SBA: Please stop spanking bots

April 30, 2020 | Elena ChristopherMiriam DeasyPhil Fersht

What better to blame - when all goes wrong - than the evil robotic thing you just inserted into your system.  Many of you saw the recent article in ABA Banking Journal where they blamed RPA for the "burden on their processing system and diminishing of its capabilities".  We will discuss this debacle in a more detailed POV (stay tuned) but the crux of the issue here is a poorly run government IT function tinkering with software to try and process a mad scramble for many thousands of small business handouts from the recent Covid-19 stimulus package - and most likely in some weird virtual lockdown vacuum.  And it appears woefully understaffed. 

In short, APIs + humans + bots need to work within system parameters, or we're always going to have failures of scale like this one.  

RPA is a highly useful tool to support this environment, but please let's start deploying it as part of the overall tool-box 

As we’ve said of late, the digital workforce that wasn’t finally has its burning platform chance to shine. Since global lockdown commenced, we’ve been tracking, talking, and learning about the ways in which enterprises and their service and technology partners are using automation to help them function. One of the most prevalent use cases in recent weeks is in the banking and financial services sector where lenders are using automation, largely, RPA, to support loan processing for government-backed loans. RPA is helping lenders grapple with massive loan volumes and get them submitted quickly so loans can be approved and dispersed.

Insert monkey wrench.

The U.S. government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) application and approval portal was overwhelmed with demand as a second tranche of government funds were made available on April 27. The funds are intended to support loans for small and medium-sized businesses (administered via banks) as part of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) during the Covid-19 pandemic. The SBA E-Tran system receives the loan applications and then the SBA processes and approves them. The system struggled to handle the new surge of applications coming through and repeatedly crashed. As of Tuesday, April 28, the SBA prohibited the use of RPA bots in the application process.

RPA fail, right? Not exactly. It is actually the overwhelming success of a blunt instrument.

The HFS team dug in and spoke with a variety of ecosystem players - banks, software companies, and service providers to get the straight scoop. We also reached out to the SBA, but they have not responded. We view this as a case of RPA being used as a blunt instrument allowing any bank that invested in RPA to automate loan application submissions. RPA very legitimately helped banks and lenders process scads of PPP loans. This presented two immediate issues:

  1. The SBA E-Tran system crashed – it was way overburdened with hundreds of thousands of loan applications.
  2. Banks with automation were potentially able to submit more loan applications than those without thus more effectively accessing a limited pool of stimulus funds.

The SBA responded in a super butt-covering mode with its "NO RPA!!" edict. It will still allow loans to be automatically processed through APIs. So now banks are scrambling to convert their RPA processes to API-led. And the SBA assigned one person. Yep, one person to field all requests for API access. We hope this poor beleaguered contact has some help, but banks have reported the API access option is “very slow”. To address the potential of access bias for those firms with automation – deemed to be the larger banks - the SBA designated an eight-hour window on April 29 for lenders with less than $1 billion in assets to submit loans.

Bottom line: This SBA debacle is why you need nuance and a toolbox approach to automation to get desired results.

It’s too easy to say RPA failed. It’s more complicated than that. Really RPA was a blunt instrument here – for its speed to solution and ability to swiftly process loan applications and it worked remarkably well. Too well. It swiftly overwhelmed SBA’s E-Tran system – which was doomed to be overwhelmed anyway by these unprecedented volumes in a short period of time. But RPA exacerbated it and potentially gave access advantage to automation-savvy firms. While access through SBA’s XML API may allow for more efficient loan submission rather than the RPA model of going through the user interface and clogging the narrow pipes, this did not have to be an ‘either or’ situation. APIs versus RPA is not the point. Automation always lives in an ecosystem with upstream and downstream impacts and these were not adequately addressed. A better approach would have been a toolbox approach that leveraged RPA for loan preparation and access into legacy systems in the lenders’ shops, APIs for submission and humans for oversight with some substantial volume throttling to give the SBA’s system half a chance at doing its job. Automation cannot live in a vacuum.

Posted in: Robotic Process AutomationIntelligent AutomationPolicy and Regulations

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Welcome Ram... he'll get you out of a jam

April 26, 2020 | Phil Fersht

For those of you who follow HFS closely, you'll know we have a small but extremely focused and competent analyst team in Bangalore. And if one region has shown all of us in the services industry how we can pivot fast to keep the wheels on IT delivery... it's India.  So we couldn't be more excited to add Ram Rajagopalan to the team who will lead many of our consulting studies in addition to getting stuck into our coverage of AI, IoT and supply chain.  And one thing I love about this guy... have can he smile with actually smiling?  Maybe he learned that during his time with IBM, Wipro and Genpact...

Welcome, Ram! Can you share a little about your background and why you have chosen research and strategy as your career path?

Thanks Phil! I am excited to be part of HFS.

I am a professional with 18 years of experience spanning across strategy consulting, market research, business development, and executive program management of initiatives. Most of my experience has revolved around consulting assignments for either opportunity growth or internal issue resolution. I have worked with hi-tech clients in banking, automotive, electronics, public sector, and instrumentation industries in Europe, North America, Japan, and India.  

I have always loved strategy consulting irrespective of the variety of roles that I have done in my career, and have been keen to get back into strategy and research after gaining experience in marketing and business development roles in the industry.  

What are the areas and topics that you’re initially focusing on with your HFS analyst role?

Initially, I am focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on IT companies. This involves understanding how IT/ITES enterprises are responding to the COVID-19, and planning to counter COVID-19 in short to medium term. I will also be working on a consulting project on Automation. This will focus on the future of automation in the new normal situation.

What trends and developments are capturing your attention today in technology and business operations?

I believe that companies will explore automation and security solutions. This is attributed to the adversity due to COVID-19. The large companies will look at an integrated approach to leveraging automation, artificial intelligence and analytics based on their client needs. Permutations and combinations of these activities will result in new use cases to serve the evolving needs of customers. This will take a while as the enterprises are focusing on their impending needs to sail through the stabilization phase of COVID-19 effectively.

How are the India-heritage IT service providers dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis, Ram?  Do you foresee some major issues with clients occurring as a result of moving so many staff into home-working situations?  And do you see this eventually returning to the same delivery model as before when all this is over... is will we see something different emerge?

We should look at this aspect by tiers of IT companies, end-user businesses and the types of services.  Clients in industries such as BFSI, government, and manufacturing will not want this situation forever. They would be keen to see their supplier side employees back in the onshore, offshore and nearshore centers. The nearshore focus might increase as clients would want to stay closer and adopt new ways of working with the suppliers. Secondly, the large companies have the advantage to convince their clients and get more of regular application development and maintenance work transitioned to them. Clients will have a lot to handle after the current situation. IT suppliers can help them by sharing their load in regular IT services. This may not be easy for mid-tier and small IT companies due to the typical challenges around cash flow management and scale of operations.

Secondly, “Work from Home” situation will depend on the level of trust established with the client and the lack of time-tested security solutions.

When the COVID-19 ends, the IT world will be business as usual. This does not mean that the companies will not carry the lessons learned from the current situation. The large and mid-tier companies will start in-house activities to improve the ways of working remotely. Large companies have already started looking at strengthening their security solutions either organically or inorganically. We will get to see Agile increasingly becoming mainstream across the majority of suppliers.

And, what do you do with your spare time (if you have any...)

I watch cricket, specifically test cricket. I also love outdoor jogging, and reading books on a variety of subjects. One thing that I have been trying since my college days is to understand more about this world from a non-linear perspective than just feeling convinced with linear theories.

Well... certainly an interesting time to make a career change Ram... we eagerly await the result of our COVID-19 work and seeing your first pieces!

Posted in: Internet of ThingsSupply Chain ManagementArtificial Intelligence

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Don’t you wish you’d done more? The digital workforce that wasn’t finally has its burning platform chance to shine

April 18, 2020 | Phil FershtElena Christopher

Well, we can’t deny it was noisy, loaded with more hype than a Vegas heavyweight boxing match, and backed by more investment dollars than the GDP of a small country. Yes, folks, that was quite the automation ride we all recently experienced. And what a dogs' breakfast that all turned out to be...

Sadly, nearly nine out of ten enterprise adopters simply didn’t get past piecemeal projects, pilots, and lots of very drawn-out evaluations. In fact, most simply didn’t have a burning platform to do very much at all with it.  The lethargy to do anything more than hype up RPA at conferences with bullshit such as "a bot for every desktop" drove us to proclaim (quite correctly) that the RPA value proposition was dead.

However, if there’s ever been a time we needed a digital workforce to augment humans, it’s now as 54% of major enterprises we surveyed this month seek to increase their process automation investments.  Yes, people, there is a realization of the importance of process automation technologies to support these rapidly evolving digital workplaces, which is only superseded by the need to invest in cybersecurity:

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 As we all adjust to the new abnormal, this is finally the time for the digital workforce to shine

The COVID-19 global pandemic is challenging our fundamental ability to keep businesses across all industries up and running while ensuring employee safety, preserving employees’ livelihoods, and meeting customer needs. Massive portions of the global workforce are being told to work from home, creating the most widespread operational crisis in modern business history. These rapidly emerging, globally distributed, remote, virtual workforces are creating a huge need for effective automation and a digital workforce. Yes, folks, the burning platform has arrived, and it’s literally ablaze.

