develop actionable strategies to survive and compete in this post-digital world. In 2017, it’s all about enterprises being digitally capable of engaging their customers in real time using immersive communication channels, supported by intelligent unified operations that can enable their business to pivot to remain competitive. 

The HfS 2017 research theme is all about “making it real”. We will explore the experiences, dynamics, intentions, challenges and opportunities of thousands of enterprises in their quest to align their operations to meet the rapidly changing needs of their clients. 

In this webinar, the HfS analyst team will share our 2017 vision for the industry and our  plans for the 2017 HfS research agenda.

Hear about our plans for 2017 research across the following areas:

  • The Intelligent OneOffice: Taking an “outside-in” approach to Intelligent Operations, breaking down the barriers between the front and back offices.
  • The Post-Digital world for IT Services and Strategy, Business Operations and BPO and Cognitive Automation
  • Industry-specific dynamics for banking, insurance, energy, utilities, manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences, travel and retail industries 

Thu, Dec 15, 2016 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Register now

 See you next week!

Posted in: Outsourcing Events



Has the WAHA Security Conundrum Been Cracked?

December 06, 2016 | Melissa O'BrienMike Cook

The Work At Home Agent (WAHA) model of contact center outsourcing is increasing in adoption. My colleague Melissa O’Brien is set to release some interesting findings of the growth of the WAHA model in the coming weeks. The growth that WAHA is set to enjoy, however, has been hard fought as there are key inhibitors (often perceived as opposed to actual) to the model. These include lack of control, service consistency, and most notably security.

For regulated industries, the idea of having a completely virtual workforce dealing with customer payment and other sensitive data fills them with dread. But what is the real story? Well, according to numerous service providers I’ve spoken to there is a lower average instance of security incidents from the WAHA environment as opposed to the traditional brick and mortar equivalent. We recently spoke to home based agent pure play BPO Granada’s new CEO Felix Serano and CTO AJ Flores. When asked about on the issue of security it turns out that Granada has not had a single security breach from its WAHA population over the last 12 months. Given the frequency of cyber threats we see in the news at present, this is encouraging.

So, what are service providers doing to address the security needs of clients in the WAHA environment?

  • Hiring the right people: Ultimately security needs to start with the right people. Due to the nature of the working model, at home programs are typically able to recruit a more seasoned and experienced type of candidate (the majority of WAHA hires are 35 years and up in age), enabling the potential for more sophisticated and more importantly trustworthy contact center support. Also, service providers generally tailor hiring approaches to target individuals with a university qualification.
  • Train: Next is to train agents on security protocols. Clean desk policies, not repeating information out loud when speaking to a customer-- all these measures need to be reinforced to the agent, even in the work at home environment. Training is just as important in a brick and mortar facility, but from a cultural perspective is critical to ensure the concepts are digested with the absence of physical “team huddles” and the like.
  • Physical security measures: There are two overarching categories to look at from a WAHA physical security perspective. One is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model and the other is using a service provider supplied thin client device. For the sake of this discussion we will look at the BYOD model as this has been gaining traction in recent years and is, by and large, the most cost effective WAHA model. In 2013 I did a report on the WAHA market, at that time we were seeing some extreme physical security measures rolled out by service providers. These included keyboards with integrated keyboard entry analysis, multi-layer biometric analysis, etc. These measures were all extremely costly and often not that effective due to limitations in the technology. Now what we are more commonly seeing is simple fish-eye cameras, installed at an agent’s home workstation, through which service providers can perform randomized audits. Another interesting side note is that brick and mortar service providers are seeing cyber thieves targeting call center agents outside of physical centers and extorting them to steal credit card information; in this sense, the physical security risk is heightened in a home agent model.
  • Software: This is where we have seen the biggest advances in security measures and hence why many of the more extreme physical security measures are no longer needed. A desktop layer, such as Citrix ZenDesktop, is used to replicate in-center desktops. This is then locked down to prevent cut and paste, print screen, etc. Payments and sensitive information are handled by an IVR system to exclude the agent. VOIP is often embedded into the desktop to provide continuity when transferring to IVR systems. Interestingly, Granada tracks the internet latency of agents and can automatically remove them from the workflow if internet speed drops below predefined parameters.

As I’ve mentioned, many of the security measures used in WAHA today seem much less extreme compared to what we saw a few years ago, however they are considerably more effective. With WAHA expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, it seems service providers have finally cracked the code for security and can now provide extended track records of fraudulent free delivery from this model. Service providers offering the WAHA delivery model seem to get it now that the key to security is as much about intelligent and foolproof software as it is finding and developing the right people.

Posted in: Contact Center and Omni-Channel



Blockchain Brings Us Into The Future, But Only After It Drags Up The Past: Interoperability Becomes An Actual Issue Again

December 05, 2016 | Christine Ferrusi Ross

Remember eMarketplaces (also called Supplier Networks)? They were networks of suppliers and buyers where the goal was to make information sharing easier by standardizing and consolidating platforms, products, prices and policies.  In many cases, clients got in “free,” but they still had to pay for some integration cost. Suppliers had to pay to be part of each network, and most clients each used different ones, making it expensive and complicated to decide which networks to join. 


