Monthly Archives: Feb 2020

RPA died. Get over it. Now focus on designing processes that deliver superlative experiences.

February 21, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Seriously folks… there’s the hype, then the excitement, then even more hype… and then the realization that it wasn’t quite what you thought... and then, finally, coming to terms with the fact you're no longer going to hit that elusive jackpot.  To hear some people still showering us with cryptic unaudited revenue numbers, and from neolithic analysts still parroting their marketing, just spanks of desperation to keep faking a market that simply isn’t there.  Can we just push the off-button on this charade, please?

What, exactly, is "dead" and where are the signs of life... when it comes to process software and enterprise automation?

The RPA that "died" is the poorly-defined "RPA" that got hyped up to create hockey-stick growth excitement for investors. It wasn't defined correctly, was a mash-up of desktop automation with pure-RPA (unattended back office) and all the deals that got signed were "attended" so weren't even "robotic". 

The pieces of RPA that survive are the process orchestration tools (discover, design, automate and mine) that form part of what we see as the evolution towards "Intelligent Digital Workers" which augment human experiences and help with real customer-to-employee intimacy. Let's also not forget these apps also need to be enterprise-grade, compliant with ITIL and security factors etc. Scale only occurs when the business designs and IT enables... The winners in the future are smart enterprises with leverage technologies to anticipate where their customers are going... often before their customers even know themselves.

It's been a year since we declared RPA "Dead"... so what's been happening since?

It’s been nearly a year since we penned our now-infamous blog “RPA is dead.  Long Live Integrated Automation Platforms”. Coming from the analyst firm that first introduced RPA to the world in 2012, this caused quite the stir.  In fact, one of the leading service providers even shutdown its RPA practice as a result and most of the others are left scratching their heads still trying to figure out where the money really is…Since the “dead” post, we’ve seen a swift realization from investors that the RPA “market” was being engineered by a small handful of marketeers attempting a reincarnation of the dot-com bust era where everyone goes nuts over robot butlers and a bunch of naïve enterprise clients who’d been oversold too many RPA licenses that they had any idea how to deploy.

We weren’t helped by a small handful of analysts who really should know better than to pontificate false marketing in exchange for an ego-stroking and glittering robo-stardom they’d never before experienced... and a great big Vegas party that precipitated the most embarrassing collapse we’ve seen in the history of process technology. Many good people had bet their careers on hype, false hope – and blatant lies – and are still on the job market trying to get their lives back on track. In fact, the whole fiasco very nearly destroyed the real market that these tools can help catalyze, if they are allowed time to develop and form part of a broader, integrated solution.  Our recent HFS Top 10 covers this form the view of 300+ current adopters, however, this market is changing very quickly and it won't make sense in the future trying to put a lot of products in the same "market" that is changing into one that encompasses so much more than basic screen scraping, macros, and process loop recorders.

Instead, we need to focus on the development towards an intelligent digital workforce that help us deliver real customer and employee experiences

What isn’t dead is the fact that RPA created the path (and conversation) to a much bigger market that’s evolving, once you get real about business process issues and the true path operations leaders need to take to make them awesome.  But, if you can’t accept we’re in the early stages of a marathon, not midway through a 110 meters hurdles dash, we can define an exciting future for the world of automation.  But a “bot for every desktop”, or “hyper-automation”? Really, folks?  Can we just start talking again in plain English about what is actually realistic, what works and how we need to change ourselves to get there?  Can we start talking about an Intelligent Digital Workforce?  Can we start looking at how to move from dumb admin bots that keep old process loops and apps stitched together, and how enterprises can invest in intelligent workers that help us achieve much more intelligent interactions and experiences?  Can we focus on intelligent digital workers tuned to deliver (and learn) superlative experiences from processes we have designed to bring our customers and employees together?

