Jamie Snowdon
 
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Big is no longer as beautiful as Mid-Tier IT service providers surge with double-digit growth
March 01, 2020 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonMartin Gabriel

Just a few short years ago, the world of the mid-tier service providers ($500m-$3bn revenues) was a pretty depressing place - many clients were wary of using lesser brands with smaller scale and high attrition and preferred to stay loyal to the Tier 1 brands and beat them up on price.  Growth was pretty stagnant and most of them just wanted a lucrative exit, such as IGATE selling to Capgemini, Syntel to Atos, Luxoft to DXC etc. Fast-forward to the last 2-3 years and suddenly the smaller service providers are in vogue, being seen by many clients as more agile, more capable of client intimacy, more flexible and eager to take on complex projects and avoid the exhausting turgid RFP bake-offs which squeeze the value out of engagements before they have even started:

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EPAM ensures not all roads lead to India. While we have been overly-focused watching the success of the Indian-heritage IT service providers, the biggest standout performer is the predominantly Eastern-European provider EPAM Systems, which has quietly built out its app development capabilities over the years with its powerful access to tech talent in places such as Minsk, Moscow, St Petersburg, Katowice, Budapest etc.  The firm's focus on complex app development, software engineering, IT security and a recent investment in Blockchain is positioning the company well for strong growth in the foreseeable future.  It's also taken advantage of DXC's acquisition of Luxoft's to become Eastern Europe's standout IT service provider.

Hexaware, Mindtree, Mphasis, LTI, and NIIT lead the Indian-heritage Mid-tier growth spurt.  With an IT services market barely growing at 5% annually, for the five Indian-heritage Mid-Tier firms to grow at rates between 13% and 17% is quite remarkable. Clearly, the bias over brands is reducing dramatically as clients seek greater intimacy, focus, and dedication to their needs.  We can dive into all these firms to call out where each iswinning, but the main factor in common is the fact that client needs are changing - they increasingly demand shorter projects as opposed to these clunky frustrating multi-year relationships that take many months to set up.  I cannot tell you how many executives from these firms have said to me that more and more of their clients simply want work done - and fast - and do not want to jump through all the hoops of the legacy outsourcing world. With the need for systems modernization, digital app development, data management, and automation at an all-time high, clients are more willing than ever to trust those IT services partners where they can still get the CEO on the phone, who understand them, and are willing to move mountains to succeed for them.

Let's take a deeper look at what is going on at enterprise intentions when their current primary outsourcing contract expires:

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Only 23% of clients are prepared to settle with their current partnership.  The traditional model is only working for a minority of outsourcing clients today.  If you're a service provider leader and you haven't identified who these clients are (and who are not), then you are in serious trouble.  Smart Mid-Tiers avoid these clients - no point wasting valuable resources on lethargic clients who really only care about keeping the lights on.

Another quarter (26%) wants to move the needle but may opt for a hybrid model. Meanwhile, 27% are getting itchy to kick their service provider up the rear end and get them embedding some real automation and outcome-focus into their delivery if they are to renew with them.  This means they want to see real commitment to reduce the dependence on the staff army and see real investments in process automation to digitize their delivery.  These are relationships where Mid-Tiers are frequently being brought in to snaffle pieces of the pie to create competitive tension.

A third is more decisive and likely to make the switch.  31% have clearly got to know their current outsourcing provider only too well over the years and have zero hope they can get any real co-investment out of them.  As we have discovered over the last couple of years, some providers have made real investments in competencies like automation and AI, while others have merely added a little sugar-frosting and persist with selling the same old model with some cost shaved off the package, and some added incentives for performance (i.e "outcomes").  Moreover, ambitious outsourcers and Mid-Tiers are heavily targeting their competitors' disaffected clients and are willing to offer eye-catching deals to win their custom.  This can include attractive pricing tied to aggressive delivery staff reduction over a 3-5 year amortization plan that is offset by efficiency savings due to automation and digitization.  In other instances, clients are breaking up the provider mix and opting for multi-source relationships with shorter engagements to drive more value and innovation.

