Category: Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

Dark Clouds Gathering for Indian Service Providers | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The effort around reforming H1B work visas in the global services industry has been dangling for years, entrenched in a political battle in Congress. But there’s movement again, and dark clouds are gathering on the horizon, signaling a coming storm. Five days ago, the US House Judiciary Committee passed HR 170 (Protect and Grow American Jobs Act) with solid, bipartisan support, and it carries onerous policies aimed at India’s outsourcing service providers – as well as problems for their clients. It hasn’t passed into law yet; but it could happen in 2018. Here’s my assessment of the situation.

Proposed Requirements

As I’ve blogged several times since May 2013, reform focuses on service providers whose business model depends heavily on a large percentage of H1B workers placed at US clients. HR 170 raises the classification of H1-dependent firms to 20 percent, rather than 15 percent of workers. Providers would be required to pay higher wages to their H1B workers – with the minimum salary tied to the average occupational wage in the US. That’s a raise from the current $60k up to, and potentially surpassing, $135k.

The bill adds authorization for the US Department of Labor to conduct investigations of H1B-dependent firms – without first having to establish reasonable cause – and provides for a $495 fine to be levied on the firms for the investigations.

HR 170 also would require US clients to provide attestations and “recruitment reports” attesting that no US workers were displaced by H1B workers. This would add the burden of new management and compliance processes.

Impact

Obviously, the onerous requirements are targeted at Indian service providers that heavily use H1B workers (especially Cognizant, Infosys, TCS, Wipro). The provisions would raise their costs. They would not be able to pass those costs through to clients, so it would reduce their margins. Making it more onerous to use H1B workers would also negatively impact the Indian providers’ business models, which rely on the high-margin “factory” structure for talent provision.

Is it a Long Shot?

Although HR 170 was passed with bipartisan support by the House Judiciary Committee and has yet to pass the full House. If that were to happen, the bill would still face bipartisan battle in the Senate. We’ve seen that play out this year in efforts to repeal healthcare laws and now in tax reform efforts.

However, it may not be a long shot. The bill’s main sponsor, Darrell Issa, the Republican representative from California, will face re-election battles next year and is likely to push harder for a win in visa reform. And don’t overlook the fact that California’s Silicon Valley firms would benefit from onerous visa regulations targeting India’s firms.

My Takeaway Warning

India’s service providers are already struggling in an uphill battle aside from visa reform. They struggle to gain competence and market share in evolving to the digital world. Investments in rotating to digital raise providers’ costs, take time and often lead to battles with investors and other stakeholders who want to maintain the current margin levels. In addition, margins in the digital models are low, for at least the short term.

H1B visa reform’s dark clouds gathering on the horizon for the Indian service providers will only heap new burdens on providers already struggling with margins and new business models in trying to become leaders on the digital space. I believe the bill, if passed into law, would inhibit their growth.

US clients, which want more valuable digital services from third-party firms – but want to pay the low cost they have enjoyed with offshore providers for many years – must recognize that strategy is no longer in the playbook. They also need to be mindful of providers changing their business model and delivery practices to accommodate the requirements of H1B worker provisions when the reform passes into law and how the provider’s decisions will impact the client’s work.

Gazing into the Global Services Crystal Ball: Sometimes you get it Right, and Sometimes, Not so Much | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

When I visited India for the first time in the early 2000s, the country was largely unknown in terms of business. The airports were small and dingy. The upscale hotels were really nice but also scarce. That meant they could charge insanely expensive rates…I remember paying US$700 per night at the Leela Palace!

My U.S. colleagues and I were on a mission to visit largely unknown service providers like Infosys, TCS, and Wipro, all of which had around 10K employees. At the end of the trip, we concluded that this was going to be real, and big…very big.

So we, and the other industry analysts in the space, pulled out our crystal ball to see what specifics we could predict. How clear, or cloudy, were our sixth senses back then?

What we got right

We did well in this category. India, along with many, many other low-cost locations, is absolutely capable of doing the global services job with scale. It’s also capable of doing many sophisticated processes (full disclosure: we might have underestimated this one a bit.) And those “unknown” companies I mentioned above? They’ve become truly global players, by some measures even surpassing the original powerhouses like Accenture, ACS, CSC, EDS, IBM, and HP (many of which have already consolidated).

What we got wrong

While inflation slowed in the U.S., it did even more dramatically in recent years in India. This, in turn, slowed the arbitrage difference, creating relatively smaller impacts on our models. And currency moves – such as a change from around 45 to 64 rupees – created a large positive impact, offsetting inflation by roughly 50 percent.

What we got really wrong

Labor supply was the biggie. All of us in the analyst community completely underestimated the impact of the available supply, which created an ongoing downward pressure on entry-level salaries. Using the best available data, the number of college students in India has risen from 13.6 million in 2008 to more than double that (28.5 million) in 2016.