The emergence of an Intelligent Digital Workforce is a key component of developing a OneOffice Experience.  RPA creates the foundation, but the next phase is to evolve to Intelligent Digital Workers

This shift toward intelligent digital experiences is a foundational element of HFS’ OneOffice Experience for Employee Experience (EX) and Customer Experience (CX). CX will increasingly be considered an umbrella term for the experience interacting with an entire organization, whether it’s the customer, partner, employee or any other entity. An EX culture is one where people work together shifting from transactional interactions to deeper relationships. Organizations need to ensure they get the balance right; which includes optimizing the use of emerging technology with a robust business case to improve CX to the long-term benefit of the business, getting the right information flows in place, eliciting strategic advantage and ensuring exceptional CX:

The HFS OneOffice Experience typifies how customer, partner and employee experience are coming together to drive a unified mindset, goals and business outcomes.  OneOffice conceptualizes how customer-centric experiences can be designed and supported by end-to-end processes across what we used to term front and back offices. Today's RPA bots essentially are embedded in the "Digital Underbelly" where they form part of the foundational processing layer for enterprises, while the emergence of smarter tools that can truly augment humans are where the future of RPA lies. Iftoday's current crop of software providers can develop their bots beyond the current static tools that really just keep old processes chuntering along. Digital Workers are emerging as the enabling technologies that are slowly becoming a critical component of developing CX design and delivering on the experiences smart process operators are designing processes to support.

HFS highlights five important principles of using Intelligent Digital Workers that all companies looking into implementing these solutions need to consider:

The Bottom-Line:  Intelligent Digital Workers are a powerful tool for connecting customer and employee experiences to drive a unified mindset, goals and business outcomes.  The RPA vendors need to get there if they want find their edge in the market

Experiencing a OneOffice enterprise with Intelligent Digital Workers looks different for every organization, but considering the HFS 5 principles will help your company define and execute on a strategy that benefits all of the stakeholders in your ecosystem rather than just having a “tick the box” approach to the technology.  Some companies will focus first on customer-facing, others will start with making internal processes easier and more intelligent.  Implemented well, Intelligent Digital Workers can better connect CX and EX, helping to provide the digital insights and intelligent support that a OneOffice experience requires. This is where the real market for process automation is heading... whether the current cast of RPA characters can make this shift is not inconceivable, but do they have the time and patience of their investors and clients to make the shift?  Time will tell... but not much time!

Posted in: Design ThinkingDigital OneOfficeRobotic Process Automation



NASSCOM 2020... no Coronavirus excuses as India comes bowling back

February 16, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Not quite middle-stump, but India's bowling a better line these days, as NASSCOM is graced by cricketing legend Kapil Dev

After last year's effort, our expectations were set at a pretty low bar for the annual NASSCOM extravaganza in Mumbai last week. The IT services industry had surely reached its rock-bottom when it comes to death by PowerPoint and the same old bleh!

But no... we were pleasantly surprised that bottom has - seemingly - been reached and we're actually clawing our way back!

Ten Takeaways from the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2020

1. Coronavirus.... what Coronavirus?  Unlike those wimps crashing out of Mobile World Congress, the IT services dignitary did not think for a second of finding a germophobic excuse to bail... In fact, attendance was visibly up from last year. I did suggest to some suppliers that they should dish out face masks brandishing their logos, but no-one seemed to care.  

2. Start-ups and emerging service providers and were out in force.  One of my personal gripes with NASSCOMs past has been the dominance of the old guard services founders and less of the emerging slew of providers and startups.  This was the first time the emerging Indian IT sector drowned out the marketing glitz from the establishment.  Here's a decent survey on the Indian startup sector from the Reserve Bank of India.

3. Big, big focus on changing talent needs.  One key theme that dominated conversations was the recognization that Indian service providers must invest very heavily in training their talent which really understands business processes and applies it to IT.  Only having business process understanding... or only IT... was a fast track to legacy.  "We have enough IT guys" was stated by more than one senior executive.