In some cases, it may also prove more attractive for the legacy provider to shed the business than fight to keep a client that will quickly become unprofitable (and the industry is littered with those engagements). In several services markets, we are seeing emerging offerings from providers where they are offering fully digital offerings (with vastly cheaper support), such as TaskUs in the customer call center market, or nDivision in managed IT operations, which can undercut traditional outsourcers so aggressively, there is no feasible way the traditional providers can compete.  In addition, we are seeing several India-centric service providers offer $-per-chat support models for some transactional services that are essentially chatbots offering basic-level support services at costs as cheap as 15 cents a chat... we are finally seeing "digital disruption" attack the traditional outsourcing market that has somehow staved it off for years thanks to lethargic clients and lock-in contracts.  

20% have given up and will just look at something very different.  Maybe the cost of changing the model is just so abhorrent it's time for clients to pull the work back and fix it themselves.  Some are so fed up with the lack of innovation in changing anything they've realized they have smarter people on staff who are better deployed to take the work back, staff up to execute it while they explore all their digital and automation options.  Maybe they will invest in an integrated automation platform, and use the funds saved by backsourcing the work to invest in a digital backbone that enables them to perform work in a touchless, smarter manner?  Again, there are ample opportunities here for smart Mid-Tiers to pick up new client work and prove themselves to shrink legacy IT systems, develop new digital backbones and help their clients achieve real business outcomes.

The Bottom-Line:  In this current climate, the time is riper than ever for these Mid-Tier service providers to grab more market share

The IT services industry really needs this healthy competition as it gives clients more choice and forces the Tier 1 juggernauts to change their delivery model and entire approach to engagements.  And during a time when there is worrying economic uncertainty, global panic about some nasty flu virus, clients will need more support than ever to work with smart partners which can support them remotely, jump in to help critical situations are a moment's notice, and show the ability to really listen to their needs.  

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.

RPA isn't having a renaissance, it's catalyzing broader White Collar automation and AI to top $16bn
January 23, 2020 | Phil FershtJamie Snowdon

So it's taken seven years since HFS introduced RPA to the world, lots of blown investor cash, many failed careers, so many great parties and declarations of death for the industry that is, in reality, White Collar Automation and AI, to find a rhythm and a real sense of purpose.

While we can argue the oddities and vagaries of what is essentially attended desktop automation (which isn't really robotic as you need someone there to keep it functioning), plus the original concept that was real back office unattended robotic process automation, we can celebrate the fact that "RPA" is a $4bn industry today, that has helped drive a further $9.6bn in incremental internal and external expenditure on what we are terming "Intelligent Process Automation".  IPA caters for the process transformation, discovery, mining, data ingestion, computer vision, NLP etc that truly supports that broader automation and AI strategy across business silos:

Ultimately, what we are talking about here is the whole digitization, automation and self-learning data intelligence that is changing how white collar employees conduct their jobs.  So how is this burgeoning white collar automation and AI market redefining itself?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA is inherently capable of recognizing and adapting to deviations in data or exceptions when confronted by large volumes of data. In effect, it can be intelligently trained to analyze large amounts of data from software processes and translate them to triggers for new actions, responses, and communication with other systems. RPA describes a software development toolkit that allows non-engineers to quickly create software robots (known commonly as "bots") to automate rules-driven business processes. This includes Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) which is essentially surface automation, where desktop screens (whether desktop-based, web-based, cloud-based) are "scraped", scripted and re-programmed to create the automation of data across systems.  A well-designed RDA solution can automate workflows on several levels, specifically: application layer; storage layer; OS layer and network layer.

Intelligent Process Automation: is the use of technology to allow a business function or part of the operation of a process workflow work automatically that is not enabled by RPA technology.  It includes the use of process mining and discovery, BPM suites, data ingestion, machine reasoning, cognitive machine reading, automated chatbots, OCR, IVR, document process automation, and related technologies.

IPA comprises of two core elements:

  1. i) External professional services: Relates to all external spending focused on developing business process automation strategies / roadmaps and the use/ implementation of automation with business functions.
  2. ii) Internal operational spend: Includes internal and external spending on automation – change management, IT and operational teams focused on process automation and automation use as part of existing business process management initiatives.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): refers to the simulation of human thought processes across enterprise operations, where the system makes autonomous decisions, using high-level policies, constantly monitoring and optimizing its performance and automatically adapting itself to changing conditions and evolving business rules and dynamics. It involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works, without continuous manual intervention.  It includes cognitive (digital) assistants, AI Watson-type reasoning apps, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning and Computer Vision.

