Ollie O’Donoghue
 
Senior Research Vice President 
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Coronavirus cruelly exposes the fragility of the offshore outsourcing industry: Will clients trust all their eggs in one basket again when this is over?
March 22, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

The outsourcing industry is fast-becoming be the first vital piece of the global economy to come under the microscope as nations, businesses, and societies try to build a blueprint for what the post-coronavirus economy may look like.

India and Russia, in particular, are now being widely seen to have the slowest response to the coronavirus pandemic across all the major economies, and the situation is forecasted to worsen rapidly in the coming days and weeks - perhaps at the most alarming scale of all the current major global economies.

In addition, the current curfew (just announced) in India is going to have serious and immediate consequences for the smooth delivery of IT and business process work conducted for both overseas and local clients. Many IT support staff are poorly equipped to support work-at-home staff, not owning laptops, often living in unsuitable accommodation for work, and often with poor internet / wireless connectivity.

In short, like our governments and healthcare systems, the offshore outsourcing industry just wasn't prepared for this.  All the warnings were ignored and now some very sick chickens are coming home to roost...

We're running out of global locations to source service delivery, while work-at-home measures are proving woefully inadequate for offshore IT service provision

In short, the global industry is quickly screeching to a halt as a consequence of this pandemic. Most of the leading service providers have been instilling "safe distancing" in their centers, increasing onsite medical facilities and sanitary measures. However, with the death rate spiraling massively in Italy (almost 800 per day and rising) and US and UK expected to accelerate significantly because of their slow response to locking down public gatherings, workplaces and travel, the increased curfew measures just announced in India render these efforts from services firms pretty much moot.

In short, all global businesses are being significantly disrupted because of major restrictions mandating employees to work at home, and not having sufficient resources in India is going to exacerbate the situation for supporting critical IT delivery. Global enterprises may be forced to source local service providers to plug critical gaps, such as security monitoring, disaster recovery etc. which is going to put a strain on their budgets and my least to some major contract disputes (although many of the IT service contractors should be protected by Force Majeure provisions). In addition, service providers with strong delivery resources in locations such as Russia, which is resisting a lockdown, may take on additional business at this time, though most nations with strong IT delivery, such as Poland and Ukraine, are already in lockdown situations. The Philippines is also seemingly open for business, which is keeping the lights on for delivering a lot of voice-based services, but we expect them to shut down their centers soon with Duterte discussing emergency measures with the Philippines Congress on 23rd March.

Finally, the robustness of outsourcing will be tested to its maximum.  And - most likely - well beyond its maximum 

Discussing the issue with multiple executives in leading offshore IT Services firms paints a telling picture of how broad and painstakingly detailed business continuity plans are now. And, by inference, how woefully inadequately designed they were for a situation of this magnitude. Executives are telling us they have never seen such widespread implementations of business continuity in their multi-decade long careers. For their clients, while more measures from key offshore locations are understandable and, frankly should be applauded given their laissez-faire approach thus far, could still not come at a worse time. Outsourced service desks are already overwhelmed as they move to support huge volumes of end-users trying to access systems remotely and, in some instances, using technology stacks with which they have no training or familiarity. While it's not clear how the curfew will impact these engagements, one possible outcome is enterprises - out of desperation - start to develop and stand-up their own in-house capabilities to handle the glut in core IT work.

In terms of outsourced customer support, leading call center firms are showcasing their ability to shift a lot of work to their WAHA (Work at Home Agents) if the need arises, and most are still able to utilize their large Philippines centers because of Duterte's confusing attempts at a lockdown. However, we will only witness the true reliability of whether WAHA can actually deliver at a massive scale, when these workplaces are finally locked down... which is surely coming very soon.  In addition, after more than a decade of hype surrounding crowdsourcing, we will finally witness whether that can really do more than plug a few gaps for occasional developer needs.

The Bottom Line: Will enterprises still have an appetite to keep outsourcing when this is all over, or are those days fading fast?

Should this become widespread - we may emerge from this situation with a very different outsourcing landscape and a reluctance from enterprises to put all their eggs in one basket again - in-line with broader comments about de-globalizing supply chains. In short, the outsourcing industry may be the first vital piece of the global economy to come under the microscope as nations, businesses, and societies try to build a blueprint for what the post-coronavirus economy may look like.