While we didn’t predict it in the earliest years of the global services industry, by the end of the 2000s we were forecasting the end of labor arbitrage. India salaries were rising at double digit rates, and it seemed that it was only a matter of time before we reached parity (for offshoring purposes, 70 percent of U.S.-based salaries was considered parity.) As you see, we were miles off on that one.

What we got really wrong | Supply of labor

Increased labor in India as well as other locations have ensured limited salary increase, especially for junior roles

Future of Global Services

Looking forward (through our much more mature crystal ball) on the cost question

  • Temporary shortages of key skills, particularly digital, will create upwards pressures on salaries. But as the education and corporate systems retool their training curriculums, I expect the resulting surge in available talent will allow a cap and perhaps drive down salaries. Still and all, India is still a viable place to get low cost labor, albeit not quite as good as it was 15 years ago. (Review our Executive Briefing, India Global Services Industry: A Look Back at the Last Decade and Our Future Outlook, to drill down into the supporting analytics for this analysis.)
  • Many functions and processes have reached an offshoring saturation point. This doesn’t mean a complete stoppage of work moving offshore, just that many of the big, concentrated moves have already happened.
  • New automated solutions like RPA are going to create significant process labor efficiencies, in turn increasing headcount pressures.
  • The tipping point in this equation will go back to the supply side, where the ongoing wave of college students will keep pressure on wage advances far into the future, especially for the entry level positions.

Gazing forward to at least a 2040 – 2050 timeframe, other low-cost locations such as eastern Europe may get tapped out, since they don’t have as large a stream of graduates as does India. So, I say: advantage to India in keeping the wages compelling with its tidal wave of ongoing supply. But the looming question will be, what to do with all of those freshly minted grads?

My next blog will tackle the interesting another aspect of my looking back and looking forward retrospectives: “Are the India Heritage Services the new Global Leaders? The answer isn’t obvious. Stay tuned…

Signs of Structure in a Disordered Global Services World? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The global services market is in upheaval, and disorder seems to be the new world order. Geopolitical developments, macroeconomic pressures, and unprecedented pace of changes in technology have resulted in huge disruptions to the usual ways of doing business. However, despite the turmoil, the global services market continues to grow, albeit at a much slower pace compared to previous years.

eg5

When developing our Global Locations Annual Report 2017, Everest Group spent considerable time and effort analyzing the underlying data to determine if there are some signs of structure amidst the disorder. Here are some patterns and trends visible from our analysis:

Pervasive rotation of delivery capability toward digital

There has been significant increase in both number and share of new centers focusing on delivery of digital services. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of such centers grew by ~177 percent.

  • Regions: Most of this growth was concentrated in Asia Pacific and nearshore Europe
  • Segments: Cloud, Internet of Things, and Big Data witnessed the highest adoption rates
  • Sourcing model: While the lion’s share of the growth was with the in-house model, service providers also reoriented their delivery portfolios

Greater leverage of nearshore locations

Both service providers and global in-house centers are growing faster in nearshore locations, such as central and eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean, compared to traditionally offshore locations (such as Asia Pacific.) This is driven by multiple factors, most prominently the drive towards digitalization and the different talent demands this imposes. The chart below shows the increasing share of nearshore regions in new delivery center setups:

eg4

Complementary growth in onshore locations

There has been a rapid surge in large enterprises’ and service providers’ service delivery footprint in locations traditionally considered onshore. While firms either retained or reduced the pace of growth in offshore/nearshore locations, they ramped up presence significantly in the United States and continental Europe (see the following chart for new onshore delivery center setups of top-20 IT-BPO service providers.)

eg31  20 leading service providers across IT and BPS that Everest Group uses as “Index” providers to gauge market trends

This is largely driven by enterprises’ desire to deliver complex services coupled with the advantages of customer intimacy. However, for many providers, this is in anticipation of strict work visa issuance guidelines which may make it imperative for them to have a foothold in the onshore market for hiring talent

While there’s some “method to the madness” in these pervasive trends, there are many operational risks that are likely to add to the disorder. These include:

  • Increased safety and security risks (terrorism and border issues) in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, and high crime rates in Guatemala and Jamaica
  • Continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine
  • Frequent changes in political leadership in Egypt
  • Macroeconomic instability in Brazil and Argentina.

For more such trends and analyses on the value propositions of different locations through Everest Group’s MAP MatrixTM, which will help you frame your global services location strategy, please refer to our report, “Global Locations Annual Report 2017: Signs of Structure in a Disordered World.”

Is Perceived Impact Hindering Your GIC’s Growth? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The GIC model has evolved significantly over the last decade, and is gearing up for the third wave of evolution – GIC 3.0, as some are calling it – driven by GICs’ strong desire to move away from the “arbitrage-first” delivery model towards a “digital-first” model.

Everest Group describes the journey to mature GICs as progressing through four different stages.