The Bottom-line:  RPA has opened the gateway for augmenting White Collar roles, now we're progressing far beyond that

C'mon folks, it's time to quite the 'bot for every desktop' claptrap and focus on the real what next.  With firms like Microsoft, SAP, Appian, and co now offering RPA and much cheaper prices, the value is shifting firmly to the broader automation driven transformation that is enterprise-grade, involves both business and IT leaders, scalable in the cloud, and truly capable of augmenting human workers.  Yes, RPA provided a gateway to many new possibilities... and now the gate is firmly open, the horses are bolting!  Now catch them, tame them and ride them to the AI promised land =)

Wipro needs a bold and differentiated strategy to elevate its middling market position post-Premji
June 12, 2019 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonSaurabh GuptaTapati Bandopadhyay

We all remember when Jack Nicklaus played his last Masters, and when Sir Alex Ferguson managed his last game for Manchester United. These guys were godfathers of their trades, not unlike Azim Premji has been for IT services, the man who oversaw a firm which diversified from diapers and vegetable oil into one of the largest IT services firms in the world. However, when they retired, they left a legacy that enabled many to follow in their footsteps (albeit noone has come close yet). Premji's legacy, which forever is written into the annals of IT services folklore, is still unfinished, which may be a good thing for his successors... there is still a lot of work to do to get Wipro to the place Premji always envisaged. 

The current market situation facing Wipro's leadership

To recap, Wipro’s Executive Chairman, Managing Director and philanthropic champion Azim Premji is retiring by end July. His son and Wipro’s Chief Strategy Officer, Rishad Premji will

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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:

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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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The mid-cap service providers are killing it and LTI, Virtusa and Mphasis are setting the pace
April 09, 2019 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonMartin GabrielSam Duncan

These are unique times for IT services - at the big-ticket end of the spectrum you have the mega-scale and competitive-cost propositions of the tier 1s vying for greater wallet share within their enterprise clients, while at the other, we have specific technical needs that warrant a lot of close attention that grabs the focus of the "mid-caps", which are much more flexible and can operate at smaller scale, while turning an attractive profit. 

The mid-caps are catering to the "build" needs of enterprises where the Tier 1s often struggle to deliver top talent

I recall just a couple of years ago how many of the big boys arrogantly called time on the smaller providers, but the exact opposite is transpiring; many clients are less brand obsessed as they once were and are more focused on accessing the skills they need with the attention they deserve.  Why settle for a B- team, when you can get a B+ team that's going to go the extra mile and work with you to figure out how to deliver complex requirements?  And the numbers, simply, do not lie:

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 All these providers, with the exception of Luxoft, grew their employee base and 7 out of the leading 10 grew revenues by double-digits 2017-2018:

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The mid-caps can rely on dynamic personalities to win deals

Remember the good ol' hyper-growth days of IT services where the likes of Chandra (TCS), Frank (Cognizant), Nandan (Infosys) and Shiv (HCL) would fly around the world to close deals? Well, those days are long-gone as the top tier providers are simply too large and clients know they can't just pick up the phone to scream at the CEO anymore.

However, they can still do that with most of these mid-caps. We conveniently forget that services is still largely about people and that personal touch from the top is still what most clients really want. One such eye-catching success story has been that of Mphasis, where the impact of CEO Nitin Rakesh (read the interview here) has been nothing short of remarkable:

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Bottom-Line: The success of the mid-caps was not in the script... new rules of services are being written

In the last few years, Capgemini acquired IGATE and Atos acquired Syntel. In both cases, the company being acquired was the leading mid-cap on the market, and both provided some crucial resources for European-centric service providers lacking strong Indian delivery capability.  However, what transpired since has been the door opening for the next tranche to step up up - notably LTI, Virtusa and Mphasis - all of whom have blown past $1billion. While LTI and Mindtree are embroiled in a less-than-friendly merger and Luxoft has already been bolted into the DXC empire, it would be of little surprise if any of the successful ones in this list are snapped up in the coming months as enterprises grapple with their needs for close attention to their creaking IT infrastructures and the dire need to develop agile capabilities, take better advantage of automation and AI tools... and find more sophisticated help to sort out their cloud messes.  And as the latest ones are picked off, it's simply the time for the next wave to step into the void... firms like Zensar, NIIT and Hexaware are routinely discussed these days as strong providers in their own right, and are also potentially attractive acquisition targets, provided the fit is right(despite decades of heritage).  

