Monthly Archives: May 2017

Standards in automation? There's only one Lee in the IEEE...

May 27, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Few people can claim to have led shared services and IT for Kraft Foods, built shared services from scratch for Ascension Health, become one of the first true shared services practitioners to kick the tires with RPA... before establishing the industry's first standards body for Intelligent Process Automation with the IEEE.  Plus, he's going to be at our inaugural FORA Council (The Future of Operations in the Robotic Age) as the voice of standards and reason this September in Chicago.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, meet the reincarnation of the process pontiff himself, Lee Coulter, who's going to give us a little more insight into why the heck we desperately need to adhere to some standards if we're going to find that automation haven that exists somewhere between fantasy, reality and failed promises...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Good morning Lee it’s great to chat with you again. You have been pretty deeply involved in developing and working on standards in process automation with the IEEE for over a year, would you be able to give us an update on what has been accomplished, and what we can expect next?

Lee Coulter, CEO Shared Services, Ascension Health and Chair for the IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation: Absolutely Phil, it has been quite a journey and I am very happy say that after working through the various societies of IEEE, the Board of Governors realised that this work impacted multiple societies and decided to use their reserve prerogative to sponsor a standards effort at the Board of Governors level. The first standard establishes some common terminology for us, it goes for approval on 5 May and that’s the procedural verification, making sure we have followed all the procedures of setting the standard, and we expect it to be published in June.  At the same time a part of IEEE called NeSCom which stands for the New Standards Committee that reviews all proposals. The next efforts, which will be referred to as P2756 in the IEEE world and their website, will be technology, taxonomy and classification for intelligent process automation products. Incidentally, in the same meeting where our first standard will be approved, they will also be reviewing and voting on the next standard. We have significantly increased attention for the second standard, which is really where we wanted to start but we realised we couldn’t do a taxonomy until we agreed what words meant. Several new members across the spectrum of providers have become advanced corporate members with IEEE and we expect to have a first working group meeting towards the end of June, as we go down the path of establishing a taxonomy.

Phil:  And when you look at the general state of automation in the industry today, where would you say companies are, as a whole, and how does this tie in with the need for standards?

Lee: It’s interesting, I recently presented an update at an event and a bunch of people hung out after the update, these were people new to the world of automation. They came up to thank me

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Posted in: Robotic Process Automation



Gartner: 96% of customers are getting real value from RPA? Really?

May 23, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Last year we couldn't help ourselves revealing our lovely Gartner analyst friends, via the voice of Chief of Research and Distinguished Analyst, Fran Karamouzis, declaring, "3 million of us will be supervised by robobosses by 2018".  

So, while many of us are counting down the last few months enjoying our last experiences of having human bosses (or maybe some of us will actually prefer a robot), we can now breathe a huge sigh of relief that a whopping "96% of clients are getting real value from RPA" (Robotic Process Automation).  And not only that, RPA is thriving at a "satisfaction level greater than anything Fran has seen in her 17 years at Gartner":

I personally would love to meet this incredible cross sample of delighted clients Fran has had the good fortune to interview, seeing as we've been covering the emergence of RPA for nearly 5 years and this space is still at a very early phase of (sometimes) painful RPA experimentation, as enterprises figure out how to scale these tools, govern them and learn how to integrate them with other applications using scarce technical skills, while dealing with very challenging change issues.  

At HfS, we just came off a very intense day with 60 enterprise clients tinkering with RPA, and can officially declare that 96% of them are definitely not in love with their experience.  In fact, only a handful are making real progress, while the majority lack a cohesive governance program to get this stuff working on even a few rudimentary processes.  At HfS, we estimate, from our extensive ongoing research, that about half of today's RPA implementations are, so far, making some progress, while even Ernst and Young's new RPA report declares it has seen 30-50% of initial RPA implementations fail. (And this McKinsey piece entitled "Burned by the bots: Why robotic automation is stumbling"  has since been published... well worth a read).   

Why claiming 96% of RPA customers are seeing real value is plainly ridiculous 

Several of the RPA solutions vendors are painting an over-glamorous picture of dramatic cost savings and ROI. RPA software firms are claiming - and demonstrating - some client cases where ~40% of cost (or more, in some cases) is being taken off the bottom line. While some of these cases are genuine, there are many RPA pilots and early-phase implementations in the industry that have been left stranded because clients just couldn't figure out the ROI and how to implement this stuff. This isn't simply a case of buying software and looping broken processes together to remove manual efforts... this requires real buy-in from IT and operations leaders to invest in the technical, organizational change management, and process transformation skills. 