As a buyer, you could try to insist suppliers join your preferred network, as long as you were a big enough client, or if you were willing to pay the supplier’s connection costs. As a supplier, you had to decide which networks were important to belong to, either because a lot of clients used them, they catered to specific industries, or offered some other unique benefit.

These supplier networks were a great idea, but the practicalities of connecting everyone was a big headache, and very few of these eMarketplaces survived. Many of those that did survive were bolted on to procurement apps. Without a way to make the networks talk to each other and give trading partners, on different networks, a way to work together, eMarketplaces achieved some limited value for customers, but ultimately failed to deliver the game-changing impact they envisioned with these “super networks” that never quite materialized.

In the example above, go back and replace the word “eMarketplace” with “blockchain.” Minus some of details, it’s pretty much the same problem we’re all about to face today, as companies struggle to understand where, why, and how they can get the most value from blockchain implementations.

When we researched blockchain this past summer, we found that almost all POCs and client examples were focused on internal operations – transferring funds across business units in a bank, for example. Yet, the foundation of blockchain is creating exponential value from a collaborative and engaged peer-to-peer network.

Everyone’s experimenting, and there are a lot of technologies and validation/authentication options being used and explored. There are also no standards at the moment, so everything’s getting siloed into one-off projects. Are you starting to see where the eMarketplace experience gets echoed?

Let’s say you’ve chosen the blockchain technology, as well as an authentication approach with which you are happy, that work for your needs. Now you want to expand your execution of blockchain to connect with partners.

Your partners likely made different choices They may have stricter authentication approaches than you use. And each trading partner’s blockchain implementation is different than everyone else’s, so you need to connect to each one using a separate connector, or you choose to get onto their blockchain. And then you have the initial cost of integration, plus compute costs. And blockchain often isn’t efficient with compute power, so connecting to multiple systems is more expensive that way than you might initially think.

And, of course, the market’s so new that we also don’t know how much cement we’re pouring when we build blockchains. We do know, for example, that no transaction or other data in the blockchain can get erased. Once it’s there, it’s there forever. But, what if we decide to switch to another network or technology? We don’t know the costs of switching from one network to another if we have a lot of data sitting in the blockchain.

In our blockchain guide for BFSI, we recommended that you start talking to trading partners, because the real value comes from using blockchains outside the walls of your company. And this issue of linking networks makes that recommendation all the more important.

Bottom-line: Make sure you fully understand the broader network of partners impacted by your blockchain options

Here are some questions to start asking trading partners (and yourself, if you haven’t already):

  • What validation/authentication approaches are you considering?
  • Which blockchain technologies do you like and why?
  • What criteria do you want to use to approve new members to join a network?
  • Who pays, if someone wants to join the network? What if we want them to join? Will we pay only for integration costs or other longer-term costs like the compute power needed to process blocks?

If you have thoughts on this, or know of companies who are already working on the interoperability problem, tell us. We’re always looking to talk to more people about what’s going on in the space.


Posted in: Procurement, Engineering & Supply Chain OutsourcingThe As-a-Service Economy



As-a-Service takes a really big wet bite out of traditional IT Infra Management Services

December 05, 2016 | Jamie Snowdon

It’s no secret that the traditional infrastructure outsourcing market has taken a beating over the last few years, with our predictions of growth for the overall IT infrastructure management market hovering around 2% the last couple of years.  We are forecasting a calculated annual growth rate of 2.2% from 2015 to 2020 for this market globally.

The chart below shows our estimation of the size and forecast for the IT infrastructure management market – a market set to reach $129 billion in 2016. The chart illustrates this showing the split between the traditional IT infrastructure management market and the new “As-a-Service” model for IT infrastructure.

Click to enlarge

In our view, As-a-Service IT Services includes infrastructure managed services delivered in either a pay-per-use or a managed cloud platform. When we include the whole IT services market, it includes professional services revenues related to transformation to cloud/SaaS, digital engagements and the move to IT-as-Service delivery models.

The disruption we expect in the market over the next few years is dramatic, with almost half (44%) of spending from infrastructure management anticipated to come from  As-a-Service models by 2020. We believe that this forecast is a touch conservative and there is a possibility that the As-a-Service component could even grow more aggressively. This won’t necessarily reduce the traditional infra spend, as the biggest uncertainty in our market model surrounds companies that don’t currently use any traditional IT service management, particularly small and medium enterprises and companies in Asia. If growth in that sector shifts more toward the top end of our scenario, we could see the As-a-Service component even reach as high as $70billion in this timeframe.

One of the big impacts to the competitive landscape will be Amazon Web Services (AWS). The company recorded revenues of $7.9b in 2015, with estimates of $12b in revenues in 2016, meaning if it tracks with the market at the current rate it will reach around $25+b in revenue by 2020. Please note not all of AWS would be counted in this category and given their propensity for disruption it’s unlikely its revenue profile will be the same in 2020. To put this in perspective, these estimates mean it would be competing with Accenture for the number 2 position in the IT services market by 2020.

Bottom Line: The infra market has already made the shift, now we need a plan to take advantage of the benefits of AaS

It’s worth pointing out that the reduction in spending isn’t all about a transition to the As-a-Service model – but the increasing efficiency of traditional IT infrastructure management. Causing deal values to plummet over the past five years as the offshore firms aggressively target this space and buyers opt for asset light solutions with more automation and remote managed “traditional” options.