These are the new rules of the services game... because the simple fact is that there are no rules and we're all writing new ones as the need for rapid, personalized IT salvation becomes more and more a critical part of the C-Suite agenda.

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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No-Deal Brexit isn't just a British problem: This could wipe $15 trillion off global markets
January 19, 2019 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonOllie O’Donoghue

In 2008 Lehman Brothers nearly took down the global banking system... in 2017 Greece's debts were poised to destroy the European economy... today, we are staring at a stock market that gyrates up and down double-digit percentages in a single day, based on one awkward tariff tweet-up between Xi and Donald...

We're talking about the world's 5th largest economy going into immediate meltdown.  This is more than a UK-only debacle

So... who cares about the world's 5th largest economy potentially plummeting into a complete meltdown? Let's just have a good giggle at those idiotic British politicians hell-bent on destroying the country over a referendum staged 2.5 years ago on a topic no-one actually understands.  Yeah, let's not worry as they'll be screwed, and we can all make Brit-jokes at parties as those idiots run out of medical supplies and are forced to import frozen butterball turkeys pumped full of Ractopramine and several other GMOs... yum.

Here's the bad news - Lehman and Greece are small-time when you consider the potential damage a complete Brexit failure will cause, if - as it possible - the UK government paralyzes itself and lets its economy degenerate into a warzone of regulation chaos, complete data disaster, supply chain meltdown and political purgatory.  While we have boldly - and positively - predicted (see earlier post) that Brexit won't actually happen, there is also the distinct possibility that Brexit and no-Brexit blindly meander into the nothingness of a "No-Deal" scenario.

We have predicted that - at the end of the day - politicians are surely not that selfish, and voters really aren't that stupid to allow their country to descend into complete economic and social chaos... and madness.  But that's because we, at HFS, have assumed a modicum of intelligence does exist in the world. But, we could be sadly naïve.  However, there is some hope - and that hope is the simple fact that if we Brits commit the ultimate harakiri of a No-Deal Brexit, we take the rest of the global economy down with us.  You thought Lehman Bros was bad?  You've seen nothing yet folks.

Why this could be a $15 trillion global decimation

If we look at similar shocks to the stock market over the last century, it takes relatively little to create a major downturn in global asset values. We don’t need to look too far back this decade to see how even a moderate dip on global stock markets cans seriously impact the health of the economy.

If we look at the Asian financial crisis in 1997, for example, we can see just how quickly the collapse of even a relatively small economy can wipe off a huge percentage of global stock values. If we look at the potential consequences of not only one of the world’s largest economies, but one tightly integrated with the global economy, it’s not hard to see how much of an impact this could have on the major stock exchanges. That’s not to mention the major role the UK currently plays in global finance – with some estimates advising that the City of London manages over $9 trillion in assets, three times the size of UK GDP.

In a no-deal scenario, almost overnight the UK will no longer be compliant with EU rules and regulations – of which the previously discussed GDPR is just one of. There are countless other regulations that have formed part of the business environment of the United Kingdom, Europe, and by extension, the rest of the global economy, that are likely to emerge during the real-time stress testing that a no-deal crash out will lead to.

We can simulate (with the same degree of absolutely no certainty characteristic of the Brexit process) a major tumble in global stock prices by examining how previous shocks to the market have impacted in the past. And it’s worth noting, that our estimates are generally very conservative compared to other financial crises over the past century.

In the following illustration, we can see how some significant impacts to the value of stock markets can play out – particularly in areas most likely to be impacted by Brexit. In this simulation, we can expect the value of the twenty largest stock markets to drop by $14.9 trillion as a result of the major market shock of no-deal Brexit.

