Phil Fersht
 
CEO and Chief Analyst 
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Teleperformance, Concentrix, Telus, Sitel/Sykes and Tech Mahindra kept the CX lights on during the Pandemic
August 21, 2021 | Melissa O'BrienPhil Fersht

If there was one corner of the services market which got severely disrupted overnight by lockdowns and unpredictable customer demand, it was customer engagement.  For example, when Philippine's President Duterte locked down the world's call center capital Manila with 24 hours' notice, there was an almighty scramble from the CX service providers to shift their agents to other locations, such as nearby Cebu, or to work at home agents in the United States or other locations.  As the pandemic dragged on it became clearer than ever that this industry was in dire need of a long-overdue transformation from legacy people-heavy models to smarter use of automation and AI tools.  

One thing I always struggled to understand was why several of the leading IT service providers turned their backs on the customer engagement market, such as when IBM sold off its CX division to Concentrix in 2013 and Capgemini exited the market.  When the full value of automation and AI is realized in the revenue-generating processes driving customer engagement and predicting spending patterns, then the need to couple customer experience services and digital transformation is critical.  This is why Infosys acquired Eishtec in 2019 (1400 seats in Ireland) and Tech Mahindra's Business Process services has risen to number 5 in the rankings this year with 30%+ growth - these firms are able to manage the intersection between traditional BPO delivery and digital capability.  This is also why the number one ranked call center provider, Teleperformance, is known to be exploring an IT services acquisition to supplement its global CX business.  Simply acquiring more call center is no longer reaping exponential dividends as non-linear growth is only possible when embracing AI, automaton and digital workers.

So let's check out the 2021 rankings (download report here), which clearly show which providers kept the wheels of customer services moving throughout the Pandemic and get the insights from the report's lead analyst, Melissa O'Brien...

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Melissa – what on earth happened to the CX services industry over the last year and a half? Was it pandemonium?  What worked and what didn’t?

There has been a considerable boom in CX services in the past 18 months.  This market was already in the midst of a significant revolution, and the pandemic forced a lot of changes and accelerated decision-making that had stagnated.  As with every other industry, the most significant change was the end of resistance to work from home.  The contact center providers we covered in this report largely succeeded in the shift to work from home and made it work really well, much to many of their clients’ surprise. What made the difference is that WFH was an already established and fast-growing business model in CX services, representing almost a quarter of FTEs in January 2020.  A year and a half into almost entirely remote work, many enterprises say they’ll never go back to brick-and-mortar --- in fact, most we spoke to said they don’t care whether agents go back to the office and will leave that decision up to the BPOs.

But there are dynamics at play in the contact center that will even out the WFH balance over the next year.  The CX services providers have long known that employee experience (EX) is king, and employee engagement does not work the same in a remote environment, especially for particular demographics and geographies.  Service providers reported lower attrition and absenteeism levels in the early stages of remote work. These have gradually increased as people lose patience and crave the engagement of working in the center (many of which were explicitly designed to attract and delight employees.)    So while we don’t expect office staffing to go back to pre-pandemic levels (on average, providers said that 2022 will be a 50/50 split), the agent engagement aspect, which ultimately drives customer service excellence, will end up dragging a lot of operations back to the center.

The other big change was an acceleration of the adoption of digital tools – with all the disruptions in staffing and unpredictable volume fluctuations, digital associates (i.e., intelligent chatbots and IVRs) also had their burning platform in the past year and a half.  But we also saw this interesting paradox: while volume volatility significantly increased the adoption of digital assistants, there was also a tremendous demand for traditional voice (human-based) interaction.    The CX services industry now has an increasingly difficult challenge of balancing the right blend of digital and human interactions in a volatile pandemic environment. Enterprises now rely on their service provider partners more than ever to help them find the right balance and differentiate through a dual focus on employee and customer experience.

So who came out on top – and were there any specific examples of heroism/failure along the way?

On the execution side we see the "usual suspects," the big boys like Teleperformance and Concentrix  flexing their brawn with the global scale and breadth of services that many of the other providers can't hold a candle.  They are tops as far as robust global operations models, sheer breadth of delivery locations, and process consistency.  So while shuffling work around and getting capacity sorted out was by no means an easy task, these guys are the ultimate pros. 

Then you have the innovation leaders. As in the past, we were struck with Sutherland’s co-innovation and design capabilities but this time they were utilized to help clients get through this difficult time.  We were impressed with how much proprietary technology Conduent is using in its service delivery, including a COVID-19 outbreak management tool. We also have new criteria for OneOffice alignment where Tech Mahindra and Sitel came out on top, demonstrating the pillars of OneOffice, including collaboration and internal transformation. 

"Voice of the customer" was a tight category because virtually all the customers we spoke to were really pleased with their providers, particularly their ability to shift to remote work with minimal disruption.  The pandemic separated the haves from the have nots in this market. Those that were just making their foray into work from home grappled with the shift.  But firms that had made significant investments significant prior, particularly in the cloud, security, and remote employee engagement, were able to mobilize the work from home environment faster. SYKES stood on the tremendous foundation that is 2016 Alpine Access (a pure-play work from home platform) afforded it as an advantage of being WFH experts. 

Of course, there were hiccups along the way which the providers largely were quick to course correct.  Poor call quality as a result of inconsistent connectivity in certain geographies was the most frequent issue we heard from customers and was often resolved by pivoting calls to chats and sometimes by sending out 5G devices to augment agents’ internet.  Analytics and engagement tools played a huge role in ensuring process adherence but, more importantly employee health and well-being.  There were some examples of heroism for sure, particularly as these firms empowered employees to deliver on CX in spaces directly impacted by the pandemic – think of all the interactions fraught with real customer distress and anxiety in industries like healthcare and financial services during a global public health and humanitarian crisis.

