Author: RohanKapoor

Africa: On the Frontier of IT-BP Services Delivery | Blog

In the last few years, for a number of reasons, there’s been a major uptick in global services delivery from Africa. The most significant driver of growth is Africa’s emergence as the next frontier for small-scale delivery centers. Another is strong government support that enables global services delivery. But there are a variety of other key forces that are making Africa a destination of choice for companies of all sizes, including some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Accenture, Daimler, Google, Microsoft, Standard Chartered, and Teleperformance.

There is less competition for talent in most locations in Africa compared to key offshore/nearshore talent hubs across leading geographies. Expansion into African cities helps organizations diversify their delivery location risk, as most locations have the ability to serve as Business Continuity Planning (BCP) locations to nearshore/offshore centers. Moving services to Africa also helps organizations differentiate themselves by capitalizing on early-mover advantage.

Other factors, such as an attractive talent-cost proposition, strong domestic demand across East and West African countries, and improving infrastructure capabilities (including rapid adoption of Work From Home (WFH) / remote working models), have improved the business case for new center set ups. For example, there’s been an increase in services maturity for delivery of key services across the region, including voice- and non-voice-based BPS services, IT services, and engineering/R&D delivery. And while most locations have low operating costs, ongoing currency depreciation and lower attrition costs across leading countries like Egypt and South Africa have helped bolster overall growth.

Trade-offs and risks

As market players prepare consider options for service delivery from Africa, they need to be cognizant of the key tradeoffs and associated risks for operating in the region, including:

  • At present, Africa is best suited to deliver transactional services. Companies seeking to support more specialized operations or judgement-intensive processes may find it difficult to operate, or they may find that they need to make substantial investments in the talent market
  • There’s a limited pool of experienced talent. Companies will need to invest in growing and developing talent locally, by training recent graduates and building a recruitment engine from the ground-up, among other options
  • The region poses potential challenges with delivery enablers (including utilities, transportation, meals/catering, and stationery providers), low quality office infrastructure, and comparatively poor connectivity to domestic/international locations
  • The business environment in East and West African countries is less favorable than nearshore Europe locations, including infrastructure quality, digital readiness, and safety and security
  • Given low talent availability, language support beyond English is limited and commands high premiums
  • The presence of key players supporting global services is limited in most African countries; the entry of a few large companies could easily congest the market and quickly increase costs

Most leveraged African countries for IT-BP delivery

Exhibit 2

Here’s a quick look at the top four global services delivery locations in Africa, by market size – largest to smallest.

#1 Egypt

Companies leverage Egypt as a hub location for multi-lingual delivery to the EMEA region, as well as delivery to the US, UK, and Australia markets. It offers an attractive cost and talent proposition to support to a wide range of functions – including voice- and non-voice business processes, IT application development and maintenance, and digital services – and high availability of talent to support English and some European languages. While it offers a favorable business environment, it has some geopolitical stability challenges.

#2 Morocco

Companies largely leverage Morocco as a spoke location for multi-lingual contact center and IT services delivery. It provides extensive support to the North Africa markets. While organizations extensively leverage Morocco to support IT services delivery, it also increasingly supports business process delivery as well, including sales, client support, HR, and F&A. French and Spanish language services continue to be in high demand, and are the most widely used for services delivery. The country offers a favorable business environment but has some geopolitical stability challenges.

#3 South Africa

Organizations continue to leverage South Africa as a global hub to support the UK, US, and Australia markets, and – in many cases – South Africa serves as a regional hub for Africa and Middle East countries. It offers an attractive talent proposition to support both transactional and judgement-intensive processes, including customer analytics, actuarial modelling, fund administration, HR, and procurement. IT services delivery has gained traction over the years, and the country boats a large talent pool to support English and multiple European languages. It has a favorable business and operating environment with no significant challenges.

#4 Mauritius

Organizations primarily use Mauritius as a spoke location to support French language delivery and a suite of services including IT services (application development, maintenance, infrastructure services), voice and non-voice transactional business processes (e.g., F&A, HR, and procurement), and analytics. French language talent availability continues to drive overall demand. The country is highly favorable from a business and operating environment standpoint and has no significant challenges.

