Achint Aora
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Achint Arora

WaterSprint or AgileFall: Implementing Packaged Apps in Contemporary Times | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

During a recent next-generation packaged application benchmarking project for one of our Tier 1 clients, one point jumped out at us: service providers and product vendors have started moving away from the traditional waterfall approach to an adaptive hybrid agile-waterfall approach while solutioning for packaged application deployments.

Is an Agile-Led Methodology Needed?

You’re probably wondering if an agile-led methodology is necessary, since packaged applications have inbuilt configurations that are aligned to industry best practices. The resounding answer is yes, as packaged apps projects have been victims of scope creep, cost overruns, missed deadlines, objective mismatches, and a host of other issues. A good share of these failures can be attributed to the customization requirements that were built using a traditional implementation approach, which encouraged a siloed and non-continuous way of working.

How is the Hybrid Approach Effective?

The effectiveness of the hybrid approach can be easily gauged through a mix of waterfall and agile-based SLAs and KPIs. We are seeing that using the hybrid waterfall-agile methodology significantly improves traditional packaged apps implementation project SLAs such as defect leakage, defect density, and schedule and cost adherence. And agile KPIs such as velocity rate, work-focus factor, and percent of story-point accuracy help keep track of team productivity, and enable the team to track deviations from standard configurations.

One major adopter of the hybrid approach is SAP, which has refurbished its implementation framework with the introduction of its agile-based Activate methodology for the SAP S/4 HANA suite. While SAP has retained the strong elements of the traditional Accelerated SAP (ASAP) waterfall methodology, it has changed its approach from a template-led long duration blueprinting exercise to a fit-gap analysis for processes configured on a cloud-based solution. Additionally, it no longer runs the realization phase in a linear fashion, wherein testing is performed only after complete configuration or customization is done. Instead, testing resources are onboarded as soon as the sprint starts, and implementation effectiveness is gauged right from the word “go.”

Many service providers and product vendors are also following this same approach in some form and fashion, particularly in the realization phase.

What’s the Value of Shifting to a Hybrid Agile Approach?

It helps enterprises streamline their journey to becoming a truly agile organization, and enables a better end-user experience, as improved SLAs underscore better service delivery. And it helps service providers enhance their brand reputation, capture more business, and shed the tag of being old school and monolithic in their implementation approach.

If you are interested in learning more about the impact of the hybrid waterfall methodology on project timelines, average daily rate, overall TCV, contractual SLAs, and risk alleviation mechanisms, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. You can also visit our Benchmarking page.

Service Integration and Management in the Digital Era | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As enterprises increasingly realize that their ability to compete hinges on their digital strategy, they’re engaging with a wide, ever-growing range of niche small- to mid-sized digital technology providers. In some cases, we’ve seen organizations’ portfolios include more than 50 providers servicing a mix of traditional and next generation IT services.

The high complexity of such a massive number of providers is driving a surge in the need for Service Integration and Management (SIAM) specialists to help ensure seamless service and contract management and integration through a single body that interfaces with the multiple stakeholders including business and IT. While digital programs are being led by enterprise business units, the IT unit is focusing on rationalization of the legacy landscape and providing support for digital transformation projects.

In the golden days of outsourcing, when things were much simpler and outsourcing-related benefits were limited to cost, enterprises clearly preferred to completely retain the SIAM function internally. The enterprise IT teams collaborated with suppliers and ”leased” resources in a T&M fashion, while completely owning the operational and strategic aspects of the services.

More recently, some organizations have employed hybrid SIAM, wherein enterprises willingly relinquish the design, operations, and contractual aspects of the service to a third-party with proven SIAM expertise, while retaining the more strategic aspects such as portfolio strategy, business relationship management, and procurement.

But in the digital era, hybrid SIAM is starting to take a different shape and flavor.

In a traditional IT delivery model, enterprise IT is the interface between the provider and the business. But we’re now seeing enterprise business units become increasingly involved in end-to-end digital transformation engagements, and interacting and collaborating directly with providers.

Following is an illustration of two different hybrid SIAM models, outlining key functions that are outsourced or retained:

eg12

 

So, what will outsourcing the SIAM function cost you?

It fully depends on multiple factors. The first is team size, which must appropriately match to the input volumes. Next is scope and responsibilities. For example, does the engagement include cross-functional activities?

Of course, the location from which the SIAM program is delivered – i.e., onshore, nearshore, or offshore – also impacts the cost. While offshoring will provide the lowest price, the complexity of new age digital engagements requires a SIAM practice that is located closer to business.