We’re now seeing a lot of consolidation in the space, and while we expect the usual “just buy more call center” attitude from some, I am hearing that we may see some actual consolidation across the IT services / CX services space. Does this make sense to you?  I thought the IT services firms were eager to offload their call ctr business in the past?

Yes, many IT services firms were eager to offload or de-emphasize these capabilities in the past due to their reputation as low-margin services anchored by labor arbitrage and mired in low-value interactions.  But now, there’s a paradigm shift reversing this trend.   As enterprises increasingly adopt a OneOffice mindset, barriers are breaking down between IT and business with ‘experience’ as a common goal.  The leading and most serious CX services firms have known for a long while that having a holistic and technology-enabled capability including design, software development, etc. is required to have a value proposition beyond commoditized contact center services, even if it meant cannibalization of traditional business process revenues.  Providers' investment and focus have been very real and largely organic, but adoption from clients is still tepid – and it’s very hard for these firms to differentiate when literally each of them has a flavor of "digital contact center" offering.   Close to 3/4 of the 50+ enterprises we spoke to as references for this study said they are not using their CX service provider for any technology or innovative solutions, opting for pure operations delivery.  One CX executive put it well: “It’s not that the CX partners don’t have the capabilities, it’s that the enterprises are not open to using them.  The number one problem is perception… I can’t convince my CTO to look at (a CX services provider) the same way she looks at a technology services provider or vendor.”

So, as much as we’ve seen some IT services firms bulking up their CX capability for a more holistic value proposition, I think we’ll see it happening on the other side too with the serious CX services firms buying their way into the IT side of the house -- for example, Telus International’s acquisition of IT services firm Xavient.  These kinds of moves will help to bridge both the perception and capability gap.

In your view, Melissa, what should CX leaders do to be effective in this hybrid work / business environment?

Firstly, have a relentless and continuously evolving focus on EX.  The top providers know very well how important EX is to delivering quality CX services.  The required expertise will inevitably change hybrid remote and WFH emerges, and as automation and self-service continue to take a bigger piece of the customer interaction pie.  Well-designed CX and well-trained customer service agents are always going to be a part of the equation.  Plus, the labor market is changing.  There are pockets of staffing shortages, employee expectations have shifted, and gig work is going to be an even bigger part of the workforce of the future; all this demands an ongoing re-evaluation of how to recruit, onboard, train, retain and motivate people.

My second piece of advice is related to the first because people today care a lot about the values and philosophy of the companies they choose to work for.  “Profit with a purpose” is becoming a mantra in our business environment, and it’s more than paying lip service to ‘feel good’ causes; so be very clear about what you stand for as a firm and take bold action to ensure you live these values. CX Services providers traditionally have awesome CSR programs that involve employees from the bottom-up; allowing employees to choose what programs to donate time and money to has been a staple of the top providers' strategy to attract and retain talent.  But this is becoming a bigger part of retaining and winning new business also.  CX buyers have always cared about how their partners approached ESG efforts but are now devising ways to measure and assess potential providers in the RFP process.  Diversity and inclusion are at the very top of the list, and sustainability is catching up.  We saw some awesome examples of how CX services companies and clients are partnering to jointly address ESG initiatives.   Bottom line, CX executives will not buy from firms that don't share their core values beyond revenues and profit, and act upon them.

Click here to access the full report:  HFS Top 10: CX Services in the Pandemic Economy—The Best of the Best Service Providers

Meet the billion-dollar baby process miner who steered clear of buying an RPA product
August 11, 2021 | Phil FershtDavid Cushman

It's been a good two years since a young German man sought me out to excitedly tell me about a process mining tool that was set to change how process wonks approached their operations.  After a couple of beers he then 'fessed up to driving around Germany in a crappy old car - as a twenty-something passionate process software entrepreneur - to deliver software demos driving a whole new area.  This area is process mining - a novel analytical discipline for discovering, monitoring, and improving processes by extracting knowledge from event logs readily available in today's information systems. While his firm smartly developed much of its earlier business courting customers of SAP, it is now evolving far beyond the traditional ERP platform to inspire process execution initiatives enterprise-wide as businesses move rapidly into virtual environments. 

With a post-money valuation of $11b following a Series D round earlier this year, an impressive partnership with IBM, and a number 1 ranking in our September 2020 HFS Top 10 Process Intelligence Products, I was thrilled to end a forced 18-month separation with Celonis Co-Founder and Co-CEO Alex Rinke to get a real update of how his firm has driven incredible forward momentum - and investment - during this period of crazy... 

Meet Alex, soon to become the youngest process software billionaire (who avoided buying an RPA product) to focus on adding value to CxOs much higher up the enterprise food chain...

Phil: Tell me how you got started in this game. Is this what you always planned to do?

Alex Rinke, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO, Celonis [Laughs]. Absolutely not, Phil. There was a lot of planetary alignment – a fancy way to say we were very lucky. I was a math student 11 years ago - and I read a paper about process mining and got really excited about the idea of extracting data from information systems and figuring out how an organization operates, and where they’re inefficient. At the time there was no practical adoption of it. I talked to my two friends, who later became my co-founders, Bastian (Nominacher) and Martin (Klenk), and we decided it had so much potential, we had to learn more about it.    

We had an opportunity, through the university, to work with a business on a research project, and we applied process mining to one of their processes in the customer service and IT service domain. We were able to help them to cut their resolution times by 80% just through better process execution. Then we got so excited about it that we decided to start a company.

