Saurabh Gupta
 
Chief Research Officer 
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UiPath hyped a market that simply wasn’t there. Now we must build one that's REAL - one we can TRUST
October 26, 2019 | Phil FershtElena ChristopherSaurabh Gupta

Let’s make no bones about it, this has been one sorry saga.  All we could do was warn the industry that cheesy marketeers, some lousy paid-for analysts and poorly-informed investors were forming a vicious web of bullshit that would take a solution with real potential and fake a market that bore no reflection of the one we originally dreamed up seven years ago.

And don’t say we didn’t warn anyone over the past year that the RPA market was in grave danger of being hyped out of existence:

So how can UiPath recover from this capitulation, a week after drawing the entire attention of the industry with its $8 million extravaganza in Las Vegas?  The trust is wafer-thin (or pretty much evaporated), people are worried, and some fired employees are sharing their agony and disappointment freely.  

10 ways UiPath's leadership can recover the trust of an industry that trusted them

1. Treat the market you help build with more respect.  Customers, prospects, partners, and the 500+ employees (or whatever number ultimately turns out to be real) you just sacked who believe(d?) in the vision and the brand.  Read from some of the employees who have risked their careers and families' livelihoods, just to see it all blown away in a few months.

2. Ask for help. Scaling a company and a scaling a relatively new software category are distinct challenges, made harder by them existing within the same company. Don't imperil a fledgling industry with your lack of experience in the former while you trailblaze the latter.

3. Be honest. We should not have to say this.

4. Stop taking schoolyard potshots at competition. Competition gives your brand context and creates a healthy market.

5. Stop counting customers. We will repeat this forever. Start showcasing scale of customers. We are all still learning.

6. Charge for what's valuable. Giving your product away or undercharging for it to create stickiness (while touting obnoxious customer numbers) is a road to nowhere. No one values free.

7. Apologize. Daniel's belated, smug response is insulting to anyone who's done business or is considering doing business with UiPath. Relationships are based on openness. That Daniel letter looks like an attorney wrote it.

8. Stup f-ing up the company and execute on the product roadmap because it's good. Elena's in progress POV after ForwardIII complimented the focus on enabling customers to do more with RPA - enabling functions like process identification and pipeline management, business benefit analytics, and more meat on the AI backbone. 

9. Quit the arrogance.  Releasing a Forrester Wave as the news of its layoffs broke, simply to drown out its layoff noise, where the analyst is clearly biased towards the firm (which also employs his son) just served to anger people who are craving some humility and less bragging.

10. Quit the "robotic butler nonsense". Let’s define what we mean by RPA scale versus counting number of bots.  "A bot for every employee" simply means "buy loads of our licenses". 

The Bottom-Line:  It's a marathon, not a sprint

Let’s build the white muscle capability to run the marathon versus red muscle capability to run the 100m dash.  A few key takeaways for all of us from this:

RPA vendors:  Not all of you are completely innocent of the same behaviors that have led to UiPath's troubles.  Be relieved this didn't happen to you, and make sure it still doesn't.  Focus on value, not potshots and hype.

Service providers and advisors:  Really be careful how you approach RPA alliances, as your choice of partner also reflects on you.

Analyst firm leaders:  If your analysts don't understand this space, then please stop bringing down the analyst industry with clearly flawed research and analysis. I've never seen analyst credibility reaching these depths before.

RPA users:  Use this as a segway to evaluate a multi-product integrated product strategy and do not throw all your eggs in one basket.  There are several excellent RPA, data ingestion, process mining and ML tools out there you need to embrace and integrate into your roadmap.

Crunch time is here for UiPath, AA and Blue Prism... Here are the 25 tenets which will decide who wins this bot war
October 07, 2019 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaElena Christopher

Well what a week that was in the world that is automation software... while 11 automation leaders at the HFS New York Summit pretty much all agreed that the world that was called RPA is stuck in the mire of making legacy tasks work better, we then were treated to Automation Anywhere's launch of its new platform upgrade A2019 right afterward at the Nasdaq center, where CEO Mihir Shukla declared he wanted a "Digital Assistant for Every Worker".  A2019 claims its ease-of-use in the cloud, its new plug-ins into Microsoft Word and Excel, and its ability to be run from a mobile device make it the best task support tool in the business.  Oh, the timing!  Will UiPath stay safe with its status as the "developers favorite", will Blue Prism stay true to its "friend of the business pro", or will AA's focus on bridging a solution for both business and IT with the day?

