Saurabh Gupta
 
Chief Research Officer 
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IBM rebrands its GBS division to emphasize what it actually does: Consulting
October 18, 2021 | Phil FershtSaurabh GuptaElena ChristopherSarah LittleJoel Martin

Almost two decades after its landmark acquisition of PwC Consulting, IBM Global Business Services (GBS) is now IBM Consulting. Just another industry rebrand, you say? Botox for GBS? Not so fast. .

Here are five reasons why this rebrand matters...

1) Clarity is king and consulting dominates what IBM’s services organization does. There have been a lot of misconceptions around IBM’s GBS (Global Business Services) and what the organization does, so part of the positioning with IBM Consulting is to clarify this across the board while pitting itself more aggressively against competitors with deep consulting chops like Accenture, EY, PwC, and Deloitte. With roughly 70% of its $16 billion revenues in the group coming from technology and business transformation projects, this rebranding is aligning the identity of IBM services with the lion’s share of its business activity. Moreover, the term “GBS” is most often associated with centralized internal shared services governance organizations, which is vastly different from the IT and business services where IBM specializes.

2) Simplified organization structure. Behind the rebranding, IBM Consulting also restructured its organization structure to shift from an input/capability-led structure to a more client-centric model. There are now four transformation services blocks that IBM consulting is organized around – customer transformation, employee transformation, finance & supply chain transformation, and industry transformation with cross-cutting cloud services and emerging technology capabilities. All the emerging technology capabilities (automation, AI, analytics, blockchain) are now housed under the same group to try and maximize the value creation opportunity for clients. One of the biggest gripes of IBM clients has been painful navigation across capabilities. This simplification should help.

3) Talent acquisition. There are two roads to travel here for the talent discussion: organic and inorganic talent growth.

a) Organic acquisition. “IBM Consulting” certainly brings more cache than a consulting title within GBS when compared to Accenture and the Big 4. This is an opportunity to strengthen the employer brand at all levels so long as IBM supports it internally with clear consulting career pathways and progression towards a master class of client-facing managing client partner roles. The shift from GBS to IBM Consulting and the strength of its growth should be a boon for IBMs ability to pull talent from top firms during the Great Resignation and straight out of the university gates.

b) Substantive skills and talent growth through M&A. IBM acquired eight firms in since 2019: 7Summits, Expertus, Instana, NordCloud, TruQua, WDG Automation, Accanto #, and Red Hat. Consider this a catalyst for skills-building that accompanies world-class training and assets. IBM ranked #4 in the HFS Employee Experience Services Top 10 report, with notable takeaways on their skills ecosystem. IBM places skills at the center of its people strategy and has a fully scaled internal experience to back it up: half of the revenue IBM earned from 2015 – 2020 is from new areas of the business (e.g., cloud computing, AI, data science, cybersecurity).

4) IBM Consulting leadership has a consulting pedigree and a leader who pioneered the modern-day Accenture consulting model. So many of the leaders within the group came across as part of the 2002 PwC acquisition and have long-since built consulting and managed services practices under the IBM banner.  In recent years, the revenue model has shifted more and more towards consulting and away from commodity managed services offerings where it is increasingly challenging to compete on cost-driven engagements against the likes of the heritage Indian providers and Accenture (with 250,000 of its staff based in India).  Moreover, Mark Foster, the SVP leading the IBM Consulting division, is widely credited as the leader behind the significant growth of Accenture consulting until he left the firm in 2011. He was the pioneer behind the Accenture “diamond client” model, where a laser focus on 150-200 major enterprises has formed the bedrock behind the force that is Accenture today.

5) Divorced from Hardware, finally. With the spinoff of Kyndryl days away, IBM Consulting has clear mandate to focus on business and technology process re-engineering. The Consulting group is free to partner more broadly with hyperscalers, accelerate innovation labs with its Garage services, and be more software first around AI, automation, and emerging technologies like blockchain, IoT, and 5G.  Garage services will become innovation labs for industry-centric consulting services to align technology consulting and software platforms (Cloud Pacs) with industry-centric business transformation for large enterprise customers. Expect a big consulting push around “the cognitive enterprise powered by IBM Consulting” as they meld together Watson, multi-vendor hybrid cloud, Red Hat OpenShift and Enterprise Linux, and Cloud Paks to modernize technology and push with industry-specific software and services offerings.

