Monthly Archives: Apr 2018

Offshore outsourcing died with Trump. Now value-based partnerships are rising from the ashes...

April 28, 2018 | Phil Fersht

What a difference an election makes.  When we ran our State of Operations and Outsourcing study in 2014 (mid-way through President Obama's final term), Global 2000 enterprises were still planning to increase their short-term investments in offshoring their IT by more than 20%.  When we re-ran the study in 2016, offshoring intent was clearly dropping to a 12% intended increase (which is a realistic number for a saturating market), but this year it has nose-dived to a mere 5% increase, which is a clear result of the anti-offshoring sentiment that has hurt offshore-centric deals:

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I discussed this trend with one of the lead partners at ISG, the offshore outsourcing industry's largest deal advisor, and he shared that Trump's stance against offshoring was considerably slowing down the deal cycle for his firm, and he was even seeing some outsourcing deals going to the likes of Accenture and IBM because it created the façade that work was not being offshored (even though it was).  Yes, this is the kind of stuff that happens when a president likes to get fast and loose with his twitter account! 

However, while Trump's open attacks on American firms using offshoring stoked panic into many paranoid C-Suites, what really transpired was a rapid shift in how US firms are viewing their partnerships with global service providers. Today's reality is technology has become core to business competitiveness by creating new revenue channels made possible by interactive communications technologies with customers, by simplifying business operations to support the business with real-time data, and by supporting broader processes that respond to the needs of customers, as they occur.

Offshoring may be slowing, but the services business is in its best shape for four years

The healthy trend here, for the future of IT and business services, is the fact that the industry finds itself on the healthiest growth footing since 2013 - so clearly offshoring is no longer the primary driver behind IT services investments:

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President Trump merely speeded up the development of global services from a cost-reduction to a business-value proposition

Many enterprise leaders are clearly no longer thinking, "How can we shave some more cost off our annual IT budget by moving more work to India?".  Instead, they are thinking, "How can I get quality services delivered at competitive prices that take advantage of the cloud, automation, and global talent."  The subtle shift here is clearly one from an obsessive focus on low cost, to one of getting quality services as the industry matures, where there are many leverage points to find productivity gains, beyond merely relying on FTE rates.  The more pricing shifts towards outcomes, volumes and KPIs, the less visible offshoring becomes as a cost-lever. 

When you buy electricity, do you care where the supplier houses its generators?  When you use public cloud services, do you bother to question Google, Amazon or Spotify where they house their massive data farms?  It's the same when engaging with IT services firms to get work done: business operations leaders are barely thinking about where they are located anymore - and all President Trump has done is shifted the optics, compelled the leading India-heritage firms to make substantially more onshore staff investments - which they needed to do in any case - as the nature of IT work is driving the need for greater client intimacy and physical proximity between service delivery staff and client staff. 

Traditional outsourcing is being replaced by partnering, and "offshoring" is not even part of that conversation

Our recent study looking at digital transformation to the OneOffice reveals that the majority (57%) of the highest quartile of performers in the Global 2000 (based on revenue and profitability) view their primary service providers as supporting their digital transformation roadmaps, as co-innovation partners helping them achieve co-defined business outcomes.  Only a third viewed their service providers solely as a resource to provision skills and scale via a headcount model:

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This data speaks volumes - enterprises digital leaders need providers which can work with them to achieve outcomes that are increasingly challenging - most no longer requisition 500 developers per year to code in ABAP for strategic initiatives - that is a commodity practice today, usually delegated to lower level manager to lead.  Nearly all G2000 firms, today, have a Chief Digital Officer tasked with taking their companies through significant business model change, enabled by smart technology provided by partners which understand what is required.  Whether the talent for these strategic projects resides in Bangalore, Basingstoke, Bucharest or Baton Rouge is moot - this is about getting results where top talent is hard to source, and the location is just not very relevant anymore.

The Bottom-line: Trump did us a favor and ripped off the legacy Band-Aid for the services industry

Trump's stance on offshore outsourcing sparked two behaviors which have set up the future of services to be far more value-driven and business oriented: All the major Indian-heritage service providers have been aggressive adding 10,000+ staff right across North America and Europe.  Several are also embarking on ambitious acquisitions of niche onshore digital firms (both creative and tech-driven) to engage themselves higher up the foodchain within their clients and be considered for more lucrative digital engagements where there are deeply engaged with their clients redesigning business models that need sophisticated technical support.  So while the industry suffered from a couple of flat years trying to squeeze the last vestiges of life out of a dying body-shopping model, the new reality is a global delivery model that is now embedded in engagements where the focus is much more on business value and outcomes than prehistoric effort-based inputs.  We are also entering an era where the likes of Cognizant, Infosys, TCS and Wipro will cease to be called "Indian providers" and merely be referred to as global IT services firms.  Location is irrelevant... expertise most definitively is not.