 

Click to Enlarge 

Bottom Line: A no-deal Brexit has far-reaching consequences, and could knock chunks of value from global stock markets to send us crashing into a serious economic depression

The warnings about the implications of no longer being compliant with GDPR are chicken-feed compared to the true global impact of allowing Britain to hive itself off from the EU with no insulation from the multiple disastrous consequences. In the past, major financial crises have been caused simply from a much smaller and less integrated economy defaulting on debts, now we’re facing the very real prospect that one of the world’s largest economies will wake up one morning with a completely different rule book, and much more red-tape and bureaucracy between it and the rest of the world. It’s not hyperbolic to say, the consequences to the global economy could be huge.

In a sick way, maybe this No-Deal scenario is what we all deserve to open the eyes of the politicians and gullible voters of the world for losing their grip on reality.  Maybe a period of poverty and hardship will knock us into shape to prepare for the next chapter of economic and political life.  

Ugh - we seriously hope it doesn't take a crisis of these immense proportions for everyone to wake up to the world we are shaping, where facts are merely tools to shape opinions and this sense of entitlement that so many people possess is threatening to destroy everything we've worked so hard to create.

There never was a "Brexit deal".  Brexit was all about pissed off working class people (mainly older folks) sticking it to the rich and to "foreign" people they saw 'stealing' jobs (they were never going to do themselves in any case).  So the only "Brexit" these people wanted was to ruin the economy for the wealthy British middle class and to stop immigrants coming into the country (and kicking out the existing ones too).  This is why the situation is such as mess.  The real motives behind Brexit are not the ones being discussed in Parliament or in Brussels.  It's a mess and needs to be somehow reset so the real debate can take place.  Otherwise this never ends.  

We all agree at HFS that change can be good, and we must embrace change... but changing to what?  That is the issue right now - what is wrong with the current system and what is the ideal system we need to move to...  and its not only the UK grappling with this problem...

Accenture, IBM, Capgemini and Wipro lead the first application services Top 10
January 14, 2019 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonOllie O’Donoghue

So it's now 2019, and HFS' Ollie O'Donoghue and Jamie Snowdon waste no time in the world of the new feisty Top 10 methodology, where they take no prisoners in ranking how the leading application development and management service providers performed...

The market continues to test and experiment with new frameworks and methodologies. The most notable are DevOps and agile, which are now widely adopted by many of the major IT service providers. Providers are implementing sweeping training and culture redevelopment programs to adopt best practices to support innovation and delivery in the application services space.

Now more than ever, enterprises are looking for providers to help them rationalize and optimize their technology stack, of which business applications is a significant component. In their drive toward the Digital OneOffice, forward-thinking enterprises are engaging with providers that can build innovative solutions that can integrate and unite business applications and in the process break down business siloes.

Given the importance of technology and business applications, enterprises are looking for collaborative partners that are invested in their success. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing reliance on existing relationships to deliver on fresh engagements.

Service providers are also working tirelessly to ensure they are making the most of their talent—driving training and retraining programs to help keep employees’ skillsets up to speed in a changing market.

So let's see how the leading ten service provider shake out, based on interviews with 300 enterprise clients of IT services from the Global 2000 in which we asked specific questions pertaining to innovation and execution performance of service providers assessed. The research is augmented with information collected in Q1 and Q2 2018 through provider RFIs, structured briefings, client reference interviews, and from publicly available information sources:

Click to view full 22 service provider assessment

 

Key Research Highlights 

Developing talent. Providers are working hard to develop talent internally through retraining programs and bring in the right people by building out innovative talent attraction processes.

Building out partnerships. Providers are developing broader and deeper partnerships to support the increased demand from enterprises for a diverse and complex ecosystem.

Blurring service lines. Traditional service lines, particularly infrastructure and applications, are coming under more pressure as enterprises show less willingness to differentiate between siloes when designing an engagement.

Investment in capability.  Many providers are building out their capability through acquisition of innovative start-ups and boutiques, as well as some major investments in the acquisition or merging of major providers and ISVs already operating in the space.

Q&A with Report Author, Ollie O'Donoghue

"Are the partners who got us here the ones to take us to the next place?"

