Saurabh Gupta
 
Chief Strategy Officer 
Learn more about Saurabh Gupta
1. #AutomationAnywhere, 2. #BluePrism, and 3. #UiPath make up the top three in the inaugural HfS Top 10
August 01, 2018 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

The rise of RPA is nothing short of spectacular as the market closes in on $2bn this year. It has captivated the attention of the digital operations executives with the promise of cost-savings beyond labor arbitrage, cost avoidance by extending the life of legacy IT, quicker implementation than traditional IT projects, business-user friendliness, auditability and compliance, straight through processing, and let’s be honest – terrific marketing!

And here is the actual report:  Completely free to celebrate our first "HFS TOP TEN REPORT"

However, confusion around RPA deployments is also rife. There are growing questions whether RPA can deliver on the promised ROI and outcomes. Most RPA initiatives continue to be small and piecemeal. Truly scaled RPA deployments are rare. The industry is still struggling to solve challenges around the process, change, talent, training, infrastructure, security, and governance.

With the mission to demystify this confusion and uncover the truth to successful RPA deployment, we conducted a first of its kind RPA CX research to develop the list of “HFS Top 10 RPA Products” (See Exhibit 1). The research is based on interviews over 350 clients and product partners across the ten leading RPA products across:

  • Ability to execute based on product functionality (Ease of integration with legacy IT, Unassisted automation functionality, OCR functionality, Scheduling functionality, Development tools, Exception handling, Required set-up coding, Ease of product configuration); integration and support (Service extensions and connectors, Documentation, Certification program, Training and customer support, Experience in serving multiple geographies, Adoption across multiple industries, Required IT skill-sets), and security and governance (Uptime and SLA commitments, Version control and upgrade management, Centralized controls, Regulatory compliance, Enterprise security, Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity Planning (BCP))
  • Innovation capability based on flexibility and scalability (Accommodating process / environment changes, Licensing model flexibility, Ability to handle multiple processes, Workflow templates and library of processes, Handling multiple inputs) and embedding intelligence (Processing structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data, Operational Analytics, Dashboards, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities)
  • Voice of the customer based on the RPA products ability to drive business outcomes (Realizing cost savings, Speed-to-market, Overall satisfaction, and Client reference ability)

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Key highlights from the HFS Top 10 RPA Provider assessment

  • Overall RPA Client Experience has been 'Good.' The aggregated average CX scores across all assessment dimensions is three on a scale of 4 implying a good overall experience. For most clients, RPA has created value in addition to reducing costs (just not as much and as fast as they heard in the first sales pitch!). For almost all the RPA products assessed, security, controls, accuracy, integration, and out-of-the-box functionality performs as promised. Basically, RPA works!
  • Getting RPA “production ready” is not as easy as promised. The client experience with the amount of coding/configuration required is rated amongst the lowest. Management of version control and upgrades as well the training and support offered by RPA providers was also sub-par. The primary reason behind this is a classic expectation mismatch – the RPA providers oversold and overpromised, raising the client expectations beyond normal, that then resulted in less than required client investments towards process and change management. The disappointment associated with RPA is not about the technology itself.
  • RPA is not very smart (at least as of today). The dimension around embedding intelligence in RPA was rated amongst the lowest by clients. There is considerable confidence in RPA’s ability to process structured data but drops down significantly when asked about unstructured or even semi-structured data. Clients are not convinced about the Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities of their RPA products. The good news is that most RPA providers recognize this and are investing in building out capabilities especially around Machine Learning (ML). At HfS, we believe that the holy grail of service delivery will be at the intersection of the Triple-A Trifecta – Automation, AI, and Analytics

Bottomline. RPA works but is not a magic wand. Best practices are emerging

Based on our in-depth conversations with the RPA clients, we developed a set of best practices that you need to keep in mind when implementing any of the RPA products:

  • RPA is not a silver bullet. Keep expectations realistic
  • RPA cannot automate everything. Choose the use-case wisely
  • RPA success is not about technology. Treat it as a change agent
  • Automated processes are still processes. Invest in documentation, especially as for complex automations
  • RPA vendors are product companies. Do not expect them to behave like service providers
  • Do not side-step your IT folks. RPA success requires IT-business collaboration
  • RPA products are still nascent. Do not short-change security and testing
  • RPA is not a one-time exercise. Change management and ongoing governance and the keys to continued success
  • RPA is not the holy grail. Business outcomes driven by integrated solutions are
  • RPA does not solve your data issues. Data-centric mindset is the key
  • RPA offers more than cost savings. Think beyond cost-reduction and figure out how to measure success

And here is the actual report:  Completely free to celebrate our first "HFS TOP TEN REPORT"

Accenture, IBM, Cognizant, Infosys, Wipro and TCS lead the first Digital OneOffice Blueprint
June 10, 2018 | Phil FershtMelissa O'BrienAnirudh PillalaSaurabh Gupta

Digital is all about an organization's ability to respond to the needs of their customers as those needs happen - or even be smart enough to anticipate those needs before they happen. This is all enabled by interactive technologies to create those touchless interfaces with the customers.  Smart analytics and AI enable organizations to anticipate these needs based on the ability to recognize patterns and inferences over time, but nothing can really substitute for human intelligence to bring customers, suppliers and employees closer together, unimpeded by frustrating silos and legacy processes. 

Remember, every broken process chain, or poorly converged dataset, slows down an organization's ability to do business in real-time and stay ahead of its market.  Traditional barriers between front, middle and back offices hinder the true ability of companies to operate in this real-time, responsive and anticipatory digital fashion, which is why we coined the term "OneOffice", where the unification of digital business models, intelligent automation, analytics and creative talent is happening before our very eyes.

The HfS Digital OneOffice Framework (see below) describes how organizations must integrate their digital customer interfaces with their operations in order to fulfill and anticipate their customers' needs. It is the organizational end-state to survive and succeed in a world where digitized processes dictate how responsive, agile, cost-effective, predictive and intelligent firms have to be to stay competitive.  

To this end, we have delved deep into all the four dimensions of the Digital OneOffice, and conducted deep analyst discussion to aggregate service provider performance at delivering the sum of the Digital OneOffice parts:  

  1. Digitally driven front office
  2. Digital underbelly
  3. Intelligent digital support functions
  4. Predictive digital insights

HfS Premium subscribers can click here to access their full copy of the 2018 Blueprint Report: Digital OneOffice Services

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So how did the Winner's Circle service providers fair?

Accenture

Strengths

  • Well-rounded portfolio across OneOffice: Accenture has the best performance overall across the OneOffice portfolio, and a breadth of industry expertise to complement it. Accenture placed in the Winners' Circle for each of the Blueprint studies used to compile this OneOffice assessment.
  • Strong marketing operations capabilities to support integrated digital OneOffice offerings.  Accenture has 16,000 business-focused staff dedicated to delivering digital marketing assignments - a considerable asset that goes well beyond the firm's IT delivery.
  • Strong intelligent automation capabilities. Acquisition of GenFour and exciting partnerships, with significant investments, with the likes of Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and IPSoft.
  • Winning with thought leadership: Accenture is well-known as a thought leader across many of the change agents as well as within individual industries. 
  • C-Suite relationships beyond IT.  Digital business and intelligent automation decisions are largely being driven by both IT and business C-Suite executives in the Global 2000.  Accenture has the combination of strategic relationships outside of IT, in addition to the managed services execution. 
  • Leveraging creative assets for CX and UX design: Accenture has developed an industry-leading focus on becoming a customer experience expert, as evidenced by its 30+ design agency assets, by the broadest portfolio of digital design assets in the services industry (click here for a full list of digital M&A in services.)