While the global services market in Africa is relatively less mature than leading offshore geographies such as India and the Philippines, there is significant potential to tap into the domestic market across the top locations. Industry verticals including BFSI, telecommunications, and IT services continue to drive overall domestic demand. Further, with the strong government support, offshore advantage, growing talent pools, and infrastructure capabilities, several African countries offer a multi-pronged value proposition to enterprises seeking an IT-BP services delivery destination.

To learn more about the dynamics in the region, please read our recently published report Africa: Emerging IT-BP Delivery Force, which highlights the relative attractiveness and talent-cost proposition of key African locations to support global services delivery, based on our holistic and multi-faceted assessment across 10 key parameters parameters.

For more information on Africa as a global service delivery location, please contact us at [email protected] or [email protected].

Service Delivery Location Factors to Consider for WFH Model Adoption | Blog

Before COVID-19, most organizations were reluctant to adopt Work From Home (WFH), viewing it as a hard-to-govern delivery model relevant only for limited functions and employees. However, the pandemic has made WFH a requirement, at least for the short term, for most enterprises. Despite the massive disruption, we believe most organizations will make WFH a business-as-usual component of their “next normal.” But that means they’ll have to take a long, hard strategic look at the locations they use for services delivery, whether they operate in a shared services environment or leverage a third-party provider.

COVID-19 has challenged conventional thinking about location selection parameters

Historically, most location portfolio decisions were based on an evaluation of traditional factors including the talent landscape, market attractiveness and competitiveness, cost of business operations, and the business and operating environment. Now organizations need to factor in and evaluate a location’s business case for WFH adoption, including the interplay of additional drivers like infrastructure, restrictions for remote delivery, presence of strong governance mechanisms, employee security, data protection, intellectual property safety, and determination of additional benefits that can be tapped into.

We’ve developed a framework that assesses 20 additional factors that we have categorized into three buckets: viability, security, and potential benefits.

WFH

Each of these parameters plays a crucial role in an organization’s selection of services delivery locations for a WFH environment.

Understanding a given location’s WFH viability will not only help enterprises carve out their next wave of growth, but also help them tap into the additional benefits offered by the location.

Here’s a look at each of the three overarching buckets.

Understanding overall viability

This category is all about evaluating a location’s business ecosystem through a new WFH lens. It involves:

  • Having a detailed view of the overall WFH infrastructure, like broadband speed and penetration, power/telecom outages, network readiness, and reliability
  • Understanding nuances for local WFH restrictions as imposed by the law, such as regulatory concerns, data privacy issues, SEZ norms, and number of working hours
  • Assessing the overall ecosystem for WFH adoption, e.g., social/cultural acceptance and working from an established location as opposed to a greenfield location.

We believe all organizations should assess each location on these factors as they will play an essential role in WFH success.

Fighting security concerns

Another critical factor enterprises need to evaluate in each location they’re considering is the overall security of their employees and their data. Here, organizations need to look at the robustness and effectiveness of local data protection and cybercrime laws across each location. Understanding local governance mechanisms and laws will help bolster viability for each location and help organizations map suitability for each function. Further, as their employees will be working from home, organizations will also need to understand the nuances around crime rates across employee neighborhoods, civil unrest, and natural hazards, as these can potentially increase the business cost for crime and violence, and also disrupt operations.

Reaping potential benefits

Adopting a WFH model will not only help organizations drive the next wave of cost optimization (significant savings over leasing real estate infrastructure and utility expenses) but also will help them overcome challenges related to availability of real estate across leading talent hubs in tier-1 locations.

WFH adoption will further help organizations establish additional satellite locations, or tertiary sites, in which talent works remotely, either permanently or part-time, with or without a corporate physical presence in the location. This will not only help reduce travel time, but also help improve employee productivity and reduce overall attrition for organizations. Based on a recent survey we conducted with leading enterprises, more than three-quarters of the respondents said their organization’s overall productivity has increased in the current COVID-19 period. The average improvement in productivity was just over 13 percent, as compared to before the pandemic period.

