Jamie Snowdon
Chief Data Officer 
Learn more about Jamie Snowdon
The Robotic Process Automation market will reach $443 million this year
June 10, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie Snowdon

Have we ever got so excited about a market that isn't even yet past the half-billion dollar spend level? Are we getting over excited about solutions because of their potential before they are fully tried and tested in reality?  Let's get to the realities of RPA by examining the size and five-year forecast for software and related services expenditure:

The global market for RPA Software and Services reached $271 million in 2016 and is expected to grow to $1.2 billion by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate of 36%. The direct services market includes implementation and consulting services focused on building RPA capabilities within an organization. It does not include wider operational services like BPO, which may include RPA becoming increasingly embedded in its delivery.

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. At

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Recessions destroy jobs not robots
May 24, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon

May is one of my favourite months of the year. Not because it warms up and brings milder weather. Not because of the number of bank holidays we get in the UK or that it is National Burger Month or National Innovators Month (who decides these?) – but because of the massive amount of data that becomes available during the month. It marks when most of the annual reports are available, and importantly it marks when National Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its annual occupation statistic for the US. If that isn’t exciting, you clearly aren’t a data junkie like me ????

These statistics are important as they show real job creation and job losses – which comes as a refreshing contrast to the recent obsession we see around the prediction of mass job losses caused by digital and the shift toward more digital operations. This rhetoric is becoming increasingly unhelpful as enterprise organizations navigate the ongoing shift toward digitally engaged commerce. The current mantra de jour being advances in machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) will steadily eliminate all kinds of jobs. Economies across the globe will have to brace themselves for massive job destruction.

We’ve all seen the studies that state that half of manufacturing jobs will be eliminated by automation in the next decade. Driverless trucks and trains are set to become commonplace, eliminating many more jobs. Advances in technology are not only impacting lower skilled jobs but also skilled professions. People with advanced qualifications such as lawyers and doctors are undertaking activities that can be automated.

Although there is some truth in this – technology is taking on increasing amounts of low skilled and mundane work, the largest inhibitor to the continued digital transformation of businesses and whole industries is, and will continue to be, a lack of skills. Yes, it is a shortage of talent that will slow down the adoption of new technologies such as robotics, AI, big data analytics, and the IoT.

The truth as you can clearly see below, automation doesn’t kill jobs – wider economic issues kill job creation – recessions and stagnation. As you can see from labor statistics in the US – in spite of the growth of automation there is still a net gain in jobs over the last 5 years:

Although automation will impact jobs, the rate at which jobs will be eliminated will be limited by the availability of skills that can implement and manage this technology. Which tends to self-regulate the creation v destruction trend and help, at least with the timing of any job market adjustment. As we have seen in past industrial revolutions, these shifts in jobs end up creating more work than they eliminate. We saw in the 18th century industrial revolution massive shifts from agricultural work – we expect a similar trend with this current wave of disruption.

New jobs will need to be created to enable automation, and to engender the innovation facilitated by new technology. Skills required for these new jobs are in extremely short supply. We maintain that a lack of people with appropriate skills, will slow any shift in operating models toward driverless trucks, driverless trains, software defined factories, connected health, smart grids, smart cities and so forth.

So what will these new roles be?

The biggest change will be a shift from specific functional roles to more blended multilayered job. With more complex skill sets being required. Organizations will need to acquire talent which blends technical skills with operational skills (industry specific skills) as well as softer skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, continuous learning, active listening and other non traditional capabilities. Education and training from technology professionals needs to be much more holistic, given that technology is transforming many aspects of our lives. With education and training institutions having to adjust offerings so they develop the required blended and holistic skill sets for the needs of the emerging job market. These new jobs emphasize skills, knowledge and willingness to learn, over traditional highly specialized degrees, and the rather narrow scoped careers that gave people their early work experience.