As the following data from a few months ago reminds us, we’ve seen far less scale of Triple-A Trifecta (automation, AI, and smart analytics) technologies than we’d like (and need). Despite having spent the better part of a decade investing in digital transformation and loads of slick emerging technologies, we missed the boat on addressing process debt and replacing moldy legacy systems. It is what it is at this point, as we have no time to lament what we should have done. Now it’s all hands on deck to leverage what we do have to help businesses function during the pandemic. The need of the moment is operational impact; thus, the implored imperative is to get creative and figure out how to quickly re-use and, more broadly, deploy your proven digital workforce assets.

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Learning to share during the pandemic—toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and automation assets

We’ve all seen unsavory images and headlines showcasing human nature at its self-centered worst—hoarding toilet paper, buying up 10 years’ worth of hand sanitizer (just in case!), and creating a dearth of surgical masks when healthcare professionals urgently need them. We need to remember how to share and be equitable despite the uncertainty. As we evaluate how enterprises built their automation programs over the past few years, we see loads of siloed activity—functional groups fending for themselves. On the one hand, there has been a notable surge of business operations leadership playing an active role in technology-led change. However, many of these siloed initiatives are those that have stalled or plateaued, stuck at low levels of task automation with little to no process change. The pandemic has presented an urgent need to break down enterprise silos and share proven digital workforce assets.

Operations leaders currently don’t have time to develop new digital workforce solutions. Anything that’s in the planning, pilot, or implementation stage is on indefinite hold while operational triage takes place. Enterprises need to take swift inventory of what they have amassed in terms of Triple-A Trifecta assets, determine cross-functional potential, and deploy them. This task-focused rollout is not fulfilling the grand vision of orderly enterprise digital transformation; it is being practical and opportunistic when we need it the most.  And practical and opportunistic is what is clearly on the minds of many enterprise leaders as they realize they should have paid a lot more attention to changing and automating processes to support real business needs.  But better late than never...

Tactical, practical task automation inspiration from the trenches

For those enterprises who have invested in Triple-A Trifecta technologies and have proven assets to work with and disseminate, here are what some of your compatriots are doing as part of their now and near-term strategies:

  • Cross-functional assets are king. Operations leadership from one global financial institution described deploying cross-functional AI platforms to new functions or similar functions in new departments for tasks such as document digitization, email management, and automated exception resolution. We are playing a leverage game at the moment—take the proven digital workforce assets you have and find ways to deploy them to a wider user base, generating leverage through repurposing.
  • Bots built with reusable code and accelerators. Reusable components are helping enterprises in a diverse array of sectors, including airlines, healthcare, financial services, and retail, deal with massive spikes in volumes of calls, emails, and forms. The replicated skills cover functionality such as reading, categorizing, routing, prioritizing, responding, and consolidating, and enterprises (or helpful service partners) can spin them up relatively quickly to address massive peaks and atypical working conditions. Here is a link to a public domain example from the NHS. There are also loads of downloadable assets available on various marketplaces to complement existing implementations, such as UiPath’s health-screening bot.
  • Donated resources. We’ve seen some examples of service providers and automation technology firms offering gratis access to their resources and technology to help those in need. We could use more of this! Accenture supported the NHS example above; Appian is offering complimentary access to its COVID-19 Response Management application for customers and any enterprise over 1,000 people, and Blue Prism just announced it would donate resources and digital workers to automate processes related to COVID-19.
  • Digital assets can remain on site. We’ve heard a few instances where remote workers are unable to access legacy systems off-site and are leveraging onsite bots to remotely manage access systems, enabling work to continue.
  • Cloud-based business process platforms with intelligent workflows. Many service providers have sizable operations centers in offshore, nearshore, and onshore locations. Aside from a lack of laptops, many service providers have been successful in allowing client-facing resources to work from home due to secure access to cloud-based business process platforms enabled by Triple-A Trifecta-enabled technologies. Resources are supporting functions such as finance and accounting, procurement and sourcing, and customer experience.
  • Leverage analytics and process mining to understand what’s working. Meanwhile, while you are more broadly disseminating your digital workforce, you can leverage analytics to help you quickly understand what’s working and what’s not so you can make informed choices about where to spend your time and effort. Tools such as workforce analytics, process mining, and predictive analytics are proving particularly helpful here for many enterprises.

The Bottom Line: This wasn't the digital workforce revolution we'd hoped for, but let’s harness what we can now and ensure we make re-invention happen post-pandemic

The global pandemic is making us realize just how reliant we still are on humans and antiquated processes and technology. Despite having spent the better part of a decade investing in "digital transformation" and loads of slick emerging technologies, we missed the boat on addressing process debt and replacing moldy legacy systems. Thus, here we are, knee-deep in the most widespread operational crisis in modern business history, and we’re being laid low by our unwillingness to change how we execute work.  Which has now come back to slap us in the fact with one very slippery wet kipper... and over half of you intend to do more with automation than any other tech investment bar cybersecurity. 

We're definitely not building the digital workforce revolution we thought we were, but now we have no choice but to digitize global digital workplaces and technologies such as process mining and RPA are crucial to support these transformations. But we need to leverage what we do have, so get to work and repurpose task automation and algorithms and other gems you may have cultivated. Remember to share and get creative across your enterprise and externally where needed. And, above all, when we start to have a line of sight to the other side of the pandemic, we must be resolute in changing. For real this time.

Posted in: Robotic Process AutomationIntelligent AutomationProcess Mining

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Digital Associates finally have their flaming platform

April 12, 2020 | Melissa O'BrienEmily CoatesPhil Fersht

Sometimes platforms smolder, sometimes they burn, and sometimes they even rage with flames... and one example that's genuinely flaming in this current paradigm shift is the world of chatbots and their more sophisticated cousins, Digital Associates.  With this urgent need to augment customer-facing services with the locking down of call centers and corporate offices across the world (or even just keep them functioning at all), to keep IT help desks operating, or even internal needs such as basic finance,  procurement HR and payroll services, the opportunity to have digital "workers" with whom to engage is in high, high demand.

Our analysts Melissa O'Brien and Emily Coates have released introduced our first Digital Associates top ten products report, which ranks and analyzes 13 of the leading tools on the market for creating these conversational tools we call digital associates.  

Melissa, which products have the capabilities to develop really effective digital associates, and quickly? 

Our recent report analyzed voice of the customer feedback on the most important elements of enterprise products and platforms for developing digital associates, from functionality to the ability to embed intelligence. The 13 software products we have included in this study highlight the vendors that play in the three most important ecosystems for digital associates: developer tools and platforms, enterprise products, and niche products:

I am assuming, in today’s environment, ease of deployment trumps intelligence?

At this moment, the most important element for digital associates is the ease of use and relative ability to get up and running quickly. Google’s Dialogflow scored at the top overall and also is #1 for ease of use and functionality.  Our VOC survey respondents indicated that the ease of implementation was a major strength for Dialogflow and its “out of the box” capabilities that are able to be quickly plugged into communication channels like Slack and Twitter.  Runners-up for ease of use were Conversable and IBM Watson, where pre-trained modules and solid UI make it easier for users to stand up the DA’s in shorter amounts of time.

The pandemic will drive adoption of digital associates in the short term, and enable a greater acceptance of them as communication tools as part of business strategy in the future

Since the outbreak, there have been a plethora of chatbots that stood up in varied use cases.   Perhaps the most felicitous ones we’ve seen have been the Coronavirus ‘self-checker’ bots created, which are actively in use in chat functions by major health organizations.  We’ve also heard of digital associates being deployed by HR departments to run through work from home ‘checklists’ with employees.  And as the rush to work from home begins to stabilize, we’ve also been hearing a lot more about customer-facing bots being deployed for contact deflection in customer service functions.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to see companies of all shapes and sizes rustle up some digital bandaids to throw on a very big wound.  At some point when the dust settles and a new normal emerges, companies will be re-assessing and designing everything from their customer engagement models to BCPs to internal processes.  And that’s when it will become clear that a digital-first approach is likely the easiest, most sustainable and least “disrupt-able” approach for many processes and communications.

And, it’s also the time that the ease of use for digital associates will become hygiene and digital associates tools will need to be agile and intelligent. This is where vendors’ investments in creating digital associates tools that can adapt quickly, learn and apply more advanced techniques like sentiment detection.  A standout in the innovation category is IPsoft, which ranked at the top across the board all innovation categories of embedding intelligence, scalability, and flexibility.  Dialogflow is well poised to rise to the challenge as well, with powerful abilities for modeling large and complex flows using intents and contexts.