Challenges

  • Size can work in its disfavor: Its size and success have given Accenture a reputation as a premium, high cost, and less responsive organization. In particular, for smaller companies, just this perception in the market can steer buyers instead toward more niche specialized agencies and the attention, flexibility, and experience they receive from a smaller provider.
  • Finding the right culture balance: Accenture is well known for its results-driven, traditional consultancy culture, which will need to be balanced out or effectively blended with the more left-brain focused acquisitions in order to retain creative talent and remain generally effective.
  • Proving to the industry it can deliver the end-to-end Digital OneOffice portfolio: There is no doubt that Accenture can pick up strategic work and execute for clients, but being able to demonstrate to the industry it can deliver both the strategic design integrated with complex operational delivery - at scale - is still in its infancy.  Many of its competitors will fight hard for execution work where Accenture is delivering the high-end design and consulting. It needs to demonstrate the "one-stop OneOffice shop" is where it wins.

IBM

Strengths

  • Strong intelligent OneOffice offering: Market leading capabilities to drive the OneOffice underbelly (automation, security, cloudification) and neural networks (AI, smart analytics, blockchain, and IoT). Impressive development of credible global automation capability and several notable early wins.
  • Portfolio breadth: End-to-end and scaled IT and business process services across front, middle, and back-office.
  • Horizon 4 investments: Very strong investments and IP in horizon 4 (and beyond) technologies that will shape the future (e.g., Quantum Computing).
  • Design Thinking: Has made some considerable investments in recent years, but needs to align more aggressively with OneOffice approach
  • Watson: The analytics/cognitive powerhouse has a significant role to play as a cognitive virtual agent, an analytics resource that has huge scalabiity and a long-term investment area for firms with deep interests in their cognitive capabilities.

Challenges

  • Size can be a disadvantage: IBM is a large and complex organization, which makes it hard to seamlessly deliver all that it has to offer.
  • Translating tech to business outcomes: IBM is often perceived as a technology powerhouse, but one lacking the business translation and context to successfully apply emerging technologies.
  • Agility: Lacks the nimbleness and flexibility of smaller players.
  • Focus on cognitive may impede its ability to compete for design-focused end-to-end deals:  IBM has substantial credibility to drive analytics-driven, cognitive/automation projects, but its lesser focus (over the last couple of years) on true digital design may see it lose out to firms such as Accenture and Cognizant, where digital is firmly established at their core.

Cognizant

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The why, the what and the how of the HfS Digital OneOffice
May 21, 2018 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

We've talked a lot about the HfS Digital OneOffice operating framework - it's the HfS vision for the business operations endstate for digital organizations:

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The Digital 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.

Why Digital OneOffice?

Digital organizations must have an operating framework that maps out how they have to operate in the future. Traditional operating models, while creating some incremental productivity value if managed effectively, struggle to drive the unification of digital business models with emerging technologies across a business's operations:

A true digital business cannot succeed without unifying front, middle, and back offices
Traditional approaches (organizational restructuring) have failed to have a purpose beyond incremental efficiency / productivity 
The Digital OneOffice is the organizational end-state to survive and succeed

What is the Digital OneOffice?

The Digital OneOffice focuses on real-time customer and employee engagement. OneOffice is:

Collaborative (Collective outcomes)
Unified (Without silos and hierarchies)
Dynamic (Agile and scalable)
Intelligent (Predictive, not reactive)
Responsive (Real-time)
Simple (Touchless and autonomous)

How to achieve Digital OneOffice?

The Digital OneOffice is the framework for achieving a true digital organization:

CX is not just fancy UI. Make CX the core of all your business operations from front to back.
Cost reduction is not a strategy. Drive organizational alignment and metrics that measure value creation, not only cost reduction. 
Weed out the people unprepared to change. Invest in an inclusive talent strategy, based people who want to learn and share.
Your tech infrastructure is everything. Automate, digitize, cloudify, and secure your organizational underbelly.
Build co-innovation relationships and shed legacy relationships. The partners who got you’re here may not be the ones to take you where you want to go.
Stop kicking the intelligent technology can down the road. It’s all here and now you need to make decisions on where you go with it
Stop thinking about the Future of Work. It’s already here...act now!