Posted in: Digital TransformationIT Outsourcing / IT ServicesDigital OneOffice

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Can Infosys be the one to challenge Accenture's digital services dominance?

April 23, 2018 | Phil Fersht

It took a while, but we've finally seen the cards being played from Infosys' new CEO Salil Parekh - and it's a concerted digital play to offer clients an alternative to Accenture.  Make no bones about it, the intentions are crystal clear to reverse the course Vishal Sikka set with a software-centric "product" approach, and follow the Accenture model of creative digital services supported by technology-agnostic execution.  The firm, once affectionately dubbed the "Indian Accenture", has gone full circle to reclaim its mantle and revitalize itself as one of the key services alternatives to enterprise clients seeking high-value digital capabilities enabled by industrial-scale technology execution. Infosys has never been one to go about its business quietly - the firm likes to make big bold statements and attack the industry with a swagger - and, after a full year of navel-gazing as Sikka's reign fizzled out, amid a very public media obsessed with scrutinizing every private jet excursion and every former SAP executive's departure package, Salil has made his play in typical Infosys style.

With the chest-beating battle cries coming out of the firm's Q1 results, Salil and his new founder friends believe they have the credibility, brand and global presence to slip in front of its rivals, notably Cognizant, TCS and Wipro, and to make up for lost ground and quickly assert their presence in this digital race for client supremacy.  The (surprisingly open) stated effort to sell off their product acquisitions Panaya and Skava (and likely more), the recent acquisition of creative agency WONGDOODY, famous for its Superbowl ads, and its 2017 addition of London-based product design agency, Brilliant Basics, gives Infosys a creative digital footing in both US and Europe.  

So can Infosys break out of the pack to challenge?  Let's take a look at the Digital Services market...

There's been enough noise and confusion regarding what constitutes digital and which providers are truly breaking ground here, but the stark reality is that Accenture has made a relentless concerted acquisition strategy to dominate this market from the onset, and the current race is on from the rest of the service provider community to challenge them:

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Digital services provide the natural evolution of traditional IT and business services firms, while products-plus-services is a struggle

For all Vishal's intelligence and vision, the reality became very clear towards the later stages of his tenure as Infosys CEO: traditional IT services firms will always struggle to become products-plus-services firms as they simply do not have the channel to market, the sales structure or the culture to sell these offering at a one-to-many scale. "SAP has 45,000 clients while we only have 1,200" was his realization.  Services juggernauts like Infosys are never going to scale effectively down to the lower middle market, hence need to deepen their footprints with large clients which are profitable to manage in their global delivery model.  And remember Accenture's aborted attempts to make a mid-market play?  

A one-to-few model may work in very specific areas such as procurement (Accenture and Procurian) or healthcare (Cognizant and TriZetto), but these investments are substantial and require a significant amount of time, focus, and investment to make viable.  This is why Salil made the aggressive decision to abort Panaya and Skava - these require a massive effort to deepen sales and delivery capability to make these investments truly worthwhile and pivot Infosys into a much more specialized direction. The realistic growth for a firm like Infosys is in winning big-ticket enterprise services accounts on long-term deals that require significant scale and transformation.  There is a reason TCS is leading the services industry in valuation - it has its tentacles firmly wrapped around large, multi-year client relationships and is not bogged down in discreet product acquisitions.  

Digital services represent the high-value end of the services business where firms like Infosys can embed themselves for many years if they get this right - the ability to design, manage and deliver the customer engaging front office, supported by a digital underbelly, support organization and predictive analytics (as we at HfS term the "Digital OneOffice").  It is that ability to enable clients to respond to the needs of their customers in real-time: Digital is the wow factor that is setting apart today's services firms.  The reality is most of these providers are competent at delivering IT services at scale to meet whatever KPIs were agreed at the onset of a contract.  So the differentiation is that ability to help enterprise clients delivery the digital experience for their own clients - and you can only really do this if you have absorbed sufficient design and consulting talent at scale. Digital is much more about a services experience than a specific product experience - there are many apps and tools clients can use, but it's how they are aligned with the business strategy that really matters.  This is why Accenture's technology agnostic strategy of the last two decades is the one so many services firms are now following.

