HfS Network

Why Donald Trump should take the Infosys CEO gig

August 25, 2017 | Phil Fersht

There's only one thing in our world that keeps Donald Trump off the headlines... of course... it's good ol' Infosys!  Yes, folks, we actually seem to care more about who is attending these board meetings and squabbling about the cost of refueling the company jet, than the nuclear warheads currently pointed at Pyongyang.  

Yes, people, the $10bn Bangalore-headquartered outfit is trumping Trump in the media... an exclusive on what Murthy had for breakfast is far more interesting these days than the handbag Ivanka just purchased.  And the eighty-seventh article analyzing just why poor ol' Vishal wasn't quite leaping for joy every morning during his tenure, is clearly more impactful to our lives than the US government potentially shutting down, because Donald wants his wall built...

But there is a solution:  Donald Trump can avoid impeachment, quit the Prez job and take the reigns at Infosys. Where better to make something great again, where he will hog the headlines more than anyone has... ever!  Just think:  Trump + Infosys... we will never need to read about anything else again. Ever.  

Why this would be Donald's dream job:

1) Build a wall around Electronic City to keep out the TCS and Wipro headhunters.  Then rename it Trump City.

2) Repeal Murthycare without the need for any new ideas.  Just get rid of it and think of something later.

3) Tweet incessantly about how much he hates Abid, Frank, Premji, Vishal, Meg, Ginni, Murthy... 

4) Ban the Times of India and Livemint from all press briefings - only allowing in the new Trumposys Monthly magazine

5) Invest the whole $6bn warchest in Infosys Russia.  Including a state-of-the-art Kremlin Lab that Putin can open personally

6) Put Sean Spicer in charge of the Artificial Intelligence strategy

7) Impose a travel ban on all robots to keep the FTE model intact

There you have it folks... bring on the Trumposys!

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless Comedy

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Hyping the hyperledger with blockchain boffin Brian Behlendorf

August 24, 2017 | Phil FershtSaurabh Gupta

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

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

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

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

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Posted in: Outsourcing HerosBlockchain

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Infosys gives up its American Dream

August 18, 2017 | Phil FershtTom ReunerOllie O’Donoghue

Once dubbed the “Indian Accenture”, being the Indian heritage outsourcer with the high-end reputation, the firm now finds itself enduring, perhaps, the most difficult period of its history – and it could be poised to get a hell of a lot worse. 

Vishal Sikka brought energy, fresh ideas, hope… and a Silicon Valley mindset to its leadership when he came aboard amidst his Design Thinking and jeans-to-work attitude just three years ago.  However, all Sikka’s energetic ideas and innovations have been largely forgotten over the past year, as the public spat with Founder Narayana Murthy gathered irritating momentum and completely slammed the brakes on the momentum Sikka had sparked.  Sikka had woken Infosys up to its potential and the Founders were more obsessed with his use of the corporate jet than making the acquisitions the firm needs to be competitive.

From the poster boys for innovative offshoring, epitomized in Thomas Friedman’s seminal “The World is Flat” through to the constant public interventions in corporate affairs by Murthy, Infosys has had a bumpy ride over the last decade of its short history. And to magnify its issues, all of Murthy’s interventions have been played out in public, with the Indian press the grateful recipient of endless reams of news fodder being provided by this corporate soap opera.  

Vishal Sikka’s resignation grinds to a halt this public transition from the Founders' generation to becoming a “normal” corporate company. Without a doubt, this episode will find its way into economics textbooks for future students to learn the lessons in strategy, corporate governance and beyond. However, at least decisive action has been taken, and Murthy and his founders can try and restore a stability that ends this public drama. This is just a bad time to go through such a strategic leadership nightmare, when competition is at its most severe, with too many suppliers chasing too few contracts and margins under extreme pressure. This is especially troubling when you consider Sikka has kept the revenue and profitability ship progressing well, maintaining profit margins close to 25% and revenue growth over 5%, even at a time when the industry growth is flat and political stances towards offshoring are heated, with several US deals being awarded to "Western" suppliers:

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So what are the lessons that can be learned from all this?