Has your company outsourced SIAM, or is it considering doing so? Are there any best practices or pitfalls that you would like to share? I encourage you to do so by contacting me directly at: [email protected].

 

 

Modern Today, Legacy Tomorrow: The Nature of Fast-Changing Skill Demand in IT Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It is no hidden fact that the outsourcing industry is on the cusp of change. While the labor arbitrage model and legacy ERP applications ruled the 1990s and 2000s, digital has become the heartthrob of the current decade, and you can see enterprises entering new forays to keep themselves relevant in this fast-changing business landscape.

In this context, even the demand for technical skills has changed tremendously over the past few years. Some skills that used to have the largest pull have become obsolete, and others are struggling to keep their hold in the IT services industry.

Specialist skills losing leverage against generic skills

Consider the case of SAP on-premise business solutions. Until recently, SAP as a skillset had been very attractive among fresh graduates and lateral hires alike. High market demand coupled with supply playing catch up meant higher wages and easy to switch options in the ever-competitive outsourcing market. But over the past few years, on-premise ERP and factory-led offshoring have matured to the extent that once premium technical skills such as ABAP or Basis no longer command the same leverage over generic skills such as Java, .NET, and COBOL. Even functional skills such as finance controller (FICO) or sales and distribution have seen their premium declining over the last few years.

Specialist skills such as Cognos, Informatica, and IBM Websphere are also facing the heat in large outsourcing deals, where high competition and enterprise awareness have forced service providers to utilize a common, generic rate card irrespective of the complexity or diversity of skills involved. Also, organizations such as NetSuite, Salesforce, SuccessFactors, and Workday provide a viable option with consumption-led pricing models, which make them highly attractive. The level of competition and clear buying trends are forcing even behemoths to come to the table with cloud-based, integrated business solutions. Think SAP with S/4 HANA, which is pushed aggressively by the company’s account sales teams.
With the change in the business landscape, there’s increasingly a clear preference for new age phenomena such as big data analytics, hyper-automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The impact of IoT, digital technologies, and automation on skill demand

IoT is one area in which organizations are investing large sums for either cost optimization or revenue generation, depending on their business models. And it is one area in which hardware, firmware, mobility, cloud, and analytics specialists are in extremely high demand to address its hot growth. While the likes of Angular JS and Swift are being used to develop mobile applications, Hadoop and Spark are seeing a huge demand in data analytics. Even firmware and hardware engineers are being required to work in an agile fashion using DevOps methodology, a phenomenon never seen before in industrial manufacturing.

Another big area in which significant investment is being made is Service Delivery Automation (SDA). It is being looked at as a viable alternative to labor arbitrage. Enterprises are looking to automation to reduce costs and streamline business processes. Service providers and enterprises alike are scouting for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) developers and DevOps engineers for onshore/GIC/service provider operations to significantly downsize the low-level tasks performed offshore.

Overall, the current market is in a state of flux as digital takes precedence and legacy becomes less prominent. But the demand for digital services across enterprises is clear, regardless of existing market shares.

Are Rising Costs the Only Impact Immigration Reform Bills Will Have on the Services Industry? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

When U.S. congressmen Darrel Issa and Scott Peters at the very beginning of 2017 proposed a bill that would increase H-1B visa holders’ wages to US$100,000, experts in the industry were positive that IT service providers would be able to manage it, as they were already bearing costs between US$75-85K. But less than a month later, U.S. Congressman Zoe Lofgren’s introduction of the “The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017” – a bill that aims to double the minimum salaries for H-1B visa holders to minimum US$130,000 – eroded 5 percent of the Indian IT service providers’ market.

Although U.S. President Trump’s subsequent congressional speech talked about merit being the criteria for visa allotment – and many businesses rejoiced that he made no mention of minimum wage as the deciding factor – it’s fair to assume that the minimum wage might still end up near US$130,000 in a merit-based lottery system.

But cost is only one of the possible impacts of visa reforms on the parties directly and indirectly involved in the services industry. Let’s take a look.

Impacts on service providers

A landed resource might continue to be indispensable for projects when his or her role is primarily that of liaison with between the client’s business units and the provider’s offshore resources (due to time zone differences and established comfort levels) or if he or she was engaged for unique skills or insights. Landed resources serving as liaisons for business units could more easily be replaced by local resources.

