Phil Fersht
 
CEO and Chief Analyst 
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Meet Sudhir Singh... the Coforge King
October 19, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah LittleSia Ravari

Watching the rise of the mid-tier services providers - especially in the midst of a pandemic - has been nothing short of impressive.  Firms that got written off a few years ago because "only the top tier only got to the table"... are now at that table.  In fact, I could name several who broke protocol to become sought after partners with reputations for going way above the standard service and regular win engagements against the juggernauts.  Just read our post about the surge in growth for mid-tier IT service providers.

With 50% growth in the last three years, Coforge – formerly known as NIIT Technologies – is no exception here. In the midst of a $600M platform and (in spite of) a global pandemic, they hit the refresh button with a new name that aligned with their identity.  Changing one's name is a brave move, but when your British clients have called you "Nit" for a couple of decades and you have a supercool CEO who plays field hockey and racketball, you just gotta do it...

Within 3 years, CEO Sudhir Singh has led Coforge has taken this firm well past the $500m barrier, so let's get the story behind the strategy, the rebrand, and how the Coforge King sees the industry unraveling...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: Thank you Sudhir for taking the time today to speak with us. You have recently gone through a rebranding and I would like to find out why Coforge and you decided on a name change, particularly in these economically uncertain times. And a little bit about how you have fared since you have taken over the role... 

Sudhir Singh, CEO and Executive Director, Coforge: Very good to be speaking with you Phil. We spoke about the name change around February when we met in Mumbai. This was an exercise that we were very excited about because all of us had this gut feeling that we are not going to be getting too many opportunities in our careers to rename a $600 million platform. This was a nine-month exercise, which was very interesting for us.

We had several compelling names in the mix. It was the connotation of the name and what we wanted to point out that was primarily important. If you play back some of the names, I think it will give you a flavour of how we approached the exercise. We had very interesting names like Sibyl, meaning a female oracle, and I must confess that that name I really liked, which we found very intriguing as it had a very forward-looking view. There were other names I remember discussing with you, like Boldwave and Brightspeed, which had a strong connotation around looking creatively, innovatively, boldly at the future – which again was interesting.

“Coforge, to us, stands for ‘working together to create lasting value’. That partnership element to all of us… that is well reflected through the partnership across employees. The one thing we’ve always prided ourselves on is that we’ve had the lowest employee attrition across the IT services industry, not just for a few years, but for the past decade.”

And then we had Coforge, which was in some ways the third name in the mix. Coforge, to us, stands for ‘working together to create lasting value’. That partnership element to all of us – the leadership team across the organization and the employee set – was extremely important. And the reason why I say this, is well reflected through the partnership across employees. The one thing we’ve always prided ourselves on is that we’ve had the lowest employee attrition across the IT services industry, not just for a few years, but for the past decade. 

“We also thought that partnering, which is what the ‘Co’ element in Coforge connotes, was very important because it stood for extreme client-centricity. This is what we are known for…”

 We also thought that partnering, which is what the “Co” element in Coforge connotes, was very important because it stood for extreme client-centricity. This is what we are known for, given the best-in-class NPS scores that we have recorded over the years. It also talked about the exceptionally deep partnerships that we have structured, over the years, with the likes of Pega and DuckCreek.

“Summing it up, Coforge stands for working together to create lasting value, working together across employees, working together with clients, working together alongside partners, working together with entities that have come in and been acquired by Coforge over the years, and making them successful.” 

Summing it up, Coforge stands for working together to create lasting value, working together across employees, working together with clients, working together alongside partners, working together with entities that have come in and been acquired by Coforge over the years, and making them successful. We have the stellar record of having almost all transactions done successfully over the last ten years where external teams became part of the Coforge family. That, Phil, is the why part of it.

As far as the why now is concerned, which you talked about, we have been on a very accelerated growth path for the last three years. And, we have also been on a very strong change journey; change when it comes to operating culture, change when it comes to strategy, change when it comes to how the internal and the external world has perceived us. We thought this was a good time, when we have some downtime, to step back, to reflect collectively, to rename ourselves and make that change that’s already been injected into the organisation more explicit.

“In the last three years, we’ve grown from being a $400 million to a $600 million firm. So we’ve grown about 50%. It has essentially been organic growth, the $200 million that we have added.”

Finally, the third question is on how we have fared. The last three years for us have been fantastic, and not just because of the financial metrics. I believe we spoke for the first time three years back. In the last three years, we’ve grown from being a $400 million to a $600 million firm. So we’ve grown about 50%. It has essentially been organic growth, the $200 million that we have added. We now are at a place where – and I have consciously held off on this for the last three years – we are running a huge internal campaign that we are calling a path to a billion. What we have done over the last three years – in terms of making changes, in terms of making sure they hit the road, in terms of making sure they get translated into impact, in terms of financial metrics as well – has now set us on that path. 

We set off on this journey where we said we will not just focus on being specialist technology providers, but we will select a few industries and make sure that we are very good when it comes to translating the applicability of those technologies in the industry context or the client context. That’s paid out extremely well for us… We think that’s what allowed us to differentiate ourselves...

It’s been a very interesting, a very fun ride for all of us, all 11,000 employees across Coforge, over the last three years.”