The Bottom Line:  A ‘digital first’ approach could become the post-pandemic new normal.  The tools that are being quickly developed now need the potential to become more intelligent.

As companies start to move out of survival mode, we will start to see a much more strategic use of emerging technology.  People need to start thinking in new ways – not just about today’s problems at hand – but also about responding to future disruptive events in a way that uses important technological tools like digital associates in effective ways.

HFS Research premium subscribers click here to download your copy of the Digital Associates top ten products report

Posted in: HR StrategyDigital OneOfficeIntelligent Automation

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Leaders embracing an infinite mindset can flourish during these times

April 05, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah Little

As a leader, it’s so easy to obsess with operational functions of the business during times of disruption or distress - in this case, a global pandemic – that it can create knee-jerk, often short-term decisions that could inherently damage your long-term vision, your business’ culture and your raison d'être.  

Having lived and worked through four recessions, I personally understand the rapid change in leadership mindset that can occur when a firm goes from peacetime and growth to one of survival and all-out war.  According to author Simon Sinek, people look to leadership to serve and protect, to “set up their organizations to succeed beyond their lifetimes1.” But in the modern landscape, most organizations place an unbalanced focus on near-term results that may ultimately prove to be self-defeating, like casting aside your umbrella in a storm because you haven’t been getting wet. In short, business is no finite endeavor. This pandemic lays plain for all to see the game we are really playing.   

Finite vs. the Infinite: What is the Infinite Game?

A finite game is one with fixed rules, objectives and time horizons, the goal quite simply is to win1. But how do you “win” in business, or against a virus for that matter? Did Singapore “win”, or did they have strategic measures in place that allowed them to move through the disruption more smoothly? Is New York City “losing;” has Italy “lost”? Of course not – there is no metric or rule by which a city or country would lose to this disruptor. They can be battered, bruised, decimated even, but they will persist and stay in the game.

With no defined time horizon, no clearly-defined rules, and with players that may enter and exit at any time, the primary objective of an infinite game is quite simply to keep playing1. The goal for businesses, just like cities and countries, is to have the will and resources to stay in the game, through thick and thin.

Getting through the thick of it: running towards bad news

Forget about technology for the moment, bad news is the preeminent change agent. Even Winston Churchill espoused the transformative powers of bad news with his dictum, “never waste a good crisis.” Let us not be mistaken – we are in brutal times, and I would prefer not to have this type of bad news for anyone to run towards, but let us continue…   

“People take their cues from the leader, so if you’re okay with bad news, they’ll be okay, too. Good CEOs run toward the pain and the darkness; eventually, they even learn to enjoy it.”

~ What You Do is Who You Are, Ben Horowitz

In business, we have to open ourselves and our teams to embrace bad news to get ahead of it. From bad news, roadblocks are revealed and underlying issues come to light, many times sparking momentous shifts in approach and innovation. But it is the initial willingness to dive into discomfort that is the defining characteristic of personal leadership, it shows up “in all kinds of essential ways: making difficult decisions; taking responsibility for them; apologizing for mistakes.2

Welcoming bad news fosters resiliency and allows transparency to appear through a different lens. And with that, trust flourishes. According to Sinek in his 2019 book, The Infinite Game, “Trusting Teams, it turns out, are the healthiest and highest-performing kind of teams.” He continues, “Good leadership and Trusting Teams allow the people on those teams to do the best job they can do. The result is a culture of solving problems rather than putting Band-Aids on them1.”

So get going, start running.

Building trust, resiliency and culture through a bias for people and an “experience” architecture

There is much to be said about driving culture in an organization, and at the very core of culture, is human nature. People are hard-wired to feel that they are valued and are part of something bigger than themselves; that they are contributing to the core purpose, or “Just Cause1”, of the company.

“When hard times strike (and hard times always strike), in companies with a bias for [people], the people are much more likely to rally together to protect each other, the company, the resources and their leaders. Not because they are told to, but because they choose to. This is what happens when the will of the people is strong.”

~ The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek

It is no wonder we are seeing employee experience a critical component to success within the enterprise today from two different consideration sets – the heart and the mind.

At the heart of the impetus is the foundation of trust, enablement, and partnership that truly fulfills not just the Way people work but the Why.  When people are given responsible freedom and provided with the support to flourish, when they can work within a trusting team – safe to express ideas, ask for help and be open to learning – people will put forth the will to give their all. Likewise, the business reciprocates and fosters the relationship, their environment and their growth.

The mind on the other hand is the model linking customers to the core of the business – its purpose for the services and products it provides - which is essentially service-oriented, i.e. customer-centric.  The Digital OneOffice is the "experience" architecture, bringing customers and employees together into a unified state where supporting customers and anticipating their needs is native to the entire organization. At its core, OneOffice is about making customer, employee and partner experiences the centerpiece of the strategy, playing host to the new duality between who is servicing the customer and who is the customer:

Service is the tie that binds the heart and mind. Teams who are connected to the company, its leadership, its customers and each other are far more likely to come together for the greater good in the face of adversity and hardship. “The same things that help the company survive and thrive during good times help make the company strong and resilient in hard times.1

Beware the “imposter cause” as your point of purpose

According to Sinek, finite-minded companies espouse what he considers to be an “imposter cause,” confusing growth, arbitrary metrics, or successful products and services with a strong company, which may very well become obsolete. They understand customers change, but safeguard resources and existing operating models in the face of disruption. These elements can be particularly true in the enterprise technology arena, where deep resources and services are modeled around two interconnected enterprises – the client and the service provider itself.

Just Cause

 

Imposter Cause

Directs the business model, with products and services advancing the cause. Its attributes are durable, resilient, timeless, beneficial and idealistic.

 

Examples

Whole Foods: Our Purpose is to Nourish People and the Planet

 

Netflix: We want to entertain the world. If we succeed, there is more laughter, more empathy, and more joy. (Netflix > Culture)

 

 

Business model is directed by existing resources or the relevance of current products and services

 

Examples

Garmin: We will be the global leader in every market we serve, and our products will be sought after for their compelling design, superior quality, and best value.

 

Vizio: To deliver high performance, smarter products with the latest innovations at significant savings that we can pass along to our consumers.

We are riding the massive new wave of outsourcing transformation – changing the way services are delivered. Who can guide us through the new abnormal? Who is prepared for the future?

An infinite mindset is crucial to current and long-term success. As noted by TCS’ Rajesh Gopinath in my recent “…In the flesh” interview, “The formula that has worked, and which will continue to work, is this unrelenting focus on the customer and unwavering belief in our own talent. The waves will keep changing, but you need to define yourself as surfing the current wave. And, as the wave changes, you’ve got to keep on readjusting yourself. But the value proposition is unwavering in its focus; it’s to make technology work for our customers.”

Partnering in this space is critical for the current wave and those to come. Even as the pace of digital-first has vastly accelerated, we are in a journey - not a race. In today’s environment, enterprises and provider partners need to stay tuned to the vision, look at business continuity in a virtual model and then apply the technologies that can best advance the organization through the turbulence and beyond. “An inifinite-minded leader does not simply want to build a company that can weather change but one that can be transformed by it.1

The Bottom-line: Transformation finally has its flaming platform. The phoenix has arrived.

Did you ever think your enterprise could move to a 100% work-from-home environment with less than three weeks’ notice? This crisis is forcing businesses to flex – vastly accelerating the digital-first environment, dramatically cutting redundancies and improving processes at scale. There is a massive amount of change happening, and out of change comes real transformation. After years and years of complacency due to the relentless growth (and papering over the cracks of 2008), all of today’s organizations now finally have a burning platform to change how they operate globally.  In fact, the platform is positively on fire!

Within the chaos of transformation, even a highly disruptive one, the core is steady and still; it is what you ultimately serve through your work - the direct connection between the business, what it purposefully provides, and its customers. An infinite mindset in business is essentially customer-centric, it’s your model, resources and processes that will shift in response to the environment. Technology, quite simply, is the great enabler.

As borders close and cities continue to shelter in place, the alarming and far-reaching impacts from this pandemic can ultimately be seen as a unifying event. If our goal is truly to stay in the game, then let go of what needs to go, embrace the brutal, protect and empower your people and restructure the new normal with laser-focus on the Cause and your customers – all of them. “Disruption is not going away anytime soon, that’s not going to change. How leaders respond to it, however, can.1

Pictured: HFS CEO Phil Fersht with The Infinite Game author Simon Sinek, circa 2017

References

1 The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek

2 How Great Leaders Deliver Bad News, Erika Anderson (Forbes)

Posted in: HR StrategyDigital OneOfficeCustomer Experience Management

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Sorry Folks...

April 01, 2020 | Phil FershtReetika Fleming

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Coronavirus cruelly exposes the fragility of the offshore outsourcing industry: Will clients trust all their eggs in one basket again when this is over?