Increasingly, it will become hard to differentiate between the two models, particularly as they meet in the middle, with large enterprise customers wanting cloud and As-a-Service packaged in a managed service-like wrapper, with professional services bundled into the mix.

For buyers this broadly means more choice, increasing flexibility and scope while making informed choices about risk. Public cloud will be an increasingly viable option for more types of workload – which means more organizations will need to consider it as an option for both new and existing compute. The rise of richer public cloud options and managed hybrid cloud platforms to help manage more complex infrastructures should help this transition process. Cloud was seen as a limiting choice for infrastructure in terms of workloads – now there are very few cases where security and compliance requirements cannot be met.

For the traditional IT infrastructure providers it is increasingly about partnering and making your hybrid offerings as rich as possible. On the SaaS side, it is about partnerships with the likes of Salesforce, Infor, Pega, and Workday – as well as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. On the infrastructure and hybrid cloud side it is about having a managed service layer that helps shield clients from the complexities of cloud. One that allows them to bridge legacy applications and legacy infrastructure pools, bringing cloud flex to existing environments – and helping clients build devops platform for future development work that encompasses great architecture and great creativity. This means partnering with AWS, Google as well as Microsoft – helping increase clients choice without reducing scope and risk.

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT Services



So ISG bought Alsbridge. That happened

December 02, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Can these two newly-weds weather the storm of a stagnant outsourcing industry?

Yes - that happened.  We just had the biggest shakeup in the outsourcing advisory market since KPMG's acquisition of EquaTerra in 2011.

The last two large independent outsourcing advisors (outside of the management consulting firms) realized they needed to stop killing each other and would be far better off becoming one. So now we're left with an even bigger ISG and a few really small shops, like Avasant, Aecus and Everest, to scrap around for the remnants of demand for former EDS executives to negotiate a nice contract for them.

This is a really smart deal for both ISG and Alsbridge.  ISG takes out its prime competitor to monopolize its space, while Alsbridge's prime investor, LLR, makes out nicely on its 2013 investment within the typical 5-year window private equity firms give themselves.

This is a great deal for most the Alsbridge consultants.  Many are welcomed back into the loving arms of their former employer and they have a bigger brand, global scale and presence to hone their craft.

This is a great deal for most the ISG partners.  Now many of them will not have to suffer their fees eroded by a very aggressive competitor (or losing deals to it). They can still easily undercut the Management Consultants' fees, and have access to more talent to win deals, especially in areas like telecom and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), where ISG was previously struggling.

This is not a great deal for all the employees.  Large mergers of like companies always present rationalization opportunities.  The new ISG will surely look to retain the cream of the Alsbridge talent and hive off its lower performers. The outsourcing market is flat and advisory

Read More »

Posted in: Outsourcing Advisors



Predictive HR Tech Capabilities I Hope to Hear About

November 30, 2016 | Steve Goldberg

I know it’s pathetic, but one of my wishes during Thanksgiving dinner … other than to avoid major indigestion, plus of course good health to all those I care about … was to learn what great things the HR Tech market’s largest players were doing in the predictive HCM arena. This would clearly make my recently launched research effort pretty darn interesting.

As this is clearly one of the more nascent HR Tech areas, I really don’t expect to hear about an abundance of mature, robust predictive capabilities just yet.  I do expect, however, that many of the large HCM / HRMS solution providers we invited to participate in the research will have a reasonably clear and compelling product strategy and execution plans around their product’s predictive capabilities.  Also, in my effort to take a read on this emerging capability area (the research’s main objective), I’m hoping to hear about HR Tech customer experiences related to leveraging these powerful capabilities.

Another recent blog post and Point of View (POV) “Time-to-Predictive Value in HCM Solutions” have also been published to support the launch of this research and provide more context.

From the HR Tech Practitioner Trenches

When I dabbled on the HR Tech practitioner side (around 20 years of dabbling), my corporate HR colleagues and I sometimes sat around brainstorming about how to possibly predict such things as:

  • Which on-boarding aspects, if changed, could contribute to accelerating time-to-productivity
  • What are reliable indicators of “very high upside” in a candidate or employee’s profile
  • Will a job candidate, employee (considered for a new team or department) or a corporate acquisition target be a good fit from a culture perspective
  • Will changing an employee’s job, manager or team have a positive or negative impact on performance, retention, engagement, etc.
  • Will changing comp and/or benefits plans to reduce costs adversely impact the company in other ways

These “skull sessions” often ended with the same seemingly rhetorical question (at the time): “Can we ever expect HR Tech capabilities to help us out here?”

Bottom Line Regarding the Research Just Launched

Whether I’m getting ahead of myself by hoping the above questions will ultimately be supported by HCM systems remains to be seen.  But I remain hopeful that I will be hearing from some HR Tech vendors that such predictive opportunities are not only on their radar, but they’re close to rolling these and other impressive capabilities out over the next 12-18 months.