Murthy is the dominant father figure of Infosys and he has made that very clear with his actions. As founding CEO, he is synonymous with the early success, the culture, but more crucially, with the decision-making at Infosys. When SD Shibulal, another of the founders, took over it was difficult for him to step out of Murthy’s shadow. Shibulal’s “Infosys 3.0” strategy was designed to address the over-dependence on the US market (see interview) and rebalance the

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Posted in: IT Outsourcing / IT Services

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The future is about services, not software

August 13, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Click to Enlarge

I was recently given the lowdown on how amazing ServiceNow is becoming with the "integration of Watson and Chatbots into its core platform".  Sounds terrific, but does this added functionality really deliver huge value to customers when we examine the realities of their current business models? I would argue our industry has become so carried away with the promise of technologies we barely comprehend, we have taken our eyes off the real prize: working with customers to help them be more effective. We've got to stop selling the Ferrari, when their Volkswagen will comfortably get them where they need to be with the help of a routine service inspection.

I increasingly believe today's "post-digital" market is much, much more about aligning services to customer business models than selling software with lots of bells and whistles - there are so many tools on the market that have 10-50x the functionality customers today really need with their current business models. Whether Ignio has more bells than Holmes or Nia, or whether anyone truly understands Watson's capabilities, the key here is which suppliers can work with their customers' business models to drive better automated processes, introduce more self-learning capabilities and smart analytics that can truly improve their businesses.

Net-net - we must look at everything through the customer lens:

1) Why should I care about ServiceNow?
2) What can I truly do with ServiceNow that can improve my speed to market, my customer engagement, my OneOffice experience?
3) Can ServiceNow really make me a smarter, more analytical operation, based on the people I have on staff and within my service partners?

Just adding software isn't the answer, it's about really understanding your desired business model and crafting the operations to sustain and support it. The service providers who invest in staff, that can really align business models to new tech, will win; software firms that can train those winning services firms to do that will win.

This is why Watson is failing to meet IBM's lofty expectations - they're selling solutions to clients that simply do not have the skills or experience to understand how to improve their current biz models with cognitive.

This is why 50% of firms are already admitting they invested in RPA products they aren't getting anywhere with. They just don't have the internal structure, capability or know-how how to really adopt this stuff.

The Bottom-line: It's time to invest in real consultative talent... or go home

Net-net - the biggest issue today is that these are solutions trying to find business problems, as opposed to clients having business problems who are looking to find tech solutions to get smarter. This should be about SOLVING existing problems first... Sadly, most of the problems today are too focused on people elimination that may not be feasible or financially viable.

The services industry needs to evolve to higher value consulting.... educating clients on the true business value of investing in solutions. But unless suppliers invest in themselves first to understand their clients' real business needs, the ROI of investments like ServiceNow will never be realized.  It's time to invest in real consultative talent... or go home.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best PracticesIT Outsourcing / IT Services

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Worried you're being automated? Think again...

August 12, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyRobotic Process Automation

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HfS hammers the final nail in the legacy analyst coffin with the HfS ThinkTank

August 11, 2017 | Phil FershtJamie SnowdonBram WeertsSaurabh Gupta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RPA satisfaction: lowest for finance and call center, highest for IT and marketing

August 05, 2017 | Phil Fersht

So we've determined that 58% of enterprises which have adopted RPA are satisfied with both cost and business impact (see recent post).  But how does this differ by business processes?

Let's consider this data:

IT processes and apps are clearly the biggest beneficiaries of RPA. There's nothing like music to the ears of cash-strapped CIOs and CFOs than prolonging the life of those once-expensive IT systems that just don't integrate with each other. Plus, isn't it great to make band-aid patches over those spaghetti codes to keep those cobol monstrosities functioning for a few more years yet? Suddenly that "technical debt" doesn't feel quite so bad.  The thing about writing off legacy, means you really only write off the stuff that just doesn't work anymore... RPA is highly effective at prolonging the life of legacy systems by recording actions and workflows to give these things a new lease of life, allowing for technology investments to be made elsewhere (read our recent example of NPower).