March 22, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

The outsourcing industry is fast-becoming be the first vital piece of the global economy to come under the microscope as nations, businesses, and societies try to build a blueprint for what the post-coronavirus economy may look like.

India and Russia, in particular, are now being widely seen to have the slowest response to the coronavirus pandemic across all the major economies, and the situation is forecasted to worsen rapidly in the coming days and weeks - perhaps at the most alarming scale of all the current major global economies.

In addition, the current curfew (just announced) in India is going to have serious and immediate consequences for the smooth delivery of IT and business process work conducted for both overseas and local clients. Many IT support staff are poorly equipped to support work-at-home staff, not owning laptops, often living in unsuitable accommodation for work, and often with poor internet / wireless connectivity.

In short, like our governments and healthcare systems, the offshore outsourcing industry just wasn't prepared for this.  All the warnings were ignored and now some very sick chickens are coming home to roost...

We're running out of global locations to source service delivery, while work-at-home measures are proving woefully inadequate for offshore IT service provision

In short, the global industry is quickly screeching to a halt as a consequence of this pandemic. Most of the leading service providers have been instilling "safe distancing" in their centers, increasing onsite medical facilities and sanitary measures. However, with the death rate spiraling massively in Italy (almost 800 per day and rising) and US and UK expected to accelerate significantly because of their slow response to locking down public gatherings, workplaces and travel, the increased curfew measures just announced in India render these efforts from services firms pretty much moot.

In short, all global businesses are being significantly disrupted because of major restrictions mandating employees to work at home, and not having sufficient resources in India is going to exacerbate the situation for supporting critical IT delivery. Global enterprises may be forced to source local service providers to plug critical gaps, such as security monitoring, disaster recovery etc. which is going to put a strain on their budgets and my least to some major contract disputes (although many of the IT service contractors should be protected by Force Majeure provisions). In addition, service providers with strong delivery resources in locations such as Russia, which is resisting a lockdown, may take on additional business at this time, though most nations with strong IT delivery, such as Poland and Ukraine, are already in lockdown situations. The Philippines is also seemingly open for business, which is keeping the lights on for delivering a lot of voice-based services, but we expect them to shut down their centers soon with Duterte discussing emergency measures with the Philippines Congress on 23rd March.

Finally, the robustness of outsourcing will be tested to its maximum.  And - most likely - well beyond its maximum 

Discussing the issue with multiple executives in leading offshore IT Services firms paints a telling picture of how broad and painstakingly detailed business continuity plans are now. And, by inference, how woefully inadequately designed they were for a situation of this magnitude. Executives are telling us they have never seen such widespread implementations of business continuity in their multi-decade long careers. For their clients, while more measures from key offshore locations are understandable and, frankly should be applauded given their laissez-faire approach thus far, could still not come at a worse time. Outsourced service desks are already overwhelmed as they move to support huge volumes of end-users trying to access systems remotely and, in some instances, using technology stacks with which they have no training or familiarity. While it's not clear how the curfew will impact these engagements, one possible outcome is enterprises - out of desperation - start to develop and stand-up their own in-house capabilities to handle the glut in core IT work.

In terms of outsourced customer support, leading call center firms are showcasing their ability to shift a lot of work to their WAHA (Work at Home Agents) if the need arises, and most are still able to utilize their large Philippines centers because of Duterte's confusing attempts at a lockdown. However, we will only witness the true reliability of whether WAHA can actually deliver at a massive scale, when these workplaces are finally locked down... which is surely coming very soon.  In addition, after more than a decade of hype surrounding crowdsourcing, we will finally witness whether that can really do more than plug a few gaps for occasional developer needs.

The Bottom Line: Will enterprises still have an appetite to keep outsourcing when this is all over, or are those days fading fast?

Should this become widespread - we may emerge from this situation with a very different outsourcing landscape and a reluctance from enterprises to put all their eggs in one basket again - in-line with broader comments about de-globalizing supply chains. In short, the outsourcing industry may be the first vital piece of the global economy to come under the microscope as nations, businesses, and societies try to build a blueprint for what the post-coronavirus economy may look like.

Keeping enterprise clients' critical support services functioning is becoming the biggest challenge ever facing India's IT industry as it tackles this exacerbating health crisis. Provisioning laptops to essential IT staff, ensuring internet infrastructure is functioning under the strain while enforcing staff takes the necessary self-distancing and hygiene precautions are the critical functions of service provider management at this time. They have to operate on an immediate short-term footing to keep the lights on for enterprise clients, and with a medium-term focus on surviving the next few weeks with the right emergency provisions in place to keep staff healthy and a financial fallback to keep the wheels on the track as we go through these very painful motions. Whether governments will be bailing out outsourcing firms and laid off contract staff is very fuzzy right now, and the concern is whether there is an outsourcing industry to save after all this is over - even if there are some emergency financial relief measures in the interim.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesPolicy and Regulations

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In times like these you need to pivot your business model... now!

March 20, 2020 | Phil FershtTom Quigley

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless Comedy

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Quarantine... there is no choice

March 20, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Posted in: None

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Covid-19: Learn to live and work with it... Fast

March 15, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Firstly, we are not going to shut ourselves at home and lose our minds for the next few weeks.  This is the first time we are experiencing a truly global pandemic and we’re all learning what the hell to do.  However, rather than staring into a paralyzed abyss of a suspended reality of virtual conference calls, binge-watching the entire five seasons of the Wire (again) and watching your son’s best friend’s mom forbid them sharing Pokémon cards, take a deep breath.  This thing is not going to ruin our lives.  We just can’t let it.

Getting from abnormal to normal... quickly

The next 3-4 weeks we’ll figure out what’s going on.  Firstly, we just don’t have all the data points yet.  We don’t know how many people will get infected, and the speed that this will move – but it’s getting clearer everyday.  In 3-4 weeks, we’ll all have much better data on the longevity of this thing, and how to manage ourselves accordingly for our families and our jobs.

We must quickly find our steady-living-state where 'abnormal is normal'. Once we have a clearer picture, and we’re all taking sensible measures of self-distancing and avoiding risky gatherings, we can start planning our life again.  We’ll know many people with whom we can meet, the houses we can visit, have small gatherings with colleagues we all know are observing sensible routines, even clients we can visit with in non-crowded sanitized offices, meeting rooms for hire which are Covid-19 compliant – or even each other’s houses, if the relationship is that good.  We won’t be hopping on planes for a few weeks, but we can make the most of our social and professional networks around us.

Its time to get to work rapidly framing our new future, or we could quickly get left behind. Economies are changing, and most clients’ needs are radically changing with it.  Business models that may have worked just a couple of weeks ago may already be dead in the water.  Emerging technologies such as effective automation suites and the need to redesign processes will be more needed by companies more than ever.  The hyperscale cloud will be the platform where global business is done.  Turmoil forces change, and the current maelstrom will create rapid opportunities for some, and significant challenges for many caught in the headwinds.  Keeping right on top of this is critical, and having research, advice and validation to support quick decisions has never been so critical.

This may not be going away anytime soon, so we just have to learn how to live with this.  When reading what the experts in viruses are researching, it’s pretty clear that things thing will probably dissipate in warmer weather, but is highly likely to return again in the winter.  In fact, it may just become a really nasty strain of flu that comes back in phases – and many of us will become immune because we had a strain of it, while there will also be preventative drugs and (touch-wood) a “Covid-19 shot” we can take that will negate our catching this.

We’ll emerge into a more virtual, hygiene-conscious world, and I really hope we’ll all be wiser for the experience as the whole value equation of society changes for the better

I’d be very surprised if this comes and goes in several weeks and we never hear from it again.  It will take weeks to dissipate, there’ll be recurrences in various geographies, and there’ll be constant speculation about new strains emerging.  Yes, this is a huge pain in the backside.  But it’s here and will likely lurk around our lives and society for much longer than we expect.  However, it has raised awareness of core hygiene issues so many people always ignored, and it has made the issue of fake news and lack of real, credible data the most critical issue today. It is also forcing many countries to address their woefully underfunded health systems and may even create a new value system where critical issues like climate change become more important political issues than merely the growth of the stock market.

The Bottom-line: it’s time to face up to this new normality… and we hope a new societal value equation

We’ll be back on planes eventually and grandstanding the next awesome technology innovations at conferences.  But I hope we’ll all emerge a little more humble, human and socially conscious than we once were. 

However, what we can’t do is wallow in paranoia, fear and allow ourselves to get sucked into a vortex of negativity.  The stock market will most likely get hammered, we’ll tackle a difficult recession and many people will likely lose their jobs.  However, our global economy will recover and we’ll find prosperity again.  Let’s just hope it’s a world where we care more for our people, our health, our education, and our planet.