Posted in: Analytics and Big DataHR Strategy



PLM Services Blueprint 2016: Attractive Again

November 29, 2016 | Pareekh Jain

We have recently published Blueprint Report on Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Services. This is our third engineering services Blueprint in which we analyzed and positioned thirteen PLM Service providers according to their execution and innovation capabilities.  In the first one, we focused on the mechanical engineering services. In the second engineering Blueprint, we looked at Software Product Engineering (SPE) services in detail.

What does PLM Services Blueprint cover?

This blueprint includes the PLM offerings of different service providers across verticals. This includes their capabilities across the HfS PLM Services Value Chain of: Plan, Implement, Manage, and Optimize for leading PLM applications such as Dassault, Siemens, PTC, Autodesk, SAP, and Oracle. This report also provides insights into the capability, vision and investment priorities of the service providers included in the Blueprint report. We also outline the strengths and challenges to take into consideration for these service providers. The report also mentions market analysis of the PLM Services industry, the current focus area and the future growth areas over the next few years. The service providers included in this report are Accenture, Atos, Cognizant, Capgemini, HCL, Infosys, KPIT, L&T Technology Services, Syntel, TCS, Tech Mahindra, Tata Technologies and Wipro.

Read More »

Posted in: Procurement, Engineering & Supply Chain Outsourcing



Wipro bids for As-a-Service... with Abid

November 29, 2016 | Phil Fersht

One of the astutest CEO appointments in recent times was Abid Ali Neemuchwala (or simply "Abid" as most of us call him) being elevated to the hotseat at Wipro.  I, personally, have known Abid since his TCS days, when the firm acquired Citigroup's Indian banking operations in 2008, where Abid was instrumental in building a stellar BPO capability for the firm... and first interviewed him right here in 2010.  

Cutting to the chase, Abid was the perfect hire at the perfect time for Wipro. With the Indian-heritage service providers scratching their heads trying to figure out how to keep growing, as those legacy $500m IT infrastructure deals and $200m SAP roll-outs dry up, the only true way forward is to build out an As-a-Service delivery model that caters for the modern enterprise needing to access talent, technology, analytics and automation capability as part of an integrated solution, tied much more to outcomes and efforts, than headcount numbers. Being able to manage the traditional enterprise's needs, while investing in the emerging enterprise of the future, is the Holy Grail for the Indian-heritage majors seeking to get ahead of a market in transition. 

In my view, today's services providers need to be led by process people that understand technology and how to bring the two together effectively.  If you're just selling tech, you'll end up with a commodity service, and if you're just selling process, you'll end up with something completely unscalable and unprofitable.  So you need a CEO who gets right into the weeds of the operations and figures out how to technology-enable business services. You need someone who built a billion-dollar BPO business out of a tech-dominated service provider (TCS), where you had to train IT people to manage processes, and process people to understand how to enable them effectively with technology underpinnings. You need someone who's going to mastermind one of the potentially shrewdest acquisitions yet by an India-heritage major in Appirio.

You need someone who prefers to play chess than golf... you need Abid.  

Phil Fersht, Chief Analyst and CEO, HfS Research: Good afternoon Abid... it's been quite a journey for you to make it to the CEO role at Wipro. Maybe you can share a little bit about your background and career path just for our readers, so that they can learn a bit more about you...

Abid Ali Neemuchwala, CEO and Member of the Board, Wipro: Certainly. Phil. So I’ve been part of this industry since I came out of university at IIT, Mumbai, in 1992, and now, my goodness, that makes me feel old! I’ve spent 24 years in this industry, the last two at Wipro—as Chief Operating Officer, at first, and then as the CEO since the beginning of this year. The fun part of being in this industry was to be able to wear many different hats. I started as a developer, quickly moved into project management and then I got an opportunity to do some very strategic projects, especially as part of the financial services industry in India as it was just growing.

I also had the opportunity to live in multiple places around the world and experience various cultures. I went to work in South Africa immediately after Nelson Mandela was sworn in. At the time, the South Africa market was just beginning to emerge for Indian IT, and I was lucky to be one of the first IT people there. 

I lived in Japan as well which taught me a lot about program management and sales as we expanded our business. The Japanese market teaches you a lot. It is, in a way, the perfect training ground for sales guys because it not just teaches you perseverance, but also helps you learn the value of relationships and cultural diversities. Thereafter, I moved to the US and as a general manager in the US Midwest Operations I ran some key large accounts, before I moved back to India in a general management role. In my last stint at my previous employer, I was running the BPS business. There, I got a great opportunity to integrate a large acquisition, which exposed me to the need for being bold about acquisitions, all of which worked out well. And then, surprisingly, I got an opportunity to move to Wipro, which brought me in as the Chief Operating Officer. 

So, all along it has been a great ride and a journey of many opportunities. And throughout, I continued my passion and hobby for traveling to places. The industry helped me do that. I love walking on the streets of new cities that I visit because I think conference rooms, all around the world, are exactly the same. I ask my teams to do that as well. You’ve got to experience the culture, the people and the places. I have always been like that, meeting people, absorbing cultures and the world around us. 

My love for travel has taken me to cover about 100-plus executives amongst our top 100 customers, which helps me talk about Wipro’s strategy and understand what is most relevant to them. This also helps me get their feedback on the organization as I steer Wipro through this wonderful transformation.