We’ve also done some very interesting things in terms of making sure that the strategy that we were talking about wasn’t just something that stayed as a talking point but got translated. Three years back, we set off on this journey where we said we will not just focus on being specialist technology providers, but we will select a few industries and make sure that we are very good when it comes to translating the applicability of those technologies in the industry context or the client context. That’s paid out extremely well for us by our estimates. We think that’s what has powered our growth. We think that’s what allowed us to differentiate ourselves. So, it’s been a very interesting, a very fun ride for all of us, all 11,000 employees across Coforge, over the last three years.

Exhibit 1. Coforge’s revenue growth under Sudhir’s leadership  

 

Phil Fersht: Fantastic, Sudhir. That’s great to hear. And, you know, we don’t hear too much about where you came from, Sudhir, and how you ended up running this business. You also have a fairly entrepreneurial family as well. I’ve met your brother Sudip once or twice in the past, and he’s a CEO in a similar industry. Can you share a bit more about your background and why there are services in the family blood right?

Sudhir: Sure. Our dad was in the Indian Army, Phil. We grew up bouncing from cantonment to

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After Groundhog Day... what happens next?
October 18, 2020 | Phil Fersht

When the fog clears in the coming weeks, we're faced with rebuilding workforces, rethinking failed political ideals,  revamping education and healthcare systems,  re-energizing ourselves, our families, our attitudes towards diversity, our own health, how we work… and so much more.  While we are all weary of living a real-life Groundhog Day, we have to stay focused, motivated, healthy and prepared to be ready for a new era that is approaching.   Surely this will represent the biggest reset in modern history.
 
There is no place to hide anymore. We are the dawn of a Hyperconnected Economy with the advent of connected global talent and the infinite possibilities of processes and data running in the cloud. The HFS 2025 Vision represents the north star for bold enterprises who want to design their organizations to thrive in this new era and not meet a painful, boring, and irrelevant death.

Watch the replay of this HFS Live purely unfiltered, unsponsored real talk with real industry leaders to help us unravel the emerging landscape:
 
Host:
 
Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS
 
Guests:
 
Traci Gusher, Leader AI and Enterprise Innovation KPMG
Chirag Mehta, Product Leader Google Cloud
Jesus Mantas, Chief Strategy Officer GBS, IBM
Malcolm Frank, President of Digital Business, Cognizant
Mike Small, CEO Americas,Sitel
 
 
 

There is nowhere to hide in the Pandemic Economy
September 20, 2020 | Phil Fersht

As the industry churns Tom Reuner returns
September 13, 2020 | Phil Fersht

There aren't many more exciting professions to be in these days than the analyst industry... you're right at the heart of all the key industry stakeholders absorbing a level of disruption, volatility and confusion we'll likely never experience again (we hope).  When everyone is stuck at home fretting about their futures, what better to do than talk to analysts plying their trade unraveling the current scenarios?

As an analyst firm, we need analysts who thrive in this scenario, with the experience and foresight to help us define our Vision2025, who understand this technology convergence of the hybrid cloud and containerization with data and digital technologies, all made possible by automation, AI, digital workers and - most importantly - people.  So when my old friend, colleague, and fellow Tottenham sufferer Dr Thomas Reuner agreed to return to the HFS family after a two-year sojourn in the AI software world, we knew we had the right person to lead our tech services vision...

Tom - so why did you choose to come back to the analyst community?  What really makes you get up in the morning?

Funny that you ask that, Phil. I am definitely not a morning person. If anything, I am intolerable in the morning, just ask my long-suffering lovely wife. On a more serious note, what drives me (professionally) is to understand technology evolution and how it helps organizations to advance their delivery of services. I get a real kick when I see in meetings and projects that I can help clients to better understand the dynamics of the market and achieve their strategic objectives. Working with the brilliant folks at arago has helped me to gain a more nuanced understanding of all the issues around AI, but also to appreciate more the many challenges and opportunities that innovative startups face. As such, I hope I have gleaned a much more rounded view of the industry. But deep down I always had an inkling that I would return to the analyst fold at some point. When you guys came knocking at my door that point came perhaps earlier than I expected, but being an analyst has always been my passion, so I didn’t have to think too long to make up my mind.

It must have been quite the experience working for an AI software provider during the hype-overload phase and then to experience the sobering reality of COVID where the rules of the game went out of the window.  Can you share what you learned from it all?

arago is a unique organization, both in terms of a highly differentiated technology but equally culturally. Working with one of the best development teams in AI has given me a much better comprehension of where the development of AI is really at. Not surprisingly, there is a fascinating life beyond just Machine Learning and Chatbots. However, on the negative flipside, being at the cusp of innovation that can’t be squeezed into pigeonholes provides significant challenges in engaging with the broader market. All too often we were asked “how are you different from RPA?”, “how are you different from Machine Learning?” And even where we made progress in discussions, we often got “show us the magic” as if the automation platform was a smartphone that can transform processes in a similar way to manipulating pictures.

The sobering reality of COVID was intriguing in many respects. On the one hand, the notion of a Digital Workforce took on a completely new quality as companies never really envisaged that employees literally couldn’t get to work. Thus, arago’s end-to-end automation became a have-to-have as you tend to call it. On the other hand, arago was at the forefront of providing a technology solution to trace COVID that would be interoperable between many countries. It was a rollercoaster ride starting with a groundswell of positivity as everybody wanted to engage with us but culminating in informal pressures and fickle politicians derailing much of the brilliant work my colleagues had done. I suppose much had to do with the various COVID apps being seen as a key to getting access to healthcare systems and consequently contracts. What saddened me about this journey is that the arago team worked pro bono on all of this and our CEO Chris Boos worked tirelessly day and night trying to get the project off the ground while engaging with the public about the implications and merits of the approach. To witness the headwinds and some of the public discussions on all of this makes one only more cynical. If anything, the experience has reinforced for me the importance of not losing sight of informal dynamics when analyzing the industry.

