Can Global Services Learn Lessons from Soccer? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Many were surprised when Qatar won the bid for the 2022 World Cup. A great deal of intrigue surrounded the selection process, and cries of foul play continued before, during and after the recent announcement. How could a location with essentially no facilities, requiring technological breakthroughs to ensure neither athletes nor spectators literally roast at the venues, possibly be successful?

Interestingly, the parallels to what is occurring in the global services industry are striking. New entrants and new solutions with lots of vision (versus substance) are pulling upsets. Buyers seeking to fulfill their global services needs are pursuing agendas with unconventional objectives, and are willing to use selection processes filled with ambiguous criteria. Service providers with interests in preserving legacy approaches may be blindsided by new players with creative solutions (e.g., cloud-based offerings) that literally change the rules of the game, including completely differing pricing, contracting, and service delivery models. Ultimately, providers that cling to the legacy are exposed to the same fate as the U.S.’ World Cup bid – a safe, reliable solution on paper that fails to compete with unconventional approaches and visions of breakthroughs that promise value beyond the obvious.

Is the soccer world at risk of a failure in Qatar? Possibly. But the options created in the preceding decade are likely to create value in new areas that the safe path via the U.S. would never have even contemplated. Are global services users pursuing non-traditional solutions, taking on heretofore unforeseen risks? Possibly. But – as with the international soccer federation – not at least starting down the path may be an even more costly risk for the future. Similarly, service providers that refuse to believe that those “playing by different rules” can win are likely to find themselves increasingly absent from the winner’s circle.

Let’s all just hope that not everyone starts showing up with vuvuzelas at the next bidders’ conference!

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