The WFH business case is a win-win proposition for most organizations as they adapt to the “next normal.” While there are multiple factors that potentially sweeten the business case for WFH adoption, taking a detailed view by each location will be an imperative as organizations progress and evolve on this journey. An iterative and continuous thinking approach will further help organizations overcome some key challenges including employee and organization development, legal, and regulatory concerns. Watch this space for more updates.

For additional details on this topic, reach out to us at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

Dark Horses Challenging Mexico City’s Status as Top Mexican Services Delivery Location | Blog

Mexico continues to be the destination of choice for global services delivery across Latin America. Indeed, our  research for our “Global Locations Annual Report 2019: Demand for Next-Gen Services Defining Locations Strategies” report found that 26 percent of LATAM’s new set-ups established during 2017 to 2019 were in Mexico, including those by Atento, Continental, Harman International, Hexaware Technologies, Neoris, Tech Mahindra, and Zensar.

IMG2

There are multiple reasons that Mexico is the top LATAM global services delivery destination. First, while voice and non-voice business process services continue to grow moderately, the country is the leader in digital due to an increase in support for services including analytics, cloud, mobility, big data, IoT, and artificial intelligence. Second, very few locations offer a better cost-talent proposition to North American enterprises than does Mexico. And third, the fact that it’s a nearshore location makes it highly attractive to North America-based companies.

So, what are the top delivery destinations in Mexico?

Mexico City has the largest share of the Mexican market and is the most mature location in terms of breadth and depth of IT and business process services delivered, including IT consulting, digital, accounting, tax, and actuarial services.

However, despite being the country’s capital city and biggest business hub, Mexico City lags behind most of its Mexican counterparts in quality of life aspects including crime rates, traffic congestion, and air pollution. And, it ranks second to last of 32 cities assessed across Mexico on “ease of doing business.” All of this, coupled with the fact that clients care most about the talent capabilities in the destination, is opening the door for several other Mexican cities to carve out greater portions of the Mexico services delivery pie.

Let’s take a quick look at these dark horses.

Guadalajara

Guadalajara, often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of Mexico,” continues to grow due to its availability of IT-related talent and delivery of key skills such as IT-ADM, cyber security, and IT consulting. Large pools of talent from adjoining areas have been migrating to the city. Today, Guadalajara is home to some of the top service providers, including HCL Technologies, IBM, and TCS.

Monterrey

Monterrey continues to grow in the finance and accounting space and is one of the country’s most mature locations after Mexico City. The city also delivers some of the more complex functions including tax and accounting. Given its proximity to the U.S. border, the English language proficiency and scalability potential of its global services workers is the highest in the country. The city also offers the best overall business environment, primarily due to better quality of life, infrastructure, and connectivity.

Queretaro

With its proximity to Mexico City, Queretaro has grown steadily as a delivery location across functions over the past several years. The city has had maximum percentage growth in graduates across Mexico since 2015, albeit on a smaller base. However, its development is still nascent, so it’s largely being leveraged as a smaller spoke to a larger hub within the region. From a cost standpoint, most global companies view it as a low-cost alternative, primarily driven by lower people- and non-people costs.

 

IMG1

To learn more about the dynamics shaping the global services locations landscape, please read our recently published report, “Global Locations Annual Report 2019: Demand for Next-Gen Services Defining Locations Strategies.” We developed the report based on deep-dive discussions with regional investment promotion bodies, leading shared services centers, service providers, recruitment agencies, and other market participants.

For more information on Mexico as a global services delivery location, please contact us at [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].

What’s Driving the Upcoming Wave of Indian Service Provider Layoffs? | Blog

Recent news reports of upcoming layoffs in India’s IT-BP industry are painting a pretty gloomy picture for 2020. Indeed, the reported layoff numbers from Cognizant, DXC Technology, IBM, and Infosys collectively amount to more than 20,000 employees and account for 4-5 percent of their total India headcount. Coupled with the economic slowdown in the country, these layoffs will add to India’s high unemployment rate over the next few quarters.