So where next for intelligent automation?  Will we see the phoenix rising from the ashes?  We talk a lot about the "have-to-have" economy at HFS... how much of this is really a have-to-have? 

I have fond memories of the early days of Intelligent Automation. It was a small community and we all had no clear idea of where the development would be heading. At least for me, the context was always about how do we progress to end-to-end automation and how can we decouple routine services delivery from labor arbitrage. To help clients on their digital journey, collapsing the many siloes was top of the agenda. Yet, the current hype around RPA appears to be confining the goals more and more to task automation and employee productivity. And in my view, the discussions on “Hyperautomation” are not helping either because they are re-enforcing an RPA-centric view of the world.

Therefore, we should re-focus the discussions back to the outcomes we had in mind at the outset, take a more holistic view and focus on how we finally can scale deployments. If we succeed with that you could argue we would see a phoenix rising from the ashes, but I am not holding my breath. The breath-taking valuations for some of the RPA providers are masking many of those discussions. At the same time, the blurriness as to what constitutes AI is adding to the confusion.

As with the discussion on COVID, Intelligent Automation and a Digital Workforce should be have-to-haves to guarantee business continuity in these pandemic times where organizations have to plan for the unknown. But talking to clients they increasingly realize the limitations of RPA and that we need new approaches to really succeed with a Digital Workforce. It is here where I see HFS continuing to be the leading authority of guiding the market.

And how much will enterprises depend on services to make their have-to-haves happen for them?  As you scope your research agenda across the tech services domain what areas are you going to cover that will help HFS clients and readers?

You always give me the easy tasks (laughs). Services remain, or more precisely, build the cornerstone in most organizations as they are accelerating the journey towards the OneOffice (or call it truly digital organizations) and are trying to find ways to survive these pandemics times. But crucially, success is about the outcome, not the technology itself. As such, the research agenda will be aligned with the various HFS frameworks, the OneOffice being the most relevant one. With that in mind, it is about how best to orchestrate and configure cloud offerings as the market is shifting from multi-cloud to hybrid-cloud. Crucially, this includes change agents such as RPA and AI as legacy environments have to work together with all those innovations. As we are touching on the change agents, of course, Intelligent Automation and AI will remain close to my heart, but I hope I will bring new insights to the discussions having benefitted from working with the brilliant folks at arago. In the context of applications, we are likely to expand our coverage on distributed agile. What are the best practices to make it work in complex engagements, including outsourced engagements? Similarly, looking at our coverage on testing, I could imagine focussing more on the testing of innovation, especially around the big change agents. I hope you can see, Phil, that this is more about aligning our research to our sweet spots rather than reinventing the wheel. But as I have the privilege of working with a hugely talented team, I am sure we will be able to move the goalposts at least a bit.

Now you're officially an analyst veteran (hehe), what do you see next for the analyst industry?  Are we still going to get the same old vendor grids and turgid vendor-driven messaging, or will we finally see a change in how the industry consumes research and engages with analysts? 

Thanks for reminding me that time is flying, Phil. If I am honest, I am seeing at best a marginal change in how the industry deals with the wondrous world of analysts. Too many AR folks spend the majority of their time dealing with Magic Quadrants, notwithstanding any other grids or activities. We have seen more consolidation of analyst firms, yet we haven’t really seen new firms with new ideas breaking through. There are many wonderful analysts out there, but if you look at the industry, I would argue it has gone a tad stale. Smart AR folks reacting to that by working more with individual analysts. Take some stalwarts like Gurvinder Sahni at Wipro, he is building deep relationships but then orchestrates those relationships according to his requirements. And if I take my experience on the vendor side, which represented more innovative startups, I was struggling to get relevant advice. The guidance was often templated and you were encouraged to engage with ten other analysts to glean relevant insights. My “favorite” piece of advice, was: “Tom, you have to reinvent RPA for your space”. But I would love to see new firms emerging as this is the most challenging but also the most intriguing time to be an analyst.

And finally, Tom, what will you do to set your own research apart as we venture into this murky future ahead?

To be honest, the quality of my research will always be in the eye of the beholder. But I would hope by leveraging HFS’s vast network of buy-side organizations and by continuing to build deep relationships with stakeholders, I can provide value to my clients. It was always the collaboration with some of those outstanding industry veterans that has helped to shape frameworks like the Intelligent Automation Continuum. Folks like Boris Krumrey at UiPath and Wayne McQuoid at Credit Suisse are top of the tree. By exchanging ideas, challenges, and working together on projects, the most relevant research pieces have come up. You keep challenging me to revamp the Continuum and revamp our IT Services research. To do that I really look forward to engaging with many of the brilliant folks in our network!!

Well it's terrific to have you back in the HFS family Tom and looking forward to hearing your new ideas

My five learnings leading a company through a pandemic: Just be human, be smart and you’ll find your way
September 06, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Having founded a successful analyst firm 10 years ago, nothing seemed to derail us from continuous growth… every obstacle could seemingly be overcome by throwing smart people at it or investing time with your clients.  Net net – if you were good at what you did and had some smart people who believed in what you were doing and saw your value, you would always find a way.  You were always a safe bet, a sure thing, something to invest in for the future. 

