Saurabh Gupta
 
Chief Strategy Officer 
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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 pressure from US-centric competitors with much larger pools of funding.

In HFS’ 2018 study of customer satisfaction with RPA, client ratings of Blue Prism and Thoughtonomy reveal some additional areas of complement – notably Thoughtonomy’s embedded intelligence (see Below). Blue Prism used some of the $130M it raised in January of 2019 to establish an AI lab to further the addition of cognitive capabilities to its product stack. Thoughtonomy now helps shorten R&D cycle time.  

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However, Thoughtonomy is small and not (yet) profitable and has never benefited from funding. For the twelve months to 30 April 2019, it reported revenues of £9.8m and an adjusted operating loss of £3.6m. It has suffered from the difficultly of being ahead of its time, offering a general purpose integrated automation tool as a service when most enterprises are still experimenting with RPA and other piecemeal automation solutions. Enterprises that have made the leap to integrated automation tend to be those that have both a clear digital transformation execution strategy and an informed perspective on which tools they need in their toolkit to achieve their objectives. Thoughtonomy offers a great integrated bundle, but, unless enterprises know what to do with it and what it helps them solve, it’s value will not be recognized. But, as we recently articulated in "RPA is Dead. Long Live Integrated Automation Platforms", this is where the market is headed, so the potential is there.  

Businesses and organizations ought to look beyond desktop automation to deeper integrated automation

It’s time for businesses of all sizes to begin their automation journey and going deeper is possible. As it’s cloud-based there’s no infrastructure capex, just the ongoing cloud opex. Furthermore, Thoughtonomy has, since its inception in 2013, had a strong view and vision on scaling its virtual workforce. Never intended as an attended or desktop solution, the plan was always to effect automation using Blue Prism’s RPA platform at a deeper level. Single automations can replace up to thousands of workers as opposed to the desktop automation route where automation is applied at the individual worker level and usually to tasks rather than processes or workflows.

Off-prem accessibility unquestionably matters, especially to the smaller business, what’s odd is that it’s not that difficult, time-consuming or expensive to build. However, with this acquisition, Blue Prism can now strike that off the list of things to do. Thoughtonomy currently has 54 employees, of which half are “dedicated to product-related activities”. Assuming the bulk of those are product development and not other ancillary product management or product marketing functions there is a team that has worked with Blue Prism’s platform in two ways that are of value:

  1. Putting a cloud wrapper together around the RPA platform
  2. Integrating it with AI services: Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning

This technical knowledge is an important part of the value here, and it’s really hard in an acquisition to guarantee that talent below the C-suite stays in place post-acquisition, many leave and there’s not very much the acquiring company can do about it. With UiPath, Automation Anywhere and other key service providers all hunting aggressively for automation talent across both sales and technical areas, the merging entity will be vulnerable as they integrate the teams.

Consideration for the acquisition is mainly in shares - is this a brave gamble on both sides?

The payment terms of this deal comprise cash and ordinary shares. The initial cash payment of £12.5m on completion of the deal will be followed by a payment of £4.5m 18 months after completion. The remaining £63m is scheduled to be paid out at regular intervals up to two years post deal completion. The payment schedule for the deferred consideration for the acquisition includes a condition that Terry Walby and “relevant recipients” remain with Blue Prism.

With this purchase, Blue Prism is opening itself up to the scrutiny that goes with the process of acquisition at a point in time when it too is still loss-making, and its losses are deepening, increasing from £5.5m to £37.6m (IAS) in HY2019, despite revenues rising by a staggering 82% yoy. Presumably, Blue Prism must be confident of one of two things:

  1. Delighting the stock markets sufficiently to raise more capital - and hypergrowth is in its favor here or
  2. Being snapped up by a larger player that will ultimately pick up the tab

It would be more reassuring if Blue Prism had a clearer message and roadmap plotting out how this acquisition will help them grow and move into profit. But the share price drop suggests that the stock market is not yet impressed by this news.

The Bottom Line: Blue Prism’s end game is that it’s priming itself as an acquisition target; its market capitalization, currently in excess of £1b, is prohibitive for many would-be acquirers

The RPA landscape is at a peculiar point right now with three dominant players - Blue Prism Automation Anywhere, and UiPath  - each with skyrocketing valuations which presents a stark contrast to enterprise confusion and difficulties in scaling. More worryingly, interspersed among the success stories, many stories of abject disappointment are quietly told.