This is always a tough question to answer, particularly in the application services space where the scope of projects is getting larger and encompassing far more technologies. To thrive in this market there is no perfect route – we see firms like IBM bolster capabilities through acquisition (RedHat being the largest), while firms such as DXC and Accenture pull in capability through partnerships, and the major IT outsourcers try to build up skills and talent organically. At its core, this is to meet the needs of an evolving buyer community that expects the best solutions from a complex array of technologies and practices.

So, what we’re seeing is a large section of the provider community fight to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market. Honestly, we can expect to see some casualties, there’s just too much to specialise in for some providers to keep pace with, and many are spread too thin to become real specialists. The future in this space belongs to those who can keep layering valuable interfaces between a growing technology stack that includes advanced automation capabilities. For some, this will be through becoming a jack-of-all-trades, and for others, it will be through unique specialisms – all who are in between are vulnerable.

Which of this bunch are going to break out of the pack, based on your recent conversations?

As we’ve mentioned, there's a lot of movement across the leading service providers – but there are four or five that have a lot more going on than many of the others. Let’s start with IBM, which already has scale and differentiation in the space, but has jumped ahead of the pack in open source through the mammoth acquisition of RedHat. We also have Accenture which continues to be synonymous with innovation and bringing high-quality solutions to clients. The firm has also plugged in more digital design and apps agencies into its service lines in recent years, adding more brains and brawn to the rapidly growing market.

It’s also worth highlighting Wipro, which has a strengthening reputation in the application services market – strengthened by the firm’s big bets in digital. This part of the IT services market has always been the core of Wipro’s business, so the firm is able to pull in experience and skills that other firms still need time to develop. We also have Infosys which, with fresh leadership, has started to take the services game seriously again. The firm has done a lot of work to retrain talent and redevelop its strategy. Jumping on the developing push for onshore and nearshore, Infosys is also building out delivery centres, particularly in the US with plans for more work in Europe. Finally, Capgemini and TCS are gaining ground. The former through capturing more mindshare in Europe for its IT Services heft and expertise – a potential gold mine as businesses grapple with geopolitical pressures and look to local technology experts to help them. And the Latter for pushing a fresh narrative on the need for technology in the modern enterprise through its Business 4.0 thought leadership.

As a last note, HCL presents somewhat of a quandary to us since its purchase of IBM assets. It’s difficult to see the acquisition of somewhat legacy assets as a route to breaking out of the pack, but the reality is this could be a platform on to a broader customer base for HCL. All in all, though, we’re holding judgement until the firm has a clearer strategy for the assets.

Are there any niche firms popping up who can disrupt this space?

It’s a tough market for smaller firms to play in, but for specialists who can corner the market or disrupt business models, there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre. This is the first major IT Services analysis where we’ve included some of the mid-tier players where a lot of the innovation is taking place – simply because these firms have to try much harder to fend off the majors whether that’s the flexibility and agility of Mphasis or the vertical specialism of LTI.

There are even smaller players starting to challenge in the space – nClouds, an HFS Hot Vendor is an excellent example of a small firm with a compelling track-record in the market, particularly when helping enterprises shift applications and services to the cloud. There’s a vast amount of space opening up for players in the ‘small and cool’ category – the acquisition of RedHat leaves behind a massive gap in independent open source and there is a large portion of the community disillusioned by the acquisition that could be a huge boon to the right company. And with several mid-tier players hoovered up by the majors – notably Syntel and Luxoft - there are gaps in the market waiting to be filled by agile firms.

So, Ollie, which emerging apps services firms are worth keeping an eye out for?

nClouds – In many ways, nClouds is the definition of a company thriving from the increasing blend of application and infrastructure. The firm leverages practices and technologies such as DevOps, Containerization, and public cloud to help clients evolve their technology stack. We were so impressed by client feedback from this firm that they made their way into the first HFS Hot Vendors at the start of 2018.

Trianz – While not necessarily a niche player, Trianz has proven itself more than capable of taking on much larger firms to win deals. The firm has a broad range of services, but its edge seems to be the agility and flexibility it can bring to engagements. The firm has won multiple awards and seems to be benefiting from increased enterprise appetite to diversify engagements amongst many small players, rather than one giant one.