Phil: So you acquired Appirio. That’s a company we know very well and what a very quick transaction that was! Can you talk about the core factors in this decision?

Abid: As I said, we're going to take bold strides as we rev up the engines for digital transformation. The future, which is going to be quite different, is already here in terms of Cloud, As-a-Service business models, Automation and Artificial Intelligence— not only Robotic Automation but also Cognitive, Machine Learning and Analytics. These, and also design thinking, of course, and user experience. 

We, at Wipro, believe in acquiring the right capabilities at the right time and, as part of that move, had been looking at assets that would be a strategic fit. Appirio is one such capability we've been very fortunate to get. The capability is essentially, as you know, around Cloud ERP

Read More »

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesOutsourcing Heros



What does Tomorrow’s Cyber-Security Unicorn Look Like?

November 25, 2016 | Mike Cook

The prevalence of high-profile cyber-attacks is on the increase. In the last two weeks alone we have witnessed the exposure of 412 million accounts from the FriendFinder network, 20,000 Tesco bank customers lost money in the UK and Three Mobile lost personal data from 133,000 customers. Not only are these attacks becoming more frequent, they are also increasing in severity with the Tesco incident seen as the worst banking security failure to date by some commentators.

The trouble is the talent pool is empty. Security staff have always been always been hard to find, and currently there is a drastic shortage of cyber security professionals across the globe. As I discussed in my recent PoV Is HR the Missing Link in Your Cyber Security Strategy?. In the U.S alone there are 209,000 unfilled cyber security jobs.

So, with all this in mind, why are cyber security professionals so hard to find?  What skills, qualifications or characteristics distinguish them?

Well, according to IT compliance provider IT Governance and the U.S. News and World Report, individuals looking to establish a career in cyber security should begin with a degree in computer science, programming or engineering. This should then be followed this up with industry standard security qualifications offered by Microsoft, CISCO, and HP. For those wishing to become true specialists, an industry recognized qualification specifically within security should be sought. Examples include Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) or GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN) certificates. So a lengthy and hard path to follow giving rise to the reality that candidates with these qualifications are scarce.

So, we have started to see organizations looking to tap into new sources for security talent. The UK public sector is leading this charge by instead of looking for qualified individuals rather focusing on recruiting candidates with the correct behavioral and cognitive capabilities who can then be trained on the job.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Program is looking to hire 50 candidates who have the ability to excel in cyber security. The program, whilst been open to all individuals, will primarily target soldiers, doctors and nurses whose attention to detail and pressured thinking ability would allow them to excel in cyber security.

Apart from being a healthcare professional or one of Her Majesty’s finest, what specific traits do cyber security hopefuls need? Well according to recruiting specialist DHi Group, individuals need the following characteristics:

  1. Ability to work methodically and is very detail oriented
  2. Eagerness to dig into technical questions and examine them from all sides
  3. Enthusiastic and highly adaptable
  4. Strong analytical and diagnostic skills
  5. Demonstrated skills in innovation and collaboration
  6. Keep a current understanding of vulnerabilities from the Internet
  7. Maintaining awareness and knowledge of contemporary standards, practices, procedures and methods
  8. Ability to get the job done.

The Bottom Line

The solution to the cyber security shortage is not rocket science. Companies must start thinking ahead and training the future professionals. Pump the money you spend on sky high salaries of the seasoned professionals with a mix of junior staff and a decent training program. The scarcity is fueled by the lack of junior and mid-level positions. Get the characteristics, not the qualification, and train on the job! Is this groundbreaking? Absolutely not, but what this approach does do, is help to redress the supply/demand crisis for this critical business issue.

Posted in: Security and RiskTalent in Sourcing



The Digital Shopper Will Define the Future of Retail

November 23, 2016 | Melissa O'Brien

Like many Americans, I’ll spend this coming “Black Friday” nursing a turkey hangover and shopping the Amazon iPhone app from the couch instead of battling mall crowds.  By most accounts, this year’s seasonal retail projections are better than last, but surviving in an increasingly intense competitive environment is no easy feat for retailers.  At the heart of the issue is a clear call to arms to understand and satisfy a digitally savvy shopper. So how can retailers and their service providers rise to the challenge of supporting the digital end customer?

Retailers have to embrace disruption or risk replacement

The retail industry is in the midst of monumentous disruption, with the advent of ecommerce and rapidly increasing shopper expectations for an easy, seamless experience.  It isn’t just about the shiny front end experience with sexy websites and mobile apps, it’s about an integrated back and middle office that supports those experiences, much like the OneOffice endgame we’ve been talking about. 

Most important for retailers now is bridging online and in-store experiences.  While online sales are still a relatively small percentage of retail revenues today, smart retail organizations are paying close attention to ecommerce trends in order to avoid a slip into obsolescence, “Blockbuster style.”  Traditional retailer bankruptcies and store closing announcements seem constant, while competition among brick and mortar and online shopping sites alike is fierce.  Some traditional retailers are betting on unique in-store experiences to revitalize flagging sales, while others are leveraging their vast physical presences to bolster omnichannel sales as points of pick-up or shopping of online purchases.  Traditional retail giants like Walmart are betting big on competing in the online shopping space, with its recent acquisition of Jet.com, and it seems like all business are trying to live up to the expectations of the quick, seamless, personalized experience—the “Amazonization” of consumer culture.  Meanwhile, the need to support customers who expect to shop using mobile apps on their smartphones and tablets adds another dimension to ensuring competitive relevance. 