From boot-strapped to $1billion Series D Round

Phil: So how did you build out the firm, Alex?  How has it evolved for you?

Alex: Early on, we bootstrapped the company. We raised the first round of funding in 2016 when we wanted to expand to the US market. We grew in three waves as the product has evolved. The first was an x-ray system so that any business can do an x-ray of their business processes with process mining. Then, as that got momentum, the second big evolution was to build a process data platform, to not just x-ray, but also to monitor the processes and connect to all the different data sources in a company. And then the third evolution is our execution management system, which takes this process intelligence, and turns it into more intelligent execution of your core processes -  data-driven execution of your core processes.

We raised a Series C round, exclusively from private individuals. That helped us in establishing our brand further and building an executive team of seasoned enterprise leaders. We acquired Integromat, to boost our automation capability. The Series C funding round was really maturing the brand, the product, the company, to move beyond process mining. We crossed 1,000 people in headcount.

We launched our Execution Management System, in October of last year. That, plus the investments made from the Series C funding round, led to explosive growth momentum, so we decided to double down again, and raised this very large $1 billion Series D round to grow the company even faster.

We are working towards building more than a product and a company, but an entirely new software category and an ecosystem around it.

Phil: Where are you looking to invest to get you to IPO, Alex?

Alex: We have heavily invested in our go-to-market and are continuing to do so. That includes strengthening our ability to serve customers directly, but also investing in the partnerships we’re building - with IBM, and the global BPOs and SIs.

The third big area of investment (not in order of priority) is R&D. We have opened an international R&D hub in Madrid, and in the US we are expanding our resources from a product perspective. From an engineering perspective, we continuously evaluate whether to build or buy. We also continue to invest in the infrastructure of the business - HR, finance, all those things.

Meeting customers with an old Opel car to running a global enterprise company – the problems remain the same

Phil: What’s it like to start off driving to customers in an old Opel car, growing a very small business, and now being a hyper-growth enterprise software market shaper? How does that change how you work?

Alex: It’s obviously a little bit different, in terms of what you deal with every day. But it's also not that different. Ten years ago, I woke up every morning thinking, “What do we need to do from a product perspective? What do we need to do to grow? Who do we need to hire?” The problems are very similar now - just at a very different scale.

We’ve got a really strong leadership team now, Phil, so I’m much less focused on the current quarter or the next quarter. I try to focus on doing the things that will help us in 18 months to three years from now. My focus is on building a company that stands the test of time.

Phil: You are just 32 years old. When you make a huge amount of money when you go to IPO, do you plan to stay in the technology space for the rest of your career?

Alex: An IPO is not really an exit event. It is a milestone on the journey. We had multiple opportunities to sell the company to big corporations. We just never thought that was the right thing for us. When the three of us wake up in the morning, we think about Celonis, and when we go to bed, we think about Celonis, and, personally, wouldn’t know what else to do. There is no plan B, at this point in time.

On a (fun-filled) mission to fix peoples processes

Phil: [Laughs]. It’s not all about the money, then?

Alex: Absolutely not. It’s just so much fun to be part of and to build Celonis. I always say our purpose is to unlock the world’s processes. So many processes are frustrating for people and are highly inefficient. And processes are an incredibly horizontal thing, everywhere, in every organization, touching so many consumers’ and employees’ lives. It’s both motivating and fun to be able to have a really big impact on something so pervasive.

Phil: So your life’s mission is to fix people’s processes. I love it. [Laughs].

Alex: [Laughs]. It’s pretty good, don’t you think? [Laughs].

Phil: Yes! You’ve identified something that is in dire need of fixing, and you’re out there doing it with incredible momentum. It’s great to see an independent organization building out both a successful platform and a thriving ecosystem.  Am sure all of us here are excitedly watching you guys to see what's next in this fast-moving market...

The OneOffice Wheel of Fortune: Where Data is the Strategy, Automation the Discipline, AI the Refinement
August 02, 2021 | Phil Fersht

However which way we look at things, we're becoming realists and the old days of technology hype and fear of change are receding into the past.  Over the past year, we've gradually let go of the many shackles of the past and started to realize we're in a new reality, a wholly new environment, where we're all trying to focus on achieving real business outcomes, on values that are important to us, and a new work reality where its intense, high-touch and very real.  The change in the enterprise mindset towards technology has gone through a genuinely pragmatic revolution over the past year.  The realization that being able to function in a virtual model has gradually drained the remnants of hype of the technology value propositions.

In short, data has become the strategy to be successful in this new virtual world, and achieving that data is based on these two factors:

  • No more flashy bullsh*t. There is no room for solutions that are confusing, designed to make people look special, but ultimately pathetic in real value and execution.  
  • Data and processes are inextricably linked. The focus on value has shifted firmly to the strategic value of data and how designing processes can help you achieve the data outcomes that create the value.