What’s driving these layoffs? Is it the maturity of legacy systems, as Cognizant and Infosys said? Is it due to workforce restructuring and cost pressures, as Capgemini, DXC, and IBM cited?

There are four reasons that many of India’s IT and BP providers – not just those mentioned above – may have to trim their workforces in 2020.

Cost and margin pressures

The slow economic growth is putting pressure on providers’ ability to meet their target margins. Heavy discounts to retain existing clients, building new relationships, and slow revenue growth are exacerbating the situation. Letting some employees go helps them streamline their costs.

Rise in reshoring

Reshoring continues to grow for multiple reasons: stricter visa regulations, new data security regulations (i.e., the introduction of GDPR in 2018), and buyers’ increasing desire for providers to grow their onshore presence for ease of coordination, better alignment/training, and promotion of customer intimacy.

Given their dependence on multi-national and global clients, service providers have drastically increased hiring in some onshore locations to localize their business presence. This not only adds to the overall costs of operations but also translates into a reduced number of transactional roles in India to optimize overall costs.

Digital uprise

Legacy technologies are fast giving way to new digital technologies like cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is increasingly reducing the need for workers with expertise in legacy technologies. And automation adoption has made jobs redundant, leading to lower headcount demand than before.

Rationalization of the experience mix

One lever service providers are pulling to help their clients optimize their delivery costs is rationalizing their middle-heavy delivery pyramid, particularly in India. This is because mid-level resources add to the existing high cost of operations, aren’t particularly adept in emerging technologies, and have been slow to up-skill themselves on them. Thus, providers are increasingly targeting a healthy mix of resources spread across entry-level and experienced talent. This will result in substantial mid to more senior employee layoffs.

The double whammy of the economic downturn and technological transformation might lead service providers to cut more jobs in the coming quarters. This will not only help them streamline their costs, but also redirect their focus towards reskilling and restructuring the existing workforce. While the existing employees struggle to upskill themselves to retain their jobs, the fear of future uncertainties is comprehensible.

To learn more, please read our recently published report, “Market Vista: Q4 2019.” It’s designed to equip global sourcing professionals with incisive research and insights on the latest trends in the sourcing market, sourcing locations, and service provider developments. We develop the Market Vista reports based on deep-dive discussions with leading shared services centers, service providers, and other market participants.

Demand for Next-Gen Services Defining Location Strategies | Blog

Regulatory uncertainty, technological disruption, talent challenges, and a host of other issues have all played significant roles in enterprises’ and service providers’ location strategies for global services delivery over the past couple of years.

The deep-dive analysis we conducted on enormous volumes of 2018 data to develop our Global Locations Annual Report 2019 made it clear that five key trends came into play in 2019, and will continue into 2020:

  • Increased focus on digital and R&D/engineering services
  • Increase in nearshoring
  • Slowdown in headcount growth
  • Increase in onshoring by service providers
  • Growth in emerging locations.

Here’s a quick look at each of these trends.

Digital and R&D/engineering services continue to dominate

Enterprise demand for digital services and the associated R&D/engineering services compelled most global service providers to set up innovation centers and COEs to keep up with the changes in the digital landscape. And there was a significant rise in the number of R&D/engineering and digital service delivery centers – especially in APAC and nearshore Europe – as providers vie to develop data-driven, intelligent, and robust systems using automation, cloud, and AI-based capabilities.

DC3 1

Global services delivery is increasingly being characterized by nearshoring

In a move to rebalance and optimize their existing locations portfolio and comply with data protection mandates, both enterprises and service providers are marginally shifting from offshore to nearshore locations. Nearshore Europe experienced the greatest increase in headcount and new center setups in 2018 due to the availability of complex skills, proximity to customers in Western Europe, increased regulatory oversight, and demand for multi-lingual support.

Poland, Ireland, and Scotland will continue to dominate the global services landscape in nearshore Europe, followed by Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Romania.