H-1B visa reforms are expected to trigger a refocus on driving efficiencies through automation and digital process transformation. This will accelerate the transformation in service providers’ years’ standing talent acquisition operations and processes. The requirement for different skill sets, coupled with cannibalization of traditional revenue streams, paint a less than rosy picture on falling traditional revenues and increasing costs.

We might also see higher consolidation in the outsourcing industry, especially for mid-sized firms, as service providers may look at economies of scale and inorganic account expansion to counter slowing growth and keep cost of operations in check.

Impact on enterprises

U.S. companies might have to bear the brunt economic impact of the demand-supply mismatch. Enterprises today use H-1B resources for a variety of reasons, some to manage their GIC operations. A raise in the average wage will cause inflationary pressure on IT resource costs, restrict supply of talent, and create increased poaching of resources between companies. In other words, enterprises might be forced to hire landed resources at a cost much higher than the perceived value, or lose out on business efficiency and growth, thus creating a vicious cycle that the current administration hopes to break.

Impact on the education sector

The education sector might be most immediately impacted by any stringent visa reform going through. Enrollment of non-U.S. nationals in Master’s programs could plummet, given the likely challenge in finding jobs after graduation. This situation has already been observed in the U.K., where tight visa guidelines have compelled students to return home once they are done with their education. The rest of Europe, which has relatively less stringent visa requirements, might become a hot destination for the Indian student diaspora as demand for technical expertise increases significantly.

In India, it’s clear industry veterans and current leaders are questioning their own hiring tactics and the sustainability of the low cost model. While some have expressed that retraining their current force is difficult as people in senior and middle management are low quality, others have condemned the IT industry as a whole by accusing them of carteling to keep wages low.
This might not float well with new graduates, who increasingly look for jobs at start-ups entering the disruptive digital space. These new companies are offering higher wages and a culture more suited to millennials than do IT service providers.

While it will be wait and watch until we know what clauses in the proposed bill become law, it’s clear that any combination of the above and other impacts will force providers and enterprises to make some major decisions to remain at the top of their game.

DevOps Driving Digital Initiatives | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

DevOps as a concept has been in the market for some time now, and citations abound from the leadership of various organizations on how they have adopted DevOps successfully as part of their software implementation methodology.

But, every organization that has adopted DevOps has done so partially or almost completely on their own understanding and practice of the concept. Some suggest it as a modified form of agile development methodology, while others claim it as a simple co-location of resources with the traditional processes in place.

Here are some realities about DevOps, both for organizations that have already adopted it, and for those still sitting on the fence.

In the digital age, where faster deployment of products has become all the more important, it is imperative to develop an appropriate DevOps framework that ensures fast and easy deployment of code into the production. This framework should not only ensure a faster time to market but also affirm that the quality of the code meets or exceeds client expectations.

It has become critical for organizations to enhance the customer experience via software that meets individual customer’s expectations. DevOps as a methodology accelerates the release of this software, which is launched in form of a minimum viable product (MVP) and upgraded incrementally based on market demand.

The DevOps framework ideally should consist of the right team structure, where the development and operations teams collaborate from the beginning of the design stage to formulate an ideal system. This framework should solve old issues, such as late involvement of the operations and testing teams, which results in developers moving on to new projects while the code waits for the UAT approval before being handed over to the operations team, which in turn affects the release timing and code quality.

The framework should also incorporate guidelines on the tool stack that will help in faster code deployment while maintaining consistency across multiple environments. There are a variety of tools in the marketplace that automate DevOps testing, configuration, provisioning, and monitoring. It is highly important to choose the right tool stack that can be easily integrated, while ensuring high performance and throughput.

What are the critical DevOps underpinnings? The three pillars of reduced cost, increased quality, and lower effort are the KPIs against which the DevOps strategy should be gauged. Automated deployment of code plays a major role in achieving these objectives, helping ensure that end users get a ready to use product in a short span of time. And with the urgency with which organizations are going digital, time can equal success…or failure.

For more details on DevOps and its application, please see Everest Group’s recently published viewpoint, “DevOps: People, Processes and Products.”

Changing Times for Governance in IT Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The first visual that probably comes to a buyer or service provider’s mind when they think of governance is the 3 tier governance pyramid that had been around for many years. The structure of this pyramid, as well as the nature and number of the meetings/forums conducted around it between provider and buyer stakeholders have remained more or less consistent. While over the years some modifications have been made to the structure, many ideas have been more ”lip service” than reality, and most are yet to be institutionalized.