So all eyes now turn to UiPath's flagship Forward III event in Vegas next week, where CEO Daniel Dines and his team are under intense pressure to drive an even more powerful narrative for the industry to keep itself at the forefront of robotic software. The onus is on the UiPath leadership, more than ever, to seize the initiative, especially as their noisy competitors are unlikely to keep the brakes off the PR Newswire next week... (Oh and HFS mega analyst Elena Christopher is there speaking, who co-authored the now-infamous "RPA is Dead, Long Live Intelligent Automation" blog. And Kudos to the UiPath folks for having the courage to bring in an untethered analyst viewpoint after some of the recent utter mush we've been subjected to at these things.  Oh and a woman too, thank God! 

Here are the 25 key tenets where UiPath, AA and Blue Prism must draw battle as they look to cross that chasm from RPA to a true digital workforce

Consultants, fellow analysts, here's everything you need to advise your clients... steal away as HFS is just giving it allll away....

1. Stop counting customers. Start counting and showcasing growth with accounts/scale...  40% of engagements are still in pilot mode, so these cannot be considered long term clients until they get into some form of live usage.

2. Stop hiring armies of salespeople who have no idea what they are selling.  Sorry, but we really needed to say that one...

3. Stop amassing as many partners as possible. Prioritize quality not quantity (which would require well thought out partner programs).

4. Stop referring to SaaS as cloud. Seriously just stop. Now.

5. Make the gap between unattended and attended seamless because customers don't actually want to decide what flavor of automation they need, they just want automation.

6. Start addressing governance and meaningful management of bots in the context of broader workflow. Don't let massive attended automation and freedom to automate shift from democratization to chaos. address how attended is managed in a way that does not make the IT shops in all of their clients want to abort mission

7. Bring IT and business visions together as one integrated approach. Education must focus for technical and non-technical resources – into communities and educational institutions globally.

8. Shift focus to an integrated automation roadmap – expansion of functionality beyond RPA/RDA to AI and smart analytics. Badging everything as RPA is definitionally incorrect and fails to give clients a roadmap to follow to advance beyond (legacy) repetitive task automation, desktop and document automation.

9. Provide proven scale and depth of professional service to support the SI/advisor channel.  This is the battleground where the winners and losers will be decided... if you have the support available to train the channel and your major direct clients, you will get your clients into double-bot figures.

10. You must drive digital change management to help enterprises grapple with transformation with its services investments.  Relying purely on Big 4 advisors and service providers for change management will cost clients a fortune and drive many away.  This is a key area UiPath needs to take the lead on.

11. Prove it has the lowest-code capabilities of all the bot players.  The shift from low-code to no-code is on... proving real no-code abilities is becoming increasingly critical as frustration build with the ease-of development of some of these solutions. This is the real key to proving "one bot for every employee" is truly possible.

12. Really demonstrate you can win in the cloud.  This is the impressive push from AA that UiPath and Blue Prism needs to counter... the ability to create public, private and containerized solutions for large automation is one of the main avenues to moving out of pilot mode into a fully industrialized approach.

13. Have the most mobile-enabled bot solution.  Moving bot development into the hands of code-hating business professionals is key and having really cool mobile interfaces is becoming increasingly important.  

14. The developer ecosystem must be expanded to extend functionality, libraries etc.  Commit to specific goals for how much of their codebase will be available on Github et al to build an industry solution skewed against technology-vendor lock-in.  Much of this RPA functionality is not rocket science or any trade secret.