Marketing functions have a lot of unnecessary manual fat that can be trimmed.  There is one function that perennially suffers from excessive manual work and real issues integrating systems and processes, and that is marketing.  Simple tasks (or tasks that should be simple), such as linking together databases of customers, subscribers, and prospects to align with campaigns, collateral, automated emails etc., are the bane of every CMO's existence. So... rather than spending millions on consultants to recreate new processes, CRM capabilities and training people to use them, why not get what you have working better, while you figure out where to make those really valuable marketing investments in the future?

Procurement can really benefit from process automation.  One function that has been cut to the bone - and still uses the fax machine as a mission critical tool -  is procurement. RPA has the most positive impact on functions beset by poorly integrated processes, where the goal is to get things functioning better, than those functions where the goal of automation is really just to drive out cost. Being able to link together procurement systems, analytics tools and cognitive applications with the manual work that still creates major breakdowns in speed of execution and quality of data, is a major benefit for those customers which map out an RPA plan and execute against it.  The more you can use procurement to support the business and speed up the cash cycle, the more effective the function becomes.  HR is somewhat similar to procurement, in the sense that the fat has already been long-trimmed from most companies, and RPA adds value to processes in similar ways, such as supporting better analytics and linkages between legacy systems and processes.  Payroll, in particular, is emerging as a major area where RPA can have a huge value impact, where all the critical employee data is housed and can be integrated with other knowledge systems to support better decision making.  Another area is recruiting, where the whole process can be massively transformed simply by linking together actions, databases, social media, OCR etc.  RPA can provide a great temporary fix while companies figure out where they really need to invest in the future - and "temporary" could mean a very long time indeed...

Finance and Accounting disappoints from a cost take-out standpoint. With only 40% of enterprises satisfied with the direct cost impact of F&A, we can conclude that many of them have their expectations set too high that RPA will drive short-term headcount elimination. On a more positive note, half of them are happy with the business value impact of RPA on F&A, so clearly there are process improvements, just not enough to remove the human cost of administering them immediately. Considering F&A is the number one process being used for F&A today (it dominates 50% of installs) it's clear that the suppliers are playing the cost take-out game too aggressively and leaving many customers disappointed.  As with outsourcing, it's one thing separating tasks and removing workload elements from staff, it's another being able to remove headcount simply my improving or digitizing processes. Customers must take a more transformative view that if they can free up 50% of an employee's time, they need to focus on refocusing her/him on alternative activities. That is where the value is to be found.

RPA satisfaction in Customer Service functions is mixed.  For a function that can truly benefit from intelligent data and digitized processes, it's surprising that barely 50% of customers are experiencing either cost or business value benefits from RPA. The reason for this is two-fold: firstly, customer service functions are too mired in the legacy practice of managing shifts of low cost agents, whether they are inhouse or outsourced - and have little time or funds to investigate the value of RPA, which may require upfront investment and longer term planning. Consequently, with this short-term mindset to cater for, most the call center BPO suppliers have little pressure to change how their sell their services, if their clients are not clamoring for RPA solutions.  While we are seeing significant interest in chatbots and virtual agent solutions, and established automation vendors in the call center space, such as Nice, have established relationships with many customers, the whole call center space seems to be lagging behind other functions when it comes to embracing how to leverage the benefits of RPA effectively - which could be significant when you take into account the dysfunctions across customer interaction channels

The Bottom-line: RPA satisfaction is a lot higher when the motivation and mentality is one of process improvement, not cost-elimination

The main issue with RPA, in today's market, is this misconception that customers will make significant headcount reductions in the short-term.  With outsourcing, the cost savings are staged carefully over a 5 year engagement as work is moved to cheaper locations, better technology and processes are introduced, in addition to automation, and the processes are re-mapped over time to allow for work to get done, ultimately, with less people.  Simply plumbing in RPA and not having a broader plan to transform the work, pulling several other value levers, in addition to the patching of processes and digitization of manual work, will likely result in a mismatch between expectations and reality.  RPA needs to form part of a broader strategy to automate and streamline work, where people, processes, analytics tools, SaaS platforms, outsourcing models and carefully developed governance procedures, are taken into account as part of the broader transformation plan.