Valuable workers will soon be those who can adapt and learn new skills as and when more automation is embedded within their role. To stay ahead in the talent game, businesses should focus on:

  • Hiring for potential. This means hiring staff based on their inherent ability to learn and adapt to situations rather than their experience, particularly if it is narrow.
  • Learning not education. These two things are not the same – if you hire people who are able to learn, you must provide a continuous learning environment and incentives based on learning. Just hiring people with Stanford or Harvard degrees won’t necessarily give you people who are able to learn on the job long term.
  • This means looking outside of the norm when hiring. Traditional MBA courses may not provide you with people who have flexibility to operate in today’s multidisciplinary world.
  • Work with external education establishments to make sure students have the skills you want. Better to invest in helping universities develop the skills you need in people rather than focus on competing for them. Demonstrating a willingness to invest in young people is likely to engender loyalty and being part of university programmes provides more opportunity to demonstrate that commitment than the usual milk round and job fairs.

The Bottom Line – We must focus on generating value for customers, not protectionism and panic-mongering

There needs to be a shift in emphasis away from set task based skills to more blended and soft skills where technical and business skills combine. Without an increase in the supply of these kind of people the transformation to more digitally driven operating models will be slowed. Hiring policies need to look to the future, without the right people the step into the digitally enabled world will slow to a crawl.

It today's swirl of gibbering noise around the social media presses, it's the responsibility of leading analysts, advisors and academics to be the voices of sanity and reason, when it comes to topics as critical as the future of work elimination through Intelligent Automation technology.  The automation vendors love the hype as it gets them attention with clients, but analysts who like to take money from these vendors have a responsibility to articulate the realities of these technologies to their clients. They are great at augmenting work flows, and even aiding medical discoveries, but this is the real value - it's not about sacking people.  It's about making operations function better so people can do their jobs better.  The real "roboboss" is the human enterprise operator who can use smart Intelligent automation tools to enhance the quality of their work.

Net-net, industry analysts, advisors, robotics vendors, academics and service providers need to engage with clients around how all these disruptive approaches will affect talent management as well as organizational structures. Even without these apocalyptic scenarios, some job functions are likely to either disappear or be significantly diminished (as our automation job impact forecast reveals). Equally, we need to talk about governance of these new environments, touching upon ethical, but also practical, issues. This is not only a necessity for the broader adoption, but also offers high value opportunities. 

Don’t let our crazy orthogonal ideas be pecked to death by negativity
May 08, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with the head of IT of a large transportation company – and we talked about the future of his job and the most important things impacting his role. When I asked him what was the main issue getting in the way of him adding value to his business, he said it was a cloying inertia brought about by a thick soup of negative thinking.

The number of people in his organization that focus on the way things have been done in the past and the reasons why things can’t change, were a source of incredible frustration to him. Incremental change was possible, colleagues understand how processes evolve, so innovation could be staged, but it was very hard to implement anything totally new. We joked that original thinking was being pecked to death by negativity, like a flock of miserable seagulls.

As an analyst, this is something really close to my heart – if we are to produce anything that approaches original thinking, we need an environment where ideas are cherished and even the craziest thought is welcome – although it will ultimately need to stand up to scrutiny, the original thought can’t be wrong. It’s only when you make cerebral room to nurture some crazy, orthogonal thinking do you create inspirational work like the Digital OneOffice.

So what needs to happen, how can this change? How can we get people to take leaps of thought rather than increments?

Phil’s recent blog “Is your current job the end of the line?” delivered seven action points directly to the chief “peckers” of the world. Distilling that, the most important thing organizations can do to encourage this behaviour and become more open is to move away from traditional hierarchical relationships, look at the idea itself and any data that supports the idea. It is the addition of data and more evidence that helps to shift thinking from more traditional decision making.

It’s interesting that the message, at least in terms of its overall importance, seems to be getting out at last. In a recent survey of 300 major Global 2000 enterprises, we asked IT leaders about the importance of some c-suite directives to their IT strategy.

This graphic shows that IT decision makers realise the best way that they can increase the relevance of IT within the organization is by supporting more predictive decision making. This is a crucial change in mindset, taking IT away from its most recent manifestation which has almost been as a custodian of IT, or a gatekeeper, focused on reigning IT in and keeping the costs down.

Bottom Line – data gives crazy thoughts wings

We suspect that part of the embracing of data by IT departments goes back to my friend and his battle with the naysayers. Data levels the playing field and gives more people a voice. It gives more power to the elbow of anyone seeking to make a change. An IT department that delivers insight will be listened to, as opposed to being largely ignored as a legacy function tasked with keeping the lights on. Let’s stopped being pecked to death.