4. "Experiences" dominating the conversation.  The rapid growth being exhibited from the mid-cap service provider sector (Hewaware, LTI, Mindtree, Mphasis, NIIT, Persistent, Virtusa, Zensar et al) is being driven by enterprise clients' desire for great intimacy and experiences from their services partners.  The days of big, bulky, multi-year contracts are being replaced by rapid, high-impact projects where customers have quicker routes to outcomes and can demand greater value and complex support.  Brand is being superseded by expertise and speed-to-market and the mid-cap sector is clearly benefitting. Five years ago, working in a small-scale provider was depressing, with the sector stagnating from flat growth and an inability to compete with the tier 1s. Now the mid-sector loves taking on the juggernauts in deals where the client has deep intimate requirements warranting immediate attention from the A-team.

5. Some big hitters (and bowlers on stage) energized the whole event.  Hearing from Tata's Chandra was a much-needed boost for NASSCOM... he still cares about his first love of IT services, even now as he lords it with world leaders at Davos these days.  It really was terrific to hear the energy from Rajesh Gopinathan (CEO, TCS), Salil Parekh (CEO, Infosys) and Rishad Premji (Chairman, Wipro) duking it out on stage, and we also were treated to a strong session from Tech Mahindra's CEO, CP Gurnani, on the FutureSkills Prime initiative.  However, none could surpass the awesome appearance of one of cricket's all-time greats from the Hadlee, Botham, Viv Richards era... Kapil Dev (pictured above). 

6. Lack of presence from BPMs (BPOs).  Only WNS, the industry's highest growth services firm, was out in force.  The other emerging BPM firm of note was Datamatics, which is making a determined effort to get noticed.  Very little from EXL, Genpact, Sutherland etc. which is disappointing considering the rapid blending of process and technology in client engagements.

7. Lack of presence from non-Indian centric service providers.  While it was great to have Capgemini's India head, Ashwin Yardi, grace his presence, there were few hitters from the likes of Accenture, IBM and DXC present, despite their seismic armies of Indian IT talent.  NASSCOM needs to be about embracing global business investing very heavily in India (and close to half of the employees of Accenture, the IT services leader, are India-based).  

8. Automation fading fast from the agenda.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was the noticeable lack of presence from the automation firms.  A couple of sales booths for AA and UiPath were seen, but the only leaders from any of the automation firms to grace their presence were Govind Sandhu at AntWorks and Atul Soneja of EdgeVerge.  The days of cheesy robot posters and embarrassing robots on stage seem to be in the past as automation software becomes part of the fabric of services, as opposed to a major differentiation point.  Are the marketing coffers of the automation firms running dry, or do they feel they need to focus on marketing themselves beyond partnering with service providers these days?  Hmmm...

9. The gossip surrounding Wipro's successor dominated the chitchat.  Whether or not this is a good thing, the rotating cast of personalities leading the heritage Indian service providers dominates the headlines in India.  Whether Wipro likes it or not, they have now achieved an Infosys-level feverish status in the gossip columns, regarding Abid's successor.  I think about 30 executives from Wipro's competitors have now been linked with the job...

10. The lack of Cognizant executives also added to the gossip circles where their former one-zeros are heading... from Frank to Raj to Gajen to Prasad... people want to know where all these dudes will end up.  Surely not Wipro =)  Speaking of former Cog-natives, we were also lucky enough to meet MindTree's new CEO, Debashis "DC" Chatterjee (a former Cognizant leader) who's clearly enjoying the challenge of driving one of the mid-caps in Mindtree, and Harish Dwarkenhalli, who recently joined Wipro as President of Cloud Enterprise Platforms. 

The Bottom-line:  The energy is back as growth picks up and clients really need agile IT services partnerships

For the past three years, we've all argued whether India's IT services growth was going to be anything more than a puny 2-3%.  Suddenly, we're back at double-digit levels for the market leaders and most of the mid-caps, while the profit margins seem to be holding true.  There is a broad services industry recognition that quality of execution and the ability to deliver real client experiences trumps a few cents on the rate-card in a bullish global economy. The reality is, with IT, the more the India-heritage IT service providers invest onshore near its core enterprise clients, the better this is for India's growth as the IT services industry's dominant home. Coronavirus?  What Coronavirus...