We need to understand that data is the strategy and how the data cycle works to get us ahead of our markets. Here are five steps we must take:

  1. Get The Data to Win In your Market. This is where you must align your data needs to deliver on business strategy.  This is where you clarify your vision and purpose.
  2. Re-think processes to get the data, Then you must re-think what should be added, eliminated, simplified across your workflows to source this critical data.
  3. Design your new operational workflows in the cloud. There is simply no option but to have a plan to design processes in the cloud over three-tier web-architected applications.  In the Work-from-Anywhere Economy, our global talent has to come together to create our borderless, completely digital business.  This is the true environment for real digital transformation in action.
  4. Automate processes and data.  Automation is not your strategy.  It is the necessary discipline to ensure your processes provide the data - at speed - to achieve your business outcomes. Hence you have to approach all future automation in the cloud if you want your processes to run effectively end-to-end.
  5. Apply AI to data flows to anticipate at speed. Once you have successfully automated processes in the cloud, it is easy to administer AI solutions to deliver at speed in self-improving feedback loops.  This is where you apply digital assistants, computer vision, machine learning, and other techniques to refine the efficacy of your data.  AI is how we engage with our data to refine ourselves as digital organizations where we only want a single office to operate with agility to do things faster, cheaper, and more streamlined than we ever thought possible.  AI helps us predict and anticipate how to beat our competitors and delight our customers, reaching both outside and inside of our organizations to pull the data we need to make critical decisions at speed.

Bottom-line: You can't get the data you need need you don't have the people, partners, processes, technology - and desire to change - to make this possible

You can lead a horse to water, but can you get it to drink? OneOffice is about understanding and discovering the data you must have to win in your market - right now in real time - and in the future - as the market environment keeps changing. Then you need to make your data ubiquitously available, accessible, and mineable - embedding a mindset into your leadership to inspire your people to work together to create an organization that can flip its business model to exploit these seismic market changes. You can't get the data you need if your critical data is not in the cloud and you don't have the people, partners, processes, technology - and desire to change - to make this possible

The Revolution in Education and Work: Is it for Real?
July 31, 2021 | David CushmanPhil Fersht

One of my heroes driving disruptive and practical thinking in global business models, the impact of the Internet and globalization and foreign affairs is three-time Pulitzer winner and NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. 

Tom came to prominence in our industry in 2005 penning the seminal book "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century".  Was that really 16 years ago?  If you're a spring chicken and never read the book, I suggest find the time as this laid the foundations for the world we're hurling into today.  So you can imagine my interest levels bubbling when my friend Ravi Kumar "S" got some YouTube time with him last week:

Click to listen to the full YouTube podcast

Our key takeaways

  • Work has become separated from the workplace and jobs.
  • AI shifts the emphasis of human endeavor from problem-solving to problem-finding.
  • Companies have become giant education systems delivering just-in-time learning at the edge of the envelope; the linear integration of government-education-work is disrupted.
  • Universities should follow the Amazon Prime recurring subscription model to scale lifelong learning to the world
  • For any organization to win in the future will require them to be part of complex adaptive coalitions

Companies themselves have become giant education systems

When the industrial revolution hit we created something called the welfare state, basically a series of walls ceilings, and floors to help people make the best of the industrial revolution and cushion the worst. The politics has since debated how high, strong, etc the walls and ceilings and floors should be. This worked while the assumption was the pace of change would be linear.

Read More »

The Five Fundamental Changes that have Reset how we Work
July 20, 2021 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

On the surface, not much has changed… we go to work, we try to do what we did before without physically engaging with each other.  We talk a lot about a “return to normal,” but deep down, we’re starting to suspect those days are gone for good.  So what’s changed?

1. Most of us now have a work-from-home mindset ingrained, whether we like it or not. We have become so efficient working from home, and we don’t have time to commute/travel unless there is some urgent need. If anyone hasn’t already noticed, most folks in the East coast of the US, London, and other major cities have had the green light for several weeks to meet up.  And while the brave few have had a few socials, people aren’t exactly champing at the bit to “renormalize.”  It’s not a fear of Covid as most folks in our industry in the US are fully vaccinated, it’s the new intensity of the virtual work culture – we just don’t have the hours in the day to give up  Our calendars are constantly clogged up for immediate needs weeks ahead and our businesses will struggle to function if we started to block out entire days for conferences and meetings.  While many employers will try and force an in-office culture, it will prove very challenging, getting many people to break from their ingrained work-from-home mindset.

2. The hype days of technology are over. It’s all about what enterprises need, not what vendors are trying to sell them.  The change in the enterprise mindset towards technology has gone through a genuinely pragmatic revolution over the past year.  The realization that being able to function in a virtual model has gradually drained the remnants of hype of the technology value propositions.  Our Pulse study of 800 Global 2000 enterprises clearly illustrates two factors that dominate the focus of leaders:  moving operations into the cloud at speed and training staff to understand how to balance digital business needs in a virtual environment:

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Whether we talk about automation, AI, blockchain or quantum… every business leader will answer with “So what?  we need data to be relevant… and it needs to be accessible and immediate in the cloud.  Once we have that we can consider how to get smarter, faster and more efficient”.

3. We are not so afraid of change as Horizon 3 unfolds before our eyes. The last 12 months were the most significant change in our lifetimes, but we are still standing. Change does not sound so scary anymore. Embracing change has also made us more ambitious as business leaders. Are we satisfied with slightly cheaper, slightly better, or somewhat faster, or are we searching for fundamental new sources of value? The OneOffice approach now resonates with practically 99% of enterprise leaders. Horizon 3 initiatives to develop hyper-connected enterprises are also no longer five years away…Horizon 3 is now unfolding right before our eyes:

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4.Locations have become irrelevant, as access to talent takes center stage. The days of resistance to offshoring are over as Global 2000 enterprises literally cannot function without access to IT and operations talent. In pre-pandemic times, many US politicians advocated against offshore resources, but this is no longer an option as the talent shortages in the US are a serious issue. We see a continued growth period for hybrid offshore/onshore outsourcing over the next few years, which will accelerate as we gradually emerge from the pandemic over the next few months.  As the Pulse data shows us, enterprise leaders are looking at all business talent models to get what they need, whether offshore, nearshore, onshore, or from a location-agnostic model where they may have no idea where they are that resource is located.  We also expect crowdsourcing to (finally) emerge as a significant model for access specific talent, especially in crucial areas where deep skills are scarce, such as cybersecurity, machine learning, and data science.