Posted in: Policy and Regulations

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Tackling Coronavirus.. The good ol' UK playbook works everytime

March 12, 2020 | Phil FershtOllie O’Donoghue

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyPolicy and Regulations

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Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

March 11, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Highly-respected writer Tomas Pueyo conducts a bone-chilling analysis on the speed of Coronavirus spread if we don't act now.  Just observing the cases in China show how rapidly the virus stopped spreading as soon as it was locked down.  These were his conclusions:

Let's examine some of the data highlights from his research - all based on real-time data being reported in the virus spread.  Firstly, see how quickly the number of cases in Hubei Province declines once the government implemented its lockdown:

Click to Enlarge

Pueyo goes on to perform some data modeling to show how sensitive every single day can be when implementing social distancing:

Click to Enlarge

The Bottom-Line:  Social distancing policies reduce the exponential spread to the most vulnerable

In short, we need to buy time to make sure the elderly and young people do not catch this.  The data from Taiwan already shows how effective social distancing and travel restrictions can be if implemented immediately as the country currently has the lowest incidence rate per capita.  The broad data set from Hubei clearly tells us that, although the government acted late, its impact on decreasing the spread was massive.

While most businesses in our industry must be commended for enforcing swift travel restrictions and events cancellations, the same cannot be said for many governments which seem to be adopting more of a "wait and see" policy. Will we regret not acting swiftly enough?  Only time will tell...

Posted in: Policy and Regulations

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Meet Rajesh... in the flesh

March 09, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah Little

 

When the legendary Chandra moved on from his TCS leadership role three years ago, his successor had a very big pair of shoes to fill to lead, not only India's most valuable company, but also to sustain its position as a truly global IT services heavyweight that could rival the likes of Accenture and IBM on any deal.  Step up Rajesh Gopinathan, a quiet unassuming man who had focused on designing the internal workings of the firm for 16 years away from the spotlight.

So when presented with the rare opportunity to get time with Rajesh at the recent NASSCOM event in Mumbai, we couldn't resist grabbing the chance to get him to share some of his views with the HFS audience... no scripting, just straight from the heart. Within his words you’ll find his formula for success, key areas of focus, commitment to people, ability to engender both transformation and regeneration, all while maintaining a commitment to make technology work for its customers.... enjoy.

Phil Fersht, CEO HFS Research: Good afternoon, Rajesh. It would be great just to hear a little bit about you and your role at TCS, and how you’ve evolved in the company. Maybe you could just give us a little bit about your background, where you started out and whether you ever expected to be doing this job that you’re doing today?

Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO TCS: That’s an easy one, the last part of it. No. [Laughs]. I am an engineer by education; I did an MBA and then joined the Tata Group, and, pretty much, that’s been where I have been throughout. But I moved around within the group, worked in a few of the operating companies, and then the last 20 years have been with TCS. And, in fact, as is the culture in TCS, I have moved across multiple areas, so I’ve been in operations, I’ve been in sales, then I was in finance, and finally ended up in this current role. When I joined the company, we were less than $400 - 500 million, so it’s been a phenomenal journey.

The good news is all of us have worked together right from the beginning, so none of us quite knew what the future held, but it’s always been run by aspiration, you know? We saw the possibility, and we knew that this is something that can be attacked systematically, going after it one after the other. That’s the biggest part of TCS. Right? That we have all grown together, and different people are in different roles throughout. …It’s a unique company, to that extent; I don’t think, of this size and scale, there are too many around.

Phil: We talk a lot with clients about what got them here and the journey they came on for the last ten years to today. So, as you look at where you’ve come from, and where the company’s going, do you think the same formula is going to work for the next five years, that worked in the last five? Or do you think things are changing radically?

Rajesh: There are formulas that have worked for the last ten years which will continue to work in the future, and there are formulas that have worked which will not. The formula that has worked, and which will continue to work, is this unrelenting focus on the customer, and unwavering belief in our own talent. As long as you stay very close to the customer, don’t get too coy, or too ahead of trying to think that you know what’s better for the customer. Stay very close to the customer, stay relevant and be in cadence with them, one step, two steps ahead. I keep characterizing our business in this way, that, if you think of a product company, a product company, by definition, needs to be ten steps ahead of the customer. They need to reimagine what the future is. They need to think about the possibilities, and they need to take a bet on where the future will be. I would say a more management consulting-oriented company needs to be five steps ahead. It needs to have answers and frameworks for when a customer starts to think about things. A technology services company needs to be a couple of steps ahead of the customer. It should be ready to be able to provide the customer with a trusted place where they can experiment with the things that they want to experiment with.

These are three different business models, and you need to be clear in your head which business model you are operating with. So we have been very, very focused. It’s like surfing the wave. The waves will keep changing, but you need to define yourself as surfing the current wave. And, as the wave changes, you’ve got to keep on readjusting yourself. But the value proposition is unwavering in its focus; it’s to make technology work for our customers. 

Phil: Rajesh, do you think there’s a distinct shift happening, from technology change to culture change, to business change?

Rajesh: That’s an interesting way of putting that question, Phil. From a technology perspective, there was a period of massive heterogeneity, and now it’s coalescing, which has been the nature of technology. It keeps getting compressed; therefore, we need to equip ourselves to be able to deal with it again and again. So the way we think about it is, every time we hire a kid out of college we believe that the person will have a 30-year-plus career with us. So, with the speed that we are going, you are going to see three, four, five, eight cycles.

We have to be able to make sure that we can get our talent through each of those cycles. How do we build both the culture for that, as well as the infrastructure and the systems? That is the focus, so we massively invest in training. This last time around, we have taken a very fundamental relook at our training infrastructure. We have always been leaders on training, but we have built up a training infrastructure which was optimized for the last generation - large training campuses, classroom training, a course curriculum, three-month training, three-week training, those kinds of areas. About five years back, we started relooking at it. We said, “How do we break this up and align it to the current learning culture which is more tool based?” So massive changes. We broke down the course content, which was more aligned for this kind of push training, to be more pull-based. We changed our learning management system. We were on an off-the-shelf product; we threw it out and rebuilt our own training management system, completely reimagined it, gamified it and integrated that with our social platform internally, called Knome, that’s similarly gamified.

We changed the infrastructure. It’s a cloud-first, mobile-first approach, it’s available, on the fly, anywhere.  So across, you know, seven, eight different dimensions of learning, we completely changed it, and scaled it massively. We’re talking around 300,000 people being trained in 12, 18 months. So massive changes. So, it’s not just culture; you’ve got to back it with infrastructure and with the systems to be able to do it. 

People are inherently open to change.  There’s a saying that we use: There’s a flood. And as floodwater started going up, all the people got on top of a building. And there was a very god-fearing person. So, as the floodwater rose, a boat came along. A lot of people there jumped down and got into the boat, but this guy said, “No, no, God is going to save me,” and waited. The floodwater increased. Then a raft came along, quite a few people were on the raft. They said, “Come on, jump; we’ll take you along.” Most people left. The man said, “No, God is going to save me.” The floodwater kept on rising. A log came around, with four or five people hanging on to it. They said, “Jump. We’ll go together to safety.” “No. God will save me.” Finally, the floodwaters got to him; he drowned. He goes to heaven and says, “I was such a god-fearing person, and how come, god, you didn’t save me?” God said, “I sent you three saviors that you didn’t use.”

The individual has an onus to change. And the organization has a commitment to make sure that it won’t sink. But that jump has to be done by the individual. So that’s the culture that we’re building internally, that change is inevitable, but it is something that we as the business will facilitate, and there is a lot of emphasis on retraining.

 Many organizations, Phil, when they think about talent, it is something that is going to come from outside, they create a sense of fear internally. We have a very supportive culture, and it gives us the ability to regenerate internally, which puts us in a unique position because we can then retain knowledge, and acquire the new knowledge. Knowledge is not something to be used and thrown away. It is to be invested in. Our retention rates are the highest in the industry - that’s our biggest competitive advantage. We are almost 10 percentage points ahead of the competition on retention, and that’s where our advantage comes from. We are very focused on that. 

Phil: If you had one wish – from God – to change the services industry for the better (beyond salvation from floodwaters), what would that wish be?

Rajesh: Slow it down a little bit, [Laughs] and give a bit of breathing space. 

I think that’s about it. But, to some extent, it’s self-correcting. Unlike consumer tech, enterprise tech needs to work in the context of what exists. And new technology comes, by definition, not from the people who understand how to make it work. So, before technology gets permeated inside an enterprise, there is a real physical lag, and that is the period of time that you have to scale it up. And the fact is that, if it is not scaled up, enterprises cannot use it. You can’t just infinitely change technology at an enterprise level the way it happens in the consumer [space]. At least that’s the belief that I have. 

We need to find what that sweet spot is. But we will, we can - we can afford to change faster than what we are changing today. We are not in a situation like processors or memory where you are constantly on a collapsing timeline. I do believe that we have some physical boundaries that we can rely on. 

Phil: Well, thank you very much, Rajesh. It was wonderful to hear from you for the first time here. Am sure our readers will be very excited!

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesDigital OneOfficeOutsourcing Heros

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Covid-19: Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one...but listen to the qualified one (weekend rant)

March 08, 2020 | Ollie O’DonoghuePhil Fersht

First of all, we are not epidemiologists, healthcare professionals or medical experts. Sadly, in our industry right now, this important distinction is moving into a grey area as everyone chimes in with their opinion.

Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one... especially when you can back them up with fake data

This post is a disillusioned response to the materials, opinions, and general wonderings now prolific on social media from people who, like us, don’t know anything outside of what their favorite newspaper columnist or news channel is telling them. If you want genuine medical advice about Coronavirus/Covid-19, please consult your local medical experts and healthcare practitioners – you won’t find much use in the musings of the technology analyst community, regardless of how passionately they pepper their opinions over social media.

As an employer where the health and safety of our employees, clients, families, and friends are paramount, we have been just as glued to the rapidly changing and seemingly unpredictable

Read More »

Posted in: Policy and Regulations

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Welcome to the New Abnormal, where this post-corona business environment will never be quite the same

March 03, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Well, what a difference a few weeks make!  Our business environment had never become so social, so connected, so personal, so networked... Life had become a logistical quandary of constant air travel, hotels, conferences, meetings, workshops.  Just doing one's day job and spending time with one's family was becoming a huge challenge for so many. Then suddenly it's all changed overnight. Wow.

Welcome to the New Abnormal everyone...

As of March 3, 2020, over 90,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide across 73 countries, with over 3,200 deaths. With over 100 cases now confirmed in the United States, including cases of undocumented origin, the virus is now spreading faster outside of China for the first time.

With the WHO, the CDC and various key government health bodies making it clear that this novel virus is “highly likely” to spread worldwide, we are now entering unchartered territory. While the current death rate seems to be hovering around 2%, indicating that while highly contagious it is not highly deadly, it is unclear how this virus will behave once it has a widespread stronghold in the community.

We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures. The unprecedented measures China put in place, albeit later than optimal, has helped curb the spread and taught us all the advantages and the perils of locking down entire cities or regions. Last week was a clear example of how emotions were guiding the stock market, as panic about manufacturing slowdown, fears of global recession and the unknown path COVID 19 will take, really set in. World leaders are trying to straddle the line between the strict safety measures that would halt spread, and not bringing entire economies to a halt.

Without clear guidelines, companies are trying to find their own balance between keeping their employees safe and not bringing their businesses to a standstill. Here at HFS, we are thinking of the same issues and are trying to find our own balance. In doing so, we wanted to share our thoughts on how we can all move forward in ways that protect both our businesses and our staff and without panic.

Make this a Quarter of “Hunkering Down”. Unlike after Sept 11, 2001 or even the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, we are technologically poised to create a new virtual business environment. We have the technology to empower our employees to work locally or even remotely, as well as the ability to do very tech savvy virtual meetings. Strategy sessions, client visits, internal meetings – these are all things that can be temporarily moved to a virtual setting if and when needed, limiting travel to essential travel only. Without clear travel guidelines, this technology will allow businesses to let their employees choose which travel they are and are not comfortable undertaking.

It was estimated today that during the peak of COVID-19, an estimated 1/5th of all UK workers could be off sick at the same time. Allowing flexible virtual working environments by empowering employees with the technology they need to do it will undoubtedly help reduce the numbers off sick and help keep companies stable.

Discuss openly with clients and business partners what they are comfortable with. While some companies have strict new travel policies that have just kicked in, issuing a wave of what will be the new abnormal, for others it may be business as usual unless directed by governments to do otherwise. Discuss openly with clients and business partners their comfort level to travel and attend meetings/conferences and share your own polices. Make it very clear that in this new environment, most if not all work can be done virtually.

Discuss openly with your employees what they are comfortable with.  Some of your staff will be gung-ho to risk the virus while others will be nervous to travel on business, especially internationally.  Firstly fully understand your liability here - you may have to cover hotel expenses if staff are help for screening/quarantine periods (and some screening costs alone are in the thousands).  Once you are comfortable with your exposure as an employer then you can work sensibly with your staff to make sure everyone is comfortable.  In the coming weeks, everyone will be accepting of staff who just do not want to travel and those firms who are simply not willing to risk their staff hopping on planes. This is part of the new normal folks!

Invest in getting far more hands-on with the technology needed for this new environment. Companies must ensure that all employees have adequate access they need for teleconferencing and video conferencing capabilities. Make sure you have the tools in place match the need will be critical, as suddenly everyone's going to have a lot more time on their hands behind their desks, so we need to use video far more than we were, get much more comfortable using sharing apps such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts, Apple Facetime, Skype etc.  In short, the culture of doing business is changing dramatically from the physical to the digital, and we have to get used to it fast.  We've yearned for digital for so long, now we have to use it!

Keep up to date on information. From reliable sources like WHO, CDC, or government health agencies only. Not passing on misinformation will be critical to ensure that this virus does not become worse for our minds than our bodies.

Unfortunately, it is not all up to us as companies or individuals. As more world leaders try to straddle the balance between keeping economies going and keeping their country’s safe, concerns have crept in. In addition, it is unclear the path this virus will take and therefore uncertain if the emergency response will be enough at the peak of the pandemic. It is HFS’ opinion that all countries need to prepare.

Learn from the example set by China. While much data points to an initial Chinese cover-up in early December, it cannot be argued that China’s move to lockdown Hubei Province hasn’t helped stem the tide. Despite the great risk to their own economy and the global economy as a whole, China acted in a manner that has bought other countries time to prepare for likely spread. Global leaders must now be ready to do the same kinds of school and government office closures if needed.

Prepare for worst-case scenarios and nothing less. Over-preparedness has never harmed anyone. Ever. It’s been annoying and it’s been frustrating but it never hurt anyone. Governments must adopt this philosophy and put plans in place to prepare for possible office closures, school closures and travel freezes as well as the need for medicine, ventilators, doctors, hospitable beds, etc.

Make widespread testing available and accurate. After returning to Miami in January from a work trip in China, Osmel Martinez Azcue was developing flu-like symptoms, just as coronavirus was taking over the country he had visited. Recognizing the seriousness, he felt like the responsible thing to do was check himself into one of Miami's largest hospitals. The hospital staff followed the proper protocols, took the necessary precautions, and put Azcue in a closed-off room. Fortunately, blood analysis found that he simply had the flu.

Mr. Azcue was rewarded for his diligence with thousands of dollars worth of medical bills. If governments are going to fight this via as much containment as possible, this cannot happen. People cannot avoid testing because they are afraid of the cost of finding out. What would happen when the coronavirus outbreak spreads in the United States if Americans avoid seeking medical care because they're concerned about bills they can't afford? It would be catastrophic in terms of containing the virus, devastating to the economy and even more crucial, critically dangerous for those who may become ill. Testing should be made available for all so we can all work together to contain and mitigate the risks facing the global community right now.

The Bottom-Line:  Life just changed but at least we can finally become Digital with how we do business

When we polled 355 enterprise leaders across the global 2000, the shift to digital from physical / face-to-face ranked number one as their primary business pressure.  Well now they're going to be forced to make these pressures come true:

So - right now - it feels as if the whole fabric of our industry is being ripped apart all around us - and in some ways it is.  However, this forces us to brave up to the world around us in a way we never envisaged... 

Less travel = more family time and staff time.  For me, personally, this is revolutionary.  I was hopping from country to country like it was just normal ...and this has made me take stock.  Fortunately, I have spent so much face time with my clients, industry friends, and colleagues that I am sure we can survive for a while on videos and phone calls.  I can also spend more time with my family who saw me as little as much of my team!

This will pass, but it may instill some better work and life habits... more time behind a desk means I can call all those people I have neglected, write more research pieces, think deeper about the future and where everything is going.

Peace out friends, we'll get through this one =)

Posted in: Policy and Regulations

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Big is no longer as beautiful as Mid-Tier IT service providers surge with double-digit growth

March 01, 2020 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonMartin Gabriel

Just a few short years ago, the world of the mid-tier service providers ($500m-$3bn revenues) was a pretty depressing place - many clients were wary of using lesser brands with smaller scale and high attrition and preferred to stay loyal to the Tier 1 brands and beat them up on price.  Growth was pretty stagnant and most of them just wanted a lucrative exit, such as IGATE selling to Capgemini, Syntel to Atos, Luxoft to DXC etc. Fast-forward to the last 2-3 years and suddenly the smaller service providers are in vogue, being seen by many clients as more agile, more capable of client intimacy, more flexible and eager to take on complex projects and avoid the exhausting turgid RFP bake-offs which squeeze the value out of engagements before they have even started:

Click to Enlarge

EPAM ensures not all roads lead to India. While we have been overly-focused watching the success of the Indian-heritage IT service providers, the biggest standout performer is the predominantly Eastern-European provider EPAM Systems, which has quietly built out its app development capabilities over the years with its powerful access to tech talent in places such as Minsk, Moscow, St Petersburg, Katowice, Budapest etc.  The firm's focus on complex app development, software engineering, IT security and a recent investment in Blockchain is positioning the company well for strong growth in the foreseeable future.  It's also taken advantage of DXC's acquisition of Luxoft's to become Eastern Europe's standout IT service provider.