You could ride out prosperous times and tough times because you influenced sales cycles and validated multi-million (even billion) dollar decisions. Whatever was going on in the world, you thrived off the one thing that kept the wheels on everything:  certainty.  Enterprise leaders, investors, politicians alike all banked on one thing – they had a reassuring view of the future, of where things were heading.  They could always make decisions to keep pushing in the right direction.

We’ve been given the worst corporate disease possible:  Uncertainty

Then along came something no one accounted for which caused the one thing that can destroy the status quo:  uncertainty.  Suddenly everyone is unfamiliar and uncomfortable with their environment – their certainty has dissipated and the rules for conducting business have gone out of the window.  Unless your business is something they have-to-have you may find yourself out in the cold so quickly by the time you realized your perilous position, it may already be too late.

And the scariest part of all this is the immediacy of your potential demise.  If you’re not Zoom, Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo, Instacart or Occado - who have immediate opportunity to exploit the situation – your whole business model is immediately wracked in uncertainty.  Whoever you may be.  How do you sell the same stuff when you can’t meet your clients, when many your key staff are surely too busy home-schooling their kids to commit to extra work, when your clients’ bosses are suddenly demanding things form your clients that don’t include your products or services?  What do you do if you are suddenly deemed irrelevant?  

As much as pandemics suck (yes, they really bloody do!) they give you a once-in-an-era chance to make changes you never thought possible, or never even realized you needed to make.

Five things I have learned about leading in these times:

  1. Moving everything to digital is not some crazy expensive investment – it’s the best thing you’ll ever do to your business. Seriously, can we please stop this bullshit that “digital transformation” is some insanely expensive cost that is just too much for your firm to handle. Shifting your core products and services to digital results in them being cheaper to deliver, cheaper for your clients, more efficient, faster and give you much, much better data to make better decisions.  If you can’t move some of your services to digital, then they were probably ready for the analog scrap-heap in any case.
  2. Choose your team you need to take with you on this journey – and do it fast.  This is where it gets hard, but deep down you know what you have to do.  This is probably the only rare time you can make painful – and sometimes unpopular - decisions to shape your business around your digital present and future.  Now you can make decisions and take actions that could have resulted in a rebellion pre-March 2020.  Just make the changes and move on fast, you just gotta do it - and be honest about them.  Sure, they’ll probably paint you as one huge asshole and write something about your “toxicity” on Glassdoor, but you know you made a painful - but professional - decision – and so did they deep down. 
  3. Invest in trust with your chosen team. The old rules about managing people are all over the place.  Once you have decided who you need and who you want, this is the motley crew that is going to get you through this.  So don’t just select the people you know you have-to-have, select those who will be up at 3.00 am with you thrashing out proposals and executing for your clients, listening to your quasi-insanity as your turn over every damned stone to keep the wheels on into 2021… Just make sure you have people who know what they have to do, who you trust, who trust you, who are on this road to somewhere with you.  This means you will need to share a level of transparency with them which made you uncomfortable in the past.  This means the old metrics need to be sacrificed for a simple “we just need to get this shit done”.  That’s what real trust is all about.
  4. Family comes first, business second. Then business wins.  These times will define you forever as a leader. This isn’t about being nice, or kind, or even generous – this is about being human.  If anything good came out of 2020, it’s the value of our families around us as stabilizing forces and responsibilities. We may be breadwinners, but we are also mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers.  We have to make every possible accommodation for our fellow workers to look after aging parents, home-school their kids, support their spouses, etc.  Clients can wait an extra day or two if they need to – they have similar pressures and will understand.  The old 9.00-5.00 is pretty much gone for now… so trust your team to prioritize family needs and find the time later to finalize their critical work.  We all find the time when we are committed, when we feel trusted, when we feel good our family is finding their way through this with us.
  5. Manage extreme emotions with humility and forgiveness. If you are not flying off the handle in this environment on the odd bad day, you are definitely not human.  We are all mentally drained, we are all operating at the edges of our tolerance, and emotions are frequently being stoked.  But that’s not all bad – we get to see the human side of each other a lot more than we ever expected. And arguments are not always bad if we resolve them – that what families do, and that’s what colleagues can do too… just be cognizant that people are human and we’re just seeing everyone function with less of the emotional filters on. I guarantee when this is all over you will have better and closer working relationships than you ever thought possible.

Bottom line:  Staying relevant means staying energized, staying committed, and being damned smart.  And being very human.

Roll on 2021 when we slowly pick up the pieces of 2019 and before, coupled with the experiences of 2020 which changed the world ever (and are still not over).  There are new rules for almost everything: how we treat our clients, our staff… and most importantly our families. And there are other changes emerging we have to figure out, such as how we shape our approach to politics, to endemic racism, to inclusion and diversity, to climate change.  My main hope is we are just more human, more pragmatic, more tolerant, and more transparent as our future unravels around us… there is already enough for our aching brains to handle. 

Peace out =)

Without a Virtual OneOffice Organization, you won’t survive this Pandemic Economy
August 30, 2020 | Phil FershtMelissa O'BrienSarah Little

OneOffice is no longer a pipedream – almost overnight it has become a “have-to-have” business environment to operate and compete effectively in this virtual Pandemic Economy.  There is no waiting around for things to revert to the analogous way we used to run things in 2019.  Especially when new HFS data shows only 37% of the Global 2000 intends to revert back to the same office-based environment in the future.  If you can survive on a third of your client base in the future then good luck to you!