15. Commit specific sums to meaningful partner relationships with leading service providers and consultants, including opensource partner technical support systems, events, education resources, and people to help the industry grow

16. Commit to funding local academies (building on their online academies) especially in blighted neighborhoods near its biggest offices to bring young coders and potential customers together with employees for on the job real-world training

17. Must get focused on core business processes by industry, such as supply chain in manufacturing, core banking in BFS, underwriting in insurance, billing in telecom etc

18. Revisit its client engagement model to ensure it is best serving its customer base – its rapid growth in salespeople may expand capacity, but if sales lacks vision, then clients may not be well served (as per comments in our recent survey above)

19. Commits to drawing down technical debt (Every SW company has it, some more than others).  As illustrated above, our customer surveys point out which elements of their platforms and solution are known to need immediate re-engineering and investment

20. Identify and subsidize hands-on automation industry experts and influencers whose independent thinking deserves funding and not just focus on checking boxes with legacy analysts.  The automation industry is being impacted by many unique stakeholders.

21. Kick off an enduring and sustainable initiative modeled after Salesforce's 1-1-1 program

22. Invest in cross-technology customer events that will expand overall value creation, for example partnering more aggressively with the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc.

23. Spearhead an Automation Industry Technology/Business Roadmap that shows a clear path for enterprise clients to progress from basic robotic task automation through to integrated automation and then to achieving genuine AI value

24. Provide sensible RPA pricing options. A “bot” is not a standard unit of measure. It is an abstract measure and a UiPath bot is different than AA and not the same as Blue prism. Yet most continue to price RPA as some of the function of “bots”

25. Focus on actual business transformation. We are using RPA to run ineffective processes cheaper and faster. That is not transformation and is a short term game.

True leadership will come from those who make the most advancements in these versus fancy rhetorical statements and press events. If you want to be a leader.... then bloody act like one!

Is your Robotic Software really supporting business transformation at scale beyond piecemeal projects? Time to have your say...
July 06, 2019 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaElena Christopher

Are you as confused are we are with some of the recent analyst matrices floating around the industry this year?  Some products are performing completely differently depending on the analyst and how they "define" the market and whatever methodology they used to score each product.

However, one thing is clear:  at HFS we ensure we rely on a lot more than a briefing and a handful of rose-tinted clients served up by the suppliers themselves.  We reach out across our global network of power users (enterprise clients, advisors, and service providers) to get the true unvarnished experiences of robotic software. 

This is why we scrapped the 2x2 matrix last year and went for a direct ranking of suppliers, based across three critical variables:  execution, innovation and the voice of the customer.  HFS subscribers can click here to access the full 2018 RPA Top Ten report. 

On 2018, we introduced the "Voice of the Customer" to rank the leading RPA products across the experiences of 352 power users

In short, there are growing questions about whether "RPA" can deliver transformation on the promised ROI and outcomes, especially as most RPA initiatives continue to be small and piecemeal, with truly scaled RPA deployments are rare (only 13% of client boast any true scale to date). The industry is still struggling to solve challenges around the process, change, talent, training, infrastructure, security, and governance - hence our shift to re-categorizing and

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Blue Prism buys Thoughtonomy. Clearly a great deal for…Thoughtonomy
June 20, 2019 | Miriam DeasySaurabh GuptaElena ChristopherPhil Fersht

Blue Prism yesterday announced the acquisition of Thoughtonomy, a SaaS-based integrated automation platform with Blue Prism RPA baked into its core. After six years and much flirting with potential suitors, Terry Walby’s Thoughtonomy successfully exits into the welcoming arms of Blue Prism. This was always the logical end-game for Terry's business, which he bootstrapped from day 1 and tirelessly pushed at the automation world. HFS was particularly inspired with the firm's work at the UK's National Health Service (NHS) (which you can read here). 

Essentially Thoughtonomy is RPA + cognitive capabilities + cloud. Net-net, Blue Prism is buying a cloud (SaaS) wrapper for its own product; arguably, it could have (and should have) built that itself, but decided instead to pay a tidy sum. However, this cloud wrapper puts Blue Prism in the ring with Automation Anywhere's V12 cloud product, which is drawing a lot of plaudits from enterprise users (our forthcoming Robotic Transformation Software Top Ten will reveal its performance across several hundred enterprises). More importantly, it increases Blue Prism’s attractiveness as an acquisition target itself by upgrading its cloud-readiness from “available cloud reference architecture” to a legitimate SaaS-based offering.  We touted Blue Prism as a potential target for IBM three years ago, and with a scalable cloud story and IBM/s major pivot around Cloud with its RedHat acquisition, surely this Cloud-ifying of Blue Prism makes the firm even more attractive to them.