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5. Values and philosophies beyond capitalism increasingly dictate where our emerging talent chooses to work. This forced embrace of change has had a positive impact on pure capitalism ideals. We have seen a big boost to a profit with a purpose philosophy with initiatives like sustainability and diversity becoming far more ingrained in enterprise-wide goals than just CSR initiatives. Three-quarters of major organizations are centering investments in emerging technologies to support initiatives around sustainability.  We expect many employees to choose employers that stand for important values, beyond merely profit.  CEOs' personal views will become increasingly important to set the tone for their organizations as people increasingly look to leadership for purpose and motivation.

 

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The Bottom-line:  We're ready for change, we're truly virtual and we're pragmatic about achieving real business outcomes

However which way we look at things, we're becoming realists and the old days of technology hype and fear of change are receding into the past.  Over the past year, we've gradually let go of the many shackles of the past and started to realize we're in a new reality, a wholly new environment, where we're all trying to focus on achieving real business outcomes, on values that are important to us, and a new work reality where its intense, high-touch and very real.  

What Covid has taught us is there is no reason to fear change, and how important we are to keeping our organizations moving forward.  We just need to keep our eyes wide open that the world has changed, we have changed and we have to accept and adapt.  Onwards an upwards folks =)

Nominations now open for the inaugural HFS OneOffice Awards!
July 17, 2021 | Phil FershtDenise Colgan

HFS OneOffice Awards

(Click to visit the Awards page on our website)

As you all know by now, no one gets a prize for coming last at HFS... but you can now get one for coming first in each of eight different categories!

This Awards program is close to our hearts at HFS. It allows us to showcase and laud organizations who have embraced the opportunities presented by our new business reality, those that have taken a transformational leap rather than a simple step-change. Denise Colgan, the OneOffice Awards program director, spoke with me to learn more about the story behind the awards and the timing of the launch.

Denise Colgan, Director, Awards & Strategic Programs, HFS: Hi Phil – and thanks for your time. Nominations are now open for the OneOffice Awards and we are all very excited that the program is live. How are you feeling about it? And why has HFS launched an awards program in the first place?

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: Hi Denise. I am also excited that the OneOffice Awards are now live. HFS has always been a trusted resource for clients looking for data, information, and informed opinions about what is happening in the market, but we wanted to add another layer – real-life examples of truly transformational projects and programs. People want to be inspired. Being able to learn from the journeys of others and see the real, quantified results they have achieved can help spark the flame of their own transformation. And those who have led the way and taken those leaps of imagination and commitment should be applauded. So, it’s a win-win situation really – we can celebrate the great results achieved by visionary companies and their provider partners while inspiring and informing the next wave.

This is a great fit for HFS. We always strive to think differently and are passionate about combining knowledge with impact to help organizations realize long-term value rather than simple incremental improvements. I can’t wait for people to send in their nominations so we can see some of the great work people are doing – and their results!

Denise: It sounds really exciting – and such a great idea. But why now? Is there any significance to the timing of the OneOffice Awards launch? 

Phil: Yes, there is - our research has shown that the pandemic has added another level of urgency to the need for transformation. Pre-Covid-19 organizations talked about transformation but were stuck doing so alongside legacy dragons and embedded thinking. The pandemic has flipped that one-track corporate mindset of resisting change to one of demanding change overnight. Business resilience is now front of mind rather than the old trope of quicker, faster, cheaper.

We are now seeing the dawn of the OneOffice organization, bringing together connected, global talent and intelligent, automated processes and data running in the cloud. The bold enterprises, who design their organizations to thrive in this era will be the winners – and we can’t wait to share their stories.

Denise: That’s wonderful to hear Phil. It’s great to hear that the OneOffice Awards are focused on the creative use of technology, data, and people skills to keep businesses relevant and successful in this new world. What award categories are being included?

Phil: We have decided on eight categories, each of which is close to our hearts and can bring about real and lasting business change. 

  • Data and Decisions: Recognises organizations and teams that create a culture of data that drives new opportunities through interactions, insights, and predictive capabilities, giving the ability to access data at a speed that drives critical decisions for their business
  • Native Automation: Rewards organizations and teams that leverage a range of emerging technologies to create intelligent and automated workflows in the cloud, enabling the new "native" standards for consistent cross-functional enterprise operations
  • People and Process Change: Applauds organizations that develop and manage talent to build OneOffice skillsets, address process debt by eliminating wasteful activities that plague our organizations, and manage change across the organization to make a meaningful impact 
  • Horizon Three Innovation: Identifies organizations that find completely new sources of value by collaboration across multiple organizations with common objectives and who demonstrate organizational characteristics like an infinite mindset, data monetization, and autonomous processes, while leveraging horizon 3 technologies such as blockchain, 5G, and/or quantum computing 
  • Innovation Ecosystem: No one can be everything to anyone! This category recognizes the service provider that embraces collaboration across start-ups, technology providers, academia, industry bodies, researchers, influencers, and even competitors to drive unmatched value for its clients
  • Sustainability: Celebrates organizations that meet the triple bottom line: social, financial, and environmental. An enterprise that has a positive effect on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy
  • Diversity: Applauds organizations and teams that unleash human potential by getting serious about people diversity to maximize the potential of every person and drive real innovation
  • OneOffice Mindset: Recognizes an enterprise that runs processes end-to-end across the organizational value chain, focuses on employee experience as a significant component of the overall customer experience, and drives organizational alignment and metrics that measure value creation, not just cost reduction. It represents an organizational mindset that breaks down front-to-back legacy silos to create the only "office" that matters. 

