I believe it’s now apparent that all companies will go through one of two different forms of digital journeys over the next 20 years. Why? These journeys are inevitable because of the irresistible forces of competitive advantage and lower cost as outcomes. It’s not a question of “if;” it’s a question of when and to what results. However, the result or potential outcome is an aspect of digital that executives sometimes misunderstand and, in doing so, they end up with failed initiatives. So, let’s clear up the possible misunderstandings and look at what digital journeys are about, the types of results that companies can achieve and how digital platforms fit into that picture.
The pivot of third-party services firms to digital is disrupting the entire services industry. Times of disruption always give rise to new competitors, and challengers among service providers can shift share. This is clearly happening now in the demand for digital transformation services. The Big 4 accounting and auditing firms – Deloitte E&Y, KPMG and PwC – are emerging as formidable challengers to Accenture, IBM and the Indian service providers. Here’s what’s happening and what it means for competitors and enterprise customers.
Two champions have emerged among service providers in digital transformation: Accenture and TCS. Accenture is driving business transformation, and TCS is doing a marvelous job of driving IT modernization. TCS’ recent acquisition of W12 Studios, a London-based digital design agency, is worth noting for its implications in the digital marketing space.
W12 will be part of TCS Interactive, TCS’ digital design division. Digital marketing is an attractive, high-impact growth area in digital transformation. It is pivoting toward greater and greater use of technology, clearly calling out for technology companies such as TCS to participate in it more fully. Accenture is building big business in this space quickly. Even so, this acquisition is surprising.
Unlike Accenture, TCS has not driven its success by acquiring companies. But the digital marketing space is growing very quickly, so TCS felt it needed to break its mold and gain a foothold in the space by acquisition. The increasing need for sophisticated technology such as AI and automation to execute well in this space makes it more attractive for TCS. This technology sophistication is well beyond the capabilities of customers for third-party services.
Two factors may be growth hindrances that affect TCS’ strategy for entering the digital marketing space.
First, TCS is late to this party. Companies such as Accenture, Capgemini, Infosys and others already created very large, formidable businesses in this space. Accenture is the prime example and has a big lead. TCS historically proved effective at closing market gaps once it established a foothold. But the firm has a big gap to close in digital marketing. It seems unlikely that TCS will succeed in closing this gap purely without further acquisitions.
Overall, the Indian services firms are late entries and are losing share to Accenture and the domestic players. For the Indian players to challenge for leadership, they will need to invest heavily and continue to grow inorganically.
The second possible growth hindrance involves the delivery model. It seems reasonable that much of the support of digital marketing technology can be delivered from an offshore model. But it’s not clear that the creative aspects are best delivered from a remote location. However, given that the technology and technology support is growing in importance it makes sense that TCS distributed model will work well for this part of the equation. Despite a growing and rich source of creative talent in India, I am skeptical that customers will move their creative work offshore. Why? Because proximity to the business and cultural emersion are critical aspects of the delivery.
I think it’s important to recognize that TCS’ goal may not be to enter digital marketing in a big way. At this point, there is such a fundamental disruption happening in the space that even capturing a small part of this marketplace might be a welcome and lucrative component to the broad portfolio that TCS offers. Even with a small market share, TCS can create a nice book of business given the growing market and secular trend toward technology.
I believe we’ll see significant changes in the third-party services industry in 2019. The coming year will bring some major movements and trends, along with disruptions and bumpy roads.
Bumpy Roads in Digital Transformation
This year has been a move from digital transformation pilots to programs, which led to a full-on wave of IT modernization to support transforming to digital operating models. The question we must examine going forward is whether this wave will survive a recession.
It seems likely that the global economy will slow and even the US economy will come down off its heavy heights. If this happens and the economy decelerates, less capital and less discretionary funding will be available to fund companies’ modernization goals. If this happens – and the question is not if it will happen but when – I think it’s likely that it will start to happen in 2019.
The biggest mistake a company can make in digital transformation is starting the transformation journey without first getting the necessary commitment and support. Senior leaders and business stakeholders must commit to rethink and change organizational boundaries, policies, processes, talent and organizational structure as necessary to achieve the strategic intent or vision.
If they’re not committed to doing that, the digital transformation effort will fail.
Unfortunately, many companies get only lip service from leaders rather than long-term commitment to change. Company leaders can have a great meeting and talk about the need for change and a digital environment to create new competitive positioning, but not get real commitment to change.