Finding the synergies to justify the price tag – cloud with a potential side of cognitive capabilities, but the focus is too UK centric

Now, Blue Prism can contend with Automation Anywhere’s claim that “BotFarm is the first and only enterprise-grade platform for scaling bots on demand”. The midmarket can benefit from Blue Prism’s RPA technology, with very little setup cost or initial investment.  Mid size companies that considered automation out of their reach can enjoy the democratizing effects of cloud, avoiding the hassle of on prem infrastructure.

The shopping basket also contains Thoughtonomy’s gross assets, reported at 31 May 2018 as £5.6m and established relationships with Thoughtonomy’s big-name clients including NHS, AEGON, and Sony. Partner implementation and reseller arrangements are in place across many of the usual suspects in SI and consultancy such as Computacenter (from where Terry Walby moved to IPsoft before setting up Thoughtonomy).

Like Blue Prism, Thoughtonomy is UK based so there’s not much by way of additional footprint synergies to be realized. Blue Prism, therefore, will only be adding a limited new channel and will have to rely on its existing sales and delivery channel to make this acquisition pay off. The US market is where the bulk of new demand for automation solutions is surfacing, and Thoughtonomy isn't adding to Blue Prism's US team, which is under huge

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

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

The current market situation facing Wipro's leadership

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

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15 initiatives UiPath and its competitors must take to prove they are serious about transformation
May 07, 2019 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaElena Christopher

We've been pretty vocal regarding the unfocused direction the industry which has called itself "RPA" has taken, and the obsession some of the firms are having with their self-declared valuations. So let's change the story from how much these firms actually believe they are worth to where they need to invest their funding to show they are serious about being part of a transformative industry.  

Don't get us wrong, in software world, it's common practice to get attention that your company is valuable and investors are falling over themselves to hurl money at it - this is common practice in markets that are very focused on selling to IT executives.  And we've seen far more ludicrous "valuations" than the 35x earnings ones the robotic software firms are claiming (just look at Blockchain and AI). 

So why aren't we seeing firms like UiPath shift the focus to the investments and changes they intend to make to propel a truly transformational value proposition with their products?  Especially where the prime target for growth is the business executive who is far less accustomed to a world where his/her suppliers are obsessed with how much they're worth, as opposed to how they can help you take your business through painful change.

It's critical now to shift the vision to reality of making these bot dreams come true

UiPath, more than its competitors, has always pushed the vision of democratized IT. Literally, RPA or a “bot for every worker” and not just a sanctioned crew of IT professionals (or even a sanctioned crew of enterprises) is a brilliant marketing gimmick. However, with UiPath’s hypergrowth and rapid-fire funding, the time has come to connect the dots between a folksy vision and how UiPath can truly enable the transformation of work.

As HFS recently articulated in our blog “RPA is dead. Long live integrated automation platforms”, RPA is being used to automate tasks and prop up legacy processes. Broad business transformation is decidedly lacking and arguably cannot be achieved without supporting tools like artificial intelligence and analytics as well as digital change management to address how change is driven, managed and perpetuated. The one perhaps notable shift in the change winds is the on the democratization front – RPA is being bought and consumed primarily by business units not central IT. However, as enterprises push towards integrated automation, with a higher order of technical complexity of tools and data challenges, IT once again becomes essential. Integrated automation may drive the ultimate democratization – the balance between IT and business operations.

Despite its growth and funding, UiPath is a very long way from achieving this vision

Our recent survey work with "power-users" of robotic software products (what we were calling RPA and RDA) clearly highlights the top three strengths and challenges of the UiPath solution (with sampled comments):

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The Bottom-line: To democratize technology and drive business transformation beyond task-oriented robotics activities, here are 15 key initiatives UiPath (or its competitors) must take on:

1. Must bring IT and business visions together as one integrated approach. Education must focus for technical and non-technical resources – into communities and educational institutions globally

2. Must shift focus to integrated automation – expansion of functionality beyond RPA/RDA to AI and smart analytics. Badging everything as RPA is definitionally incorrect and gives clients no roadmap to follow to advance beyond basic repetitive task, desktop and document automation

3. Must drive digital change management – help enterprises grapple with transformation with its services investments.  Relying purely on Big 4 advisors and service providers for change management will cost clients a fortune and drive many away.  This is a key area UiPath needs to take the lead on.