IT’s relationships with the business functions – get better at supporting them, or risk getting bumped
May 03, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon

And here’s another core finding from our “State of IT Services Survey 2017”, where we spoke to 302 IT service decision makers from the Global 2000 to find out what they think of their IT services and digital consulting providers.

We asked IT decision makers to rate how successful different business units were at engaging with IT. The chart shows the top level results for all the business units.


                                                             Click to enlarge

The good thing is that the majority of business units have a broadly successful relationship with IT, with 66% of responses being successful or very successful – which is encouraging. Although that means 34% of business units don’t have successful relationships with their IT departments – which for Global 2000 organizations in such an increasingly digital age is worrying. Although we are likely seeing the tension of business units’ desire to use IT to operate more dynamically being tempered by their IT departments’ conservative nature to act in a safe operating environment. 

HR departments have the worst relationships on average, with 40% of IT managers questioning whether the engagement is successful. This is concerning as IT departments need to demonstrate how technology can be applied in an HR setting – it is not just about buying the latest SaaS product like Workday. Looking at how data can help fuel better decision making for HR leaders, use predictive analytics to identify employee needs and use IT tools to assess potential employees more objectively. HR also has a key role to play in data protection and instilling the right culture of data protection within the organization. Given that employees pose one of the biggest data protection threats, IT should get HR onside.

Bottom Line – good IT fosters good relationships, poor IT fosters poor relationships

What has not detected in our surveys is an inflection point in IT and business unit relationships – whether the reliance from one to the other is increasing or decreasing as when we compare with similar survey work the change is only small on average. However, it does appear that the better relationships seem to be getting better and the worse relationships seem to be getting worse. Given that the choice to use external IT is easier (if not necessarily cheaper) than it has been – the fact that the worse relationships are getting worse is a worrying sign for IT departments. With the growing increase in the functionality and the breadth of SaaS and cloud services, it is not mad to envision a time when a large organization could move beyond the internal IT department toward a matrix of cloud procured products and services. So it is vital that IT continues to foster these relationships – get better or get bumped.

Digital, Cloud, SaaS and Automation Becoming Table Stakes When Choosing an IT Service Provider
April 18, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon

We just wanted share another finding from our “State of IT Services Survey 2017” – this survey has been conducted largely to support our IT Services blueprint process. We have interviewed 302 IT service decision makers to find out what they think of the IT services providers infrastructure management services, digital-focused consulting and their application management services.

We asked IT decision makers to pick their most important selection criteria for choosing an external service provider for IT Services generally, and specifically when choosing an infrastructure management, application management and consulting/IT strategy provider. The chart shows the difference between these main groups - displaying the proportion of buyers selecting each option for each type of provider.


Bottom Line – results count more than the method

Overall buyers are looking for Innovation, financial stability, quality of service. Consulting buyers care more about quality and skills (as well as innovation) - prior engagements are much less important. Buyers are starting to care less about the technology that drives the innovation - at least as dominant factors driving selection. Digital/SaaS/Cloud and automation are increasingly table stakes.

Familiarity breeds respect – for IT services firms…
April 14, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon

We are just analysing our “State of IT Services Survey 2017” at the moment – this survey is being conducted largely to support our IT Services blueprint process. We have interviewed 302 IT service decision makers to find out what they think of the IT services providers infrastructure management services, digital-focused consulting and their application management services.

We are hoping this will add an additional buyer perspective when we rate and review the global IT services companies – getting away from the usual marketing blurb and focus on what is important for the organizations buying external services.

As part of this work, we asked these business leaders to rate their familiarity with infrastructure management service providers and then rate them on, amongst other things, service quality. This gave us the opportunity to see whether familiarity with the providers has an impact on the ratings -the infographic chart shows the findings.

The Bottom Line – buyer respect is earned through good service delivery

The good news for the industry is that, except for a couple of notable exceptions, as buyers start to use a providers infrastructure services the rating for quality of service delivery increases. With a big leap from merely heard of a provider to extensive knowledge.

We are analysing and publishing more of this survey over the next few weeks.

DXC’s challenges represent a microcosm of a services industry in perilous transition
April 09, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonTom Reuner

April 3rd saw the long-anticipated creation of a new IT and BPO powerhouse service provider – DXC.technology. However, DXC’s challenges represent a microcosm of a services industry in perilous transition.