IBM’s $34 billion cash acquisition of Red Hat announced early this week has far-reaching implications for the IT services world. IT is modernizing, moving from a legacy world with data centers, proprietary operating systems and proprietary technologies to a digital environment with cloud, open-source software, a high degree of automation, DevOps and integration among these components. IBM’s legacy assets and capabilities are formidable, but the firm was not well positioned for IT modernization and struggled with digital operating models. The Red Hat acquisition is significant as it repositions IBM as a vital, must-have partner for enterprise customers in IT modernization and evolving digital operating models. This is a very intriguing acquisition for IBM. Let’s look at the implications for IBM and enterprise customers.
An interesting trend is developing in the services industry, reversing the trend we’ve seen for the past five years. I predict that this year, and for the next few years, we will see a modest rise in mega deals – deals with $500,000,000 or more in Total Contract Value (TCV). Where are those deals coming from?
At Everest Group, we watch services transactions closely. Over the last five years, the industry experienced a big move away from mega deals, preferring smaller and smaller transactions. This was then exacerbated by digital rotation where customers were interested in digital pilots – which are small deals. But this year we note a renewal of interest – in some specific situations – for large deals.
Here’s my take on three forces driving mega deals now.
Force #1: IP-Plus-Services Model
One force driving mega deals is where the service provider wraps services around the intellectual property (IP) platform the provider owns. TCS’s book of business of large deals is a good example of this. TCS has an IP platform around insurance and mega deals tied to that platform. The $2 billion-plus TCS transaction with Transamerica earlier this year is a good example. What makes the deal so large? The customer is modernizing its IT by jettisoning its legacy technology and transferring it to TCS for modernization through the TCS platform.
As the services industry pivots to digital models, IP ownership plays an increasingly important role. Automating work diminishes the importance of labor arbitrage, and the profit pool reconfigures around IP owners. The nature of the IP-plus-services model allows mega deals to happen. I expect more of this kind of deal to happen at TCS as well as at providers like Cognizant, which has a similar platform in the pharmaceutical healthcare space with TriZetto. Both TCS and Cognizant are using their investments in IP platforms to differentiate their offerings and capture large contracts.
Where service providers own important IP platforms, I see those as the basis for some very large deals.
Force #2: Leveraging the Balance Sheet
Another source for large deals is providers leveraging their balance sheet to finance a customer’s large-scale IT modernization. HCL and Wipro are good examples of providers using this approach to create very large deals. They use their balance sheets to fund expensive IT modernization deals, including taking over a customer’s legacy assets. This strategy accelerates a service provider’s growth, and I expect to see more mega deals using this strategy.
Force #3: Digital Transformation Programs
This year, we’ve seen digital transformation move out of the pilot phase into full-blown transformation programs. The amount of money customers spend on these transformations is staggering, often hundreds of millions of dollars. The large availability of enterprise funding for transformation is likely to encourage larger deals.
The net result of these three forces? I believe we will see a modest increase in mega deals, and in certain areas, larger deals for the remainder of this year and next year.
I’m not claiming the entire services market is moving to mega deals. In fact, two size-diminishing secular trends that were well underway continue: (1) decomposing the legacy, multi-tower deals to single towers and bidding those out (2) the move from managed services to systems integration and digital work. These trends will continue to create a fabric of smaller transactions.
However, some large deals are emerging. I believe the three forces I described are working against the well-established trends for smaller deals we saw during the last five years.
Disruptive technologies enable dramatic new ways of doing work and delivering value to customers. Understandably, companies are rushing to implement disruptive technologies to change their business so that they can better serve their customers, employees, partners with new value and lower their total cost of ownership. Achieving this goal necessitates assembling a digital platform. However, few companies have the resources to build and maintain a platform alone, so they need to contract with third-party service providers. Here’s the problem: the classic procurement approach for third-party services doesn’t work with digital transformation.
Last week, General Electric (GE) replaced CEO John Flannery (after just 13 months in the top seat) with former Danaher chief Lawrence Culp, in response to Flannery’s slower-than-expected turnaround efforts.
GE has been a lynchpin of the American economic narrative, having pioneered the light bulb and the jet engine. During its vast and distinguished history, it has survived the Great Depression, the dot-com bubble, and the 2008 financial crisis. It was one of the original components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and had the longest continuous presence on the index before being removed from the index in June 2018. GE’s shares recently nosedived to fall below the $100 billion market cap threshold, effectively wiping out US$500 billion in value since its peak market cap of ~US$600 billion in August 2000. For such as iconic enterprise, the fall could not have been more dramatic.