It sometimes looks as if the real product here is not necessarily RPA platforms, rather high growth companies striving to become unicorns, or to launch on the stock exchange or be bought for a tidy sum – and to be fair, if that’s what success looks like then Thoughtonomy has definitely made it. When the long tail of others outside the Big 3 in the RPA market is battling to get a strong foothold it’s difficult to compete for mindshare and revenues. Thoughtonomy was number four in HFS’s Top 10 RPA products 2018:

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One strategy is worth pursuing; whether it was intentional from the outset or not, Thoughtonomy made use of Blue Prism’s platform in a way that is now so useful to Blue Prism, it’s finally making this purchase.

And as for Blue Prism in the longer term, some of its founders have already cashed in portions of their holdings, revenues are rising, it’s still in hypergrowth, but loss-making. But the stock market has high expectations and the requirements of publishing results mean the current deepening of losses is highly visible. The same could well be happening elsewhere, but we can’t see published numbers and the market is dominated more by private equity financing, as opposed to rocketing enterprise spending on the software and services. The current land-grab is taking place with an apparent absence of profit considerations – are we really just seeing growth at any cost?

HFS has previously speculated as far back as 2016 that IBM would or should buy Blue Prism. IBM is in the habit of buying competitors that appear to pose a threat and/or can significantly enhance its go-to-market strategy. While a price tag in the billions, as opposed to millions, would deter many, the $34b Red Hat acquisition last year demonstrates that IBM has no fear of big numbers. Right now, Watson isn’t being talked about as much as in the past and IBM uses Blue Prism extensively in intelligent automation solutions – is IBM happy to use, resell and create solutions from Blue Prism eggs or would it rather own the whole Blue Prism chicken?

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 take over as the new executive chairman and its current CEO Abid Neemuchwala will become the new MD.

Azim Premji’s father founded Wipro in 1945, with Azim taking over in 1966 on his death. Azim led Wipro’s diversification into information technology in 1980. Today it has become one of the leading service providers in the industry and a big force within the India heritage IT service providers (lovingly called the TWITCH – TCS, Wipro, Infosys, Tech Mahindra, Cognizant, and HCL). However, Wipro has lost a bit of its cutting edge in the market. While its operating margins improved to 19.8% given the focus on the quality of revenues but overall revenue growth dropped to 2.8% YoY – the lowest growth rate of all the TWITCH service providers in 2018. It even lost its standing as the third biggest TWITCH supplier (albeit not permanently) last year to HCL.

We’ve assessed Wipro’s competitive positioning across execution, innovation, and customer experience across major markets (see summary below) and while it mostly performs commendably (ranked #5-#10 in most of our evaluations), it misses out on the Top 5 positioning in most areas of our assessment.

Only 3 of the large IT Services firms with revenues higher than US$5B grew at over 10% in calendar 2018: Accenture (14.8%), TCS (10.3%) and HCL (10.2%), this excludes Amazon Web Services. All of these have an excellent service delivery, but the stand out factor is the ability to differentiate and know themselves and their strengths – which means they market services effectively and to the right customers:

 

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We believe that the increased authority to the young and dynamic duo of Rishad and Abid to shape the overall business will be a boon to Wipro. Rishad has shown tremendous energy and passion for the business, especially with his recent development of Wipro Ventures, which is the most strategic innovation initiative for the firm. And Abid is a proven and seasoned leader. HFS continues to be impressed by his astuteness since his TCS days where he built a stellar BPO capability for the firm till just last year, where Abid was instrumental in getting Wipro’s largest ever engagement $1.6 billion multi-year TCV from Alight. 