Denise: I can’t wait to see the entries flood in! Who can get involved? And where/how can they get started on nominations?

Phil: Everyone is welcome! Nominations are open to client-side organizations and their key partners worldwide and across all business sectors, including the public sector. Technology and service providers are also encouraged to nominate their own clients and share their success stories. All of the information needed can be found on our OneOffice awards homepage. We have a dedicated, easy-to-use awards platform where entrants can register and start their awards entry. It’s a really simple process. Everything can be saved in progress, so start your entry here.

Denise: Well, good luck to all entrants! Are there any key dates or considerations they should be aware of?

Phil: That’s a great question – thanks. The OneOffice Awards are open to enterprises from across the globe and must have been live at any point between January 1st, 2020, and the date of entry.

Nominations are now open, and we encourage people to get started as early as possible, especially if they need to gather information from different sources or get executive sign-off. Key dates for the OneOffice Awards are:

  • Nominations Close: Monday, 24th November 2021
  • Finalists Announced: Friday, 24th December 2021

The winner in each category will be announced at a celebratory event to be held in London on Thursday, 24th February 2022. We will share more details about that event nearer to the time.

Denise: Do you have any advice for companies considering getting involved?

Phil:  Yes – just do it! Sharing our successes and inspiring others is so important. There is so much hype out there, so real stories about real projects and quantified results are a must-have for organizations who want to make lasting change. So, my advice is - just get started. And if people have questions or need any help, they can contact you at [email protected].

Denise: Indeed they can. I will be happy to help!

Click to visit the Awards page on our website

EY, Accenture, Infosys, TCS and IBM lead the unchaining of supply chain sevices
July 01, 2021 | Saurabh GuptaPhil Fersht

Many industries are experiencing more change during these times than they ever have... anticipating customer demand, staying ahead of emerging ecosystems, grappling with constantly-changing supply channels, regulations and logistics... the list of challenging for supply chain leaders is endless.  So who's helping enterprises stay ahead of these secular shifts in supply chains? Let's hear from our very own Saurabh Gupta, who led our recent Top 10 research into supply chain services.

Saurabh - you've been researching supply chain services for 15 years (sorry, but I can remember when you started!)... how have they developed over the years, and why has the pandemic created the burning platform for the market?

Yes, Phil…about 15 years since my first report as an analyst … you've made me realize that I am getting older! The very definition of the supply chain has changed over the last two decades from linear supply chains (input, process, output) to circular sustainable supply chain (to re-use, re-make or refurbish). But I feel that the term 'supply chain' is a misnomer for meeting the realities of today's world. It connotates constrained thinking. We need to break free. It's time to unchain your supply chain.

For too long, supply chains have been shackled by the idea that they must be linear—a "chain." But the pandemic shock changed the supply and demand equation. Business priorities changed overnight, creating new opportunities for some and threatening survival for others. Enterprise leaders finally recognized the need for supply networks. Supply chains need an ecosystem approach—both internally and externally. Organizations will need to collaborate across industries to pinpoint sources of disruption, where to disrupt, and how to keep reinventing themselves.

How have service providers evolved over the years to drive supply chain innovation?  Which ones impressed in the recent study?

First, I've seen a convergence of third-party technology, business, and consulting services for the supply chain. They were three different market segments, but leading service providers realize that they need to operate at the intersection of all three. Second, the budding romance between the supply chain and emerging technologies is exhilarating. For instance, supply chain provenance (track-and-trace) is the no. 1 use case for enterprise blockchain technology adoption today. And third, the scope of third-party supply chain services has expanded beyond traditional areas like order management, inventory management, and sourcing & procurement into emerging areas like supply chain planning and design, aftermarket services, and sustainability services. Improving supply chain resiliency, transparency, and sustainability emerged as the top 3 areas of focus across 200 supply chain executives that we surveyed as a part of our 2021 OneOffice Pulse study.

We assessed 11 leading supply chain providers with robust supply chain credentials across a defined series of innovation, execution, and voice of the customer criteria.

 

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The Top 5 service providers in the HFS winners circle were:

  1. EY brings together the capabilities of all its service lines (Technology Consulting, Business Consulting, PAS (People Advisory Services), Tax and Strategy and Transactions) for the supply chain practice to offer services that cut across consulting, managed services, and technology products.
  2. Accenture is delivering the promise of intelligent supply chains with its new "One Accenture" organization structure oriented around three markets (North America, Europe, and Growth Markets) that allows it to bring together all its services (strategy consulting, technology, and operations) to its clients in a simple and easy to consume way.
  3. Infosys has developed "Live" supply chain solutions designed to make supply chains adaptive and resilient, resembling living organisms' ability to sense, reason, respond, and evolve to uncertainties
  4. TCS’ large scale, MFDM (Machine First Delivery Model) powered and end-to-end SCM offerings to deliver resilient, adaptable, purpose-driven, and future-ready supply chains
  5. IBM brings to the supply chain a triple-A trifecta (automation, AI, analytics) powered intelligent workflow along with exponential technologies such as Blockchain, IoT, and Quantum, as well as championing open supply chain innovation through investments like RedHat.