How Did We Get Here?
While much of the market commentary has tried to blame GE’s decline on everything from short-sighted leadership (even under the legendary Jack Welch), expensive (and often inexplicable) M&A deals, and poor cash deployment, the truth is that it has suffered from a not-so-uncommon problem… lack of a future-proof digital operating model.
The company has struggled to reorient its portfolio in time, something for which Welch, Immelt, and Flannery were criticized. It has witnessed sluggish growth, despite divesting what it perceives are “non-core” businesses. Over the years, it overpaid for assets in “legacy” businesses – a typical sign of hubris – e.g., its US$9.5 billion acquisition of Alstom, which represented a doubling down on fossil fuels.
A combination of these short-sighted decisions has led to sluggish growth in emerging areas, such as healthcare. Its healthcare unit is now looking to spin out into a separate and independent company by 2019, despite being an important profit center with US$3.4 billion, or 18 percent in profit, in 2017. Essentially, it accounted for 16 percent of GE’s sales, but ~50 percent of its operating profit in 2017, which is a prime example of the misplaced bets GE has made over the years.
This not to say that GE has failed invest in upping its digital game. It has positioned itself as an industrial leader of the digital revolution, with major bets in software players and the Predix industrial IoT platform.
Digital is still a US$4 billion business for GE, but its aspirations seem dramatically cut short. Former CEO Jeff Immelt established the GE Digital business in 2015 as a part of a grand vision to transform the conglomerate into a “digital industrial” company. And yes, invested US$4 billion into the unit. After Immelt’s resignation last year, Flannery has scaled back these ambitions to focus on what it considered the “core” businesses. As of July 2018, GE was reportedly looking to hive off its digital assets, including Predix.
But is GE Alone?
Not really. Our recent research on the evolving digital services market reveals that three in four enterprises have failed to realize sustained returns on their digital investments. Leading enterprise executives singled out the operating model – or lack thereof – as the most important crucial determinant of success in this journey. Amongst various issues, 69 percent of enterprises consider organization structure a barrier while scaling up their digital initiatives.
Enterprises that do not meaningfully reimagine their operating models cannot sustain digital transformation initiatives. Most organizations take a half measure by just focusing on digital strategy. If the enterprise operating model is not aligned with the digital strategy and business model, the desired returns from a transformation initiative cannot be achieved.
A Future-Proof Digital Operating Model
Enterprises need to focus on five key areas to evolve their digital operating model and sustain transformation initiatives:
Organization structure: Leaner organizational structure aligned with the business model and digital strategy
Organizational culture: Ownership-driven culture with focus toward experimentation to reduce the fear of change
Communication channels: Decision-making aided by 360° communication involving internal and external stakeholders
Technology: Broader scope of technology adoption involving the entire value chain
Governance: Portfolio-based technology investments with aggregate business benefits such as ROI.
Adding F.I.R.E. to Scale
To achieve digital-first success, enterprises should embrace a F.I.R.E. operating model framework that defines a blueprint to scale up their digital initiatives:
Fluid organizational structure: Simplifying the organizational structure and its processes in selected pockets of the organization that require agility
Innovative system and culture: Redefining existing processes needs a culture that is driven by innovation and experimentation
Responsive workplace: Creating a workplace aided by intelligent automation and collaboration practices can act as a foundation for any transformation project
Experience-centricity: Moving beyond customer-centricity to focus on the experience of the ecosystem.
Enterprises need to stop looking at digital transformation as an end-goal in and of itself. Rather, it’s a means to an end. When undertaken for short-term incentives and playing buzz word bingo, digital initiatives are more often than not doomed for suboptimal returns if not outright failure. Enterprises need to define the objective functions, and work backwards to establish a resilient and nimble operating model in order to stay relevant and thrive.
In meetings with companies undertaking digital transformation or IT modernization, I often hear executives talking about advice they’ve received from their consultants and advisors on how to plan and manage these initiatives. I consistently hear different versions of three points. “We must have a detailed road map of our transformation journey.” “We will need to replace most of our existing talent.” “We’ll need mountains of money.” Sound familiar? Consultants and systems integrators (SIs) consistently preach these practices, warning companies that their transformation won’t play out the way they hope unless they follow this advice. But compare that advice with the real-life experience of CIO Toby Buckalew.