This is a crucial event in the services industry, not only because it isn’t often a “new” $25 Billion services firm is created, but because of what it signifies about the uncertain state of the current market and the huge challenges facing service providers in the near future.

Read our complimentary analysis of the merger on the HfS Research website by clicking here.

Digital Means Customers Don’t Need to Like You….
March 28, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon


I've been to a couple of events and listened to a number of presentations recently from IT and business service providers talking about digital strategies -  and how they can help their clients engage better with “digital customers”.

Part of this strategy has included building greater empathy and emotion with customers – superficially this sounds fantastic, but when I think of digital, it’s not about being nice or building an emotional attachment to customers – it’s about speed, efficacy, and awareness – these things trump everything else.

Understanding customer needs and behavior is important – as it helps to build an efficient and speedy process, but they don’t need to like you they just need to believe that they will get the goods or service when they are told and it is what they asked/paid for. If you think about successful retail organizations Tesco, Amazon, Walmart – I’m not sure too many people like them, they like the convenience of them (Fanboys - I am generalizing so please don’t troll me, of course, some people love them.) People will buy from you and like you if you are cheap, if you deliver when you say you do and will stop when you mess up (for a bit.)

Digital businesses historically had awful customer service and many still do. Amazon in the U.K. when it first started was terrible at dealing with problems -  in 2003 when I ordered a book (remember when they just did books/CDs) which didn't turn up and they basically said that it was the couriers fault and after trying for a while I just gave up - they more or less told me to sod off. Incidentally, by 2010 they had gone the other way - if you said it didn't turn up they'd send 3 replacements (I exaggerate). I suspect the balance has now been struck.

However, customer service is still bad with many digital firms -  or digital services to consumers. Particularly when the app business is an intermediary an affiliate based - I have had checkered service from JustEat, Deliveroo, Hungryhouse and Burger King food delivery - don't judge me I am a hungry early adopter and have a teenage daughter with friends... Usually, something missing from the order and I haven’t had refunds – but I tend to return because the convenience (and my laziness) never goes away. Even poor service won’t kill a digital company if the core proposition is sound and the number of exceptions is low.

Bottom Line – Sell speed and efficiency – people don’t need to feel special and cared for unless you mess up.

So when I hear a service provider try to portray digital experience in terms of empathy or emotion I lose interest. Speed, efficiency, and real-time information make a service digital – this doesn’t need to deliver an emotional response, – the core proposition needs to be good and it needs to work most of the time.

Deconstructing Q4 2016 – Growth in the Traditional Services Model close to Flatlining
March 10, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie Snowdon

The traumatic Q4 results season has finally ended and our Chief Data Officer, Jamie Snowdon, is able to report on the final Q4 standings...

We’ve visualised the latest set of results for Q4 in the diagram, the top chart shows our usual margin v growth view (excluding AWS). With a chart showing the quarterly growth for Q4, an estimation of the annual (calendar) growth and the Q4 operating margin.

Click to enlarge

For each of the providers the results look like this:


Growth Q4 (%)

Growth 2016 Calendar Year (%)

Margin Q4 (%)






Good quarter for Accenture with plenty of success stories around digital, cloud and security. Constant currency growth around a percentage point above the actual growth for the quarter. Annual services growth is 7.1%.





Coming down from the highs of its recent acquisition-fuelled growth of the last couple years - Atos remains solid with organic growth at 1.8% for the year and 1.9% for the quarter. Benefiting from strong execution and its investments in analytics, security and automation.

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Location, location, location
February 24, 2017 | Jamie Snowdon

HfS is about to publish our quarterly analysis of the service provider and shared service center location announcements by Hema Santosh. As a taster, we would like to post the highlights and the infographic from this work.

Highlights for the quarter:

  • We see expansion of jobs in both the US and India – of the estimated 9,000 jobs that these new locations will house, 4,350 will be in the US and 4,300 will be in India.
  • Industry specific BPO drives expansion with 3 new BPO sites in the US in Q4 2016.
  • Downsizing – we saw some down sizing of in-house centers with eBay, Standard Chartered and Verizon all shrinking some centers.

Bottom Line:

Check out the full document here in the growing market analysis section of the HfS Research site.


Click to enlarge