Click to enlarge

Automation and cognitive at the front of retail’s journey to OneOffice

Recent survey data shows that the vast majority of retail buyers agree that the impact of cognitive and automation is going to be a critical component of future operations, as well as the necessity to leverage new technologies in order to become more effective. Retailers (along with banking and travel) are leading in experimentation with some of these pilots.  For example, the Watson- powered “Macy’s on call” is a pilot in several Macy’s stores allowing customers to type in questions while in store to help them navigate products and facilities.  Staples is using IBM’s Watson for ”on-demand ordering”(which by the way, could really impact some outsourcing contracts which are heavily dependent on faxed B2B orders and manual data entry). Banking/ credit card use of bots will also impact the space, for example, Mastercard’s foray into bots which allows shopping on messenger apps.

Use of bots is aimed at improving the customer experience, but creating a simpler, more personalized experience.  While bots are changing how retailers communicate with customers, the human touch becomes even more relevant. Even as bots continue to mature, their role is often to simplify the self-service process and/or augment the agent’s work, rather than completely replace it. HGS’ DigiCX platform is an example of a service provider working on an app that “pivots” between agent and bot, a solution which is archetypical for for retail customers.


What this means for service providers:

  • Greater requirements for service providers: Engagements may be insourced due to decreased volume as a result of automation/ self-service, placing a greater focus on more complex engagements requiring more from providers. As the data above shows, 83% of retail buyers are expecting their service providers to deliver both technology and process expertise.  Areas such as planogramming, supply chain analytics, storefront operations support, core marketing operations, and ecommerce support may often be outside of the traditional definition of BPO skills but will become requirements to do business with retailers. Successful service providers will stitch together a multidisciplinary band of skillsets to successfully target retail operations.
  • Flexibility is still a key requirement. Ultimately what will continue to drive a lot of the outsourcing of customer service in retail is the requirement for flexibility, where retail has a unique need for seasonal ramping and flexing.  Retail clients we speak to look to service providers as “uber when we need a ride.”  We are seeing certain service providers try to address this with alternate delivery models. Examples include relying on a much higher percentage of work-from-home agents that are retained long term and leveraging part-time university talent pools at nearshore destinations (i.e. Jamaica). The challenge of seasonality is not going to go away, and cracking the code on it has the potential to impact revenues at peak times—making retailers particularly amenable to working with innovative service providers in this area.

The Bottom Line: Creating an intelligent retail operation is critical for survival

There is so much more on the horizon for retail today, given the potential capabilities around IoT, augmented reality and other advancing technologies to be used in store and for mobile shopping. For an industry awash in data-- review data, social data, shipping data, etc.—the retail industry still has many more opportunities to get to know its customers, which will only get more complex with time. Given the pace of development and technology, being students of observation and having flexibility to change is critical for retailers to remain in business. 


Posted in: Contact Center and Omni-Channel



First-of-its-Kind HR Technology Research Launched by HfS

November 23, 2016 | Steve Goldberg


A former colleague had a penchant for using phrases that stuck with me... One of them was - “I have questions for all your answers.”  It took me years of working with Charles Edward “Skip” Odell to learn that his middle name was Edward, thereby explaining why the letters “CEO” on his cuffed shirts were not just aspirational.

During those same years, the HR technology domain was very much growing up, and the topic of  predictive capabilities wasn’t generating many questions or answers in most customer or solution vendor circles.

While HR technology solutions have clearly matured in many ways (e.g., engaging user experiences leading to broader usage outside HR Departments, mobile computing’s dominance and increasing cognitive capabilities), the use of science within HCM platforms is arguably still at the adolescent stage. Lots of promise, seemingly random growth spurts, daunting challenges and some really pleasant surprises along the way.

 Pulling Back the Curtain on Predictive HCM Analytics Capabilities

What are some of the pleasant surprises?  Well for starters, literally -- as these were in-fact the first predictive capabilities introduced in the HR tech arena -- more customers are now using tools that highlight employee retention risks, or future star performers among job candidates.  Both of these predictive capabilities, and most others, are of course generally based on validated algorithms adapted to the customer’s business context and data relationships; and either the customer’s data scientists or the system itself (via machine learning) does the adapting and periodic re-calibrating.

But as Skip astutely pointed out, interesting answers often beget more good questions.   So relative to predicting retention risk or future star employees -- or any other situation or outcome that is attracting predictive HR tech capabilities, here is a small sampling of questions that arise:

  • What are some of the most impactful and innovative examples of predictive analytics available to HR technology customers today, and which are being widely leveraged?
  • How long does it typically take for a particular HCM system’s predictive capabilities to start becoming evident, valuable and/or reliable?
  • Do the predictive capabilities within enterprise HCM software apply to most organizations using them, or is the predictive value sometimes more robust in certain industries or types of organizations?
  • What are some of the operational factors that might enhance or impede the business value to be derived when deploying predictive HR technology?
  • When should the guidance and insights delivered by predictive HCM tools be acted upon – including on the basis of prescriptive analytics; i.e., when the system prescribes specific and generally reliable actions to take?
  • What are the key trade-offs (e.g., benefits and risks) inherent in predictive engines that adapt themselves through machine learning … vs. engines (=algorithms) that rely more on customers to adapt them?
  • Finally, how will these capabilities evolve over the next few years, and will most customer organizations be ready and equipped to take advantage of these advances?