Keeping enterprise clients' critical support services functioning is becoming the biggest challenge ever facing India's IT industry as it tackles this exacerbating health crisis. Provisioning laptops to essential IT staff, ensuring internet infrastructure is functioning under the strain while enforcing staff takes the necessary self-distancing and hygiene precautions are the critical functions of service provider management at this time. They have to operate on an immediate short-term footing to keep the lights on for enterprise clients, and with a medium-term focus on surviving the next few weeks with the right emergency provisions in place to keep staff healthy and a financial fallback to keep the wheels on the track as we go through these very painful motions. Whether governments will be bailing out outsourcing firms and laid off contract staff is very fuzzy right now, and the concern is whether there is an outsourcing industry to save after all this is over - even if there are some emergency financial relief measures in the interim.

Tackling Coronavirus.. The good ol' UK playbook works everytime
March 12, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

Covid-19: Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one...but listen to the qualified one (weekend rant)
March 08, 2020 | Ollie O’DonoghuePhil Fersht

First of all, we are not epidemiologists, healthcare professionals or medical experts. Sadly, in our industry right now, this important distinction is moving into a grey area as everyone chimes in with their opinion.

Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one... especially when you can back them up with fake data

This post is a disillusioned response to the materials, opinions, and general wonderings now prolific on social media from people who, like us, don’t know anything outside of what their favorite newspaper columnist or news channel is telling them. If you want genuine medical advice about Coronavirus/Covid-19, please consult your local medical experts and healthcare practitioners – you won’t find much use in the musings of the technology analyst community, regardless of how passionately they pepper their opinions over social media.

As an employer where the health and safety of our employees, clients, families, and friends are paramount, we have been just as glued to the rapidly changing and seemingly unpredictable

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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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IBM changes leadership just in time to survive in today’s punishing IT services market
January 31, 2020 | Ollie O’DonoghueJamie SnowdonPhil Fersht

Gini Rometty, the queen of Big Blue is stepping down after a turbulent few years at the helm, where her “imminent” retirement has been one of the industry’s most discussed topics since the failure of Watson to reach its early potential.  However, the rapid shift in direction towards hybrid cloud - with the Red Hat acquisition just over a year ago - has rapidly paved a new direction for Big Blue and, perhaps, leaves Gini with a lasting legacy that won’t be all about her supercomputer that found fame on Jeopardy!

The appointment of Arvind Krishna, the architect of IBM / Red Hat, signified its full-throttle scramble to take the Global 2000 into the hybrid cloud

And in here place steps up the head of the firm’s cloud business, with Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, moving in as president, but more significantly, Arvind Krishna, IBM’s architect behind the deal, being voted in as the new CEO.  With Krishna being the brain behind the Red Hat double-down, he knows how to take the calculated risks which IBM must take if it’s going to turn the aircraft carrier around.  Moreover, he can move fast, with the Red Hat play being barely more than a year old and the emerging IBM cloud business quickly becoming the most coherent and unified of all its business units that HFS has encountered.

This speed and clarity of direction speak to Krishna’s ability to pull what was a rapidly evolving team together with a clear mission and vision.  Again, if he can replicate this at scale across IBM, it might be able to solve the firm’s biggest challenge - rationalising a sprawling estate that has been left to grow wild for almost a decade.

Hybrid Cloud is where IBM has made its bed, and the new IBM leadership team is determined to take full advantage

New HFS Research shows this market is expected to ratchet up by more than 20% this year to $72 billion as the market for hybrid private/public cloud becomes the most vital progression corporation need to make to scale and survive in today’s global digital business environment:

 

Source: HFS Research 2020,  Click to Enlarge

While all the cloud talk has been about the rampant growth of the digital juggernauts Microsoft, Amazon, Alibaba and Google, no one has stepped up to support complex hybrid public/private cloud transitions better than IBM in recent times.  It’s one thing providing the capacity, containerization and scalability, but another to layer on all the global support to tackle the complexity of integration with corporate legacy IT systems, along with all the ongoing support and security needed to manage this transition effectively.

The new leadership must unite the warring factions within IBM

IBM’s new leadership team has a wealth of experience and can reverse the fortunes of the firm – but they have their work cut out for them. It may have been the king of the services market a decade ago, but the firm has been too pre-occupied with siloed business units scrabbling around on their own initiatives trying to be the next big thing. Over the years, IBM has moved from a trusted dominating force to a whale gradually bleeding out as IBM Watson became somewhat less relevant in a world where business leaders were struggling to make RPA work, and newer faster rivals in the mid-tier started eroding their market share with competitive pricing and flexible delivery. Above all, IBM needed a clear vision, one that cuts through the digital drivel that pre-occupied buyer mindshare. And sadly, that just didn’t come under Rometty.