Creating a true OneOffice experience is the very foundation of operating as a digital or virtual organization, where there are no stovepipes, no silos, no breakpoints that prevent processes functioning end-to-end, and data to flow freely across the organization.  A virtual OneOffice experience will give you a huge chance of thriving in this new reality, provided you have figured out how you are pivoting your business.

Digital is the only language operations now understand

OneOffice is where automation becomes a native competency, where human performance is augmented by unleashing creativity and personal interaction, where the immediacy of data creates insights to support decision-making that can make or break the firm. In fact, if you can’t operate your organization as one integrated unit where data flows freely back and forth across your process chains from your customers to your employees, from your front office to what you used to call your back office, then you probably won’t survive much longer in today’s brutal Pandemic Economy, where digital is the only language operations now understand.

 

Click to Enlarge

The Virtual OneOffice Organization is the foundation of the virtual workforce that encompasses both physical and digital entities

Our Virtual OneOffice Experience is the foundation of the ‘virtual workforce,’ where automation tools augment the employee’s digital capabilities and the workplace becomes a “plug-and-play,” work-from-anywhere scenario . It is all about creating touchless, frictionless digital experiences and connecting the front and back offices to facilitate them within a virtual setting.

Increasingly important to HFS’s OneOffice Experience is that any business strategy must align and equally consider both employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX). Even more so in this virtual environment, the lines blur between who the customer is and who is servicing the customer. Leaders need to focus on the positives they will glean from this Paradigm Economy by putting customers’ needs at the core of their strategy.

Focus on human experiences to unleash people and drive business results

There is an evolution of thinking about experiences underway, from the traditional thinking in siloes --- customer, partner, and employee --- to a more holistic human experience-focused strategy. Based on the premise that human connections generate satisfaction and loyalty, aligning the goals and experiences across all of your company’s stakeholders will serve to create an impact on business growth and success.

OneOffice Experiences require EX and CX alignment to elevate the human experience

While the concept of ‘CX’ has had most of the fanfare in recent years, your employee experience is just as important and inherently tied to CX (whether or not you’ve made efforts to align them.)  The HFS Virtual OneOffice Experience is all about how customer, partner and employee experiences are coming together to drive a unified mindset, goals and business outcomes.  Organizations need to ensure they find the right balance of optimizing the use of emerging technology with a robust business case to improve CX to the long-term benefit of the business.  This means getting the right information flows in place, eliciting strategic advantage and ensuring exceptional CX to drive loyalty and growth.  The OneOffice approach centers on the optimization of the all human experiences involved in an enterprise ecosystem and in improving the use of technology in support of these experiences.

The more connected workers are to their organization and its values, the more empowered they are to support customer and partner experience

The OneOffice approach has become even more important as companies navigate these new virtual workplace experiences with blended physical and virtual environments. Technology change agents that augment and support people can be the glue that connects employee and customer experience, by making data and insights easier to access and decisions easier to make.   When so many decisions are made based on emotion, it's critical to ensure that people have the best data and information aligned to the shared values to support decision making.   The more connected workers are to their organization and its values, the more empowered they are to support customer and partner experience. 

The Bottom Line:  OneOffice is first about your talent and your business model.   Then it's about how successfully you deploy digital technologies to make it all happen

OneOffice illustrates what true digital transformation is all about – pivoting your business model around your customer’s needs (and anticipated needs) and ensuring your whole organization designs its processes right across the operations to achieve these goals with your staff motivated by the common outcomes. This means making similar investments and priorities to ensure your employees are as engaged digitally with your organization and your customers.  You can't get away just focusing on an exemplary customer digital experiences if your employees are not embedded into the same experience.

OneOffice is not just about improving engagement and productivity, but fundamentally about ‘unleashing people,’ and enabling passion and creativity for a new world of work where different skills are required.  At HFS we have categorized these skills into the following:

Being a Virtual OneOffice Organizaton will give you a huge chance of thriving in this new reality.  It's about pivoting your desired business model around your people an bringing them all together with your customers and partners in one virtual environment.  

Surviving to win in this “Have-to-Have” Economy
August 27, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Gone are the bells and the whistles.  Gone is the sugar-frosting… even that lovely cherry on the top.  Those are the things that only appeal when your organization’s core is not under threat… because addressing that critical core of the business is boring, it’s stressful, and it was not great for your career to expose what was truly dysfunctional in your organization.  Now all the frilly paraphernalia has been cast aside, and we have no choice but to focus 100% on that core.

Why we didn’t address the core and focused on nice-to-haves

Having to deal with critical issues like security, making processes flow and work better, helping train staff to stop doing things the same way they have for 30 years, addressing why your service providers never deliver any of the stuff they claim they do on their PPT slides, asking difficult questions why your firm spent millions on software they simply failed to deploy… those were the things we knew deep down we needed to do, but most the folks around us just didn’t care, and would have thrown us under the bus if we'd agitated for real change.  So we did the safe thing… pushed initiatives that promised some incredible future value as long as we threw around some cash and made everyone look good.  Plus, the steak dinners with decanted wine always helped… After a while, we just convinced ourselves what we were doing was critical even if our firm didn’t really have to have any of it.