Posted in: HfS Surveys: All our Survey Posts

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Steve Rudderham... making GBS gr-r-reat again!

July 31, 2017 | Phil Fersht

There is only one Steve Rudderham (thank the Lord).  One of the most traveled and fun guys in the world of operations and services over the last 15 years, who's managed to somehow lead major BPO operations for leading service providers in both India and Latin America, run service delivery centers across the southern parts of the United States, before winding his way to the lovely Kalamazoo Michigan, where he today is devising the next phase of global business services for the Kellogg Company.  And all this having grown up in the small cathedral town of Lincoln in the English East Midlands. So let's pin Steve down for a little while to find out what he's up to and where the world of global business services is taking us...

Phil Fersht, CEO, Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Good morning Steve, it’s great to have you on HfS for the first time. You’ve had a colorful career in and around the process and operations world, can you give us a very quick run-down of where you came from and how you got to where you are with Kelloggs today?

Steve Rudderham, VP Global Business Services: Absolutely, I grew up in GE Lighting in the UK, 17 years ago I moved over to Kansas, US, to work in their Insurance business. Started off within process excellence, I was a black belt there, then went over to India to run their back office operations for what is now Genpact. I moved over to Genpact to run Latin America. I’ve also had terms with CapGemini running the Americas then more recently within Accenture doing Finance and Accounting globally for them as their product lead. I now run the global business services for Kelloggs.

Phil: How do you feel about being client side, having spent so long on the other side?

Steve: It’s been very interesting coming over to the buyer side. I think the advantage I have is that I come with a lot of knowledge of what’s available and the best practices. I also have insight into what the providers have been doing for other companies, not just within the food industry, but outside as well. If you think about Accenture, they are very strong within oil and gas, you can bring a lot of best practices over and into Kelloggs. It is slightly different in that

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Posted in: Global Business ServicesOutsourcing Heros

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Robo's best-kept secret? Not any more... meet Redwood

July 25, 2017 | Phil Fersht

 

There's nothing worse than being the "best-kept secret" in an industry... sure, it sounds cute at first, but after a while it gets frustrating as people aren't learning about you.  And there's nothing worse than being a best-kept robo secret in a market obsessed with propaganda, ignorance and bad analysts, many of whom have no clue what they are talking about.

So let's change this for one solution vendor, Redwood Software, which has quietly gone about helping enterprises automate processes around SAP workflows. When we bemoan rigid, poorly integrated processes, it's often borne out of legacy systems and ERP that have the effect of pouring concrete into a firm's operations. So what better than to develop both robotic and digital automation capabilities around SAP's R3 finance platform, helping financial leaders renovate more of that they have, without the costly and disruptive need to invest millions in expensive system upgrades that often only succeed in delivering a whole new suite of integration problems. Sounds like a simple way to make money? Well, it actually takes decades of practice and experience, so let's hear a bit more from the firm's CEO and Founder, Tijl Vuyk. and his Chief of Staff, Neil Kinson, about how they got here and where they are taking this very well-kept, soon-not-to-be so secret Redwood product...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Good morning Tijl and Neil - it's great to have both of you talking to us today. Perhaps we can start with a little background on Redwood, where you have come from and what you do?