Hexaware, Mindtree, Mphasis, LTI, and NIIT lead the Indian-heritage Mid-tier growth spurt.  With an IT services market barely growing at 5% annually, for the five Indian-heritage Mid-Tier firms to grow at rates between 13% and 17% is quite remarkable. Clearly, the bias over brands is reducing dramatically as clients seek greater intimacy, focus, and dedication to their needs.  We can dive into all these firms to call out where each iswinning, but the main factor in common is the fact that client needs are changing - they increasingly demand shorter projects as opposed to these clunky frustrating multi-year relationships that take many months to set up.  I cannot tell you how many executives from these firms have said to me that more and more of their clients simply want work done - and fast - and do not want to jump through all the hoops of the legacy outsourcing world. With the need for systems modernization, digital app development, data management, and automation at an all-time high, clients are more willing than ever to trust those IT services partners where they can still get the CEO on the phone, who understand them, and are willing to move mountains to succeed for them.

Let's take a deeper look at what is going on at enterprise intentions when their current primary outsourcing contract expires:

Click to Enlarge

Only 23% of clients are prepared to settle with their current partnership.  The traditional model is only working for a minority of outsourcing clients today.  If you're a service provider leader and you haven't identified who these clients are (and who are not), then you are in serious trouble.  Smart Mid-Tiers avoid these clients - no point wasting valuable resources on lethargic clients who really only care about keeping the lights on.

Another quarter (26%) wants to move the needle but may opt for a hybrid model. Meanwhile, 27% are getting itchy to kick their service provider up the rear end and get them embedding some real automation and outcome-focus into their delivery if they are to renew with them.  This means they want to see real commitment to reduce the dependence on the staff army and see real investments in process automation to digitize their delivery.  These are relationships where Mid-Tiers are frequently being brought in to snaffle pieces of the pie to create competitive tension.

A third is more decisive and likely to make the switch.  31% have clearly got to know their current outsourcing provider only too well over the years and have zero hope they can get any real co-investment out of them.  As we have discovered over the last couple of years, some providers have made real investments in competencies like automation and AI, while others have merely added a little sugar-frosting and persist with selling the same old model with some cost shaved off the package, and some added incentives for performance (i.e "outcomes").  Moreover, ambitious outsourcers and Mid-Tiers are heavily targeting their competitors' disaffected clients and are willing to offer eye-catching deals to win their custom.  This can include attractive pricing tied to aggressive delivery staff reduction over a 3-5 year amortization plan that is offset by efficiency savings due to automation and digitization.  In other instances, clients are breaking up the provider mix and opting for multi-source relationships with shorter engagements to drive more value and innovation.

In some cases, it may also prove more attractive for the legacy provider to shed the business than fight to keep a client that will quickly become unprofitable (and the industry is littered with those engagements). In several services markets, we are seeing emerging offerings from providers where they are offering fully digital offerings (with vastly cheaper support), such as TaskUs in the customer call center market, or nDivision in managed IT operations, which can undercut traditional outsourcers so aggressively, there is no feasible way the traditional providers can compete.  In addition, we are seeing several India-centric service providers offer $-per-chat support models for some transactional services that are essentially chatbots offering basic-level support services at costs as cheap as 15 cents a chat... we are finally seeing "digital disruption" attack the traditional outsourcing market that has somehow staved it off for years thanks to lethargic clients and lock-in contracts.  

20% have given up and will just look at something very different.  Maybe the cost of changing the model is just so abhorrent it's time for clients to pull the work back and fix it themselves.  Some are so fed up with the lack of innovation in changing anything they've realized they have smarter people on staff who are better deployed to take the work back, staff up to execute it while they explore all their digital and automation options.  Maybe they will invest in an integrated automation platform, and use the funds saved by backsourcing the work to invest in a digital backbone that enables them to perform work in a touchless, smarter manner?  Again, there are ample opportunities here for smart Mid-Tiers to pick up new client work and prove themselves to shrink legacy IT systems, develop new digital backbones and help their clients achieve real business outcomes.

The Bottom-Line:  In this current climate, the time is riper than ever for these Mid-Tier service providers to grab more market share

The IT services industry really needs this healthy competition as it gives clients more choice and forces the Tier 1 juggernauts to change their delivery model and entire approach to engagements.  And during a time when there is worrying economic uncertainty, global panic about some nasty flu virus, clients will need more support than ever to work with smart partners which can support them remotely, jump in to help critical situations are a moment's notice, and show the ability to really listen to their needs.  

Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT ServicesService Provider Analysis

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RPA died. Get over it. Now focus on designing processes that deliver superlative experiences.

February 21, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Seriously folks… there’s the hype, then the excitement, then even more hype… and then the realization that it wasn’t quite what you thought... and then, finally, coming to terms with the fact you're no longer going to hit that elusive jackpot.  To hear some people still showering us with cryptic unaudited revenue numbers, and from neolithic analysts still parroting their marketing, just spanks of desperation to keep faking a market that simply isn’t there.  Can we just push the off-button on this charade, please?

What, exactly, is "dead" and where are the signs of life... when it comes to process software and enterprise automation?

The RPA that "died" is the poorly-defined "RPA" that got hyped up to create hockey-stick growth excitement for investors. It wasn't defined correctly, was a mash-up of desktop automation with pure-RPA (unattended back office) and all the deals that got signed were "attended" so weren't even "robotic". 

The pieces of RPA that survive are the process orchestration tools (discover, design, automate and mine) that form part of what we see as the evolution towards "Intelligent Digital Workers" which augment human experiences and help with real customer-to-employee intimacy. Let's also not forget these apps also need to be enterprise-grade, compliant with ITIL and security factors etc. Scale only occurs when the business designs and IT enables... The winners in the future are smart enterprises with leverage technologies to anticipate where their customers are going... often before their customers even know themselves.

It's been a year since we declared RPA "Dead"... so what's been happening since?

It’s been nearly a year since we penned our now-infamous blog “RPA is dead.  Long Live Integrated Automation Platforms”. Coming from the analyst firm that first introduced RPA to the world in 2012, this caused quite the stir.  In fact, one of the leading service providers even shutdown its RPA practice as a result and most of the others are left scratching their heads still trying to figure out where the money really is…Since the “dead” post, we’ve seen a swift realization from investors that the RPA “market” was being engineered by a small handful of marketeers attempting a reincarnation of the dot-com bust era where everyone goes nuts over robot butlers and a bunch of naïve enterprise clients who’d been oversold too many RPA licenses that they had any idea how to deploy.

We weren’t helped by a small handful of analysts who really should know better than to pontificate false marketing in exchange for an ego-stroking and glittering robo-stardom they’d never before experienced... and a great big Vegas party that precipitated the most embarrassing collapse we’ve seen in the history of process technology. Many good people had bet their careers on hype, false hope – and blatant lies – and are still on the job market trying to get their lives back on track. In fact, the whole fiasco very nearly destroyed the real market that these tools can help catalyze, if they are allowed time to develop and form part of a broader, integrated solution.  Our recent HFS Top 10 covers this form the view of 300+ current adopters, however, this market is changing very quickly and it won't make sense in the future trying to put a lot of products in the same "market" that is changing into one that encompasses so much more than basic screen scraping, macros, and process loop recorders.

Instead, we need to focus on the development towards an intelligent digital workforce that help us deliver real customer and employee experiences

What isn’t dead is the fact that RPA created the path (and conversation) to a much bigger market that’s evolving, once you get real about business process issues and the true path operations leaders need to take to make them awesome.  But, if you can’t accept we’re in the early stages of a marathon, not midway through a 110 meters hurdles dash, we can define an exciting future for the world of automation.  But a “bot for every desktop”, or “hyper-automation”? Really, folks?  Can we just start talking again in plain English about what is actually realistic, what works and how we need to change ourselves to get there?  Can we start talking about an Intelligent Digital Workforce?  Can we start looking at how to move from dumb admin bots that keep old process loops and apps stitched together, and how enterprises can invest in intelligent workers that help us achieve much more intelligent interactions and experiences?  Can we focus on intelligent digital workers tuned to deliver (and learn) superlative experiences from processes we have designed to bring our customers and employees together?