4. Must include unattended and attended processes (not just focus on attended)

5. The developer ecosystem must be expanded to extend functionality, libraries etc.  Commit to specific goals for how much of the UiPath codebase will be available on Github to build an industry solution skewed against technology-vendor lock-in

6. Demonstrate commitment to building a stronger QA team, and fully transparent local customer support and customer success teams to drive customers (as per the number 1 challenge outlined above)

7. Commit specific sums to meaningful partner relationships with leading service providers and consultants, including opensource partner technical support systems, events, education resources and people to help the industry grow

8. Commit to funding UiPath local academies (building on their online academies) especially in blighted neighborhoods near its biggest offices to bring young coders and potential customers together with UiPath employees for on the job real-world training

9. Must get focused on core business processes by industry, such as supply chain in manufacturing, core banking in BFS, underwriting in insurance, billing in telecom etc

10. Revisit its client engagement model to ensure it is best serving its customer base – its rapid growth in salespeople may expand capacity, but if sales lacks vision, then clients may not be well served (as per comments in our recent survey above)

11. Commits to drawing down technical debt (Every SW company has it, some more than others.  As illustrated above, our customer surveys point out which elements of the UiPath platform and solution are known to need immediate re-engineering and investment

12. Identify and subsidize hands-on automation industry experts and influencers whose independent thinking deserves funding and not just focus on checking boxes with legacy analysts.  The automation industry is being impacted by many unique stakeholders.

13. Kick off an enduring and sustainable initiative modeled after Salesforce's 1-1-1 program (of which the Notre Dame announcement by Daniel Dines was a great a start) 

14. Invest in cross-technology customer events that will expand overall value creation, for example partnering more aggressively with the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc.

15. Spearhead an Automation Industry Manifesto that shows a clear path for enterprise clients to progress from basic robotic task automation through to integrated automation and then to achieving genuine AI value

RPA is dead. Long live Integrated Automation Platforms
April 15, 2019 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaElena Christopher

The biggest problem with enterprise operations today is the simple fact that most firms still run most of their processes exactly the same way as they did 20/30/40 years ago, with the only “innovation” being models like offshore outsourcing and shared service centers, cloud and digital technologies enabling those same processes to be conducted steadily faster and cheaper.  However, fundamental changes have not been made to intrinsic business processes – most companies still operate with their major functions such as customer service, marketing, finance, HR and supply chain operating in individual silos, with IT operating as a non-strategic vehicle to maintain the status quo and keep the lights on.

Enter the concept of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), introduced to market in 2012 via a case study written by HFS and supported by Blue Prism, which promised to remove manual workarounds and headcount overload from inefficient business processes and BPO services.  However, despite offering clear technical capability and the real advantage of breathing life into legacy systems and processes, RPA hasn’t inspired enterprises to rewire their business processes – it’s really just helped them move data around the company faster and require less manual intervention.  In addition, most “RPA” engagements that have been signed are not for unattended processes, instead, most are attended robotic desktop automation (RDA) deployments. Attended RDA requires a loop of human and bot interplay to complete tasks.  These engagements are not the pure form of RPA that we invented – they are a motley crew of scripts and macros applying add band-aids to messy desktop applications and processes to maintain the same old way of doing things. Sure, there is usually a reduction in labor needs - but in fractional increments - which is rarely enough to justify entire headcount elimination. Crucially, the current plethora of “RPA” engagements have not resulted in any actual “transformation”. 

The major issue with RPA today is that it is automating piecemeal tasks.  It needs to be part of an integrated strategy

Real research data of close to 600 major global enterprise shows just how not-ready we are to declare any sort of robo-victory. In our recent survey of 590 G2000 leaders, only 13% of RPA adopters are currently scaled up and industrialized. Forget about leveraging RPA to curate end-to-end processes, most RPA adopters are still tinkering with small-scale projects and piecemeal tasks that comprise elements of broken processes.  Most firms are not even close to finding any sort enterprise-scale automation adoption.