Tijl Vuyk, CEO and Founder, Redwood (pictured left): Thanks Phil. Well it’s been about 25 years since we were founded and we started in the application space where we were building Oracle applications. We saw the need for automating these applications because there were a considerable amount of manual activities running all kinds of processes within Oracle, and later on with SAP. When we started, we created a tool that would help customers build their own automated processes. In the last five to eight years we discovered that building these automations were a challenge for many of our customers. So we tried to productize the whole idea of automating these business processes and now we call this robotics - where we use the application's functions to automate the processes normally undertaken by humans. I think that's where we are. We came from a technology background where we built enterprise strength applications to automate primary business processes, and now we are trying to make this as easy and slick as possible to implement those processes without having customers spend too much money on services and maintenance. There is more to say about what we do, but these are the highlights.

Phil: Sure, so you've been around for 25 years, how did you end up in this automation space? Was it a deliberate move or was it something that evolved over time?

Tijl: I wouldn't say a deliberate move but I love automation. If I do something twice, I ask myself, “can I do this easier and faster or not do it at all?”  And that is the attitude we have

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process Automation

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When automation becomes your only option...

July 22, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyRobotic Process Automation

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Ian Maher... Sourcing Star

July 18, 2017 | Phil Fersht

As the fog slowly lifts from our beleaguered world of operations, we can start to put the pieces together regarding where we truly are, when it comes to building the backbone for successful businesses of the present and the future:

No - not all our firms have been wiped out overnight by disruptive digital competitors (sorry all you hypesters who've been beating that drum, but most our 'legacy' firms are doing just fine).  

No - not all of us have been replaced by robotic software that can mimic our rote behavior and render us useless (if only more customers will actually admit they are finding RPA a lot more challenging than they thought).

No - outsourcing isn't dead, it's just under pressure from commoditizing services, too many competitive service providers, greater global location choice and the emergence of specialist niche firms, which can do complex work at a much smaller scale than our juggernaut firms can afford to deliver. 

In short, our enterprises are caught between innovation and renovation, where they need to make the most out of what they have, while making the shrewd investments in the innovation the need to stay relevant in their markets. So with whom better to chew the fat than a very old friend and great supporter of HfS over the years, Ian Maher, who's been the dynamic busybody behind Hanover Insurance's sourcing and operations activies over the last decade. You won't meet many customer executives who deal with technology firms, automation vendors, outsourcing providers, procurement executives, HR, IT - you name it - and still always has a smile on his face. Maybe it's his stubborn devotion to his under-achieving soccer team, Everton, which keeps the chap so positive and focused....

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: Good morning Ian. It's great to catch up with you again. Could you tell HfS readers a little more about you and your background in the industry, where you've come from, and what you're doing today?

Ian Maher, VP, Head of Sourcing, The Hanover Insurance Group: Phil, good morning, it's great to catch up again. As you know, my background is on both sides of this interesting equation, from both a sales  and a buy-side perspective. When I was originally in the UK, I spent the first decade of my career working for what is now Fujitsu. As the development of consulting services, on the back of technology solutions, I was fascinated by how firms created new revenue streams on the back of product sales. In the late ‘90s, I moved over to the States and joined Gartner. With roles, in account management support and financial services in the North East of the US, I then started to work more closely with the research leaders in Sourcing and especially BPO, spending a lot of time working with CIOs and similar leaders, helping them understand what was going on from the BPO point of view as it started to seep away from a technology space, into the realm of mainstream business decision makers.

One of my previous clients is the company I'm with today. I've been at Hanover for nearly 10 years. We are a growing P&C business, largely in the US but with a UK operation via our Lloyds of London syndicate. In this role, I look after a variety of functions, including, traditional procurement, contract risk and governance. But more interestingly, perhaps to me at least, is the role of trying to fix together how the ideas from the outside world can be brought to benefit, what is pretty much, a traditional insurance business. I've led a couple of major

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best PracticesOutsourcing Heros

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Time to get worried about being automated... very worried

July 15, 2017 | Phil Fersht

With Natural Language Processing, Interactive Voice Response, cognitive virtual agents, Robotic Process Automation, the very essence of our corporate existence, the conference call itself, is in grave danger of going robo.  I think we're done folks... 