The Bottom-Line: The “What” is clear, now Wipro need to focus on “why” and “how.” HFS recommends five focus areas for the newly appointed executive chairman Rishad and CEO and MD Abid

Rishad and Abid already have a strong base to drive an aggressive growth and differentiation strategy. Wipro is a respected brand, offers large scale services with 160,000 employees across the globe, and brings capabilities across emerging technologies to its clients. The “What” in terms of its 4 stated big bets (digital, cloud, cybersecurity, and engineering) makes sense but the “Why Wipro” and “How it will help clients” needs better articulation of value and Wipro’s unique point of view. Here are the five areas that Rishad and Abid should focus on:

  1. Competitive differentiation. Wipro needs to stand for something. Its recent financial results say that customers don’t understand what makes it different from all the other IT services firms – this lack of differentiation is not unique to Wipro and applies to several of its Indian-heritage competitors. If it is to thrive rather than survive, this needs to change.
  2. Digital capabilities. Wipro has seemed two-speed since the acquisition of DesignIT. It needs to integrate the whole firm around its digital message - this means building out its offer and making a splash with some strategic M&A and client acquisitions. Success in the digital long term means helping customers change their DNA – not just providing new IT. Wipro’s digital message needs to demonstrate it can help customers find new revenue streams, new business model and drive customer experience as well as harmonizing business silos (or the One Office).
  3. Change management. Digital is about enabling change – so to differentiate itself in the noisy and overcrowded digital space Wipro needs to focus on change management. It needs to demonstrate that it can manage complex change process that penetrates its clients the businesses and drives value beyond just digital adoption. Wipro’s narrative around “zero touch change” and agile cell teams is a good starting point, but it needs to embed change management in all its engagements. Rishad and Abid also have to change the internal culture and bring together all the business units and service lines to reduce internal frictions and improve internal collaboration.
  4. Fresh talent. Injecting fresh blood and energy into the firm's leadership, under the guidance of Abid will be important. Wipro has a credible track record of retraining ground staff as well leveraging the gig economy (courtesy of Topcoder) but needs to aggressively look at revitalizing its talent base, especially near to its clients. Service providers need to be able to draw on a broader range of skills – which means a richer mix of partnerships, on and offshore talent.
  5. Integrated go-to-market. Wipro has a broad suite of capabilities across emerging technologies (Wipro Holmes AI platform, Wipro cloud services, an end-to-end IoT portfolio, and robust blockchain offering) but to differentiate itself it needs to create an integrated go-to-market across all these capabilities that solve real business problems. The strategic focus has to be on what clients want to buy versus the capabilities that it is selling. Co-innovation with its strategic clients, partnership ecosystem, and aggressively leveraging start-ups (through Wipro Ventures) will need to be core components of how it approaches the market. As one of the best application service providers, it is in a good position to help modernize these clients application portfolio as part of an integrated suite of digital capabilities focused on delivering business value.

Rishad and Abid have very large shoes to fill in with Azim Premji’s retirement, but it also represents a golden opportunity for Wipro to scale new heights. Rishad and Abid together bring the energy and a pulse on the changing market dynamics to transform the IT-services behemoth. We wish them and Wipro all the very best!

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
May 02, 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....

1. #AutomationAnywhere, 2. #BluePrism, and 3. #UiPath make up the top three in the inaugural HfS Top 10
September 17, 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"

Tinker, experiment, explore, then disrupt: The Hyper-Connected Enterprise will be driven by Intelligent Automation.
August 02, 2018 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

As business operations have advanced through several inflections points over the last three decades, the core component at the heart of these changes has been the emergence of digital interactivity driving the hyper-connected global business – only made possible by intelligent automation.

Digital connectivity has transformed both front and back offices over the last three decades. The key now is to integrate and automate these activities to place the customer at the core of business operations

As you can see in our (below) "voyage to hyper-connected, interactive enterprise" we have leveraged digital connectivity to drive productivity and innovation across both the back and front offices of our organizations. Offshoring and outsourcing became a huge bi-product of digital connectivity to run business processes and apps remotely to save Western businesses huge costs through global labor and centralization of resources.

However, until recently, most of these activities have been restricted to improving efficiencies and reducing costs.  At the front end of the business, the advent of ecommerce hit its stride in the late '90s, where customers could communicate digitally with organizations to make purchases, make genuine inquiries and get connected with others with like-minded business interests. Where automation comes into play is being able to pull together these disparate front and back office activities into one single office (aka the HFS Digital OneOffice), where customer needs are placed front and center across all business processes, where staff performance can be measured on delivering customer driven outcomes, where the entire business operations are in-tune with their customer needs... and superior to those of their competitors to stay ahead of the game.  