RPA provides a terrific band-aid to fix current solutions; it helps to extend the life of legacy. But does not provide long-term answers. The handful of enterprises that have successfully scaled RPA across their organizations have three things in common:

  1. A unifying purpose for adopting automation,
  2. A broad and ongoing change management program to enable the shift to a hybrid workforce, and
  3. A Triple-A Trifecta toolkit that leverages RPA, various permutations of AI, and smart analytics in an integrated fashion.

So HFS is calling it as we see it. RPA is dead! Long live Integrated Automation. And by integrated we mean integrated technology, but also, and all importantly, we mean integration across people, process and technology supported by focused objectives and change management. Integrated Automation is how you transform your business and achieve an end-to-end Digital OneOffice.

Integrated Automation is not about RPA or AI or Analytics. It is RPA and AI and Analytics.

Business problems are not entirely solved by one stand-alone technology but by a combination of technologies. While only 11% of the enterprises are currently integrating solutions across the Triple-A Trifecta, there is emerging alignment. The supplier landscape is also starting to realize that clients will buy integrated solutions (see Exhibit 1) and examples below:

  • RPA products are seeking to underpin AI and data management capabilities. WorkFusion was arguably the first to combine RPA and AI with its “smart process automation” capability. Other subsequent examples include Automation Anywhere with its ML-infused IQBot, Blue Prism announced its AI Lab to develop proprietary RPA-ready AI elements, and AntWorks embeds computer vision and fractal science in its stack to enable the use of unstructured data. What these products having in common is their use of robotics to transform tasks, desktop apps and pieces of processes.  Hence, we need to refer to these "RPA" products as Robotic Transformation Software products which is a far more appropriate description.
  • AI and analytics focused products are starting to embrace Robotic Transformation Software, instead of undermining it. IPsoft launched 1RPA with a cognitive user interface. Xceptor’s data-led business rules and AI-based approach to automation leverage RPA to help extend its functionality. Arago is starting to go to the market where it can help orchestrate RPA capabilities within its platform.  
  • Enterprise software products are integrating the triple-A trifecta capabilities in their products. SAP Leonardo aspires to harness the emerging technologies across ML, analytics, Big Data, IoT, and blockchain in combination. It also acquired RPA software company Contextor (late 2018) similar to Pega when it acquired OpenSpan in 2016 adding RPA functionality to its customer engagement capabilities.
  • System Integrators are orchestrating the Triple-A Trifecta across multiple curated products. This typically combines some of their IP and service capabilities. Accenture launched SynOps in early 2019, offering a “human-machine operating engine.” Genpact’s Cora, a modular platform of digital technologies, similar to HFS’ Triple-A Trifecta, is designed to help enterprises scale digital transformation. IBM’s Automation Platform includes composable automation capabilities that orchestrate responses and alerts between Watson and Robotic Transformation Software solutions. KPMG’s IGNITE brings RPA, AI and analytics tools together with KPMG IP and services.

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Integrated Automation is not just about Technology. It is Technology + People + Process.

The real point of Integrated Automation is actually to move beyond the tools. Yes, the Triple-A Trifecta offers more functionality, but it still does not work unless you change your business, your people, your processes.  Integrated automation is the effective melding of technology,

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Will Infosys revitalize the mortgage processing market with ABN Amro’s Stater, or is this merely sweating a commodity asset?
March 30, 2019 | Phil FershtReetika FlemingSaurabh GuptaElena Christopher

Infosys has just announced a joint venture with ABN Amro for mortgage administration services, where it will acquire a 75% stake in Stater N.V., a wholly owned subsidiary of ABN AMRO Bank N.V., that offers mortgage services across the value chain including origination, servicing and collections. The transaction is valued at $143.53 million and is Salil Parekh's second acquisitive move in Europe since his appointment as CEO a year ago. Clearly, bolstering its European presence is a big deal for INFY in 2019, gaining more "zero distance" impact with European clients, adding more innovation centers, and strengthening its local footprint and brand across Europe. 

Has Infosys finally gone all "sensible" on us?