DC2 1

Global services headcount continues to grow, but modestly

Increasing use of automation for low complexity, high volume services is having a considerable impact on the talent landscape. While growth in digital services will lead to newer job and skill profiles, the headcount required for newer digital jobs will be significantly lower than that required for low complexity jobs, and the growth will be slower due to technological advances and the shortage of talent for new-age technologies.

DC1 1

Service providers continue to grow in onshore geographies

Leading service providers have been continuously growing their presence in onshore geographies. This is in large part due to increasingly stringent data protection laws and mounting pressure from clients to have local delivery centers. The United States and continental Europe continue to remain the destination of choice for setup activity across onshore locations. The lion’s share of the work delivered from these onshore centers is in IT services.

We expect the United States to continue to grow in the wake of uncertainty around visa regulations and increased pressure from clients to have local delivery centers for ease of coordination, better alignment/training, and promoting customer intimacy. And, we also expect growth in digital services to push providers to continue to expand in other onshore locations – such as Belgium and Switzerland – due to availability of skilled talent and the ability for extensive collaboration with Europe-based clients.

Growth in emerging locations for global services delivery

While use of the traditional delivery locations continues to grow, other locations are picking up steam, including:

  • Jamaica continues to grow in setups for voice services
  • Ghana and Kenya are being leveraged to support the East and West Africa regions
  • Israel is growing significantly for delivery of R&D/engineering and high-end IT services
  • Lithuania is also growing as a destination for delivery of IT (largely digital) and R&D/engineering services.

To learn more about the dynamics shaping the global services locations landscape, please read our recently published report, “Global Locations Annual Report 2019: Demand for Next-Gen Services Defining Locations Strategies.” We developed the report based on deep-dive discussions with the regional investment promotion bodies, leading shared services centers, service providers, recruitment agencies, and other market participants.

Four Key Trends in Social Media Content Moderation | Blog

While the numbers vary depending on the source, there are give or take three billion social media users around the world in 2019. With the associated dramatic increase in manipulative and malicious content, there’s been an explosion in the market for content moderation services.

Based on our interactions with leading global enterprises and service providers, here are the four key trends impacting the content moderation services industry.

Key trends impacting content moderation services

1. Demand for content moderation is growing

Given the exponential rise of inappropriate online content like political propaganda, spam, violence, disturbing videos, dangerous hoaxes, and other extreme content, most governments have instituted or begun creating policies to regulate social networking, video, and e-commerce sites. As a result, social media companies are facing mounting legislative pressures to curate all content generated on their platforms.

The following image shows how seriously these companies are taking the issue. And note that these numbers only account for outsourced content moderation services, not internally managed content moderation.

Content generation services BPO Market

Orange boxes indicate CAGR / Y-o-Y growth over the years

2. Both technology and humans are vital

Technological capabilities – ranging from robotic process automation (RPA) to automate repetitive manual process steps, to AI-assisted decision support tools, to AI-enabled task automation of review steps – have certainly emerged as key levers to help social media companies protect their communities and scale their content management operations. For example, established tech giants including Microsoft and Google, as well as fast-growing start-ups, have been investing in developing scalable AI content solutions that deliver faster business value and safer conditions.

While technology will continue to play a big role, it certainly isn’t the be-all, end-all. The judgement-intensive nature of content moderation work requires the human touch. Indeed, with the increasing complexity of the work and the rising regulatory oversight requirements, the need for human employees as part of the content moderation equation will continue to grow significantly.

3. Content moderators need a multitude of skills

Content moderation is an extremely difficult job, at times monotonous and at others disturbing. As not everyone is cut out for the role, companies need to assess candidates against multiple criteria, including:

  • Language proficiency, including region-specific slang
  • Local context
  • Acceptance of ideas that may be contrary to self-held beliefs and personal opinions (e.g., on gender, religion, societal norms, political issues, etc.)
  • Ability to adhere to global policies
  • Ability/maturity to review content that is explicit in nature
  • Exposure to a multi-cultural, diverse society
  • Exposure to freedom of expression, both online and offline, and a drive to protect it
  • Ability to understand and accept increasingly stringent regulatory policies.