Posted in: Absolutely Meaningless ComedyCognitive ComputingRobotic Process Automation

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IBM partners with Automation Anywhere: Great for AA, but IBM’s cognitive automation strategy just got more confusing

July 14, 2017 | Phil FershtTom ReunerOllie O’DonoghueSaurabh Gupta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingRobotic Process Automation

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HCL's CEO CVK talks three lane growth strategy: Mode 1-2-3

July 12, 2017 | Phil Fersht

One of the leading service providers is also one of the most understated:  Hindustan Computers Limited, or its better-known abbreviation, HCL. This company has grown its revenues by more than 75% in the last 5 years and maintained its profitability to surpass $7 billion this year, while running Wipro close to being the 4th largest Indian heritage IT services firm. Its reputation is one of having a very strong engineering pedigree, a "roll the sleeves up" attitude and a no-nonsense approach to business. The fact it has never bothered to spend millions on a fancy new logo, or glitzy marketing posturing, speaks volumes for this determined, humble and very focused firm, quietly - but aggressively - going about its business as becoming one of the heavyweights of the IT services industry, and one of the best positioned to weather the current malaise caused by flagging demand, too many competitors, and creeping automation. 

So when I got a chance to spend some time with its new, young dynamic CEO, C Vijayakumar, or "CVK" as everyone calls him, I just had to share some of our conversation with the HfS community...

Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HfS Research: CVK, tell us about your journey to becoming the CEO of HCL Technologies? What is your secret sauce?

C Vijayakumar (CVK), President and Chief Executive Officer, HCL: More than the secret sauce that I bring to the table, the question is, what is really special about HCL, and what is that secret sauce that has developed a range of leaders within the company. They may seem different and diverse on the surface, but all our leaders embody a core culture within, and that’s fairly constant. I have had the good fortune to be part of some great milestones and worked with some excellent teams at HCL. I have also worked across multiple business functions - strategy, practice, product management, sales, business development and delivery. This has helped me to get a well-rounded view and brought me to this position today.

Phil: So what is the number one issue with HCL and the business... what is keeping you up at night?

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Posted in: Outsourcing Heros

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136 enterprise RPA users have spoken and 58% are positive about the business value

July 08, 2017 | Phil Fersht

When we revealed Gartner's bullish 96% of clients are getting real value from RPA bombshell (see post) six weeks ago, everyone close to the action was incredulous:

 

Now we have the real data to prove where satisfaction levels currently sit, where we interviewed 136 major enterprises currently experiencing RPA installs:

 

My personal experience has tended to be about half of enterprise RPA clients today are experiencing positive progress, while the other half are struggling or aborting RPA projects altogether, so this data is pretty positive, especially when you consider that the same number are positive about both the cost and business impact of RPA.  

The Bottom-line: RPA is making sense in this era of renovation and the current satisfaction results reflect this

What I love about RPA is the fact it's making us fix a lot of the systems we're currently stuck with, using sensible, affordable technology. We spent years bemoaning the fact that enterprises couldn't just "saw off" their broken processes and replace with costly new systems and services, but the reality is that most enterprises are not ready to write off their technical debt and invest in change, especially when the outcome is not particularly clear. What is clear

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Posted in: Cognitive ComputingHfS Surveys: All our Survey PostsRobotic Process Automation

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The Market Outlook for Robotic Process Automation

July 01, 2017 | Phil Fersht

One of the things I've been at pains to convey is the critical link between digital transformation... and the role RPA plays it making so much of it possible. Digitally-driven organizations must create a Digital Underbelly to support the front office by automating manual processes, digitizing manual documents to create converged datasets, and embracing the cloud in a way that enables genuine scalability and security.