Linium – (acquired by Ness Digital Engineering) – For specialisation, we need to look no further than Linium which has worked tirelessly to carve out chunks of the enterprise service management space. The firm has dedicated practices for core business platforms such as ServiceNow, as well as capabilities in custom application development. The firm was acquired by Ness Digital Engineering in 2018 – bringing with it broader capabilities and access to talent, as well as access to a broader pool of clients.

GAVS Tech– When we covered Gavs Tech in our Q3 Hot Vendors, we concentrated on their zero-incident framework, an approach to reduce the impact of IT issues on end-users. But the firm has used the mantra across other service lines in the space, including a pay as you go DevOps models that focus on deploying reliable application code and resources. The DevOps platform provides an integrated solution for application development, testing, deployment, scaling and monitoring – not only offering improved speed and quality, but also a degree of simplicity in a complex technology environment.

Bottom-Line: Increasingly scarce talent, combined with a never-ending demand, places real pressure on service providers to keep innovating their delivery models

Simply put, the modern application services market is now so complex it’s not possible to be an expert in everything. Providers are beginning to recognize this and continue to bring in partners to support their delivery capabilities while retraining staff to move them into higher value work.

At the center of this changing market lies a huge question mark around talent. Enterprises are telling us that there are major talent crunches in key areas of the market and for some applications, which is forcing them to push more work over to providers. The challenge is that many of these providers are facing similar challenges. All of the IT services providers assessed in this research have extensive retaining and retraining programs in place to ensure they get the most out of their teams. They’re also partnering up with major sources of talent, particularly higher education institutions.

Nevertheless, the market is showing no signs of slowing down to allow providers any breathing space. Enterprise applications are now a major focus area for CIOs and technology leaders to get right. They need help writing off legacy, making sense of extensive technology estates, and finding areas of opportunity for new services and solutions.

Premium HFS subscribers can click here to download their copy of HFS Top 10 Application Development and Management Services 2018

Forget Brexit, RPA could wipe $820m a year of costs from the NHS with a common model across its 207 trusts
December 15, 2018 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonOllie O’Donoghue

What I love about RPA is it most often has the highest impact where there is a serious amount of IT failure, disorganization and overworked staff. Yes, that's a lot of organizations to consider, and it's one of the reasons why its hard to find this technology sexy - it's built to fix the murky, dysfunctional stuff that has been squirreled away for decades, buried deep beneath failing ERP projects and conveniently ignored by senior executives who have few political points to score by acknowledging they should actually focus on fixing their broken underbellies.

This has been the failure of operations leaders for decades - simply focusing on layering more garbage over the top, when the real way to fix their inherent problems of dysfunction is to dig deep beneath their navels and address their broken process chains, and - heaven forbid - actually start to do something differently.

And there is no ground more fertile than the hallowed turf of the British National Health Service (NHS), the world's sixth-largest employer with 1.7m staff, where decades of hollow political rhetoric, obscene wastage on 'big-bang IT transformations" and big-ticket consultants on the gravy train, bravely held together by a woefully understaffed administration that end up spending on contract agencies just to keep the wheels turning. Let's face facts: the UK National Health Service makes the basket-case that is Obama Care resemble a slick, well-oiled machine.

Enter RPA: a tool that is reducing GP referral processing time by 75%

But there is renewed hope - and this hope can quite easily become reality if you entertain the idea of using RPA to unify document submissions, scrape data from legacy desktops to speed up GP referral times.  And the real value to be gained here is if the NHS can adopt a common enterprise-wide strategy to deploy a common RPA as-a-service toolset and methodology across its 207 individual trusts.  It's so simple, I describe in on the back of an envelope:

Even in these tough times for the institution, many of its leaders are looking optimistically at the opportunities new technologies that can be customized provide, which can solve business inefficiencies and don't involve the massive complexities of entire system upheavals. One particular example provides insights into how one NHS trust is actively addressing some of these issues, both in terms of saving the NHS money directly, easing pressure on administrative staff and providing a better more consistent service for patients being referred to hospitals. All of these endeavors are in line with the broader objective of ensuring that the NHS meets some overriding objectives to digitize services.