The Bottom-line: Accenture created the digital services market and there is no clear contender to take them on from an end-to-end services standpoint.  Infy has as good a shot as any of its key rivals

Three small-scale acquisitions are merely a statement of intent, but the hard work starts now - and it is a serious about of hard work!  While WONGDOODY and Brilliant Basics are very credible firms and get Infy on the map for digital design and media services, Salil and his cohorts need to savage the market with some further significant investments if it wants a place firmly at the big boys' table. Cognizant has done an excellent job taking its SMAC stack into a very meaningful effective digital offering, and currently is pushing Accenture the most aggressively, with focused offerings and marketing.  Wipro has made some admirable efforts with Designit and Appirio to win some notable deals and has been very focused on this space, vastly improving its communication and positioning with clients.  The reality is, no one has come anywhere close to rivaling Accenture's scale with digital and we need to see a lot more than some small agency investments if any of these firms want to make a realistic play at Accenture's dominance.  Firms like Infosys now have to bet big if they want to do more than pay lip service to the new wave of technology-focused offerings.  A major consulting acquisition, such as a Booz or AT Kearney, could make the difference, but will likely be a one-shot deal to make or break their strategy, and we all know how messy these services-plus-consultant acquisitions can get.  

The bolder play is to go after one of the large creative media/advertising agencies that offers clients and scale that get Infosys immediately to the table.  Firms like AKQA, BBH, M&C Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather, Sid Lee and the Miller Group (to name a few) would deliver immediate credibility and digital design capability to a firm as ambitious as Infosys.  Infosys has the swagger to pull something like this off, but has never faced such a test of focus as it does right now - it has picked its path, now the firm needs to pace some serious, eye-catching investments to stay true to its word.  Most importantly, the Founders needs to stay true to Saili and not have him experience the wheels come off like they did for Vishal - that is not a road Infosys can afford to go down again, as next time there won't be a forgiveness factor from its clients or the industry at large.

Posted in: Digital TransformationDigital OneOffice

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We're becoming obsessive social networkers with a huge appetite to learn from each other

April 15, 2018 | Phil Fersht

Remember that 70's movie "Logan's Run" when, in the 23rd century, the population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by killing everyone who reaches the age of 30?  They found a simple fix to solve their problems. Today, we seem to be entering a similar situation with employment and intelligent automation: why not just retire everyone at 40 to protect those valuable employment resources? It sounds far easier than building a ridiculously long wall or pretending all these magical new jobs will appear from nowhere in a couple of years... 

Everyone, seemingly, is obsessing with the current swirl of anxiety infecting our whole career outlook, with relentless discussions raising our stress levels as we figure out how to "adapt" ourselves to a world where bots are going to do so much of our work at some indefinable moment in the future.  

It's just not cool to be normal anymore...

Whether we're mindlessly getting our hourly endorphin rush from those lovely social media sites that keep pulling us in, or dozing through yet another mind-numbing panel on the "impact of intelligent automation" at some horrendous conference we just had to go to (listening to people who previously had nothing to do with "automation" and have since become overnight luminaries), or simply chatting with colleagues in the office... there is now a constant angst that

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Posted in: Digital OneOfficeTalent in Sourcing

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Gartner fails spectacularly with its 180 degree flip on the impact of AI Automation on jobs

April 07, 2018 | Phil Fersht

Whiplash alert: You may have noticed how Gartner recently flipped its core messaging from automation/AI being a seismic job destroyer to being now a job-creator.  And both times, they just can't seem to back up the rhetoric with actual facts.  Plus, they don't even seem to be able to define consistently what they actually mean by "AI Automation". 

Remember when Gartner claimed that automation and AI were not only going to replace a third of jobs by 2025, but many of us would be reporting to a robo-boss at some stage this year?  Well, guess what folks, they've now performed a complete 180-degree flip, claiming that millions of new jobs will be created after 2020, far outweighing their previously predicted gargantuan job losses (courtesy of LinkedIn).  Wow:

Let's dare to look back in time to hold Gartner to account

Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's Head of Research, predicted one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025.  Yes he actually said that at his own Symposium, and even added, "New digital businesses require less labor; machines will make sense of data faster than humans can."  However, unlike the good old days when analysts could get away with all flavors of outlandish grandstanding soundbites to spice up a conference, these predictions tend to hang around the internet these days.  While many people love to keep spinning new headlines everyday, in the hope #fakenews is now the #realnews, some of us still have memory banks that last longer than one week, especially when CIOs spend billions of dollars for this type of council.  