The Bottom-line: Traditional operating models have been focused on incremental improvements, not creating genuine frameworks for digital organizations

While traditional models such as outsourcing, shared services and global business services promote incremental efficiencies based on centralization of support functions and use of offshore to lower operating costs, none of these models have provided an ideal endstate for ambitious digital organizations.  Without having a true picture of how you want to operate in the future, you will be perennially be searching for short-term fixes to drive out further costs, and never be able to map out a strategic journey that will bring together your two most critical assets: your customers and employees.

Unveiling the HfS 1-2-3-4 Research Agenda
August 26, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonBram WeertsSaurabh Gupta

 

Last week, we launched the Analyst 2.0 Model along with the HfS ThinkTank to revolutionize our industry. And today we unveil the new HfS 1-2-3-4 Research Agenda. The updated agenda serves the real needs of our clients. The tired legacy analyst model continues to only look at the past and lacks out-of-the-box, stimulating, and forward-looking thinking. We aim to turn this legacy Analyst 1.0 Model on its head, by delivering impactful knowledge and insights that will help our clients survive and succeed in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world that we all live in.

1: Research coverage across each element of the OneOffice

HfS launched the OneOffice Framework in January 2017. Our industry is evolving to an era where there is only "OneOffice" that matters anymore, one that is focused on creating an impactful customer experience and intelligent operations to enable and support it. At HfS, we like to practice what we preach. We have aligned our research practices with the OneOffice with designated research leaders.

  • The Digital Front Office research explores customer engagement, design thinking, contact center, marketing and sales, as well as social, mobile, and interactive solutions.
  • The Digital Underbelly research focuses on desktop automation, robotic automation, and security.
  • Our coverage for Intelligent Digital Support Functions spans across IT services, Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, Payroll, and Engineering services.
  • The Intelligent Digital Processes research explores advancements in artificial intelligence, smart analytics, blockchain, and IoT.

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2: Voice of the Customer embedded in the Analyst 2.0 Model

In-sync with the Analyst 2.0 Model, we designed the new research agenda to help us become the leading Voice of the Customer. Our team of global analysts speaks to over 3000 stakeholders across the Global 2000, our industry summits provide us with an unmatched platform to interact with senior stakeholders, and our analysts publish real client stories. We’ve always mandated customer reference calls for every Blueprint report that we publish and with the new research agenda, we are taking this customer focus a notch higher. Some key initiatives:

  • Our recently published and upcoming IT-services research, based on a Global 2000 client-only survey that helps us get beyond the supplier marketing and sales spiel.
  • Similar survey(s) for mature horizontal business process areas as well as industry-specific offerings.
  • Our major Blueprint reports will now be accompanied by a summary of client conversations in the space to present aggregated patterns of how clients view market execution and innovation.
  • A unique buyer experience guide for the top RPA products, based solely on interviews with RPA clients. 

3: Forward-looking research across three-time horizons

A key reason for clients to engage with us is the provocative nature of our research.  We’re future looking, and unafraid to call a spade a spade. The new research agenda aims to arm our clients with the knowledge and insights across three-time horizons they need to navigate the future of operations:

  • Horizon 1 - Act-now: Mainstream topics in the market, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Horizon 1 research is aimed to deliver practical insights into current market trends, supplier capabilities, as well as current client experience that will help institutionalize the concepts.
  • Horizon 2 - Watch-out: Emerging themes and topics that are likely to become mainstream in the next 1-2 years, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). The objective is to help clients test value propositions and understand potential benefits and challenges in their industry.
  • Horizon 3 - Investigate: Areas that show tremendous potential but are still too nascent to predict adoption, such as blockchain. The purpose of covering such topics is to ensure a healthy dialog with key industry stakeholders to define these spaces, articulate challenges and support awareness.