Battling the complexity of IBM is something clients of the firm tell us is a major inhibitor to contract growth. Disparate sales and delivery teams make it, at times, impossible for clients to expand engagements into new areas and as analysts, we’re often told ‘seriously? I didn’t even know they did that?’ when we talk about IBM’s broader capabilities. If the new leadership team are going to reverse the fortunes of the leaking oil tanker, they’ll need to address this first. And can do so by implementing the following:

  1. Incentivizing sales teams to cross-sell across the whole of IBM’s services. Clients dont care which business line recognizes the revenue or which sales team gets the commission.
  2. Build a layer of consulting as the window to the rest of IBM. Simplifying a complex and sprawling empire will take time, and while important won’t change quick enough to match buyer expectations. Building genuine service-agnostic consulting capabilities to lead engagements across IBM will go along way to plastering over the cracks while the rest of the business is modernized.
  3. Loosen the purse strings and be prepared for flexibility. The services ecosystem has changed rapidly, and IBM’s now competing with firms willing to take a gamble on client engagements and offer flexible pricing models. IBM can’t rely on its reputation alone to compete anymore, and must be willing to invest in clients and take risks – at least to a greater extent than it has in the past.

IBM has a powerful reputation – but this is no time to be complacent

The phrase ‘nobody got fired for bringing in IBM’ has been a boon for the firm and isn’t far from reality. The firm’s reputation for delivery and innovation proceeds it which means sourcing teams get off the hook, even for disastrous engagements. But over time even this lofty position has become hard to maintain as a new generation of buyers pours into senior positions and competitive pressure force enterprises to look for partners outside of the usual suspects.  

The new IBM leadership team has a unique opportunity under Krishna, to re-position IBM in the market as a dynamic and modern services firm, leveraging its heritage brand and reputation to push a clear message. If you pulled a representative sample of the market and asked them what IBM’s strategy is, its vision for the future is, or even what their big bets are, you’d be met with stony silence. IBM must urgently figure out what its story is, and what it wants to be in the future if it’s to claw back its position as the IT Services firm of choice.Is the new leadership team a warning shot for the hyperscale cloud giants?

In cloud, however, IBM has always had a relatively consistent story, supported by an enviable track record of delivering complex infrastructure services to clients. While the emphasis on public cloud pushed IBM out of the limelight as executives piled into hyperscale, IBM has made a killing pulling together the full-stack enterprise infrastructure. The Red Hat acquisition showed IBM was ready to put its money where its mouth is and commit to targeting the hybrid cloud market – a rapidly growing segment as the lure of ‘cloud only’ and ‘all-in-with-AWS’ became recognized for the fantasy that it is for most enterprises.

The debate will no doubt rage on over whether IBM has a place amongst the hyperscale firms – AWS, Google, Microsoft, and more recently Alibaba Cloud. Whether born-in-the-cloud purists like it or not, IBM’s infrastructure and enterprise cloud business puts it firmly in with the biggest of the bunch on PaaS revenues alone. The Red Hat acquisition in 2018 bolstered this even further and fired a warning shot in an already punishingly competitive cloud war.

The new leadership team can bring a level of focus and commitment to cloud – with senior representation from IBMs Cloud Business in Arvind, and Jim from Red Hat as President. With this combined experience and a commitment to hybrid cloud, there’s every likelihood IBM is in a position to bite a huge chunk out of one of the fastest-growing enterprise services segments. And while it’s unlikely IBM will need to go to war with the major cloud giants to make its mark – the hyperscalers would be wise to watch the new strategy market out by IBM’s new leaders – this may be the most valuable partnership they ever have.

Bottom Line: The change in leadership will provide the jump-start IBM desperately needs to survive this punishing services market

Gini stepping down is a big moment for IBM – She has had her hand on the tiller for close to a decade. But IBM has continued to struggle to return to growth, even with a reputation and trust in the market that it’s peers envy. The new leadership must leverage this reputation, and return some meaning to the brand – by swiftly unifying disparate IBM functions and modernizing the structure of the sprawling business. IBM simply cannot survive another 8 years of tumbling revenues.