However, as business gets to have a greater say in the transformational agenda of the IT landscape, Everest Group is witnessing some prominent changes in the governance structure when governance is being delivered as a managed services. These enhancements include:

  • Involvement of the CMO/CHRO/CXO – In the current digital arena, as application and infrastructure modernize, we are increasingly seeing the business heads from both the buy and supply sides proactively participating in decisions on large transformational initiatives. These executives are involved in bi-monthly/monthly meetings during the initial stages, and directly provide oversight on the key projects being undertaken.
  • Billable domain SMEs – The domain SMEs, which have so far been corporate funded and working in an ad hoc manner, are now being included as part of the billable price to the buyer. The value they bring to the engagement is being measured in terms of IT-influenced business outcomes.
  • Joint ownership of service – There is a clear shift to buyer and supplier stakeholders jointly owning SLAs, as compared to the service provider being accountable to the buyer. One such example is the application services head from both organizations being responsible for answering to the CXO in the quarterly and half-yearly meetings.
  • The Watermelon effect – There has been upswing in this phenomenon, in which buyers say that even though each provider might be individually meeting its own SLAs, the end user experience is not rich or up to satisfactory levels. The momentum is shifting to the overall experience as evidenced by end user satisfaction scores. The primary providers are taking on overall experience responsibility by formalizing the OLA agreement levels, with penalties and service credits linked to each individual service provider.
  • Impact of the complex SaaS landscape – The role of the Service Integration and Management (SIAM) provider has become all the more important as buyers are moving from a two or three prime SI supplier landscape to multi-vendor SaaS environments. The SIAM supplier is becoming a critical function for managing end-to-end delivery of IT services.
  • Innovation fund –Service providers are committing to an innovation fund as a percentage of the overall total contract value of large outsourcing deals. This innovation fund is being used to run proof of value for next generation levers such as automation, DevOps, design thinking, digital, business intelligence, and data lakes, the outcome of which can be used to run full-fledged projects.

While the above are the most prominent changes happening to outsourcing governance models today, Everest Group foresees many more significant changes at individual layers of the 3 tier governance model, with tighter controls and higher business involvement becoming part of the routine.

Cost Impact of Automation on Application Services Space – More Than Just Input Labor Reduction | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Service delivery automation (SDA) is gaining a lot of traction in the application management arena. As CIOs face tighter IT budgets each year, they also look at creating more value for business in the form of aligning IT applications to business outcomes through digital initiatives. This increased spending on discretionary digital projects has to be compensated through reduced spending on legacy services.

SDA not only targets reduction of input FTE or labor but also aims at improvement of business outcomes. The four pillars that drive automation-related cost savings in an application context can be classified as follows:

  • Reduction in input labor – This is the most talked about area on which the premise of SDA has been established. Some of the key areas where reduction has been targeted include tasks (job scheduling, ad-hoc reports, active directory requests etc.), technical monitoring, and preventive maintenance of downstream systems.
  • Time to market – As companies look toward evolving business models that demand moving to digital space for survival, five or more releases in a month has become a new normal. The earlier practice of an annual or bi-annual release has become redundant due to the fast changing shape of the market. DevOps has been adopted as a practice by many organizations to meet this requirement, and it aims at shifting organizational structure from a traditional silo- based team to an agile one-team approach with focus on people, processes, tools, and accelerators.
  • Service management – Service management targets improvement of the service experience for clients. Some of the key value-additions by service providers have been in the area of service reporting. They have established command centers that churn data extracted from the client service management tool and translate it into visual representations in a single click that are easy to follow and can provide deep insights into weak links of the service value chain.
  • Improved business outcomes – Accelerators and pre-configured templates serve as one of the highest value adds in terms of automating business processes for applications. As companies, such as SAP, launch specific pre-configured templates for different verticals like Retail, Energy, etc., the need to customize the ERP solutions has reduced. For others, who look to automate their processes, automating the configuration of reports/items into existing systems (e.g., creating a sales order in the order-to-cash system) present good opportunities. Apart from that, developing dashboards that can align IT SLAs to business KPIs can help business and IT teams collaboratively identify the impact of IT issues on business in a time-bound manner as well as reduce the value loss due to IT failures.

Service providers have been leveraging automation in some shape or form for a number of years now, though the mechanism of passing the risks/benefits to buyers has been hazy. As buyers’ maturity and understanding has increased over time due to the adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Cognitive technologies, the automation discussion has become center-stage.

Automation is bringing significant change to service delivery mechanisms as deals come up for restructuring or re-pricing. It will serve as one of the key areas for the service providers to focus on to differentiate themselves and increase their share in an extremely competitive market.