Addressing the core of your business is the only thing to save yourself... and your business

We have absolutely zero choice but to address these two actions to survive and win our in today's environment:

  • Finding our “bottom” and devising a financial plan to survive the cross-winds of recession. As much as we can play with sexy terms like resilience, we cannot avoid the one reality of surviving what were are currently experiencing – having a decisive financial plan to survive.  Without it, we’ll continually panic and flounder and never be able to attack our markets with a game-plan to come out of this on top.
  • Finding that chink of light to guide our organization to the market leadership position we crave. Once we've achieved a financial plan to survive, we are now in a position to get focused on the services and products customers simply have to buy, because they have no choice, as their cores are under threat without them. That means focusing all our investments on making damned sure that happens.

The Bottom-line:  Identifying your customers’ have-to-haves is the only path to follow in this market, but only once they know what they are!

It’s one thing to identify what our current customers (or prospective customers) have to buy from us, but it’s another to make sure we are not wasting our valuable time and resources on those who haven’t yet worked out their plan to survive this market.  There are still many organizations out there who are still scrambling to fathom what is going on, holding out some hope for a magical imminent V-shaped bounce-back.  As lovely as that prospect is, holding out for that miracle will likely end in tears.  What’s more, you are also a terrible customer, as your firm is too nervous to invest in anything serious. 

So find your bottom, find your chink of light, then identify your customers who simply know they have to buy what you are selling.  It really is that simple.

In Part II we’ll get into what customers have-to-have.  You know you have to read it =)

Time to get taught... by Delaporte
August 10, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah Little

Thierry Delaporte, the new CEO of Wipro Limited – accompanied by colleagues Milan Rao, Gurvinder Singh Sahni, and Laura Langdon – gives HFS the story behind the story as he sets sail with Wipro.

 

Strong operator... tough decisions... aggressive changes. That's a triptych summary from my recent post which drives into Wipro's bold appointment of industry titan Thierry Delaporte as CEO. The course now turns from firm to fluid with the story behind the story from Thierry himself – who guides us on his journey of navigating north stars, surprises, principles, and people. And breaking walls...

I once called for a ruthless CEO with teeth at the helm here, and while I stand by that reckoning, I do believe we've met the human in the middle of the sea change... 

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: Thanks very much, Thierry, for getting some time with us today; I know you’ve only been in the job, what is it, like, two or three weeks?

Thierry Delaporte, CEO, Wipro: Three weeks.

Phil: Three weeks! So, it would be great to hear a bit more… I learned a lot more about you, when you took the job, and the one thing I learned a lot was that you’re a very international person, you’ve lived in a lot of different countries and experienced a lot of different cultures – it would be great to hear a bit more about yourself, and where you came from, background, and then your career. Did you always intend to do a job like this? And was this your expectation, in recent years?

Thierry: Okay, sure. So, you’re right, … although my accent keeps reminding everyone I’m French, I’m probably one of the least French people you can find in France. I spent most of my life abroad. If you look at my career, 25 years, I’ve spent 21 years of those 25 years abroad. I lived in the UK; I lived in Switzerland, in Zurich, in Spain. I lived in Singapore and in Sydney, Australia. I lived in the US for 15 years, and, every time, my wife and my kids were with me, so four kids, a wife – incredibly resilient, as you can imagine, following every new adventure, with a lot of energy and passion.

And, frankly, you know, I was known at Capgemini as being one who’s really tried, pretty much, everything. I’ve been a finance person… Actually, I started as a member of the Internal Audit team for two years, and then moved as a CFO of subsidiaries in different continents, and then [moved on] to cover sales. I was the Head of Sales, at some point in time, for about a third of the group of Capgemini, which I’ve never seen a finance person becoming a salesperson [smiles], and then managing operations, in different places, or different businesses across the organization. So, I’ve been in consulting, I’ve been in outsourcing, and I’ve been in the apps world of Capgemini. And then, from that experience in operations, spent time in running a business in BFSI, before coming back to Paris to be Chief Operating Officer of the group.  This year, I completed 25 years with Cap Gemini. It was an amazing ride, but it also got me thinking that it was time to pursue new adventures outside the organization.

 

“One of the lessons I’ve learned in life, Phil, is that you must let life surprise you. The only thing you have to do is don’t miss opportunities.”

 

I don’t think you can ever say that you were born to be a CEO. One of the lessons I’ve learned in life, Phil, is that you must let life surprise you. The only thing you have to do is don’t miss opportunities. So opportunities will come, and many will surprise you, but just not saying no is a good enough decision to make, in order to not miss these opportunities that come. And so I try to apply this in my life.

Phil: Excellent. So, as you looked at opportunities, and you obviously saw what was happening with the economy and the pandemic, etc., and then the Wipro thing came up, did you immediately think, “Yes, that’s the one for me”? Or was it kind of a long, drawn-out thought process, on [moving] from Cap to Wipro. You were at one company for a very long time, and the cultural shift…. Was it an immediate decision, that you thought, “This is what I want?” Or did it take some time to cultivate with you?

 

 “So, I’m going to tell you in full transparency what happened.”

 

Thierry: So, I’m going to tell you in full transparency what happened, Phil. I made up my mind mid-Feb and informed the CEO and the Chairman of Capgemini.

 

“I had the plan to sail transatlantic, from Newport to Brittany, in May. So that was my plan. I had the boat, I was going to do it with a friend of mine…”


My immediate plan was to take a six-month sabbatical – I haven’t had a single day sabbatical since my career started, so this was going to be my “me time.” And I’m a sailor ­– I had the plan to sail transatlantic, from Newport to Brittany, in May. So that was my plan. I had the boat, I was going to do it with a friend of mine, and that was the plan that I had sold to my wife.

 

“But then, literally, days after I went on sabbatical, my phone started to ring.”