The urgency to be Hyper-Connected dictates why we have to drive Automation with real Intelligence

“Basic digital” capabilities (where most companies are today) make it possible for business operations to respond to their customers as those needs happen.  Emerging capabilities in data analytics tools, machine learning and cognitive computing are making it possible to anticipate changing customer needs before they happen, where shifts in global supply chains, market and competitive dynamics, economic or political changes, compliance or regularity issues, all combine to change customer behavior. 

The more intelligent your business operations, the more you can stay ahead of the game, but none of this is possible if your processes are not automated effectively to create this knowledge for your business operators:

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Once the digital baseline is created, enterprises need to create more intelligent bots to perform more sophisticated tasks than repetitive data and process loops. This means having unattended and attended interactions with data sources both inside and outside of the enterprise.  

From Experimenting to Disrupting:  Cracking the Intelligent Automation code in Four Stages

The industry is struggling to solve challenges around the process, change, talent, training, infrastructure, security, and governance. There is deafening noise and hype around Intelligent Automation, but there are very few enterprises that have cracked the code of driving transformative impact by leveraging Intelligent Automation at an industrial scale. Why?

Our research and ongoing conversations over the last six years (remember our ‘Greetings from Robotistan’ in 2012?) in the automation space has allowed us to interact, help, and follow automation initiatives at several global 2000 enterprises. And we leveraged this extensive experience to develop HFS’ Intelligent Automation Maturity Model (see exhibit below).  Our experience suggests that the organizational maturity and the resultant impact from intelligent automation typically follow four stages of evolution:

  1. The experimenter – trying out new ideas, methods, or activities. The intelligent automation journey often starts with some maverick individuals in some corner of the organization playing with different technologies. There is no real strategy at this stage, just passion. The objective is simply driven by automating a particular task that is innately boring or transactional but still time-consuming and inefficient. Different experimenters start at different places across the Trifecta. It is not necessary to start with basic automation and then advance to AI-based automation, but experimenter’s automation solutions are typically piecemeal.  
  2. The tinkerer – trying to improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect. The early successes from experimentation often result in the most frustrating stages of the intelligent automation maturity model. The tinkerers start to copy and paste what worked in experimentation for everything else. But if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Failures are widespread at this stage, but tinkerers who don’t give up are the ones who eventually succeed to move to the next step. This is the stage where enterprises are trying to find some method to the madness but often with limited success. The tinkering stage is exemplified by rhetoric winning over reality!
  3. The explorer – charting out new territories. As reality dawns after extensive tinkering, enterprises start to realize the different pieces of the puzzle. They start investing in organizational management (often through COEs and a hub-spoke model), recognize that they need to invest in multiple technologies across the trifecta to solve problems and start tackling end-to-end processes versus individual tasks.
  4. The disruptor – radically changing the status quo. Intelligent Automation transcends from a program and becomes an enterprise-wide movement at this stage. Disruptors can bring to bear integrated solutions that combine the power of automation, analytics, and AI. Several automations at this stage are scaled up, and there is a high degree of confidence in scaling up others. It is only at this disruptor level when the promise of intelligent automation starts to become a reality.

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The Bottom-Line:  The more hyper-connected we get, the more this is about people, purpose, and planning - and less about whichever shiny new gadget is the flavor of the month

While the industry is busily adding fancy new words to their résumés and job titles, we have to remember that our technological journey is gradual.  Change comes slowly and incrementally and you can't just rip off the proverbial BandAid, hire a bunch of Millennials and Gen-Z kids... and it's mission accomplished. As the Hyper-Connected journey illustrates, it took 30 years to get where we are today - and that's because both front and back offices needed to go through major, secular changes to become efficient and digitized.

But the next phase is not a trade-secret - this "Future of Work" is merely a phased transformation of the present.  Dumb robots evolving into intelligent assistants... ineffective supply chains plagued with manual breakpoints becoming fluid, autonomous and intelligent - with the ability to interact with other supply chains.  Quantum computing and blockchain emerging to challenge the very logic of TCP/IP and computing architectures. But to get there, we need to be experimenting, tinkering, exploring and disrupting with the kit that available today to get our organizations in a place where all these far-flung innovations can have some real possibilities.  

So let's have less talk about the future of work and focus on the present... we know where we are and what we need to do.  So let's do it!

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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