I recently spent a very productive day with Wipro as they showed examples of their commitment to service delivery automation – a commitment I observed as more than in any other service provider. HOLMES, their recently unveiled artificial intelligence platform is just the beginning of this serious commitment. Here are three very important aspects of this commitment.

Step one: IP and funding

Some time ago Wipro recognized that the service industry is changing very profoundly, and a significant secular driver of the change is new automation technologies that allow customers to automate a dramatically higher number of services than has been automated in the past. They took concrete steps to address this change.

They recognized not only the customer impact of implement automation in their workflow but also the impact to the service provider. Over time, the value will be captured by the automation owner, not by the service provider. Therefore, Wipro decided to invest in owning its automation IP – and that involves not just funding the initial build but also ongoing investments.

That’s not to say that when Wipro deploys automation in their accounts they will employ exclusively their own IP, but they recognize the need for a significant portion being their own IP.

Step two: stepping up the pace

Wipro allocated a large, dedicated team into building its automation platform, which they named HOLMES. But unlike some other providers, they extensively used open source software to get a head start and then layered in their own development on top of the open source component. This allowed them to move quickly in bringing compelling functionality to the marketplace.

Step three: executive preparation for internal disruption 

The third aspect of Wipro’s automation strategy is their commitment from CEO TK Kurien on down through the leadership ranks to bring this to the marketplace. TK and senior leadership are committed to take this service delivery capability into their existing client base as well as use the automation platform as a challenger to gain new share in the market.

I believe bringing automation into their existing client base will be the most challenging endeavor, and they acknowledge that it will be disruptive and may be cannibalistic to their revenue flows.

We await to see how they handle such disruption. The details revealed to me were somewhat vague as to how they will realign their incentives to allow their account teams to do this. But certainly the executive commitment is such that it’s possible they will take the necessary steps to make incentive changes.

They are preparing for the inevitable disruption that will accompany the drive to become a leader in automated service delivery.

Wipro is reportedly looking at headcount and cost-reduction exercise in the realm of $300+ million. Why are they doing this? Is it a good idea? Of a few possible interpretations for wringing out costs, here’s my opinion – starting with my belief that this undertaking was inevitable. The more important question is how will they do it?

Wipro’s action comes on the back of similar news about TCS and IBM and is predicated by the pricing pressures hitting leading service providers. As I blogged recently, pricing pressure has become acute with existing clients looking for significant cost reductions.

In addition, the market is changing and clients are more insistent about requiring onshore resources; this raises operational costs for the Indian firms, which need to invest in a richer set of capabilities on shore. These resources located close to the customer are substantially more expensive for Wipro and other providers than their India-based resources.

It’s a case of when push comes to shove; if Wipro and other providers are to maintain reasonable margins or be competitive, something has to give. That “something” is the necessity to take out costs to allow them to meet the pricing pressures and allow them to hire the onshore resources that clients increasingly insist upon.

How will they achieve the cost reduction? 

I think Wipro and others will move further into the industrialized factory model, which relies on an ever-widening pyramid that pushes work down to lower-cost resources and eliminates middle-management roles.

However, I think the strategy of moving deeper into the pyramid model raises the risk of further commoditizing the space and increasing churn. And clients are more and more intolerant of churn. The likely result is that it will open the door for firms like EPAM and others that differentiate around persistent teams of experienced engineers.

Wipro just hired Abid Ali Neemuchwala as COO and group president. Clearly the provider is setting up a succession plan for him to take over Wipro from current CEO, TK Kurien, who has been driving the firm’s transformation. This is an intriguing move as Wipro appears to be succeeding in the turnaround. So it makes sense that the industry is questioning the move. If the turnaround is, indeed, happening at Wipro, why bring in an outsider?

Abid comes to Wipro from TCS with a pedigree of having run the TCS BPO business. This is a big step up for him, from running a $2 billion business to a $9 billion business. The good news is Wipro is giving him at least a year to learn the ropes.

It’s interesting to reflect on why Wipro did this. I don’t believe the firm is stepping away from the transformation that TK Kurien has been driving. Nor do I think Wipro looks to capture some of the TCS magic and execution capability. I believe the firm is reinforcing its need to continue changing and is bringing in an outside perspective to drive change. This move follows in the footsteps of Infosys, which similarly brought in outside leadership.

Wipro gave TK formidable power, and five years, to drive significant change and transformation. Like any transformational plan, it has been painful and has taken time. But as I blogged before, the transformation is starting to show promise with Wipro wins picking up in the marketplace just as TK’s five years comes to a close.