The emergence of an Intelligent Digital Workforce is a key component of developing a OneOffice Experience.  RPA creates the foundation, but the next phase is to evolve to Intelligent Digital Workers

This shift toward intelligent digital experiences is a foundational element of HFS’ OneOffice Experience for Employee Experience (EX) and Customer Experience (CX). CX will increasingly be considered an umbrella term for the experience interacting with an entire organization, whether it’s the customer, partner, employee or any other entity. An EX culture is one where people work together shifting from transactional interactions to deeper relationships. Organizations need to ensure they get the balance right; which includes optimizing the use of emerging technology with a robust business case to improve CX to the long-term benefit of the business, getting the right information flows in place, eliciting strategic advantage and ensuring exceptional CX:

The HFS OneOffice Experience typifies how customer, partner and employee experience are coming together to drive a unified mindset, goals and business outcomes.  OneOffice conceptualizes how customer-centric experiences can be designed and supported by end-to-end processes across what we used to term front and back offices. Today's RPA bots essentially are embedded in the "Digital Underbelly" where they form part of the foundational processing layer for enterprises, while the emergence of smarter tools that can truly augment humans are where the future of RPA lies. Iftoday's current crop of software providers can develop their bots beyond the current static tools that really just keep old processes chuntering along. Digital Workers are emerging as the enabling technologies that are slowly becoming a critical component of developing CX design and delivering on the experiences smart process operators are designing processes to support.

HFS highlights five important principles of using Intelligent Digital Workers that all companies looking into implementing these solutions need to consider:

The Bottom-Line:  Intelligent Digital Workers are a powerful tool for connecting customer and employee experiences to drive a unified mindset, goals and business outcomes.  The RPA vendors need to get there if they want find their edge in the market

Experiencing a OneOffice enterprise with Intelligent Digital Workers looks different for every organization, but considering the HFS 5 principles will help your company define and execute on a strategy that benefits all of the stakeholders in your ecosystem rather than just having a “tick the box” approach to the technology.  Some companies will focus first on customer-facing, others will start with making internal processes easier and more intelligent.  Implemented well, Intelligent Digital Workers can better connect CX and EX, helping to provide the digital insights and intelligent support that a OneOffice experience requires. This is where the real market for process automation is heading... whether the current cast of RPA characters can make this shift is not inconceivable, but do they have the time and patience of their investors and clients to make the shift?  Time will tell... but not much time!

Posted in: Design ThinkingDigital OneOfficeRobotic Process Automation

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NASSCOM 2020... no Coronavirus excuses as India comes bowling back

February 16, 2020 | Phil Fersht

Not quite middle-stump, but India's bowling a better line these days, as NASSCOM is graced by cricketing legend Kapil Dev

After last year's effort, our expectations were set at a pretty low bar for the annual NASSCOM extravaganza in Mumbai last week. The IT services industry had surely reached its rock-bottom when it comes to death by PowerPoint and the same old bleh!

But no... we were pleasantly surprised that bottom has - seemingly - been reached and we're actually clawing our way back!

Ten Takeaways from the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2020

1. Coronavirus.... what Coronavirus?  Unlike those wimps crashing out of Mobile World Congress, the IT services dignitary did not think for a second of finding a germophobic excuse to bail... In fact, attendance was visibly up from last year. I did suggest to some suppliers that they should dish out face masks brandishing their logos, but no-one seemed to care.  

2. Start-ups and emerging service providers and were out in force.  One of my personal gripes with NASSCOMs past has been the dominance of the old guard services founders and less of the emerging slew of providers and startups.  This was the first time the emerging Indian IT sector drowned out the marketing glitz from the establishment.  Here's a decent survey on the Indian startup sector from the Reserve Bank of India.

3. Big, big focus on changing talent needs.  One key theme that dominated conversations was the recognization that Indian service providers must invest very heavily in training their talent which really understands business processes and applies it to IT.  Only having business process understanding... or only IT... was a fast track to legacy.  "We have enough IT guys" was stated by more than one senior executive.

4. "Experiences" dominating the conversation.  The rapid growth being exhibited from the mid-cap service provider sector (Hewaware, LTI, Mindtree, Mphasis, NIIT, Persistent, Virtusa, Zensar et al) is being driven by enterprise clients' desire for great intimacy and experiences from their services partners.  The days of big, bulky, multi-year contracts are being replaced by rapid, high-impact projects where customers have quicker routes to outcomes and can demand greater value and complex support.  Brand is being superseded by expertise and speed-to-market and the mid-cap sector is clearly benefitting. Five years ago, working in a small-scale provider was depressing, with the sector stagnating from flat growth and an inability to compete with the tier 1s. Now the mid-sector loves taking on the juggernauts in deals where the client has deep intimate requirements warranting immediate attention from the A-team.

5. Some big hitters (and bowlers on stage) energized the whole event.  Hearing from Tata's Chandra was a much-needed boost for NASSCOM... he still cares about his first love of IT services, even now as he lords it with world leaders at Davos these days.  It really was terrific to hear the energy from Rajesh Gopinathan (CEO, TCS), Salil Parekh (CEO, Infosys) and Rishad Premji (Chairman, Wipro) duking it out on stage, and we also were treated to a strong session from Tech Mahindra's CEO, CP Gurnani, on the FutureSkills Prime initiative.  However, none could surpass the awesome appearance of one of cricket's all-time greats from the Hadlee, Botham, Viv Richards era... Kapil Dev (pictured above). 

6. Lack of presence from BPMs (BPOs).  Only WNS, the industry's highest growth services firm, was out in force.  The other emerging BPM firm of note was Datamatics, which is making a determined effort to get noticed.  Very little from EXL, Genpact, Sutherland etc. which is disappointing considering the rapid blending of process and technology in client engagements.

7. Lack of presence from non-Indian centric service providers.  While it was great to have Capgemini's India head, Ashwin Yardi, grace his presence, there were few hitters from the likes of Accenture, IBM and DXC present, despite their seismic armies of Indian IT talent.  NASSCOM needs to be about embracing global business investing very heavily in India (and close to half of the employees of Accenture, the IT services leader, are India-based).  

8. Automation fading fast from the agenda.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was the noticeable lack of presence from the automation firms.  A couple of sales booths for AA and UiPath were seen, but the only leaders from any of the automation firms to grace their presence were Govind Sandhu at AntWorks and Atul Soneja of EdgeVerge.  The days of cheesy robot posters and embarrassing robots on stage seem to be in the past as automation software becomes part of the fabric of services, as opposed to a major differentiation point.  Are the marketing coffers of the automation firms running dry, or do they feel they need to focus on marketing themselves beyond partnering with service providers these days?  Hmmm...

9. The gossip surrounding Wipro's successor dominated the chitchat.  Whether or not this is a good thing, the rotating cast of personalities leading the heritage Indian service providers dominates the headlines in India.  Whether Wipro likes it or not, they have now achieved an Infosys-level feverish status in the gossip columns, regarding Abid's successor.  I think about 30 executives from Wipro's competitors have now been linked with the job...

10. The lack of Cognizant executives also added to the gossip circles where their former one-zeros are heading... from Frank to Raj to Gajen to Prasad... people want to know where all these dudes will end up.  Surely not Wipro =)  Speaking of former Cog-natives, we were also lucky enough to meet MindTree's new CEO, Debashis "DC" Chatterjee (a former Cognizant leader) who's clearly enjoying the challenge of driving one of the mid-caps in Mindtree, and Harish Dwarkenhalli, who recently joined Wipro as President of Cloud Enterprise Platforms. 

The Bottom-line:  The energy is back as growth picks up and clients really need agile IT services partnerships

For the past three years, we've all argued whether India's IT services growth was going to be anything more than a puny 2-3%.  Suddenly, we're back at double-digit levels for the market leaders and most of the mid-caps, while the profit margins seem to be holding true.  There is a broad services industry recognition that quality of execution and the ability to deliver real client experiences trumps a few cents on the rate-card in a bullish global economy. The reality is, with IT, the more the India-heritage IT service providers invest onshore near its core enterprise clients, the better this is for India's growth as the IT services industry's dominant home. Coronavirus?  What Coronavirus...

Posted in: Digital TransformationIT Outsourcing / IT ServicesOutsourcing Events

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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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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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If you don't ease your process debt, you'll never benefit fully from automation

February 08, 2020 | Phil FershtSarah Little

How many times do you have to scream at people to make them realize that they will never be successful tinkering with shiny new automation tech tools if that cannot design end-to-end processes that achieve their desired outcomes?  Automation tools can truly help make processes work effectively across disparate systems, once you have got rid of the awful process debt weighing down your organization. 

So what, exactly, is "process debt"?

When you are head to head with competitors, you must have your business processes designed on solid ground to accelerate the delivery of value – using technology and integrated automation to connect the dots.

Tech entrepreneur Ben Horowitz quoting Shaka Senghor, who he considers the CEO of a prison gang, in What You Do Is Who You Are, sums it all up perfectly... "Imagine you’re a developer and someone says, ‘Here’s some land, and here’s a million dollars. Could you build me a house on this land?’ So you build this guy’s dream home. And he moves in and then his family starts getting sick. Because what they didn’t tell you is that the land is toxic and it was a f***ing dump site …Nobody was digging into the dumpsite itself.” 

Net-net, technology isn’t necessarily the heart of making the connections from front to back – it’s making good choices about what you automate and having the business process in place to back it up. 

You can read more about our recent HFS Leadership Roundtable here, where we got deep into the weeds of process debt issues.

Posted in: Intelligent Automation

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