Mortgage processing is one of the most commodotized 3rd party banking offerings, where services are heavily outsourced to offshore locations, the technology platforms are mature and robust, with a lot of focus on eliminating manual processes over the last 5-10 years.  In addition, all the major banks have been signed up. So is this the new Infosys?  Making moves

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Accenture, IBM, EY, KPMG and Cognizant lead the digital change imperative
February 11, 2019 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaMadhuparna Banerjee

Let's get to the point: most of the past five years have borne witness to our industry postulate on the why and what of digital (and many still do).  It's time to focus on the how.

Unlike the wild grandiose claims from most services and tech providers that everything they do, these days, is "Digital"... it is far, far more than simply investing in new technologies.  Digital is about embracing interactive technologies, mobile, social and analytics to drive new revenue and customer experiences, as well as harmonizing business silos to support these digital outcomes.

However, success in digital initiatives is much less about technology adoption... and much more about people and culture, and the ability to manage that change. Code errors can always be fixed, workflows stitched together, apps integrated... but taking enterprise teams through the whole volatile experience, helping their staff learn new techniques, creating an environment where an enterprise can keep evolving on its own accord, and not rely on armies of consultants until perpetuity, is how we evaluate the performance of today's ambitious service providers. 

With this evaluation objective in mind, HFS shortlisted and assessed 10 leading providers: Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, EY, Genpact, IBM, Infosys, KPMG, TCS, and Wipro across the following five dimensions of digital-change prowess:

1. Embracing emerging change agents;

2. Creating true partnerships;

3. Promoting the principles of OneOffice;

4. Enabling change management for digital labor;

5. Driving real business outcomes.

Click the table to view more detail

For a limited time, we are making our new report: "The Top 10 Digital Change Management Service Providers" completely free to HFS subscribers. (Click to download)

The cocktail of SAP (ERP), Qualtrics (UX), and Contextor (RPA): Tastes like the OneOffice, but lacks one critical ingredient - RPA experience
November 21, 2018 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaElena Christopher

The software giant and world’s premier system of record, SAP, was on an acquisition spree over the last two weeks. First it spent $8billion on the acquisition of Qualtrics, a User Experience (UX) software that helps to collect and analyze data for market research, customer satisfaction and loyalty, product and concept testing, employee evaluations and website feedback. And then it acquired Contextor, a small little-known France-based Robotic Process Automation (RPA) product to augment SAP Leonardo’s intelligent technologies portfolio.

It appears that SAP is starting to mix a heady cocktail that enables its systems of record with the triple-A trifecta (AI, Analytics, and RPA) and embedded UX capabilities. Tastes like the OneOffice?  

Well, definitely for SAP mighty front office portfolio, but the huge disparity between the $8bn splurged on Qualtric and - whatever negligible sum was invested in Contextor - does not excite us that SAP is in anyway deadly serious about dominating the back-to-middle office automation space, which is critical to knit together disparate processes and systems. 

What is the Digital OneOffice and why it matters?

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:

 The HFS Digital OneOffice

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The OneOffice Framework is a guide to align the entire organization to driving a customer experience (CX) that gives them a competitive edge.  This means breaking down the siloes between front, middle and back office so that information and data flows freely and enterprises are able to predict and cater to customer needs.  OneOffice is realized when the needs and experiences of the customer are front and center to the entirety of business operations.  This means enabling automated data flows between the customer interface, your customer-facing staff and operations staff in order to create common goals and outcomes across the organization. Hence the addition of Qualtrics has terrific potential to bridge critical gaps between customers and employees, and effective RPA provides a real gateway to digitize processes and create a gateway to broader AI possibilities

Qualtrics and Contextor  are attempts to plug SAP’s solution gaps in the OneOffice vision

The reason behind the success of Qualtrics (and the driver for the 20X PSR!) is that Qualtrics-driven UX is not about just a fancy UI. Qualtrics enables SAP to offer solutions that combine front and back-office data. SAP is already a leader in managing organizational transactional data but lacked the capability to understand its implications on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and experience. With Qualtrics this is now a distinct possibility.