Other notable performances that stood out for me included:

  • Genpact's Barkawi Consulting acquisition enables it to deliver to clients global, end-to-end supply chain services bolstered by domain, digital, and data science expertise.
  • Capgemini's frictionless supply chain vision is strongly aligned with our OneOffice mindset
  • HCL's integrated digital portfolio and Inorganic strategy to build a services + product offering
  • PwC's industry-focused approach and investments in digitally fluent talent
  • GEP's expansion from sourcing & procurement provider to consulting, managed services, and products for supply chain

So finally, Saurabh, what will we talk about in the next couple of years as we see organizations become increasingly "hyper" connected?  How fast is this new market moving, in your view?

Extremely fast, Phil! We are rapidly approaching Horizon 3 (the Hyper-Connected enterprise) of HFS' Innovation framework. The scope of innovation is quickly expanding beyond the functional silos. It needs to extend beyond the four walls of your organization, and it requires collaboration across multiple organizations with common objectives around driving entirely new sources of value. Even the traditional boundaries of industry definitions are blurring, and new industries are getting created.

 

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We need to embrace the change happening in front of us or be prepared for an "oh crap, I wish…" moment in two years.

 HFS Premium subscribers can click to access their copy of Top 10 research into supply chain services

Dig in with Dr. Truong Gia Binh – How Vietnamese IT services powerhouse FPT is vying to be a global transformation challenger
June 26, 2021 | Phil FershtSarah LittleShantanu Tewari

The scramble for talent and resources triggered by the virtual environment has thrown the world of global sourcing on its head.  Our new HFS Pulse study covering 800 Global 2000 Enterprises clearly shows us enterprise leaders are evaluating all options (offshore, nearshore, onshore, WFH, crowdsourcing).  Simply put, the need for tech talent and niche specialization is at an all-time high and we need more options available than merely the traditional vehicles:

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Dr. Truong Gia Binh, Chairman of FPT Corporation, has a vision to bring Vietnamese capabilities to serve the world and make Vietnam one of its premier AI hubs. FPT has charted its roadmap to enter the Global Top 50 digital transformation provider list in the coming decade – the key drivers to this being FPT’s experience across multiple sectors, its focus on emerging technologies, a whopping 76% demand for digital transformation within Vietnam as a result of COVID-19, and a young population that excels with numbers. FPT formally launched its transformation consulting practice FPT Digital in February and raised its overseas transformation revenue targets by 50% for 2021.

Here are 5 key highlights about FPT you need to know: 

  1. FPT’s desire to be at the top of the game
    In the initial years, FPT started off by democratizing Office Computer Skills across all backbone sectors of Vietnam. FPT’s global presence now covers 26 countries around the world, with the goal of becoming one of the Global Top 50 digital transformation providers within the next ten years.
  2. Vietnam: An Aspiring Digital Nation
    Vietnam is a young nation, and FPT desires to make Vietnam an AI hub of the world and bring Vietnamese quantitative capabilities to the world through implementations of Digital Transformation. Through encouraging support of the government, he is hopeful that the digital economy will contribute to 30% of the overall in the next 10 years.
  3. COVID-19 as a catalyst for digital transformation
    Vietnam has been highly resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, and technology has played a key role. Vietnam’s Government adopted innovative digital tools for contact tracing and disseminating information.
    To respond to the COVID challenge, FPT transformed internally and changed the approach towards customer delivery. They became a comprehensive digital transformation partner of various industry leaders, enhanced their consulting capabilities through acquisitions, and set up new delivery centers in 2020 to expedite the new approach.
  4. Emerging Technologies and Made-in-Vietnam Software
    FPT plans to bring its synergy of methodology and industry experience to the world. In the first 3 industrial revolutions, Dr. Binh notes they were busy fighting for survival whereas today, as the world embraces Industry 4.0, Vietnam has the opportunity to join the race from the same starting point – just as any leading country in the world. A lot of enterprises in Vietnam do not have legacy technology and are hence making a start directly in digital.
  5. The Rise of Digital Platforms
    The world post-COVID-19 will look very different, and Dr. Binh believes a platform economy is on the rise. Most business leaders in Vietnam have planned for digital transformation, which is an indicator of huge market potential for FPT and digital platforms such as FPT.AI.

To go deeper, we invite you to dive into the full details of the discussion between FPT's Chairman, Dr. Truong Gia Binh, and Phil Fersht:

Dr. Truong Gia Binh, Chairman FPT Corporation

FPT’s desire to be at the top of the game

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: Dr Binh, tell us a more about yourself and how you came to be Chairman of Vietnam’s premier IT service provider?  Was this what you had always planned when you were starting out with your career?

Dr Trương Gia Bình, Chairman, FPT Corporation: Starting a business was not in my initial plan, Phil. In the late 1970s, the wars left Vietnam as one of the poorest countries in the world, with GDP per capita less than $100. Food was not sufficient to feed the population.

As a research fellow in Russia at the time, I noticed that Vietnamese people were often looked down upon. So I gave up pursuing my research career and joined 12 fellow scientists to found

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Sitel buys SYKES. Now a CX juggernaut triumvirate emerges with Teleperformance and Concentrix
June 22, 2021 | Phil FershtMelissa O'Brien

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen any major consolidation in the contact center BPO top ten providers with Concentrix acquiring Convergys, but last week Sitel made it clear that large contact center acquisitions are still in vogue by announcing its intention to buy peer SYKES.  