4: Four-dimensional view of business operations

The future of business operations is not one-dimensional. To provide our clients with a completely holistic view of the market, we have a team of four-dimensional analysts who understand the market across four lenses in their area of specialty:

  • Dimension 1 - Change agents: Major change agents driving the industry including automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital business models and smart analytics.
  • Dimension 2 - Business functions: Detailed coverage across Business Process Services (both back office and front office), IT Services, and engineering services.
  • Dimension 3 - Industry orientation: Business operations impact across 10+ industries including Banking & Insurance, Healthcare, Energy, Utilities, Manufacturing, Telecom, Retail, Travel & Hospitality, and Public Sector.
  • Dimension 4 - ThinkTank: Bringing together our collective knowledge and insights across change agents, business functions, and industries to think out-of-the-box and collaboratively solve real business issues.

 

Bottom-line: We are raising the bar, and we are revolutionizing the industry with our new HfS 1-2-3-4 Research Agenda.

Check out the details of the Analyst 2.0 Model, ThinkTank, and our 1-2-3-4 Research Agenda.

Hyping the hyperledger with blockchain boffin Brian Behlendorf
August 24, 2017 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

HfS' Saurabh Gupta recently caught up with Brian Behlendorf (see bio), the Executive Director of Hyperledger at the Linux Foundation. Brian was a primary developer of the Apache Web Server – the most popular web server on the internet. He was a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation, the founding CTO of CollabNet, the CTO of the World Economic Forum, and the managing director at Mithril Capital Management LLC before heading Hyperledger. He is also a board member of the Mozilla Foundation since 2003 and the Electronic Frontier Foundation since 2013.

Two decades after developing the Apache HTTP server that played a key role in giving us the internet and the web, Brian is reimagining our world again with blockchain. We discussed a range of topics around the reality and practicality of blockchain for enterprises along with the one wish that he wants to come true. 

Saurabh Gupta, Chief Strategy Officer, HfS Research: Brian, one of the stated goals for Hyperledger is to create enterprise grade frameworks and solutions. Why do you think enterprises should adopt blockchain?

Brian Behlendorf, the Executive Director of Hyperledger at the Linux Foundation: We have lots of transaction networks that, Saurabh, because of historical network choices, have resulted in many central actors who facilitate digital transactions like a hub in a hub-and-spoke network. And we have to proxy our trust to them - sometimes they do a noble job and charge a nominal rate, but there are times when these central actors charge unreasonable double-digit rates. Blockchain allows business models to become more equitable and agile by behaving more like

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HfS hammers the final nail in the legacy analyst coffin with the HfS ThinkTank
August 11, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonBram WeertsSaurabh Gupta

It’s time to close the chapter on the legacy analyst industry that has lost its energy, its identity, its independence and sense of purpose.  HfS was founded seven years ago to shake this up, and what’s astounded us is the stubborn refusal of the rest of the industry to change, preferring to milk the remnants of a stale model.  So we’ve worked very hard behind the scenes to develop a knowledge platform that impacts, with an engagement style that shakes our clients from their slumbers.  Welcome to our ThinkTank…

Why is the legacy analyst industry stuck in a depressing holding pattern?

The analyst industry never made it out of 1.0.  Despite all the guff about analysts using twitter and blogs, the sporadic number of boutiques and one-man/woman bands that slipped in (and out) of the analyst market over the last decade. Despite the “freemium model”, where there was a pretence of free research “disrupting” the market, but most of it being regurgitated supplier press releases. We are still trapped in the old analyst model:

Let’s face it, this current model has steadily deteriorated over the last decade, with most analysts firms selling their praise to willing vendor marketeers only too happy to fund the propaganda, adding increasingly damp fuel in vein attempts to heat up their sodden sales decks and watery marketing brochures.  Even firms like NelsonHall, Everest, Zinnov and others have got in on the act of putting out endless scatterplot quadrants of supplier positions in all sorts of markets – as if customers really take this stuff seriously anymore? Is this the only way these firms can forge a living these days? How can you “influence” a market when your only impact is a few thousand quasi-human twitter followers, you don’t run customer summits, you don’t provide your clients with research labs, you don’t provide relevant data products and the only people you ever talk to are suppliers?

I would even go as far as declaring some of these “analyst” firms should be more correctly reclassified as supplier marketing support firms.  How can you be an “analyst” when all you do is take money from marketing people to reinforce their products?