Welcome to the world of the modern-day 'do-nothing' employee
January 04, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

We all know a few "do-nothing" employees, don't we?  Those lovely people who somehow slither around within their organizations and somehow retain employment... despite never really doing anything.  But, in this new decade, surely this is the time they get found out, with all this AI available to out the scoundrels?  Or maybe they can continue to hone their do-nothing craft in the cyber age to keep that do-thing ship sailing nowhere in particular...

Here are a few master 'do-nothing' tactics:

1. Insist on attending every meeting. If only to deflect actions on to people who didn't attend.

2. Insist you 'have some thoughts' about other people's projects. Make sure the thoughts never materialize, but you get credit for participating in the project.

3. ALWAYS insist your inbox is 'hectic' and you were 'just about to get to it' when called out for ignoring an urgent issue for two weeks.

4. If you're asked a question you don't know the answer to, insist you do know the answer but they'll need to go through the proper channels to get to it. If you're the proper channel, send them to marketing for 'approval' first.

5. Use the phrase 'at capacity', 'snowed under', 'bandwidth-constrained' and 'keeping my head above water' as often as possible. It'll add credibility for when you want to shirk off work later. Pay it forward. 

6. Occasionally drop in the 'drinking from a fire hose' line, but don't overdo that one. Save it for an avoidance emergency.

7. Say thought-leadership. A lot.

8. Use the phrase 'let's not boil the ocean' when scary workload is threatening to land on your plate.

9. Pay very close attention to what your job description is. Ambiguity is good - if it doesn't explicitly say something, don't do it.

10. If in doubt, cite 'hostility', 'toxicity' or whatever else Oleg on LinkedIn says. After all, the fact that you'd rather pretend to be on the phone than actually speak to someone isn't your fault, it's the lack of inspiring leadership.

11. Don't be afraid to book extra meetings if it's a quiet day and you might have to do some work. Pre-meeting meetings are a must. And don't be afraid to schedule a wrap-up meeting after the initial meeting. 

12.  Oh, and don't forget to pop a few fake meetings in there for good measure (mark some as 'private' to make you seem important).

13. Above all, find genuinely busy people to hang around. It'll make it seem like you're also a go-getter, when actually you've been trying to get passed stage 10 of angry birds since February.

14. Have your Out of Office on as much as possible citing 'business travel' and slap a load of names down to contact.

15. Only ever respond to any request to do 'anything' from your boss, or your boss' boss. Otherwise, just ignore it.  This is why you need your OOO on...

16. When you actually get cornered into DOING something, make sure the whole world knows you just split the atom.

So there you have it, can you help us get to twenty for 2020?

Happy New Year =)

Day One Fund… Day Two Bummed... Bezos sets a chilling example for the future of work
October 13, 2019 | Ollie O’DonoghuePhil Fersht

In 2018 Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (and his now former wife MacKenzie) announced they would commit $2billion to fund existing nonprofits that help homeless families and to create a network of preschools in low-income communities. They called their project the "Bezos Day One Fund”.  Barely one year later, the same man slashes basic healthcare insurance to 1900 of his lowest income part-time workers

Today’s emerging young workforce cares deeply about the values of their business leaders – and those who pay lip service to their staff will be those who fail to create long term loyalty, passion and productivity from them.  Let’s discuss how the successful companies’ of the future are going to be those where leaders follow through with their promises, and staff are motivated to take responsibility because they have trust in the leadership to deliver on the mission.

Leaders can’t keep getting away with rhetoric and fail to follow through with their promises

The challenge with most equations and narratives predicting what the future of work looks like is that they are built primarily from two assumptions:

  • The labour pool will acquiesce and comply with whatever the future demands and
  • Corporations and their leaders will show unprecedented philanthropy.

History tells us neither will hold true.

And we don’t need to look too far back – literally a couple of days – to see the failings of this equation laid bare before us. First off, a few weeks ago, a group of business heavies and CEOs from the G2000 got together and declared an end to shareholder supremacy. Throwing Milton Friedman’s leafy tomes into the furnace, perhaps replacing them with the more ethically focused Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth (a fantastic read).

Freeing themselves from the tawdry world of stockholder returns, these captains of industry could now work to please all stakeholders – from employees to environmentalists. All good so far. But fast forward a few days, and it’s clear to see that once the marketeers and journalists

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When did you earn the right to stop learning new skills and abilities?
June 02, 2019 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

When you have to listen to literally hundreds of people a day spouting advice about reskilling, unlearning, change management, relearning etc., I am going to respond with “great, so what are you doing yourself to stay ahead of today’s digital environment and increase your value as a superstar worker?”  You may love to pontificate constantly weird definitions of digital transformation on twitter and harp on about today's digital talent needs, but do you truly practice what you preach?