Posted in: Digital TransformationIT Outsourcing / IT ServicesOutsourcing Events



Wipro must appoint a ruthless CEO with teeth to escape its current predicament

February 09, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’DonoghueSaurabh Gupta

When Wipro’s CEO Abid Neemuchwala announced his resignation it was a shock for employees and the industry as a whole.. but it was less of a surprise to those who knew him well. Abid's a humble, really nice guy with an incredible work ethic and intelligence.  He also has a smile that lights up a whole room.  

The poor man was clearly exhausted after four grueling years trying to steer an oil tanker that clearly needs a more aggressive leader with a clear mandate to make painful changes.  Don’t mistake us here – Abid is one of the service industry’s greatest strategists and inspirational figures, but Wipro is not ready for this type of leader.  It needs someone who can drive aggressive change - and fast - to a company that has lost itself in its heritage culture and is slipping behind several the India-heritage services leaders in this cut-throat market.  Being a "safe pair of hands" is table stakes these days for offshore-centric services, and the winners are moving aggressively with onshore investments and outcome-driven delivery models to win the hearts and minds of clients.  While Wipro has its bright spots (read on), it's lost ground to some of its competitors and its next CEO has to make some deep changes to personal, structure, leadership and strategy if it wants to closes these gaps quickly.

With the recent CEO changes at IBM and Cognizant, Wipro needs to look more at Cognizant’s recent changes if it wants to set itself on a new course for growth

Meanwhile, leadership changes elsewhere in the market have seen IBM change CEO’s – a prospect that could see the lumbering firm recover market dominance and growth after several years of confused direction and taking a pounding from the likes of Accenture and TCS.

In addition, Cognizant went through a similar situation with Francisco D’Souza, who’d overseen an incredible rise of the firm, but struggled to make painful changes as the firm’s leadership became complacent and lost their edge in the market.  Their response has been to appoint a dynamic young leader in Brian Humphries, whose goal is to reenergize the firm’s leadership and culture.  He has already made many leadership changes, brought in several outside executives and created a culture of urgency right across the firm.  “It was like Cognizant suddenly woke up after falling asleep” was the feedback we received from several of its clients.

While both IBM and Cognizant seek deep changes within their internal culture with new leadership, they are very different beasts and require very different leadership styles.  IBM requires someone who's lived and breathed the culture and knows how to make the right changes to align with the right strategic direction.  Cognizant needed a leader to shake up a terrific firm that had become a victim of its own success and was suffering from complacency. 

Wipro’s board must seize this opportunity to redefine itself – and fast

However, that change was planned, Wipro’s doesn’t seem to have any real plan behind it – and belies a degree of chaos and anarchy that could become disastrous for the firm. In a complex and unstable global political environment, clients look to providers to bring stability and simplicity – impromptu leadership changes and boardroom dramas, while fodder for analysts and journalists, go straight to the top of the risk register in existing engagements and can see some clients back our before the ink is dry on new deals.

Infosys learned this the hard way, when its leadership troubles became an almost comic roadshow in 2016/2017. Wipro already has enough to contend with in a market gripped with buyer cynicism, hyper-competitive incumbents, and geopolitical uncertainty – at the very least it must find a replacement for Abid who will get the firm back on track and reassure the market that 2020 will be a year of progress, not chaos, for Wipro.  In addition, the next CEO must have the empowerment to make tough decisions without the constant micromanagement of the Wipro board in order to making rapid improvements to its...

  • Current vulnerable market position;
  • Mostly middling performance across market segments;
  • Articulation of "Why Wipro" to clients, partners and prospects.

The market reacts to the shock exit of Wipro’s CEO

Unsurprisingly, the market has reacted somewhat negatively to the impromptu departure of a leading IT services firm’s CEO – stock price dipped on the news after a relatively healthy opening to 2020. Under Abid, the firm pushed hard into the digital services space – and since he took up the mantle in 2016, closed the acquisition of cloud services firm Appirio, as well as design agency DesignIT among others to support the firm’s strategy to move out of highly commoditized IT Services and BPO, and take a bite out of the more lucrative and rapidly growing, albeit ill-defined, digital technology and services market.