The current model is increasingly desperate, we now see tech suppliers buying up advance licences of Quadrants, Waves and Marketscapes at the beginning of their budget cycles, before they are even written, so they can pick and choose which scatterplots to buy licenses when they like the outcome.  Yes, people, this really happens

How did it get this bad?  Simple – most analyst firms are just not very good. They are jaded, they are too stingy to invest in real talent with real experience, and just reel out the same old dinosaurs whose only value to industry is to market the wares of their paying customers.

Fortunately, we have started to see light at the end of this rather dingy tunnel. Which is about time, as  there’s nothing more depressing than bemoaning a stagnant industry encircling the drain before its eventual plummet into the plug hole of irrelevance. 

Don’t lose hope. Analyst 2.0 is finally here!

The industry is reaching its first major Come-to-Jesus moment, where growth is flat, there is mass confusion surrounding the real impact of “disruptive digital business models”, with the potential creative destruction of automation, the lack of clarity of the business benefits of cognitive and AI, and the blurry potential of blockchain in its nascent pre-industrial form.  It’s well past time for enterprise customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders to come together and really collaborate and think about what their true options are moving forward.

But, all is not lost, folks, because HfS is kick-starting a new era in the analyst biz with the HfS Impact model.  Let’s be honest, the analyst 1-800 hotline market, where you have to wait 3 weeks to talk to some clueless kid, and those strategy days when you got subjected to an endless deluge of dull slides explaining the basics of your industry that you were reading about in 2003, are fizzling out.  No one cares anymore.  No one bloody cares.

We’ve made it our mission  to drag this business kicking and screaming out of these dark ages of obsolescence. So, welcome to  Analyst 2.0, a model based entirely on Knowledge and Influence, centred around our revolutionary ThinkTank:

The ThinkTank approach is all about getting the industry collaborating again, where we use Design Thinking techniques to drive joint problem-solving.  Our mantra is that the analyst role is shifting from passive observer to facilitator. To make this happen, we have dedicated an entire floor of our new offices in Cambridge England, in addition to facilities in Chicago and Boston, to hosting day long ThinkTank sessions with our clients. ThinkTanks are where we invite customers, suppliers and even advisors to spend entire days with us Design Thinking their desired goals, and solving the problems that are preventing their achieving these outcomes.  This is where we challenge you, you challenge us, and we work together, supported by our research, to drive genuine achievement, defining where you need to go and clearing the path to get there. And yes, we lock all our phones away in a safe, while we drive this whole ThinkTank process. Learn more about the ThinkTank.

The Bottom-line:  The HfS Mission is to Revolutionize the Industry and lay the Analyst 1.0 model to rest.  For good

HfS’ mission is to provide visionary insight into the major innovations impacting business operations: automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital business models and smart analytics. We focus on the future of operations across key industries. We influence the strategies of enterprise customers to develop operational backbones to stay competitive and partner with capable services providers, technology suppliers, and third party advisors.

HfS is the changing face of the analyst industry combining knowledge with impact:

  • ThinkTank model to collaborate with enterprise customers and other industry stakeholders.
  • 3000 enterprise customer interviews annually across the Global 2000.
  • A highly experienced analyst team.
  • Unrivalled industry summits. 
  • Comprehensive data products on the future of operations and IT services across industries.
  • A growing readership of over one million annually.

The "As-a-Service Economy" and "OneOffice™“ are revolutionizing the industry!

IBM partners with Automation Anywhere: Great for AA, but IBM’s cognitive automation strategy just got more confusing
July 14, 2017 | Phil FershtTom ReunerOllie O’DonoghueSaurabh Gupta

If you’ve been covering the legacy world of Business Process Management (BPM) software and the emergence of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software for the past two decades, it’s fascinating to see the two solutions to mesh together, as customers need the full gamut of automation help:  the digitization of manual work, the scripting, and integration of static data that provide the foundation for the automation of the digital processes.