 

But then, literally, days after I went on sabbatical, my phone started to ring. And it’s very interesting, and more of a surprise, because there was no announcement of me leaving. It was just being on sabbatical, that, actually, the industry knew it rapidly. I was starting to get calls on opportunities. And I knew that if I was going, it was for something I wanted to do. And I was not in a hurry. I really wanted to make the right choice.

 

“And I knew that if I was going, it was for something I wanted to do. And I was not in a hurry. I really wanted to make the right choice.”

 

I’ve known Wipro for twenty plus years. As I said to the team several times, I’ve been competing with Wipro many times. I won often – I lost often, as well. And so, I’ve really learned to respect tremendously this brand, the people, and the success of this company. I still remember the time when Wipro was still a rather small company, but growing every year at an exceptional pace.

 

“I don’t know any other company that has such a sense of purpose, where it’s not only about delivering the numbers… The fact that this is a company where 67% of its profit is going to philanthropic activities is very much talking to my view of what capitalism should be.”

 

Then I had conversations with Founder Chairman Mr. Azim Premji and Chairman Rishad Premji. This is when I felt this is a unique company, because I don’t know any other company that has such a sense of purpose, where it’s not only about delivering the numbers – it has a much broader ambition. The fact that this is a company where 67% of its profit is going to philanthropic activities is very much talking to my view of what capitalism should be.

 

“And then I felt, ‘Okay, this is an incredible company.’”

 

So I went and met both of them… actually, I started with three hours with Rishad, and it was really an outstanding, natural, easy connection between us, and then I met Azim Premji, and then several members of the board. And then I felt, “Okay, this is an incredible company.”

 

“And so, with humility, I would say I’m convinced – I’m seriously convinced – that there is a good match, and that we have a wonderful page to write. And so then, the decision was made – everything based on principles.”

 

I feel that the challenges that this company has, I can really have an impact. And so, with humility, I would say I’m convinced – I’m seriously convinced – that there is a good match, and that we have a wonderful page to write. And so then, the decision was made ­– everything based on principles. It’s people, of principles agreeing on things, and I think we were very aligned, culturally very aligned, on many, many different fronts.

Then I started to engage with the team before July 6, which is the official day one. I met all the members of the Executive Committee, I spent hours with Rishad, and engaging with Saurabh (President and CHRO) connecting on many different fronts, so that, you know, when I actually started, on day one, I was immediately hitting the ground. The Executive Committee has 17 people. By the time I officially joined, I knew all of them and what they did. So, it was a really great start.

Phil: And obviously at an interesting time, Thierry. I’m getting tired, talking about the shock and the change. I think what’s happened has happened – now we’re in a new world, and we just have to play by different rules and expectations. Obviously, digital has gone from being aspirational to something that is suddenly forced upon us. And we have a very different economy; one that’s not going to change any time soon. So, does this level the playing field? And is this an opportunity for Wipro to get ahead of the market? Do you feel that everybody has kind of a clean slate? Or do you think this is just going to be a very challenging time, and we just need to hunker down and see through the next year or two?

Thierry: So, there’s no doubt that we are at a moment of our history where you cannot imagine that what we’ve been through, over the last five months, will have no implications. I believe that what we’ve learned over the last five months is that, in a context where you are suddenly not able to connect physically with people every day, that there is a need to connect always more; connect more with your clients, connect more with your employees. In the context where, basically, it’s no longer about going and visiting, but connecting.

 

“The dimension of trust is more important than ever, and I am convinced that one of the implications of this crisis, going forward, is that the length of relationship will matter more than ever.”

 

The dimension of trust is more important than ever, and I am convinced that one of the implications of this crisis, going forward, is that the length of relationship will matter more than ever. So I think, more than jumping from one partner to another for 3% of savings, I think our clients will value more than ever the value of commitment and long-term partnership. I think it’s true for our employees, as well.

I think that we’ve also seen that companies that have not moved fast enough in their digital agenda have been struggling, and I think they didn’t expect to have such a brutal event confronting their own strategy. I think the reality is that there will be an acceleration of the rotation of the offerings, of the rotation to digitally transform organisations across industries.

So, yes, it’s going to change things for us, because what it means is that your legacy offerings, I would say, the more traditional offerings of the past, are going to shrink even faster. You need to accelerate your rotation to the new, because this is where the investments are going to happen. So, I absolutely agree that, yes, I feel that in arriving at this point in time, I have an incredible opportunity to reset the stage, somehow, for our business, and make some bets.

 

“I am a great believer in strong partnership. I have built my success, over the last years, in focusing on a few strong partnerships, and it has paid off multiple times. And so, I’m convinced that it will be even more important in this new world.”

 

We are going to make some bets, I cannot tell you which ones, you know, this is what I’m working on right now, to define where I want to make the bets. I believe we will see efforts, or focus, on simplifications.

We will see focus on rationalisation, on consolidation, to build bigger partnerships. I am a great believer in strong partnership. I have built my success, over the last years, in focusing on a few strong partnerships, and it has paid off multiple times. And so, I’m convinced that it will be even more important in this new world.

Last, you know, looking at the market, but also looking at our employees… when I look at our employees, this is our asset. Right? This is what makes us different. It’s very weird, to start with, because I have no clue how long I will have to wait before I can actually physically meet people from Wipro. You know? They might wonder if I’m a real person, or if I’m just a hologram [laughs].