As for the $2.2b price tag, Sitel now expects to generate $4b in revenues from the combined entity.  The combined revenues will be biting at the heels of their next-largest competitor, Concentrix, which is second only in revenue and scale to contact center BPO giant Teleperformance. In 2020 SYKES revenues grew 6%, whereas Sitel’s grew 18%.  With this acquisition, Sitel jumps ahead of the now 4th largest competitor, TTEC:

WFH leadership is the significant boost behind SYKES’ appeal

SYKES has arguably been the work-from-home (WFH) contact center leader since pre-pandemic days, with the foundation of its 2012 Alpine Access pure-play home-based contact center acquisition.  Since, SYKES has further developed this core capability into a very sophisticated recruiting, onboarding, training and collaboration platform – fully virtual.  The long-standing WFH expertise and the capability of its OneTEAM platform enabled a successful shift to remote in early 2020 and continues to be one of SYKES’ major differentiators. 

With 40% of staff expected to be working from home across Global 2000 organizations over the next year (see below), having the broadest geographic experience and depth will surely align the merged entity with the strategic resourcing desires of many leading customers.  If Newco leads with WFH, customers will surely entrust more with them.

 

In addition to the WFH and tech capabilities, SYKES offers an attractive and complementary geographic footprint, including a European multilingual hub with delivery out of Egypt.

SYKES brings the only scaled-up global automation services capability that could position Newco at the heart of OneOffice

Its other key capability, which we touted as the first real automation investment by a contact center in 2018 is the RPA strategy and implementation capability of Symphony ventures.  While the Symphony resources have largely been held together by SYKES, the firm declined to embrace automation into its core value proposition and failed to excite the market by rebranding this unique capability as the bland “SYKES Digital Services” last year.  If Sitel can embrace automation to drive front-to-back processes and a OneOffice mindset for its clients, it’s not too late to revitalize the former Symphony team to create a genuine edge for itself in the market.

In a OneOffice organization (see Exhibit 4), 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. The only true way to create a OneOffice experience is to be able to integrate the front office processes and interactive technologies (most of which are embedded in the call center) with the operations of the organization:

OneOffice is where teams function autonomously across front, middle and back-office functions to promote broader processes with real-time data flows that support rapid decision making. It’s where front, middle and back offices will cease to exist, as they will be, simply, OneOffice.  Sitel+SYKES has a unique opportunity to consult to enterprises to make these front-to-back connections and weaves these capabilities into their managed services offerings.  The merged entity can offer real expertise to provide automated processes as-a-service and help their clients through the journey.

Bottom line:  While scaling up to compete with Teleperformance and Concentrix is clearly the game-plan, Sitel/SYKES needs to focus on the value of the parts and integrate at speed

Sitel is virtually unrecognizable from the firm it was six years ago.  A debt restructuring plan following its sale to French conglomerate Groupe Acticall was completed in 2018, opening up the firm to footprint expansion, digital investments, and a major rebrand which unified the company and all of its complementary assets.   Sitel has recently made major investments in growth. Its design thinking and discipline organically, including hiring design experts and developing its MaxHub and EXP + model. 

This latest major announcement sets in stone the firm’s intentions to be a leader in this global, remote, and increasingly digital contact center market. Now speed is of the essence to integrate the two firms, and we can expect an aggressive competitive response to this.  Sitel and Concentrix were widely rumored to have come close to a merger, and neither top two firms will stand still and take this new competitive threat lightly.  There are several mid-tier CX providers which will struggle to maintain growth in the coming short-medium term, and we will be surprised if we do not see some more large-scale CX services mergers over the next 6-12 months.

Unleashing cultural innovation is dictating the emerging work environment
June 19, 2021 | Melissa O'BrienPhil Fersht

Not only is a clearer picture of the “future of work” emerging in today's new reality, but its very nature is also changing day-by-day. In short, no one can paint an accurate picture of what the emerging work environment will eventually look like, but we can develop scenarios to understand how this will play out in the coming months and years.  What is clear is enterprises are grappling with the need to drive unprecedented innovation in a work-from-home culture, and are figuring out how to arrive at a more predictable, acceptable, and effective work culture as we look beyond this pandemic era. Developing a work-from-home capability is the table-stake to survive in today's environment, but innovation will only thrive in a hybrid work environment where people can inspire and motivate each other.

There is only so much you can achieve remotely – the smart way forward is a hybrid work model

We've talked to hundreds of executives over the past year, and they all complain about the same thing - they are managing an almost unmanageable amount of internal meetings over video calls, simply to keep the wheels on basic task management and accountability.  Simply put, it's becoming increasingly complex and awkward to run business operations in a remote model where training is a huge challenge, where motivating people is almost impossible, where getting beyond the basics of keeping activities functioning is a huge challenge.  Communicating, collaborating, idea-sharing, white-boarding, etc are critical for taking businesses forwards and driving real innovation.  They are also critical for helping employees become comfortable with change, to be comfortable with automating mundane elements of their jobs, and to become adept at embracing ways of accessing the data needed to exploit market opportunities. 

With industry lines blurring, supply chains fragmenting and new opportunities and challenges springing up at a breathtaking pace, the time to bring people back together is fast-arriving, and so many enterprise leaders are now seeing this in spades.

Embedding digital fluency into your workforce is paramount to drive a truly cloud-enabled business architecture

The clearest barometer that shows the major changes facing Global 2000 enterprises over the next 12-18 months are the clear priorities to develop “Digitally Fluent” workforces to be best equipped to function effectively in the cloud. 

Digital Fluency describes the ability to drive the seamless interplay between business and technology:

  • Ability to translate the understanding of digital tools to create new ways to serve customers’ needs and drive value;
  • Ability to consider how digital technology will impact every aspect, every functional area of the organization;
  • Ability to examine the organization’s business model, strategy, and operations in the context of digital technology.

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While the magic number from the new HFS Pulse study of 800 Global 2000 indicates that 60% of staff will return to the office over the next year, we must recognize that this is not a static

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