The starting point for this work began at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT). The organization faced many of the same pressures discussed above and like all healthcare services within the UK, they were directed to enable all GP referrals to be processed via the Electronic Referral Service (eRS) by October 2018. However, the existing system for processing electronic referrals was based on manual processes and was slowa common challenge.

Essentially, once the GP had made a referral to the Trust, the support staff have to find information such as scans, blood tests, and other results which need to be manually downloaded and appended to the file. In a process which may seem bizarre to many enterprises, this often meant admin staff were required to print off material and then scan it back into the same computer (using the same printer and scanner) to create a PDF file to navigate bottlenecks between unintegrated systems. The PDF document is then uploaded to the administration system. Approximately, this process took around 20 minutes for each referral and created, what the trust described as an avalanche of admin, distracting medical secretaries from their primary task of supporting patients and consultants.

ESNEFT had already started a pilot scheme looking to automate some accounts payable processes with the RPA provider Thoughtonomy, which was showing a great deal of promise. So, the Trust decided to use the system to automate the referral process across five clinical specialties, using “Virtual Workers” (BluePrism bots), which actively monitor incoming referrals from GP patient appointments in real-time, 24 hours a day. Once triggered, the Virtual Worker extracts the reason for referral, referral data, and supporting clinical information and merges the information into a single PDF document. This combined document is then uploaded into the Trust’s administrative systems. The RPA system uses virtual smart card technology for authentication providing the same level of data security assurance as the old manual process. Overall, the complete task now takes less than five minutes. The Virtual Workforce is able to update all systems, instantaneously and extract critical information, which it passes on to the lead consultant for review and grading.

One of the most important aspects of this technology is its ability to work within the current system, regardless of how chaotic and unstructured that may be. It is technology that adapts to the real world and the way people actually behave and work rather than expecting people to miraculously change current tropes and behaviours. This is perhaps the single most important reason RPA works: it provides whatever shaped peg is required, no matter the hole.

RPA negates the need to spend vast amounts on many complex technology integration projects

This first stage has significant cost savingsestimated to be $275,000 in the first yearwithout removing staff. Crucially, the $275K saving achieved is made up of agency staff and sundry costs such as printing. ESNEFT believe that 500 hours of time was saved thanks to the solution. Plus it increased the job satisfaction of the admin staff, who could concentrate on more important aspects of their role.

For us, although the top line cost saving number is important, it’s the fact that a technology solution proof of concept has been deployed successfully (and relatively painlessly) within the NHS. To deliver the outcome required, there was no need to drive an enormous transformation project to align and integrate systems. Which, given the lack of appetite for big bang projects in the NHS is an achievement in itself. Simply put, the way the technology is used can be fitted into the existing chaos—it’s technology for the real world. It can provide a bottom-up solution to productivity improvements,  which is a project that replaces part of existing work flows and automates manual and repetitive tasks. It accomplishes these things with the double whammy of removing tasks which is disliked, genuinely improving outcomes to patients, whilst helping to drive efficiency.

Bottom line: The NHS is not alone in facing an unforgivingly complex estate, but with technologies that fit into the chaos of the modern organization, this is only the start 

If we look more broadly at the impact RPA technology could have on the NHS, we can use a simple calculation to estimate the ramifications this technology can have. We know that savings of $275K have been made on 2,000 GP referrals per week. But the figure for NHS England as a whole, puts GP referrals at 3.5m from April 2018 to June 2018. So, if this were scaled up, we could see savings across NHS England purely for GP referrals at a staggering $38m, this included all hospital referrals the figure rises to almost $63m, or around $1.3m per week. To put this in context, this would equate to almost 850 nurses for the GP referrals or almost 1,400 for all referrals in England (using the average cost of $45,000 per annum for a mid-tier nurse, source: Nuffield trust).

This is the tip of the iceberg, considering that more than 520M working hours are currently spent on admin and approximately $3.3 billion is spent on agency staff across the NHS as a whole during 2016. There is a great deal of savings to be had. Even if only a quarter of the agency spend is non-medical, that could be $820M per year that could be freed up with only positive impacts on patient outcomes.