And then who can forget this almighty whopper from Fran Karamouzis, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner:

By 2018, more than three million workers globally will be supervised by "robo-bosses".  Excellent, so Fran's surely keeping her fingers crossed that the robo-boss takeover is even more imminent than Donald Trump's interview with Robert Mueller...

Gartner's new claim why AI and Automation will create this massive net gain in jobs

When Gartner put out this far more positive news, I was so excited, and couldn't wait to hear their new rationale:

Click to read full press release

"Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation and AI will likely follow this route," said Svetlana Sicular, research vice president at Gartner. AI will improve the productivity of many jobs, eliminating millions of middle- and low-level positions, but also creating millions more new positions of highly skilled, management and even the entry-level

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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Fed up with the AI nonsense? Well here's your reality check...

April 05, 2018 | Phil Fersht

Fed up with even the hype being so overhyped, that even The MIT Media Lab is severing ties with a brain-embalming company that promoted euthanasia to people hoping for digital immortality through “brain uploads"?  Yes really. 

Then waste no time as we plan to steer you back to some version of reality next week with an unvarnished, unsponsored, unpuffed view of the world, where any spin if countered with a powerful forehand down the line:

Click here to reserve your virtual seat now!

Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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It's not all about mindset: The lack of IT talent is the biggest roadblock to reaching the Digital OneOffice promised land

April 02, 2018 | Phil Fersht

If I had a dollar every time an executive bemoaned their firm’s inability to “change their mindset”, to do anything differently to escape their habitual ways of running operations.  And if I had a further greenback for every advisor who bemoaned how idiotic their customers are, because they “just don’t have the deep expertise to fix their underlying data structure", I would have long retired to the Trappist Order to brew very strong beer for connoisseurs with beards (that doesn’t actually taste very nice, but it's just so beardy).

Surely the perfect desired outcome, even if it tastes like crap

It's all about bringing the operations closer to the customer, and lacking IT talent is a major impediment to achieving it

Getting to the point here, it’s one thing demanding your employees change how they approach their jobs to benefit your firm from deploying advanced automation and cognitive tools, but entirely another if you don’t have the technical expertise to put them to work.  It’s one thing to design a leading-edge digital interface with your customers, but it’s rendered pretty useless if you don’t have the capability to integrate it with your operations to provide customer support, get your products and services to them and harvest their data to keep making smart marketing decisions to stay ahead of demand. It’s one effort to redesign processes around your customers, entirely another to redesign your operational infrastructure to make it actually happen

We recently interviewed 100 C-Suite executives from major enterprises and split the discussion across both business and IT leaders.  While the industry obsesses about whether C-Suites know where to where to invest, what are their desired outcomes etc., we don't focus nearly enough on the impediments preventing them from achieving these goals.  We focus far too much on firms' short-term spending on tools, and not enough on defining the ultimate outcomes and drawing up real investment and change management plans to get there. As we recently discussed, if we only focus on the means, we will never arrive at the end. To address this, we presented the OneOffice Concept to understand what is holding back both business and IT leaders from reaching the promised land of perfect real-time symmetry of their business operations staying ahead of their customers’ needs:

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The Bottom-line: The Right Brain only functions when it's in sync with the Left Brain 

As we have widely discussed, four-out-of-ten customers (see earlier blog) going through initial deployments of RPA software are struggling to meet the business cases and cost savings goals.  And when we bring hundreds of enterprise leaders together at our HfS Summits, the story is consistent: business struggling with change, but they struggle even more with aligning the right technical expertise to work alongside their business talent.  Simply put, today's firms are struggling with having IT depth to take their ambitious C-Suites where they want to go.  So where do we go from here?

IT is at the heart of C-Suite strategy - it's a business discussion that only works with the right IT capability.  You only needed to eavesdrop on the many C-level discussions at Davos to know the IT discussion is firmly at the core of the business. Being able to satisfy your customer's digital business needs is where it's all heading.  I was recently talking their the Group Finance Head at HSBC and his whole focus is on two elements - having the best digital app delivery and providing the best customer experience, which is incredibly challenging for any business environment grappling with differing compliance needs across borders, and ever-demanding customers wanting to do all their banking on an iPad.  However, while this is a challenge, it is also a massive opportunity for the ambitious who get their business design and IT skillset equation right.  

