Global Services Trends and Tipping Points for 2015 | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It’s the season when analyst/advisory firms flood the media their predictions and top-10 lists. One problem with those lists is the services world rarely has 10 things that are different from the year before. Another problem is we tend to hype new technologies and business models and make predictions about their impact in the next year, when in reality they take multiple years to validate and start to build traction. So rather than falling into this trap that I and others fall into every year, here are my thoughts on a few big secular services trends and their tipping-point positions.

Cloud

We’re over the tipping point here. As I blogged previously, the cloud experiment is over. The last three years have been a grand experiment in examining cloud and the cloud products family. 2015 will see enterprises increasingly planning and implementing new functionalities in the cloud environment.

Labor arbitrage

We’re now atop an inflection point for change in the labor arbitrage market. It’s alive and well and still powerful, but in 2014 we saw value propositions that are dominantly arbitrage based diminish in effectiveness. We also saw the growth areas increasingly shifting to an “arbitrage-plus” model in new areas. The implications are that arbitrage-based offerings will be less effective and their growth rates will continue to drop.

2015 will be a year in which provider growth is driven by differentiation around industry knowledge, firm knowledge and functional knowledge, rather than cheap resources from India. Firms that pivot and provide more and better resources in country, more focus around industry and function, more specialization for those that will succeed.

Service providers talked the talk of differentiation in 2013-2014, but they didn’t walk the walk. In 2015 providers that are successful in growing share will execute really great, meaningful differentiation rather than just giving lip service to differentiation.

Automation

The tipping point for automation is still in the future. The industry has had a couple of years of experimentation with automation, but we don’t think the experimentation phase is finished. We have yet to see the automation play done at scale either on infrastructure or BPO; it is yet to move into the mainstream and is yet to be acknowledged for the full power and capability that it possesses. So the stories of automation destroying the arbitrage game are premature.

We think that, much like cloud in the last three years, in 2015 the automation journey will continue its experimentation and advance toward a time where it is implemented at scale and is able to change the value proposition in a meaningful way.

In 2015, we do not expect automation to take meaningful share from the BPO or infrastructure players. But we expect many more proof points to develop and more hype or industry attention to focus on automation.

As a service

We’re not near a tipping point in moving to a consistent as-a-service model, but we’re definitely seeing a growing uptick in experimentation with this model. In 2014, we saw a number of important companies experimenting with implementing as a-service solutions, but they weren’t multi-tenant. What they’re doing is taking their entire supply chain and turning it into a consumable, as-a-service supply chain and achieving similar benefits that are derived from a multi-tenant SaaS offering but without having the multi-tenant characteristic.

The implications of early experimentation are very significant for legacy environments. We expect 2015 to have a number of announcements of leading firms implementing this approach. We believe this is an important development but will not become an industry standard for several years to come.

Service provider landscape

As to the service providers, in 2015 we expect some changes in dominance and success. Cognizant and TCS always do well and will do so again in 2015. What’s interesting is to look at those that are going to change their fortunes. Specifically we’re watching two companies: IBM and Wipro. In 2013-2014 both made structural changes that position them well for entering 2015.

IBM decided to address the cloud issue head on. Big Blue’s purchase of SoftLayer, the moving of IBM’s middleware suite to an as-a-service delivery vehicle and willingness to deal directly and forthrightly with customers on cannibalization issues positions IBM for a potentially strong turnaround in 2015. We already see signs of that in the three megadeals IBM announced in the last quarter of 2014. We believe IBM is in for a strong year in 2015 if it stays the course.

Likewise, I’ve blogged before about Wipro laying the groundwork for a resurgence. Specifically I call out the firm’s early adoption of automation and increased focus on the large megadeal space. We believe Wipro’s adoption of automation allows the provider to be a cost challenger without giving up margins in the multi-tower megadeal space. I expect Wipro will continue its momentum into 2015, building on early successes.

This is not to say that other service providers won’t do well. I highlight these two because they took big steps to turn around their business and position themselves for the future and for velocity coming into 2015.


Photo credit: harmish khambhaita

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