Then you can get to the really exciting stuff of recognizing data patterns, taking advantage of machine learning to make systems self-remediating, and, ultimately, the injection of intelligence to make them absorb everything around them to become predictive and human-like in the way they operate. This is why we’re seeing the likes of Pega peering into the RPA space, Blue Prism partnering with Appian and AutomationAnywhere now partnering with IBM’s BPM software solution.  We’re also seeing some novel approaches, such as intelligent automation provider WorkFusion donate free RPA software to the world to bridge the divide between the manual and the digital quandary.

Yes, people, there appears to be a fair bit of life left in the HfS Intelligent Automation Continuum. Despite some critics who believe RPA is a very separate solution than digital autonomics, machine learning, cognitive and AI, the fundamental thought-process behind the HfS Continuum model still rings true: all the approaches illustrated are both overlapping and interdependent:

Notwithstanding all the feverish excitement on RPA and Cognitive, we still need to include all the less exciting - but critical – activities, like runbooks and scripting, and how these approaches must be integrated into broader digital process workflows. True Digital OneOffice only works when all breakpoints and silos are effectively automated.  If you truly want all touchpoints and processes across your organization focused on executing your vision of customer experiences and building foundational capabilities that support this entire philosophy, you have to address the entire Intelligent Automation Continuum if you want a data backbone that operates in synch across your customers, partners, and employees.

This is the context in which the announcement of IBM’s partnership with AutomationAnywhere comes in.

As part of the agreement, the two companies plan to integrate Automation Anywhere’s RPA platform with IBM’s portfolio of digital process automation software. The main focus will be on integrating Automation Anywhere with IBM’s Business Process Manager and Operational Decision Manager. Crucially, integration is meant to be on code level and therefore goes beyond more loosely integrated partnerships between BPM and RPA players. These enhanced

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Blockchain still not enterprise ready, but the Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 release can show the way
July 12, 2017 | Saurabh Gupta

Tired of the Blockchain hype? You should be, but the emergence of Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 gives us a sense of the reality to come and where this is all heading.  Let’s dive in...

Hyperledger announced the release of Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 yesterday (see press release). Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source platform, hosted by the Linux Foundation that allows organizations to develop Blockchain applications. Version 1.0 marks the release of a production-ready platform that goes beyond pilots and proof of concepts. 159 engineers from 28 organizations collaborated over a 16-month period to make this happen.

There are multiple Blockchain platforms that exist today. Ethereum is the most mature public platform (besides Bitcoin) with tremendous potential and over 500 use-cases in various stages of development. There are multiple other private or semi-private platforms such as Ripple and Chain. Hyperledger Fabric is younger than many others, but there are three characteristics that make it important for enterprises that want to solve business pain points, leveraging Blockchain:

  1. Flexible. The architecture of Hyperledger Fabric can run like a private or hybrid or public platform, making it potentially more secure from a data-privacy standpoint thus rendering itself enterprise ready
  2. Open-Source. Hyperledger is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation, including leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing, and Technology. This structure gives it the potential to become the de-facto standard which will become an important adoption criterion going forward
  3. Not crypto-currency based. Hyperledger does not have a crypto-currency (such as Bitcoin or Ether) which potentially renders it more usable for business applications as not every potential use case needs a currency

The announcement marks a significant move forward to leverage Blockchain for business use cases. The Hyperledger Fabric project started in March 2016 based on merged codebases from IBM and Digital Assets Holding. It moved out of incubation 12 months later and was ready for pilots and POCs. Now four months later, they have released Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 – a production ready version.

Does this mean that Blockchain can now become mainstream for enterprise adoption? No.

These are the three challenges the Blockchain pioneers must address to make the technology truly enterprise ready:

1) Technical challenges. Blockchains by design will never be able to complete thousands of transactions in a second, but the technologies do need to be able to scale up for enterprise-grade performance, efficiency, and costs. Hyperledger Fabric promises to solve this by not using consensus-driven Proof of Work (PoW) that most other Blockchains are built upon and requires major computing power

2) Policy challenges. There are no Blockchain standards, there exist multiple platforms with no interoperability, and there are no regulations in this space. And these are not easy questions to solve. For example, given that all Blockchains are Distributed Ledgers, which geographical jurisdiction will be applicable?