The Bottom Line:  IBM Consulting now has the structure to take on Accenture and Deloitte, but optics have to be complemented by real talent investment, C-level commitment, technology agnosticism, and client results.

IBM’s shift to emphasizing consulting couldn’t be better timed with a huge talent dearth for outsourcing delivery talent, especially in India.  Our research shows that 54% of the FORTUNE 1000 are racing to stay relevant in the virtual economy, and they need immediate transformational and IT support to make fast decisions.  This lends much more to partnerships with providers with deep onshore talent and a deep consulting pedigree.  If IBM can continue to beef up its consulting presence with organic talent – and perhaps an acquisition or two – there is no reason why IBM Consulting cannot challenge Accenture and Deloitte at the help of the IT transformation market. 

IBM consulting should also make it very clear to its existing and prospective clients that it is not getting out of the “outsourcing” market with this rebranding to “consulting.” The Kyndryl divestiture earlier this year and the contact center divestiture to Concentrix in 2014 provides ample ammunition to its competitors to raise concerns about IBM’s commitment to the BPO and ITO markets which it needs to proactively address,  

Another area where we – at HFS – believe IBM Consulting needs to clarify its position, is with regards to its technology partnerships.  While the firm has been successfully teaming with software firms such as Celonis, Blue Prism and UiPath, it has also had to work with IBM Software which has acquired produces such as myInvenio and WDG, which compete in the market with these firms.  If IBM Consulting can clarify its technology agnosticism in a similar way to the ethos Foster applied at Accenture, there is every chance of success as we venture into unchartered waters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Other notable performances that stood out for me included:

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

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

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

 

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

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

HFS Vision 2025 is here: The New Dawn to become a OneOffice Organization
December 07, 2020 | Phil FershtReetika FlemingMelissa O'BrienTom ReunerSaurabh GuptaElena ChristopherSarah Little

Nagendra's agenda: His bullish outlook for the IT and business services industry
July 03, 2020 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

Three serious dudes having a serious conversation –  Phil Fersht, Nagendra P. Bandaru, and Saurabh Gupta

The COVID-19 pandemic shock is possibly (and hopefully) the biggest disruption of our lifetime. This is the time when you need real leaders who can see the light and the end of the tunnel and work tirelessly to unleash their organizational potential. We recently caught up Nagendra P. Bandaru (Nag) to discuss the resilient nature of the IT services industry, his bullish outlook for Wipro, and his sage advice for enterprises to adapt to this pandemic shock. Nag has been a constant in the IT industry for more than 30 years. He is responsible for organically doubling Wipro’s BPM business in the last 4 years and currently manages 40% of Wipro’s revenues, from BPM services to cloud and infrastructure.  I have personally known Nag since 2006, when he was a feisty young sales and marketing leader helping develop Wipro's presence in the US during the year growth years of BPO and it's been great seeing him flourish into one of Wipro's key minds and personalities as he helps shape the business for this challenging future. 

So, Saurabh Gupta, and myself decided it was time to reconnect with Nag to hear more about his views on the current situation and where the industry needs to go to make it through troubled waters to flourish once more...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research: We’ve known each other for more than a decade, Nag, so maybe talk to us a little bit about your background and how you ended up running not just Wipro’s BPM business but other big parts of Wipro such as Cloud and Infrastructure Services. Maybe you could take us a bit back to your earlier days, how you got into this, and what you’re doing now?

Nagendra P. Bandaru, President – Digital Operations and Platforms & Cloud and Infrastructure Services, Wipro: First, thank you for setting up this conversation, Phil. It’s been great knowing you, especially since you have been part of nearly one third of my journey in this industry! The

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Wipro must appoint a ruthless CEO with teeth to escape its current predicament
February 09, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’DonoghueSaurabh Gupta

When Wipro’s CEO Abid Neemuchwala announced his resignation it was a shock for employees and the industry as a whole.. but it was less of a surprise to those who knew him well. Abid's a humble, really nice guy with an incredible work ethic and intelligence.  He also has a smile that lights up a whole room.  

The poor man was clearly exhausted after four grueling years trying to steer an oil tanker that clearly needs a more aggressive leader with a clear mandate to make painful changes.  Don’t mistake us here – Abid is one of the service industry’s greatest strategists and inspirational figures, but Wipro is not ready for this type of leader.  It needs someone who can drive aggressive change - and fast - to a company that has lost itself in its heritage culture and is slipping behind several the India-heritage services leaders in this cut-throat market.  Being a "safe pair of hands" is table stakes these days for offshore-centric services, and the winners are moving aggressively with onshore investments and outcome-driven delivery models to win the hearts and minds of clients.  While Wipro has its bright spots (read on), it's lost ground to some of its competitors and its next CEO has to make some deep changes to personal, structure, leadership and strategy if it wants to closes these gaps quickly.