Several RPA clients cannot scale their solutions and are aborting implementations.  One solution in particular, which featured high in many analyst scatterplots, has recently suffered

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Posted in: Confusing Outsourcing InformationRobotic Process Automation



The FORA Council has assembled the industry's leading minds in cognitive automation

May 17, 2017 | Phil Fersht

When an industry is enduring a secular shift that is literally redefining how we do work, it's pretty important to get some real, unfettered dialog going among all the key stakeholders this impacts. We need to break free from the glitzy paid-for sales presentations, robot keyrings, stress balls, nasty logo-ed leather notepads and greedy events firms vying for a quick buck from vendors eager to part with cash to promote themselves to all their competitors.

That's why we're assembling 75 of the industry's finest leaders in a single room for a whole afternoon to thrash out the mandate for the future of operations in the robotic age for our inaugural FORA council session in Chicago, 19th September.  And promise no sponsors, stress balls or bad white papers to take away...

Here's just a sample of the industry robo dignitaries who've already committed:

  • Alastair Bathgate, CEO, Blue Prism
  • Chetan Dube, CEO, IPsoft
  • Chip Wagner, President, Emerging Business Services, ISG
  • Cliff Justice, Partner, US Leader, Cognitive Automation and Digital Labor, KPMG
  • David Poole, CEO, Symphony Ventures
  • Daniel Dines, CEO and Founder at UiPath
  • Jesus Mantas, Managing Partner and General Manager, IBM Business Consulting, IBM US
  • Lee Coulter, Chair for the IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation
  • Dr. Mary C. Lacity, Curators' Distinguished Professor of Information Systems, UMSL, and Visiting Scholar MIT
  • Max Yankelevich, CEO, WorkFusion
  • Mihir Shukla, CEO, Automation Anywhere
  • Peter Lowes, Partner, and Head of Robotics & Cognitive Automation, Deloitte US
  • Shantanu Ghosh, SVP, CFO Services and Consulting, Genpact
  • Thomas Torlone, U.S. Leader of Enterprise Business Services, PwC
  • Tijl Vuyk, CEO and Founder, Redwood Software
  • Weston Jones, Global RPA Leader, EY

We also have leaders of cognitive and automation initiatives from the following buyside firms already signed up to get stuck into the debate:

So let's cut to the chase - it's time to have the real, hard conversation about where we really are as an industry. Why aren't those 40% cost savings happening, each time someone slams in some software and hope it somehow eliminates manual labor because they can access a bot library? In fact, why are a third of RPA pilots just left hanging with no result?  Yes, people, it's time to wake up and smell those robotic roses and have those really tough conversations about what is real, versus why so much of this stuff just isn't working - and why we're not putting together properly governed RPA rollout plans like we do with ERP software and SaaS platforms.  Why are we making such a mess with this, when we could have so much to benefit from?

So join us in Chicago this September 19th for FORA the inaugural council meeting that finally debates the true Future of Operations in the Robotic Age

FORA is the very first industry council is established to bring together buyside operations leaders, service providers leaders, expert advisers and technology developers to steer industry’s transition to the Digital OneOffice™.  

FORA’s mission is to bring together the leadership from senior buyside operations leaders, service provider leadership, expert advisers, and technology developers to set the agenda for the transition to the Digital OneOffice™, and to develop an industry mandate for navigating and managing the creative destruction that looms. Supporting the FORA initiative is the IEEE’s Intelligent Process Automation Standards initiative that will encourage further research and investment, leading to powerful and attractive new service offerings. But the commercial frameworks needed to encourage and sustain wider deployment of these technologies are lagging because they fundamentally threaten established models.

In order to communicate the learnings from the FORA meetings, the group will produce a quarterly “FORA Mandate” that communicates core recommendations to the industry from the group meetings that will be held at quarterly HfS Summits.

So how can you get considered for Council Membership?

HfS will consider applications to the FORA Council based on seniority and relevance. Are you interested in participating? Just email us at [email protected]

This is a really important development as we consider the future of services and operations amidst all this creative disruption. I hope to greet many of you personally in Chicago this September.