Finding the right partners is more crucial than ever.  There is a massive opportunity to lead in the world of IT services, provided you can plug these skills gaps.  The challenge is breaking out of the traditional sourcing model to access niche talent across the globe in areas such as crypto-technology, Python development, Lisp, Prolog, Go and C++.  While most traditional firms still rely heavily on bread and butter IT services delivered at scale from regions such as India, the emergence of talent in Central and Eastern Europe, China and parts of South America also need to be brought into play.  The IT services world will be a very different place in a couple of years as boutique firms offering niche skills come into the fore.  Not to mention the emergence of crowdsourcing for IT talent.  Having really savvy IT leaders who can cobble together crack teams on-tap to solve their IT headaches is already becoming a huge differentiator for many firms.  The will also be a role for the super services integrator, who can pull together teams for clients to work with them on complex projects.

Simplification of business operations is the real key to future success. In short, there is no silver bullet to solve these endemic issues companies are facing to break out of legacy ways of working, but being able to align a determined mindset shift on the business side with smart IT skills to bring it to reality, is the only true way forward for firms who know their days are numbered, if they cannot change their inner workings to get somewhere near a OneOffice end-state.  The future is really all about simplifying operations to bring them completely in line with the world of the customer.  Hence, successful businesses need IT folks who can think logically to simplify business operations through the use of automation, cognitive, AI and digital.  It's not just about software packages and APIs, it's about both business and IT staff learning to understand each other's strengths and challenges better.  It's really not rocket science, it's about learning to simplify business models to stay ahead of your customers' needs and not giving your competitors a window to take you out of your market...because that may already be happening to you.

Posted in: Digital OneOffice

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And there went another April Fools' Day...

April 01, 2018 | Phil Fersht

I hope you enjoyed our little blockchain fools' fun today, but here is possibly the greatest ever from BBC Sport...

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless Comedy

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How blockchain will change the world in many more ways than you realize. It’s cataclysmic

April 01, 2018 | Phil Fersht

We all know that Blockchain has emerged as the world's leading software platform for digital assets, however, new research is demonstrating its value could go even further than merely digital assets. Blockchain can reinvigorate parts of your infrastructure that have been under-performing for years to have a dramatic increase on the satisfaction of your partners, your customers and possibly even your employees…

HfS research’s new findings indicate that many enterprise back offices are in dire need of a complete transformation in order to come close to achieving the desired outcomes of their partners.  Yes, folks, the impact of blockchains is causing many flagging enterprise assets to stand to attention, desperate to reclaim their former splendor and glory.  According to one automation governance lead from a major consumer products firm, “Why rip and replace legacy assets when you still have plenty of mileage to glean from your trusted old systems?  Ever since we got on the Blockchain Program, we’re rediscovering the ability to perform in a manner I’ve not experienced for at least twenty years.”

As with every technology magic bullet, the conversation always reverts to “hammers finding nails”, as many executives long to revive the glory days of shaving more off their bottom line in order to achieve more attractive results.

To this end, a financial controller of a FORTUNE 20 bank declared, “I had practically given up on ever meeting the demands of my various partners.  Every time we were asked to perform, we just couldn’t connect the pieces.  We tried every solution on the market, every tool off the shelf, even some special robots… we were a hammer trying to find a nail, but the nail just wouldn’t find the hole.  Until we were introduced to blockchain, and suddenly everything changed…”.

There’s something about the nature of a distributed ledger that enables even the most seasoned of industry executives to re-live the days of their youth, a revelation that has put the wind up Pfizer, whose market is the latest to be on the verge of disruption.  According to one disgruntled Prizer executive, “We are very concerned about the impact of Blockchain on our business lines.  We have been warning customers of the serious side effects a Blockchain is going to have, with its sheer processing grunt depleting energy resources to an alarming extent.  We advise affected customers to call their on-demand service provider for urgent support, especially after more than four hours of vigorous non-stop blockchain activity that is showing no signs of slowing down.”

HfS analysts also caught up with a leading executive from IBM, John Holmes, who added, “Thanks to blockchain, there is a huge opportunity to get our firm back on course for some serious straight line growth.” 

And when we managed to get Accenture blockchain guru, Peter North, on the phone who revealed, "Blockchain promises high performance delivered and we aim to deliver that high performance. Delivered."

Even President Donald Trump has confirmed the future potential of Blockchain in a recent series of tweets where he argued ‘It’s the best. The greatest. Just great. I’m so glad I came up with idea before Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But seriously, Ivanka, is there any way we can delete some of the data on there? Yes those blocks called Stormy, delete them.’

And of course... this was an:

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Posted in: Blockchain

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