Announcing Groundbreaking Research

HfS Research will be pulling back the curtain on the above questions and many other interesting nuances related to leveraging these emerging HR technology capabilities.  We’re very excited to announce our first-of-its-kind research and Blueprint Report entitled “Predictive Analytics in HCM Systems.”  Publication is set for March 2017, and we expect many of the major HCM vendors – both HRMS and Talent Management Suite vendors – to participate.  

A Point of View (POV) “Time-to-Predictive Value in HCM Solutions” is also being published this week and is available (complimentary) with a registration if you are not already a member of the HfS research and knowledge-sharing community.

Bottom Line

There are some amazing capabilities being brought to market that clearly demonstrate the arrival of science in HCM systems.  For customer organizations wanting to take advantage of the increasing scope of these predictive capabilities, and for solution providers wanting to continue differentiating through related product innovations, the research we’ve just initiated should be quite valuable.

Posted in: Analytics and Big DataHR Strategy



What kind of RPA symphony is your shared service center running?

November 22, 2016 | Reetika Joshi

Wait, what is RPA symphony and why does my shared service center need it? This blog is about exactly that - the use of robotic process automation (RPA) by shared services centers, where we found two different but equally effective approaches that share a few common traits. I learned these stories on the RPA panel at the NASSCOM BPS Summit in Bangalore a couple of months ago and followed up with the speakers to learn a little more. Capturing the essence of the two practitioner experiences from global in-house centers, we have the following approaches to getting started with RPA:

Read More »

Posted in: Robotic Process Automation



Everything you ever wanted to know about the Energy sector but never dared to ask...

November 22, 2016 | Phil FershtDerk Erbé

We can obsess about losing our jobs to robots, our traditional industries being wiped out by digital transformation, our politicians losing the plot... but it'll all count for nothing if we abuse our valuable natural resources and pollute the air we breathe.  So without further ado, let's hear the real deal about on what's going on in the energy sector these days - and how it impacts our world of operations and technology.  And who better to talk to than HfS analyst Derk Erbé, who likes to take a long hard look at things...

So Derk...what do we need to know about the energy sector these days, with climate change, crazy oil prices etc?  What are the key issues we need to care about?

First off, it really is a perfect storm at the moment. We’ve seen the world coming together to curb global warming in Paris, only a year ago. Rising social and political pressure in conjunction with technology advances and economic shifts are combining to create a positive atmosphere to address one of the biggest challenges of the coming decades.

We’ve also seen the sharp fall of oil prices from above $100 per barrel to $27 per barrel in February 2016, currently stabilizing around $45. The reaction from Oil & Gas companies to the crazy oil prices has been focused on survival for much of the last 18 months. Cost cutting was the primary reaction, resulting in the loss of 250,000 oil workers’ jobs. Two out of three oil rigs has been decommissioned and many capital projects postponed and canceled. This was not enough to save many oil and gas companies from bankruptcy. The initial hope of short-term

Read More »

Posted in: EnergyPolicy and Regulations



Chinmoy chats about that shift left

November 22, 2016 | Phil Fersht

This is the age of the mid-size, aggressive, feisty service provider that can scrap for the traditional business but also has the flexible cost-base and freedom from legacy to go after the new stuff.  There are so many exciting opportunities with clients that are simply too small, or too cannibalistic for the traditional services providers... many of whom are still waiting - in denial - for those $200m SAP rollouts that no one wants to do anymore, or those $500m infrastructure deals that will never, ever happen again.  Where better to be that at a service provider which can lead with automation-led offerings, where being disruptive is the business model - where all new opportunities are greenfield... and causing many of the traditional service providers to squirm in their boots, pretending their world isn't falling apart all around them.

So welcome to HfS to Chinmoy Banerjee (see bio) who heads business process services for Hexaware - whose entire go-to-market strategy is based on disrupting the legacy outsourcing model...

Phil Fersht, Chief Analyst and CEO, HfS Research: So, good morning, Chinmoy. It's great to get some time with you today. Perhaps you could start by telling us a bit about yourself?

Chinmoy Banerjee, Global Head of Business Process Services, Hexaware Technologies: Sure, Phil. So, I grew up in India and after finishing my MBA in Finance I joined a bank. I spent a few years there and the last job I did was as a Forex trader. I then moved to PwC Consulting for a few years, and in 2004 moved to the US in the BPO sector. Along the way in the US, I completed an Executive MBA from TRIUM as well—which is a combination of NYU Stern, London School of Economics and HEC Paris. I've been disrupting the industry for the last three years with Hexaware, running their BPO business.

Chinmoy Banerjee surrounded by members of his Hexaware team

Phil: For those of our readers who might not be that familiar with Hexaware, could you give us a very quick snapshot of the company and what it's doing today? What are the core areas where you feel that you win against the competition?