 

“I think connecting with our people will be my obsession for the next weeks. One of the beauties with Teams or these tools, is that you can actually break a lot of the hierarchy. Everyone on the screen is equal sized, and there’s no one ahead with people standing in the back. It also breaks a lot of the walls; walls between one office and another, or a business unit and another, or a language and another. And so, it’s wonderful, because you really can now drive a lot more alignment. So, I will use this new world to the benefit.”

 

I think connecting with our people will be my obsession for the next weeks. One of the beauties, with Teams or these tools, is that you can actually break a lot of the hierarchy. Everyone on the screen is equal sized, and there’s no one ahead with people standing in the back. It also breaks a lot of the walls; walls between one office and another, or a business unit and another, or a language and another. And so it’s wonderful, because you really can now drive a lot more alignment. So, I will use this new world to the benefit. It will never be the same, I think.

You will never be able to ask your employees to be at the office five days a week, if this is not what they want. But I think, equally, it will not be a time where, everyone is working from home every day, because you will miss a lot, in terms of connection, in terms of engagement. But I think it’s going to be a world that requires fluidity and agility; which is fine, I’m very comfortable in this environment.

Phil: Yes. And, to me, a new CEO within three weeks? This wouldn’t have happened, if we were back in the analogue days, right? It would’ve taken probably six months or something. [Laughs].

Thierry: [Laughs].

Phil: So...

Thierry: Phil, today… Today, I have spoken to six clients.

Phil: Wow =)

Thierry: And since day one, I have spoken to 35 clients already. 35 clients. When I say spoken, it’s basically I have met 35 clients. And, you know, I’m just increasing the speed. I’m engaging more than ever. If I had to jump on a plane for the meetings I have had today, it would have taken me more than a week because of the different locations.

Phil: And if I could tell you how our business as a research company has changed, it’s beyond belief, in terms of the speed we can get things done, the extra time our analysts have, because they’re not traveling all the time to deliver work. And the closeness we’re getting with our clients. This was terrifying for a couple of months, Thierry, and then we realized we have to move everything we have onto a digital setting. But once you get ahead of this, and embrace it, and realize this is how we do business, the benefits are just astounding and surprising. And I’ve been reading and hearing about entire transitions now being done on Teams. I mean, you can do a hell of a lot now that you didn’t realize you were capable of, without physically being with people.

Thierry: I absolutely agree.

Phil: …this is a huge, huge gamechanger in how we operate.

Thierry: Agreed, Phil.

Phil: Right. So I’ve got one last question, then. If you could have one wish for the industry, in the next couple of years, what would that be? 

 

“…the beauty of our industry is that our assets are our people – our enabler is technology.”

 

Thierry: One wish for the industry. Continue to maintain the balance between technology and people. So I think, you know, the beauty of our industry is that our assets are our people – our enabler is technology. And my wish is that we continue along this line, and we don’t take it for granted, or we don’t go in a world where technology replaces talent and people, because I think we would take the wrong direction.

Phil: Very good. That was excellent, Thierry, I really appreciated the time… and I know our audience will when they read this.

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology
August 08, 2020 | Phil Fersht

I don't think any singular statement better described the world of technology in the last three decades:

"You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology then try to figure out where to sell it." 

-- Steve Jobs 1997

The Umph behind Humph: after 15 months in the Cognizant hotseat, Brian Humphries dives deep on the pace of change, the lessons learned... and much more
July 23, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah Little

Brian Humphries, CEO of Cognizant since April 1, 2019. In an interview with HFS CEO Phil Fersht, Brian moves beyond the business talk and straight to the deep end – the personal, the humble, the lessons learned – and the stakes set firmly in the ground.

 

I wrote a detailed business piece on Cognizant’s 2019 leadership change after losing its edge in the market: The Life of Brian: Prettying up a baby that’s got a bit ugly. One of our readers, Mike N, commented, “Don’t weep for Brian. I for one believe his hiring reflects the vision of a Cognizant and that he has the perfect timing and opportunity to shake up the old guard and culture. New day dawning!”

True indeed, but to now quote myself from the same piece, “When we’re asked what we think of the new CEO, our honest answer is we don’t know. He has, for all intents and purposes, kept a low profile externally, instead focusing his energies on extensive liposuction internally.”

I’ve managed to breach Brian’s low-pro firewall, finding a leader willing to engage beyond the business talk and go straight to the deep end – the personal, the humble, the lessons learned – as well as the stakes set firmly in the ground…  So, without further ado, let’s meet Brian:

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: Good afternoon, Brian. It’s great to get some time with you again today. I want to keep this conversation a bit more informal, and a little bit about you; not just about Cognizant; Did you ever expect to be doing this job today, when you set out, many years ago?

Brian Humphries, CEO, Cognizant: No, I did not. I’m from a relatively humble background, I would say, growing up in Ireland. I can’t say I started off wanting to be a CEO, Phil, because I probably didn’t have exposure to large MNCs until my early 20s. But I started working at a company called Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC, which was acquired by Compaq and later acquired by HP.

So, for the first 18 years, I was there, and, subsequently, moved to Dell, became the President of the Enterprise Solutions Group there. I was most recently in Vodafone as the CEO of Vodafone Business, prior to joining Cognizant. So, I can’t say I’ve had a fully orchestrated career.

 

“I certainly made commitments along the way, in terms of moving internationally and throwing myself into the deep end of the swimming pool, more than once…”

 

I think, as the years went by, I had figured out paths of success. I certainly worked and invested in my career. I certainly made commitments along the way, in terms of moving internationally

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