So why bring in an outsider? I believe the answer is that the journey has just begun. The services industry is at an inflection point. It is clear that with changing technologies, client expectations and business models, leadership in the existing space does not guarantee leadership in the future. I think Wipro understands this and is looks to challenge its organization with fresh perspectives.

Running faster with the old model will not allow for leadership in the future. Fresh perspectives and augmenting existing talent is necessary to give Wipro the best chance at being a leader as the market evolves.

The challenges Abid will need to take on will shape and continue to drive Wipro to change how it delivers services, takes advantage of new technologies such as the digital and analytics space, and how it deals with changing client expectations demanding value beyond labor arbitrage. And Abid will bring new perspectives on how to successfully guide Wipro through the transition into the new business models of SaaS, BPaaS, platforms and consumption-based IT and business processes.

I think it’s a good move.


Photo credit: Wipro

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On 19 May, Wipro signed a US$400 million+, multi-year strategic alliance deal with Japan’s largest pharmaceutical firm, Takeda Pharmaceutical. Wipro will provide infrastructure management services across Takeda’s global operations, thereby creating a unified platform across the company. Less than a week earlier, HCL announced a landmark infrastructure deal with pharmaceutical major Novartis. Per the terms of the deal, HCL will provide remote infrastructure management services for Novartis across its entire data center landscape, covering more than 70 countries across six continents.

The Life Sciences Infrastructure Bandwagon 

These deals are indicative of a sharp inflection point for IT infrastructure services in the life sciences industry. Until now, service providers have been largely focused on delivering application outsourcing services such as ADM, testing, ERP, and package implementation. Demand for infrastructure services was largely linear and predictable. However, the winds of change sweeping the overall healthcare landscape have brought about strong momentum to infrastructure uptake.

These winds include regulatory reform, consumerization, market consolidation, and the emergence of next-generation digital avenues. The volume, variety, and velocity of incoming data are fundamentally impacting how life sciences organizations view their infrastructure needs. Exponential growth in data, coupled with evolving engagement and drug development models, has resulted in a significant need for analytics. Dimensions such as real-time reporting, proliferation of mobile devices, and automation are providing additional impetus.

Healthcare infrastructure services tailwinds

The Opportunity At Hand

Among the various sub-segments of life sciences IT outsourcing, we see infrastructure poised to assume the lion’s share of growth in the coming years. While applications and SI/consulting are likely to grow at a healthy rate, the infrastructure opportunity in life sciences could triple in value over 2014-2020. This is likely to be fueled by increasing traction in cloud delivery and storage models, data warehousing efforts, consolidation of information systems, and the move to obtain a unified view of customer data to enable actionable business outcomes.

Global life sciences ITO market

Life sciences has traditionally been a mature IT market. Across medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms, biotech companies, life science firms spend more on IT than typical buyers. Life science companies have innovative R&D efforts at the core of their operating model. Given the rise in personalized medicines, there will be a surge in data storage/processing requirements and, consequently, infrastructure needs. These themes impact life sciences IT infrastructure requirements to give rise to various technology imperatives across the ecosystem.

Life sciences infrastructure imperatives

Buyers in the life sciences space need to evaluate their infrastructure services roadmap on a business impact versus investment paradigm. They need to establish meaningful relationships with strategic partners in order to enable the true synergistic benefits of a comprehensive and relevant infrastructure services roadmap.

At the same time, services providers need to expand their infrastructure footprint to partner with enterprises in this transformative journey. They need to adopt a holistic mix of traditional tenets (co-location models, data warehousing, BI, hosting, and network services) along with next-generation services such as multi-tenancy solutions, cloud delivery and storage, and BYOD.

What are you experiencing in infrastructure services? Our readers are eager to hear!

Everest Group’s ongoing analysis of global service providers’ performance revealed some notable market shifts in the most recently reported quarter. We note especially that Wipro seems to be righting its ship. Although its growth previously had lagged its peers and the industry, the last quarter evidenced higher growth.

As the chart below displays, Wipro is now performing as one of the top global services firms.

Wipro Winning Numbers

To what can we attribute this improved performance?

Certainly we need to give some credit to the strategic maneuvers that CEO TK Kurient and Wipro’s executive council made. First of all, they have been implementing a verticalization strategy. They also are focusing on large accounts. We believe these strategies make sense and could well contribute to further growth.

In addition, taking a step further back, we believe that Wipro is reaping the benefit of its concentration in services areas that are recovering — infrastructure and Europe. The industry has seen growth in infrastructure services really picking up over 2013. Also, as Europe recovers from its economic crisis (particularly in the UK, Germany and the Nordics), Wipro’s strong position in Europe allows it to also benefit from this growth.

Considering it’s in the right place at the right time with effective strategies, where will Wipro be in next quarter’s charts?

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