Is it just me, or have we entered an environment where everyone loves to talk about change, but most aren't actually doing anything (themselves) about it?

I mean, if your accountant hadn’t bothered to brush up on the latest tax changes, or your personal trainer didn’t know how to use a Fitbit, you probably would seek to replace those relationships in your life.  So what gives IT professionals the right not to learn Python, or learn how to deploy data management / automation tools?  And what gives business executives the right not to learn how to use non-code analytics tools to help their decision-making, or social media products to help them communicate in the market?  And operations executives the right not to learn low-code automation and AI apps that can help them free up people-hours on work that adds no strategic value to the business?  And who told sales and marketing executives it was fine to ignore really learning the products / services they were selling because all they had to do was to follow a set of pre-defined processes to do their job effectively?

Why have so many of us become so complacent?

It just seems that the majority of workers today just think they need to learn to follow a few processes and that’s all they need to do to command a tasty salary and remain employed for years and years…. so few people actually realize that the whole nature of people value is changing for enterprises – they just love to do things the same old way they have always done them, and simply cannot be expected to learning anything new.  "We just don't have the talent in-house to do that" is the constant whine we hear from enterprises; and "our IT managers are project managers, not consultants" is what we hear from service providers.  Then why don't you train them?  Is our agonized response.  Why does everything have to stay paralyzed in this constant vacuum of sameness

Much depends on the approach our enterprises take to driving change

The biggest problem with enterprise operations today is the simple fact that most firms still run most of their processes exactly the same way as they did decades years ago, with the only “innovation” being models like offshore outsourcing and shared service centers, cloud and digital technologies enabling those same processes to be conducted steadily faster and cheaper.  However, fundamental changes have not been made to intrinsic business processes – most companies still operate with their major functions such as procurement, customer service, marketing, finance, HR and supply chain operating in individual silos, with IT operating as a non-strategic vehicle to maintain the status quo and keep the lights on.

As our Hyperconnected journey illustrates, many industries have now reached a place where they have maximized all their delivery methods for getting processes executed as efficiently and cheaply as possible.  They have tackled the early phases of digital impact by embracing interactive technologies to help them respond to their customer needs as those needs occur, whether electronic or voice.

Click to Enlarge

In short, most enterprises have been able to keep pace with each other without actually changing the underlying logic of processes.  Simply doing things the same old way has been enough for many, until a competitor comes along with an entirely unique way of servicing your

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The Life of Brian: Prettying up a baby that's got a bit ugly
May 11, 2019 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonOllie O’Donoghue

What has happened to the Indian-heritage IT service provider that stoked fear into every Accenture client partner?  “They think like we do” was the declaration one of Accenture’s leaders made at an analyst briefing in 2016.  Well, the slide from grace has been alarming, leading to the appointment of a new leader to stem the bleeding. 

However, when the problems cut this deep, you can’t just apply lipstick to the pig, you need to reconstruct the whole farm, or you can quickly find yourself in the zombie services category alongside the likes of Conduent and DXC, where finding any sort of direction and impetus would be a major accomplishment.

Yes, it could really get this bad, as Cognizant has posted its slowest revenue growth and worst dip in profit margins. Ever. A mere 5% annual revenue growth, when in its heyday it was posting well over 40% (and slipping below double digits was unthinkable until last year). Yes, declining revenue growth is one thing, but declining profit margins is when the panic button gets pressed.

Frank should have left when Elliott came along to poison the well

It’s clear to see why Francisco “Frank” De Souza, the poster boy CEO of the emerging power of the Indian IT Services industry, jumped ship (or more accurately was made to walk the plank a burnt out husk due to the unenviable pressure Elliott Management placed him under to keep the gravy train on the tracks and kick back billions to shareholders.)  If anything, Frank should have considered making a move in 2017 as Elliott started squeezing Cognizant’s margins at a time is needed to keep pace with Accenture’s aggressive digital investments.  He’d grown the firm to over $15bn by then and could have exited with a legacy no one could rival in the tech business. 

And in his place comes IT Services newbie Brian Humphries – well we’re sorry to say this Brian, but the baby you just adopted has got a bit ugly, and is screaming for attention. Let’s just look at the numbers– now we’re going to be generous and forgive Cognizant’s dip in margin, a likely result of a reclassifying activity to meet fresh regulations. But the sinking revenue growth is much harder to look past:

Click to Enlarge

In 2012, Cognizant invented the Digital concept before everyone else jumped on it.  They were that cool...