3) Nascency challenges. Several challenges stem from its nascency and novelty. Lack of proven use cases, limited understanding of technology and its potential, limited talent and skill-sets shortage across IT and business, etc. The inherent power and potential of the concept with the help of some pioneering risk-takers will help pull it through such nascency challenges, but it will take time

Bottom-line: There is still a long road ahead for Blockchain, but real progress is being made.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the advancements in Blockchain technology are happening at a frenetic pace. Market developments such as this Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 release are important milestones in the development of this space. It’s important for enterprises to take notice and start investigating. 

What GBS leaders can learn from the Rise and Fall of Empires
June 26, 2017 | Saurabh Gupta

I was struck by the similarities between Global Business Services (GBS) and Empires after reading ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Noah Harari. He says:

An Empire is a political order with two important characteristics. First, to qualify for that designation, you have to rule over a significant number of distinct peoples, each possessing a different cultural identity and a separate territory….Second, empires are characterized by flexible borders and a potentially unlimited appetite…

These two characteristics of an empire are uncannily similar to Global Business Service (GBS) organizations. GBS is:

  1. Multi-function. GBS organizations aim to deliver services across multiple business functions (aka distinct peoples with different identities) such as F&A, HR, IT, procurement etc. all under one organizational umbrella.
  2. Multi-geography. GBS organizations also aim to deliver its services across all regions and countries (aka flexible boundaries) that a company operates in.

The basis of the creation of Empires and GBS also has similarity. For Empires, it is about basic unity of the entire world around a central ideology. For GBS, that ideology is around standardization, collaboration, and effectiveness.

This all becomes troubling when you realize that we all have a very negative connotation around the word “Imperialism”. We tend to associate wars, brutality, coercion, oppression, and so on when we talk about imperialism.

So, is GBS also this brutal? I think it depends on what lens you view it from:

  • People lens. GBS makes total sense if you are sitting in the corporate headquarters but will be a bitter pill to swallow if you are the one who loses your job because of what you and many others consider to be some corporate mumbo jumbo and the latest consultant gimmick
  • Time lens. It feels like an achievement in hindsight but it is really challenging during set-up. Have you thought why almost everyone describes their experience of setting up a GBS as ‘war stories with battle scars to prove it’? I’ve not met anyone who has told me that the journey was smooth and they did not meet any resistance.

Bottom-line: GBS will work as long as we keep people at the core, define our outcomes and keep an eye on the future

However, I don’t think there is any value in painting GBS as black or white. Like almost everything in life, it has shades of gray. The most important question is ‘how can we make it better?’ And I think this is where GBS organizations can learn from the rise and fall of Empires.

  • Lesson #1. Focusing on developing talent is at the crux. GBS is about people and will not succeed without buy-in from people. The tone from the top helps but cannot be the only driver for sustainable success. Phil’s recent rant on this subject is spot on – too many enterprises are obsessed with achieving a scalable operational backbone centered on technology, as opposed to talent
  • Lesson #2. Make sure you know what “success” looks like. Balancing efficiency with empathy is an important concept to keep in mind. Also, there is a diminishing return to efficiency improvements and cost reductions. After a certain point of time, it really does not matter. What matters is business outcomes and for that, you need motivated talent.
  • Lesson #3. All good things come to an end. Every empire eventually falls. GBS is the concept that we are all rallying behind in recent times, but you can be pretty sure we will come up with an even better framework for organizing ourselves to deliver work in future (such as the HfS framework, the Digital OneOfficeTM). The life expectancy of ideas is coming down dramatically, as we jumpS-curves in years not decades. So it is extremely important that we keep looking out at the future. Keep testing, keep piloting, keep investigating. This is how we at HfS Research are designing our future research agenda – but more on that later!

Disclaimer: I am a firm believer in the value and concept of GBS. My sole objective of this post is to make it more human.