The firm push to build out digital and design capabilities has, to date, had mixed success. While the firm has been able to blend technology, strategy, and design successfully for some core clients – it has struggled to expand at the same rate as some of its competitors (see below). Furthermore, its traditional IT services business came under more pressure from the hungrier mid-tier firms, such as LTI, Mindtree and Mphasis, while its closest market competitor, HCL, has been playing a market-cap neck-and-neck race with the firm as it elevates its reputation in the market.

Under Abid, Wipro also struggled to keep its market share – falling further and further behind the rapid growth of TCS and Infosys. A market signal not lost on investors and market commentators when the CEO announced his resignation.

Unlike some of its competitors – such as Infosys – which have managed to keep their heads above the double-digit growth waterline for the majority of recent quarters, Wipro has only just managed to keep itself in positive growth territory. Under Abid, growth accelerated briefly at the start of his tenure, but has been on a bumpy decline since as the firm struggled to make the most of its digital acquisitions and take on rivals in the highly competitive IT services market. Even with relatively high margins, the results just weren’t healthy enough for an industry that thrives on scale – and its subsequent success is marked on revenue growth. With the last few

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT Services



If you don't ease your process debt, you'll never benefit fully from automation

February 08, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah Little

How many times do you have to scream at people to make them realize that they will never be successful tinkering with shiny new automation tech tools if that cannot design end-to-end processes that achieve their desired outcomes?  Automation tools can truly help make processes work effectively across disparate systems, once you have got rid of the awful process debt weighing down your organization. 

So what, exactly, is "process debt"?

When you are head to head with competitors, you must have your business processes designed on solid ground to accelerate the delivery of value – using technology and integrated automation to connect the dots.

Tech entrepreneur Ben Horowitz quoting Shaka Senghor, who he considers the CEO of a prison gang, in What You Do Is Who You Are, sums it all up perfectly... "Imagine you’re a developer and someone says, ‘Here’s some land, and here’s a million dollars. Could you build me a house on this land?’ So you build this guy’s dream home. And he moves in and then his family starts getting sick. Because what they didn’t tell you is that the land is toxic and it was a f***ing dump site …Nobody was digging into the dumpsite itself.” 

Net-net, technology isn’t necessarily the heart of making the connections from front to back – it’s making good choices about what you automate and having the business process in place to back it up. 

You can read more about our recent HFS Leadership Roundtable here, where we got deep into the weeds of process debt issues.

Posted in: Intelligent Automation



Why on earth would IBM buy an RPA firm now?

February 02, 2020 | Phil Fersht

UiPath's "Chief Evangelist" Guy Kirkwood (who once famously proclaimed "AI is bollocks") has predicted that new IBM CEO Arvind Krishna will soon turn to RPA and make an acquisition

Of course! Ginni was driven out because she failed to get the Blue Prism deal over the line, and Arvind is now in the hotseat to make damned sure they don't miss out on UiPath...

Of course!  All this "hypercloud" nonsense and the $34bn of loose change they dropped on Red Hat was just a diversion from their real intention... to make IBM the Big Blue RPA monster!

In all seriousness, we were speculating about IBM and Blue Prism during RPA's infancy in 2016 (see blog)... and while it made sense back then (and at a far cheaper price tag), it sure doesn't make any sense now. SAP, Microsoft, Pega, IPSoft and Appian have all made modeinvestments to have their own RPA capability, and all of them chose either very small scale acquisitions or developed it themselves (in Microsoft's case).  I also fully expect Salesforce and Oracle to tick the RPA box at some stage, but it is highly unlikely to be with one of the big three with a nine-figure price tag.

Now there is a small chance I could be wrong and IBM has suddenly decided to take the plunge several years too late, but it really makes no sense at this point. 

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesRobotic Process Automation