With the recent CEO changes at IBM and Cognizant, Wipro needs to look more at Cognizant’s recent changes if it wants to set itself on a new course for growth

Meanwhile, leadership changes elsewhere in the market have seen IBM change CEO’s – a prospect that could see the lumbering firm recover market dominance and growth after several years of confused direction and taking a pounding from the likes of Accenture and TCS.

In addition, Cognizant went through a similar situation with Francisco D’Souza, who’d overseen an incredible rise of the firm, but struggled to make painful changes as the firm’s leadership became complacent and lost their edge in the market.  Their response has been to appoint a dynamic young leader in Brian Humphries, whose goal is to reenergize the firm’s leadership and culture.  He has already made many leadership changes, brought in several outside executives and created a culture of urgency right across the firm.  “It was like Cognizant suddenly woke up after falling asleep” was the feedback we received from several of its clients.

While both IBM and Cognizant seek deep changes within their internal culture with new leadership, they are very different beasts and require very different leadership styles.  IBM requires someone who's lived and breathed the culture and knows how to make the right changes to align with the right strategic direction.  Cognizant needed a leader to shake up a terrific firm that had become a victim of its own success and was suffering from complacency. 

Wipro’s board must seize this opportunity to redefine itself – and fast

However, that change was planned, Wipro’s doesn’t seem to have any real plan behind it – and belies a degree of chaos and anarchy that could become disastrous for the firm. In a complex and unstable global political environment, clients look to providers to bring stability and simplicity – impromptu leadership changes and boardroom dramas, while fodder for analysts and journalists, go straight to the top of the risk register in existing engagements and can see some clients back our before the ink is dry on new deals.

Infosys learned this the hard way, when its leadership troubles became an almost comic roadshow in 2016/2017. Wipro already has enough to contend with in a market gripped with buyer cynicism, hyper-competitive incumbents, and geopolitical uncertainty – at the very least it must find a replacement for Abid who will get the firm back on track and reassure the market that 2020 will be a year of progress, not chaos, for Wipro.  In addition, the next CEO must have the empowerment to make tough decisions without the constant micromanagement of the Wipro board in order to making rapid improvements to its...

  • Current vulnerable market position;
  • Mostly middling performance across market segments;
  • Articulation of "Why Wipro" to clients, partners and prospects.

The market reacts to the shock exit of Wipro’s CEO

Unsurprisingly, the market has reacted somewhat negatively to the impromptu departure of a leading IT services firm’s CEO – stock price dipped on the news after a relatively healthy opening to 2020. Under Abid, the firm pushed hard into the digital services space – and since he took up the mantle in 2016, closed the acquisition of cloud services firm Appirio, as well as design agency DesignIT among others to support the firm’s strategy to move out of highly commoditized IT Services and BPO, and take a bite out of the more lucrative and rapidly growing, albeit ill-defined, digital technology and services market.

The firm push to build out digital and design capabilities has, to date, had mixed success. While the firm has been able to blend technology, strategy, and design successfully for some core clients – it has struggled to expand at the same rate as some of its competitors (see below). Furthermore, its traditional IT services business came under more pressure from the hungrier mid-tier firms, such as LTI, Mindtree and Mphasis, while its closest market competitor, HCL, has been playing a market-cap neck-and-neck race with the firm as it elevates its reputation in the market.

Under Abid, Wipro also struggled to keep its market share – falling further and further behind the rapid growth of TCS and Infosys. A market signal not lost on investors and market commentators when the CEO announced his resignation.

Unlike some of its competitors – such as Infosys – which have managed to keep their heads above the double-digit growth waterline for the majority of recent quarters, Wipro has only just managed to keep itself in positive growth territory. Under Abid, growth accelerated briefly at the start of his tenure, but has been on a bumpy decline since as the firm struggled to make the most of its digital acquisitions and take on rivals in the highly competitive IT services market. Even with relatively high margins, the results just weren’t healthy enough for an industry that thrives on scale – and its subsequent success is marked on revenue growth. With the last few

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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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