Organizations simply cannot be effective with a digital strategy without automating processes intelligently - forget all the hype around robotics and jobs going away, this is about making processes run digitally so smart organizations can grow their digital businesses and create new work and opportunities.

So click here to download my full session at the recent packed-out Blue Prism World in London town:

Posted in: Digital TransformationRobotic Process Automation

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Why have so many sourcing advisors failed with automation?

June 24, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Remember when sourcing advisors has become the "new analysts" and dominated so many outsourcing discussions?  Remember when it was the norm for clients to bring in the sourcing specialists whenever they needed a deal done, not only to get a good price, but also to make sure they selected the right partner and had a strategic view of the future?  Remember when most advisors were not only contract experts, they were also strategists, researchers, sounding boards and respected brands you could hang your hat on... Just look at our 2011 study when advisors lorded the influence over everyone bar direct peer feedback:

Fast forward to today, with all the sourcing advisors doubling-down in RPA to compensate for the drying up outsourcing deals and confidently hoping their outsourcing clients will immediately turn to them to help them grapple with the new outsourcing-cum-automation model.  Surely their ability to craft deals for clients will put them in pole position to take their clients down the RPA path...

Let's visit our brand new (still-in-the-field) study on the 2017 State of Automation, and it's telling us a very different story when we spoke with 56 enterprises actually deploying RPA:

Less than half the RPA buyers view either consultants of sourcing advisors as influential in their automation sourcing.  Even conferences are impacting automation buyers more.

So what's gone so wrong with advisors in automation?

Credibility. Suddenly many advisors who were previously hawking their deep understanding of HCL versus TCS's FTE rate cards are now suddenly adding their names to white papers on automation and trying to insert themselves into serious client conversations about said topic.  It's just not credible.

Smarter clients.  The swirl of information over social channels is so intense these days that most clients' knowledge isn't that far behind the experts.  In many cases, you'll learn more about RPA talking with a client in beta mode than an advisor or analyst trying to impress you at

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Posted in: Outsourcing AdvisorsRobotic Process Automation

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A third of enterprises are making significant investments in RPA

June 22, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Tired of the RPA hyperbole?  Well, you'd better get used to it continuing, as key industries have already made significant short-medium term commitments:

Our 2017 State of Operations and Outsourcing study with KPMG, covering 454 major enterprises, shows the hi-tech and financial services industries leading the way with, respectively, 53% and 44%  already making significant investments in RPA over the next couple

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Posted in: HfS Surveys: All our Survey PostsRobotic Process Automation2017 State of Industry Study

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We are in the People Elimination business. How did it get this bad, and can we change course? (Rant warning)

June 18, 2017 | Phil Fersht

Talent is still the most precious asset firms have and it needs to be nurtured as the real proponent of growth and success, not merely the fancy technologies that can automate workflows. Our technology and business services industry desperately needs a mindset shift - and one that requires a longer term view, than the next quarterly Wall St announcement. Whilst we are not the only guilty party here, our technology and business services industry is still rooted firmly in people capability, much more than technology and commodity products, hence the desperate need to correct course and avoid circling the drain...

I was interviewing with the Delhi branch of NPR the other day on the layoff paranoia engulfing the Indian IT industry, and it dawned on me just how inhuman our business has become. These are normal people who still view the world as one where employers have responsibilities to their employees, where people still care about the welfare of others, when you got up in the morning and went to a job that had a purpose and a future.

The poor interviewers simply couldn’t comprehend why major employers enjoying ~20% profit margins and continual 5-10% growth were so focused on making massive staff reductions.  “Don’t these firms have a responsibility to their employees, Phil?” was the question. “Of course they don’t, it’s all about their shareholders” was my immediate hair-trigger response.  Ugh – I suddenly felt ashamed of the business of which I was part. 