Contextor’s addition is focused on providing the missing ‘A’ in SAP’s Triple-A Trifecta capabilities. HFS believes the “Holy Trinity” of service delivery is at the intersection of the Automation, Analytics, and AI or the Triple-A Trifecta. SAP Leonardo already has a portfolio of technologies across Machine Learning, Analytics, IoT and blockchain but lacked the basic automation capabilities that Contextor now provides. Intelligent RPA capabilities are scheduled for inclusion into SAP S/4HANA in the first half of 2019, with other SAP applications to follow.

SAP will still need to justify why embedded capabilities will be better than standalone products

Automation and UX are hot areas with multiple robust Commercially-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solutions that can integrate well with SAP environments. SAP itself is heavily invested (and rightly so) in building its own ecosystem with the SAP App Center where third-party solution providers can offer solutions that work seamlessly with SAP environments. In today’s world, it is unclear how much more an embedded functionality is worth compared to an ecosystem approach. SAP will need to justify why and how the acquired capabilities will offer a unique or better value proposition than standalone products. 

Qualtrics brings to the table a differentiated value proposition, especially when combined with SAP’s existing operational data and transaction processing market share. But only in theory. Integrated value proposition demonstrated through tangible use cases will be the real proof. The cultural mismatch between SAP and Qualtrics (as pointed out by Dennis Howlett here) will make it even tougher.  

When it comes to RPA, the software giants have been largely MIA. Before SAP’s Contextor acquisition, Pega is potentially the only other software player that recognized the power of RPA with its acquisition of Openspan RPA in 2016. It initially embedded bots into its BPM suite of applications and now gives away unlimited robots with its Pega Platform.

Contextor itself is a very small player in the fast-growing RPA product market dominated by Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and UiPath. Power users of Contextor shared with HFS that it is a complex-to-use tool, requires coding experience, and has limited AI hooks. SAP opted not to acquire any of the big three RPA players (perish the thought at their hefty price tags!) and will possibly get basic RPA capabilities with Contextor. However, it will still need to convince clients about the advantages of using embedded RPA capabilities because the stand-alone RPA products can offer the same (perhaps even better). What’s so compelling about Contextor-driven SAP that requires a course correction from clients who are already on their intelligent automation journey? As with Pega, perhaps the answer lies in bundles bots as give aways.

The other open question around Contextor is how SAP decides to position it internally and with clients. Consider the system integration space. APIs are real-time and resilient but RPA-driven integrations are brittle. IT purists love APIs but businesses don’t really care as long as it works. In reality, enterprises need both options as an “API-everything” world is impractical or at least not terribly timely. But will SAP look at RPA as a viable long-term option for automation or just as a temporary “duct-tape” till it gets the more robust (and expensive) functionality developed within the core application?

Bottom-line: SAP’s acquisitions of Qualtrics and Contextor demonstrate that UX is not limited to the front office, but we question the ability to drive OneOffice integration with a paltry investment in automation 

Qualtrics enables the integration of back-office and front-office data while Contextor will enable automation from front to back within the SAP environment and outside. This is the HFS OneOffice vision where organizational silos start to converge to focus on real-time customer and employee engagement.   

However, the deep process requirements on the client side that are critical to find success with RPA, coupled with strong services partnerships needed to provide the technical expertise, reskilling and change management do not bode well for SAP to find much (if any) success with RPA.  SAP has not proven particularly successful supporting complex process transformation needs of clients outside of the traditional SAP product templates (its BPO alignment division was quietly wound down several years ago) and the services partnerships that have been developed by Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UIPath are lightyears ahead of anything Contextor has forged (and some leading consultancies in the space had never even heard of the French firm).  While it is understandable that SAP did not want to invest multiple-billions in a leading RPA solution, we believe it could have targeted a more established middle tier solution, such as Redwood (which is specialized with the SAP template), Softomotive, Kofax or Kryon.  

While it is easy to criticize the Contextor investment as lacking real teeth, at least is it a much larger step forward to bring "big iron" ERP into the robotic process automation age, when you compare it with the complete void of RPA investments yet to be seen from the likes of the SaaS giants Oracle, Salesforce, Workday and the AI platform movers Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Alibaba.  Now what to expect to see next as this industry stumbles into consolidation....