4. Content moderation services demand a different location strategy

Because all countries have unique cultural, regional, and socio-political nuances, the traditional offshore/nearshore-centric location selection strategies that work for standard IT and business process services won’t work for content moderation work. Companies seeking outsourced content moderation services need to look at regional hubs alongside multiple local centers to succeed. In the short-term, this means working with leading providers with hyper-localized delivery centers and rising local providers in the target countries.

Outlook

Here’s what we see coming down the pike in the increasingly complex content moderation space.

  • Short-term investments/quick fixes might take precedence over long-term investments
  • Until the regulatory landscape stabilizes, companies might need to allocate a disproportionate amount of resources/spend towards compliance initiatives
  • Regulatory uncertainty and ambiguity will increase demand for specialist/niche forms of talent, including legal professionals and consultants. Today’s content adjudicators will be displaced by forensic investigators with specialized skills in product, market, legal, and regulatory domains
  • Companies must make talent development activities a priority through a specialized focus on structured talent sourcing and training, and strong emphasis on employee well-being through various wellness initiatives
  • As AI continues to grow in sophistication, a more defined synergistic relationship between humans and the technology will emerge. AI will be responsible for evaluating massive amounts of multi-dimensional content, and humans will focus on intent and deeper context analysis
  • The need for a hyper-local delivery model will prompt enterprises to increasingly explore outsourcing as a potential solution to benefit from service providers’ diversified location portfolios.

To learn more about the content moderation space, please contact Hrishi Raj Agarwalla / Rohan Kapoor / Anurag Srivastava.

Can Indian Tier-2/3 Cities Fit the Bill for Digital Services Delivery? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

India continues to offer an attractive service delivery location proposition for global companies, given its unique combination of a low-cost, scalable English-speaking talent pool, and the breadth and depth of available skills.

As the global digital services industry matures, and with increasing competition in the tier-1 cities, companies are looking to reduce the costs of talent and access additional untapped talent pools for digital services delivery.

Can tier-2/3 cities in India fit the bill? Let’s start by looking at the current state of digital services delivery in these cities.

Existing Landscape

Today, India is the largest destination for digital services delivery, with 75 percent of the market. Tier-2/3 cities in the country currently hold 14-16 percent of the market share, and we expect this proportion to grow by 15-20 percent in the next couple of years. Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, T-puram, and Vadodara are the top nine tier-2/3 locations, accounting for 55-60 percent of the digital services headcount in tier-2/3 cities.

Tier-2/3 cities are mostly leveraged to provide social & interactive (41-43 percent), cloud (21-23 percent), analytics (16-18 percent), and automation (10-12 percent) related services. When it comes to sophisticated digital technology services, such as cybersecurity, mobility, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), service providers still prefer tier-1 locations such as Bengaluru.

Major digital services Tier 2 3 blog

Now, let’s evaluate how tier-2/3 Indian cities’ value proposition stacks up against tier-1 cities.

 

Value prop tier2 3 India

What’s ahead for India’s Tier-2/3 Cities?

 Here are some of the key findings from our recently published report, “Will Tier-2/3 Indian Cities Carve a Niche in the Digital Story?

  • Tier-2/3 cities will continue to be leveraged predominantly as spokes to major hubs in tier-1 cities for the next two to three years
  • Because of a lack of skilled talent, delivery of advanced digital services such as machine learning, cyber security, and mobility from tier-2/3 cities will remain a distant dream for the next few years
  • An increasing number of enterprises will set up global in-house centers (GICs) or shared services centers for delivery of digital operations, due to increasing confidence and improvements in infrastructure quality
  • Reskilling/upskilling for digital capabilities will be paramount for companies operating in these cities
  • A few large service providers will invest in training talent, and benefit from early mover advantage by becoming distinguished employers in a less competitive market

To learn more – including the metrics around availability of talent, market maturity, cost of operations, business and operating risk environment, and implications for market participants including buyers, service providers, investment promotion councils, and industry bodies – please read our recently published report, “Will Tier-2/3 Indian Cities Carve a Niche in the Digital Story?.” We developed the report based on deep-dive discussions with leading shared services centers, service providers, recruitment agencies, and other market participants.

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