We’re in the business of increasing profits for investors, not creating new business value from people

Is our sole purpose now simply to eliminate people? We spend a couple of decades displacing "expensive" workers because we could find less expensive able ones to do the job. Now we’re getting rid of them altogether just to keep the Buffetts and Elliotts happy? And why are we literally obsessing with labels to describe what we do:  Digital, Machine Learning, Intelligent Operations, Robotic Process Automation… or my favorite “Digital Labor”. 

Let’s be honest, what all these things really signify is “how to get work down without the need for people”. And how can you call something “Digital Labor” when the labor is no more… unless we start redefining RPA recording loops based on optical recognition software as “labor”. Maybe we need to revisit what labor actually is, according to Merriam-Webster:

Definition of Labor (Merriam-Webster): 

"1) The human activity that provides the goods or services in an economy; 

2) The services performed by workers for wages as distinguished from those rendered by entrepreneurs for profits."

Correct me if I am completely losing my mind here, but we’re no longer in the business of promoting human activity to stimulate economies… we’re in the business of increasing profits for investors.  Is there any way to dig ourselves out of this hole, or are we on an inexorable nosedive to the lowest common denominator of creating and promoting business operations that no longer require people?

As technology and operations professionals, we must rediscover our purpose or we’re just promoting the end of labor

I wish I had a silver bullet solution to help us take this dramatic U-turn, but sadly, all I can offer are some ideas on how we can re-humanize what we do:

Find meaningful work for our people to do - not just fire them. In the past, when most businesses had some excess staff capacity, there were always useful things for them to do – such as consulting and outsourcing firms deploying their benched consultants to work gratis with existing clients on special projects that could eventually lead to future business – or just

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Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)Cognitive ComputingDigital Transformation

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Time to hangout with the real robo-bosses at the FORA Council this September

June 17, 2017 | Phil Fersht

When an industry is enduring a secular shift that is literally redefining how we do work, it's pretty important to get some real, unfettered dialog going among all the key stakeholders this impacts. We need to break free from the glitzy paid-for sales presentations, robot keyrings, stress balls, nasty logo-ed leather notepads and greedy events firms vying for a quick buck from vendors eager to part with cash to promote themselves to all their competitors.

That's why we're assembling 100 of the industry's finest leaders in a single room for a whole afternoon to thrash out the mandate for the future of operations in the robotic age for our inaugural FORA council session in Chicago, 19th September. And we promise no sponsors, stress balls or bad white papers to take away...

Here's just a sample of the industry robo dignitaries who've already committed:

  • Alastair Bathgate, CEO, Blue Prism
  • Chetan Dube, CEO, IPsoft
  • Chip Wagner, President, Emerging Business Services, ISG
  • Cliff Justice, Partner, US Leader, Cognitive Automation and Digital Labor, KPMG
  • David Poole, CEO, Symphony Ventures
  • Daniel Dines, CEO and Founder at UiPath
  • Jesus Mantas, Managing Partner and General Manager, IBM Business Consulting, IBM US
  • Lee Coulter, Chair for the IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation
  • Dr. Mary C. Lacity, Curators' Distinguished Professor of Information Systems, UMSL, and Visiting Scholar MIT
  • Max Yankelevich, CEO, WorkFusion
  • Mihir Shukla, CEO, Automation Anywhere
  • Peter Lowes, Partner, and Head of Robotics & Cognitive Automation, Deloitte US
  • Shantanu Ghosh, SVP, CFO Services and Consulting, Genpact
  • Thomas Torlone, U.S. Leader of Enterprise Business Services, PwC
  • Tijl Vuyk, CEO and Founder, Redwood Software
  • Weston Jones, Global RPA Leader, EY

We also have leaders of cognitive and automation initiatives from the following buyside firms already signed up to get stuck into the debate:

So let's cut to the chase - it's time to have the real, hard conversation about where we really are as an industry. Why aren't those 40% cost savings happening, each time someone slams in some software and hopes it somehow eliminates manual labor because they can access a bot library? In fact, why are a third of RPA pilots just left hanging with no result? Yes, people, it's

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Posted in: Robotic Process Automation

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