Chinmoy: Sure. Hexaware has been around for a while. This is our 26th year of existence, but in 2013 Baring Private Equity acquired about 70% of the company and Keech, our CEO (R Srikrishna or Sri, aka Keech), came in soon after that. Since then we have been going to market in two areas: Shrink IT and Grow Digital. Our view is that the industry is disrupting in a big way, and Shrink IT which is our major go to market as its name suggests, involves shrinking technology and the operations footprint.

It's largely applicable to full-service lines, including application managed services, which is support, infrastructure management services, testing and, of course, BPO. Essentially, we have

Read More »

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Outsourcing HerosIntelligent Automation



Is automation the next Trumpism?

November 21, 2016 | Tom Reuner

Even a few days after the US elections, I am still shocked.

Most people in the world are shocked, apart from outliers such as Vladimir Putin. It is difficult to brush off the xenophobic tirades, sexism, protectionism, misogynist outbursts, etc., etc., as sheer rhetoric or just a means to an end. Yet, we really don’t know what is coming. Can one individual really change the US political system and break the influence of the vested interests? And more poignantly, can we believe any politician, let alone Donald Trump, on the many promises made on election campaigns (and beyond)? Even more pertinently, the notion that Trump will stand up for the long-suffering (white, male) working class just seems incredulous.

While it is utterly tempting to let my emotions get the better of me and just let rip, from a narrow sourcing point of view, two issues stand out: Immigration and, intrinsically linked to that, whether automation could fill the void if global sourcing is being disrupted by immigration policies.

The following is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis. Rather, as it is a blog, it is meant to stimulate debate. At the same time, dissecting populism is always contingent to context. As we have seen with Brexit in the UK, and as we are likely to see in the US, political decision-making is not based on a set of consistent policies or even on policies aimed at the majority who voted for Brexit and Trump. In my humble opinion, populism is all about being self-serving to the whims of politicians. However, as these politicians increasingly make it to the highest offices, we have to start thinking about scenario planning. Put another way, there is little value in discussing potential policies in an abstract way.

Read More »

Posted in: Cognitive ComputingGlobal Business ServicesRobotic Process Automation



The information not-so-superhighway

November 20, 2016 | Phil Fersht

Remember all that wide-eyed excitement when we first started using the “Information Superhighway” known as the Internet? Remember how we were all going to use this amazing new media to share information, to learn from millions of new information sources, and – even more importantly – to learn from each other?

So what’s gone wrong? Why has the Internet also become a mechanism to block out information and promote factless discussion and news, often based on misinformation, lies, propaganda and emotion?

How have we managed to survive a year and a half of election campaigning, where we endured two sides obsessed with battering each other with insults, almost completely devoid of any smart new policies, practical debate and absolutely no ability to listen to each other. Our whole world of politics has become driven by emotions and personalities, not facts, ideas and policies.

I am sure I am among many of you who have fallen out with friends, unfriended people (or been unfriended) on Facebook, received abuse on Twitter and been sucked into nasty arguments with others who just refuse to listen. And if I had to dig deep into my conscience, I have to admit I may not have always listened to the rationale of the other side also.

But can we all get past this experience and learn to listen to each other again? Can we learn to have rational debate and conversation, where we can express our views, back them up with real facts and ideas – as opposed to this closed, angry style of discourse, that is threatening to divide entire nations?

I like the steps I am seeing from Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg to clamp down on “fake media”, especially when you consider that more Americans admitted to relying on Twitter and Facebook for their news sources, than any other media source. And can you blame them when the likes of Fox, CNN, the New York Times and many other outlets – all have their biases and did little to bring together real discourse and debate. All they did was whip up more hatred, panic and emotion to divide us further.

So... we all ended up take to social media to get our news and views away from the blurred lines…. and instead of sharing facts, all we are doing is winding ourselves up, blinding ourselves from finding compromise and hiving off social contacts we once considered “friends” (both the physical and electronic varieties).

The Bottom-line: It’s time for all the stakeholders in society to get meaningful and respectful again  

Whether we like it or not, we now have four years of President Trump – he got himself elected. He won – seemingly against all the odds. Now let’s sincerely hope he can work to bring together a divided nation and bring together people across this divide of hate which he helped create. If he is to be successful as a President, it’s healing this awful culture of factless, meaningless squabbling. The US doesn’t need it’s own half-Brexit, where the country can’t decide what it wants anymore and people have to move forward clouded in uncertainty and confusion.

In the last week, President Trump has made appointments to his cabinet that are concerning for many. But sensationalist reporting devoid of actual facts has also skewed the true merit for concern and the weight of the issue. We need our media to provide information so we as citizens can express our voice based on facts and not fear that may or may not be warranted. The last thing we need are our already-fractured social networks being further eroded by all this emotion, paranoia and hype.

We need decisive policies, politicians working together and (at least try) to develop some mutual respect with people, whose views may not be entirely aligned with us. I don’t like the way the world has become, and I think most of you here will agree that it’s time for our media, our politicians – and ourselves – to get meaningful and respectful again.

Posted in: Social NetworkingPolicy and RegulationsSocial Media