Posted in: Outsourcing Events



Frank D'Souza: We're now experiencing the biggest shift since the Internet

May 12, 2017 | Phil Fersht


It's always more fun to be the disruptor than the disrupted in markets where innovation is the key differentiator and commoditization the curse. The world of technology is a constant challenge as programming languages become commonplace, processes increasingly standardized and automated, and global service delivery efficiency a bread-and-butter offering. How can you continue to grow at a double-digit clip, while maintaining profit margins of 20%+ amidst cut-throat competition and clients forever eager to batter down their costs?  

Fortunately, the entire role technology plays is changing at a pace that is faster than most industries that can barely tolerate, which keeps driving new opportunities for smart firms with a disruptive appetite at their core and a willingness to live outside of their comfort zones. Today, enterprises are asking for business problems to be addressed and simply expect their service partners to get the job done. It's no longer "Provide me with 50 developers for this amount of time to perform these tasks", it's more, "We need to redefine our healthcare insurance business to be more competitive in the market to survive - come help us do that", or "These new banking regulations are crippling our ability to remain viable - what can we do to get ahead of these and operate effectively in this environment, faster than our competitors?"

Hence, it's up to the ambitious service providers to pivot how they address their clients' needs by redesigning business operations through smarter automation, process design and a much more proficient understanding and orchestration of their critical data sets. This is what digital is really all about - and this is where Cognizant CEO, Francisco "Frank" D'Souza is determinedly taking his organization. Cognizant has been Wall Street's golden child of IT services growth over the past decade, the firm ballooning from $2bn in 2007 to $13.5bn exactly a decade later, and last week announced 11% year-on-year revenue growth and a 26% increase in year-on-year net profits to $557m. Cognizant continues to outperform the market with relentless growth and appears to be on a new upward growth trajectory after a challenging 2016, which saw the whole IT services industry tackle this new secular shift, which Frank believes if the most pivotal transition since the onset of the Internet itself.

I caught up with Frank this week in London to get a little deeper into this pivotal industry shift and learn more about how he intends to keep disrupting his market.

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Frank – great to see you again. Was good for the whole industry to see you guys announce strong results last week – is the gloomy cloud that’s been hovering over our industry lifting, from Cognizant’s vantage point?

Francisco D'Souza, CEO Cognizant: Phil, last year was an important foundational year in our pivot to digital. I think we were ahead on some of the digital thinking, code halos and SMAC (social, media, analytics and cloud), we have been talking about those for many years. I think last year was the year that picture, at least in our minds, and our clients’ minds, crystallized around what are the specific opportunities around digital. Prior to last year, digital was the typical catch-all term used for lots of different things.

I think it’s become very clear, Phil, with every day that goes by, is the notion that if you think about a company’s enterprise model (what is the business model, what’s the operating model and what’s the technology model) it’s now become clear what is the implication of digital technology at each layer in that stack and by industry. What does that mean for financial services, what does that mean for healthcare, what does it mean for insurance?

Last year was about crystallizing around that – we reorganised the business we took all our capabilities, we grouped them into three big practice areas: digital business, digital operations, digital systems and technology. Within that we really focused and emphasized the key digital themes and trends in each of those areas. If you think about the technology space we built and emphasized the cyber security aspects, we built and emphasized performance and scalability,

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Posted in: Digital TransformationIT Outsourcing / IT ServicesOutsourcing Heros



Is your current job the end of the line?

May 06, 2017 | Phil Fersht


A new trend is developing in the tech and business world and the speed at which it is happening is alarming. The need for people is waning as companies seek to scale themselves profitably on a digital backbone - and it's having a serious impact on our career paths.

When companies historically did layoffs, it was because they were in financial peril and had no choice but to saw off costs to stay solvent on the balance sheet. It was always painful, because you needed people to grow your business. Sacking people was not a good thing to do.

Suddenly it’s in vogue to shed people

However, if you were unfortunate enough to get caught in a layoff, you dusted off your CV, went out on the job market and (usually) found yourself something pretty quickly. Companies needed people – whether they were superstars, or solid foot soldiers; when you needed an employer, you would always find something.

Now something different is happening in the mindsets of business leaders – companies which are doing really well are in the process of proactively removing staff – both at junior and senior levels. You really don't want to get caught up in one of today's layoffs if you're eager to stay in a similar job in future, because the modern business is adopting a new mentality - cut costs and scale profitably with a digital backbone.  Adding armies of people is no longer the order of the day when you peer into an uncertain future, and many savvy businesses are eagerly looking to

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process AutomationGlobal Workforce and Talent