In a punishingly competitive market, it looks like Cognizant has started to lose traction. Back in the good old days, the firm could do little wrong by challenging Accenture’s strategy – driving a hard-digital bargain and bringing in design consultancies along with their pony-tailed

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Quantum set to destroy blockchain by 2021
April 01, 2019 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonOllie O’Donoghue

For all you blockchain aficionados, you'd better get quantum-savvy asap, or you'll find yourself having to re-skill yourself to do something relevant

This article will discuss some aspects of quantum computing, but - don't worry - we're not going to detail out all of the different uses in one initial education. It’s not going to describe the workings of quantum and we shall avoid using words like qubits as much as possible, we won’t mention quantum supremacy or the theory of quantum entanglement. If you want to know about these things, buy an undergraduate quantum physics textbook and then explore a decent quantum computing book like “Quantum Computing: A Gentle Introduction” by Eleanor Rieffel and Wolfgang Polak. Which we are lead to believe is only gentle to those with a good undergraduate understanding of maths and physics. Although in a review, Physics Today described it as a masterpiece.  But for you blockchain followers, we're sure you can quickly redefine your talktrack to wax lyrical about Quantum for your next Ted Talk.

The difference between quantum and traditional computing is at an eye-wateringly fundamental level. And this requires the knowledge we mention above to have a fighting chance to understand what it is. But is something every business leader needs to at least know about, even if it is just to be able to ignore with confidence. This is because quantum computing is potentially a disruptor with as big an impact as digital computing. And it is not an exaggeration that it can be used to simulate the very fabric of the universe.

The development of a practical quantum computer could have dire consequences for traditional encryption

However, the question still remains: Is practical quantum computing still just a theory, or an impractical experiment with any stable use decades away? Or is it potentially just around the corner poised to disrupt the very core of encryption technologies? Particularly given the (not passing) resemblance to other over-hyped transformative technologies like nuclear fusion and room temperature superconductors. All dreamt up in the golden age after the second world war and without a tangible end-point, with the seemingly constant promise of a miraculous breakthrough in spite of massive investment. Which seems particularly relevant given that current quantum computers need superconductors, and the insane supercooling that currently goes with them, to operate. Making them, to many, expensive, impractical flights of fancy; fuelled by journalist research hyperbole.

So, with that said, is that all you need to know? Your job is just to laugh in the face of any minion that utters the phrase “maybe we should invest in some quantum?” Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The trouble is no one really knows the actual timeframe, even John Preskill, the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at CalTech, can’t give you a firm time-frame. With predictions ranging from single to multiple decades and the current wave of “noisy” quantum experiments unlikely to have much practical use. However, this uncertainty needs to be weighed against the serious risk. The development of a practical or at least partially practical quantum computer could have dire consequences for traditional encryption.

The first algorithm set to run using a quantum computer could have seismic, rapid implications

Part of the excitement around the prospect of Quantum computing is the first real application – the first algorithm set to run using a quantum computer could solve the mathematical factoring equation very quickly. This can be used to break existing methods of encryption like RSA and ECC rapidly. So any organizations that use encryption technology need to understand that there is a potential weakness in current systems, which will need to be replaced or strengthened when practical quantum is available.

And recent experiments from Google and IBM have started to erode confidence in the long term predictions and have started to bring forward the prediction from decades to years. With both these firms recent experiments showing that quantum is starting to conform to Moores law. Which, if true, means we will have Crypto breaking quantum in 2 years rather than 20.

 As quickly as 2021, HFS researchers believe we could see a quantum computer capable of breaking RSA encryption of 256 Bits – which would have serious implications for blockchain, given this is the level of encryption currently used. According to HFS academy analyst Duncan Matthews-Moore, "If we don't get a handle on the potential speed of quantum soon, we could see the billions of dollars that have gone into blockchain become as quickly wasted as the vast sums Brexit is costing the UK economy."

Bottom Line – Quantum is the one to watch, particularly if you have any ambitions around blockchain.

Forget RPA, forget AI, forget cloud, forget disruptive mortgage processing - and especially forget blockchain.  Because if quantum can delivery real algos, everything tech that happened before is going to be disrupted like Betamax, like CB radio, like Sonic the Hedgehog.

And of course... this was an:

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