Journey to GIC maturity

GIC maturity for optimal business impact

Our research shows that best-in-class – or Stage 4 – GICs deliver up to six to eight times incremental value beyond arbitrage. Yet, while many of our engagements over the last few years have made it clear that most Global 1,000 GICs deliver value beyond arbitrage, very few track and measure their impact. When they do, it’s typically in a piecemeal, selective manner. Thus, their parent perceives that they are delivering limited business value, beyond arbitrage, to the enterprise.

By educating their parent on their impact, GICs can improve their credibility, and build a case to secure support for expanding their role.

So how can GICs measure and articulate the value they deliver?

We believe that putting a dollar number to the business impact is the most objective and effective way for GICs to showcase their true worth. The framework we use maps value drivers linked to savings, risk, and revenue, quantifying all forms of impact created by the GIC.

GIC business impact model

Here’s an example: a U.S. company’s GIC was able to prove to its parent that it delivered US$20 to 22 million in overall business impact, compared to incremental cost arbitrage of US$4 to 6 million, through increased effectiveness, greater efficiency, and revenue growth. This helped the GIC secure the parent’s buy-in on increasing the scope of functions currently delivered out of their GIC.

A comprehensive quantification facilitates measuring the overall business impact across businesses/LOBs supported by the GIC. A GIC can use these results to:

  • Enable better understanding of its impact/role in the enterprise
  • Guide internal thinking on prioritization of value-add opportunities
  • Map its maturity to the market
  • Achieve greater sponsorship from parent stakeholders

Contact us about Everest Group’s business impact quantification framework, and learn more about our research on in-house delivery models.

Are Offshore-heritage Service Providers “H-1B Visa Abusers” or “Sitting Ducks”? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Recently, an official from the Trump administration accused Indian IT providers of abusing the H-1B visa process by “flooding” the lottery system with applications, giving them an unfair lottery draw advantage. The statement again spotlighted the issue of importing foreign IT services workers to the U.S., thereby limiting job opportunities for domestic candidates. It also underscored the huge extent of outsourcing being done by U.S. corporations, especially to offshore-heritage providers. What it didn’t discuss was other types of companies’ usage of the H-1B program to import skilled talent into the country.

Everest Group conducted a quick analysis on the Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) employers filed to obtain H-1B visas in the last few years. We classified the employers into several categories:

  • Offshore-heritage service providers, such as Cognizant, Infosys, and TCS
  • Multinational service providers, such as Accenture, Capgemini, and IBM
  • Professional services firms, such as Deloitte, EY, and PwC
  • Product companies, such as Apple, Cisco, and Oracle
  • All other companies

Our findings?

  • While the total number of certified positions increased at a CAGR of 11 percent between FY 2011 and FY 2016, offshore-heritage providers’ share has dropped significantly, from 74 percent in FY 2011 to 40 percent in FY 2016
  • The biggest share grabbers are professional services firms, which are increasingly competing with traditional IT services players across deals. Their share in H1-B visas has increased from 7 percent in FY 2011 to 37 percent in FY 2016. On an absolute basis, that’s an almost ten-fold increase
  • The top 25 employers contribute ~50 percent to the total positions certified, which implies that offshore-heritage providers have only a 20 percent share of the total positions certified for H-1B visas by the Department of Labor between FY 2011 and FY 2016.

(For the uninitiated, a certified LCA (ETA Form 9035), is a prerequisite to H-1B approval. The LCA must be certified by the Department of Labor (DOL) before the H-1B petition (Form I-129) is submitted to USCIS. The LCA contains basic wage and location information about the proposed H1B employment. Please note that a certified LCA does not guarantee H-1B visa approval, however, certified position trends are good indicators of H-1B visa usage. Also, note that the data below includes positions certified for new H-1B visa applications as well as renewal and transfer of H-1B visa.)

H-1B visa and offshore service providers

One of the Trump administration’s suggested reforms is to increase the minimum wage for H-1B visas from US$60,000 to US$130,000. But as this minimum wage recommendation is applicable to companies that are “H-1B dependent” – and most offshore-heritage providers fall into this category – the required increase in minimum wage, whatever it ultimately is, will likely affect offshore-heritage providers more than any other type of organization.

At the same time professional services firms have quietly increased their leverage of the visa-led model, offshore-heritage providers have been the unfortunate recipients of far greater scrutiny and negative limelight. In order to successfully compete, offshore-heritage providers have no choice other than to prepare now for the impact of visa policy changes. As the old saying goes, “better safe than sorry.”

What’s Driving The Vibrant Growth In Global In-House Centers for Services? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

There is a do-it-yourself (DIY) movement building in the services space. At Everest Group, we continually track the number of Global In-house Center (GIC) startups, and the number is accelerating. Along with new startups, existing GICs (formerly known as “captives,” or enterprise shared-services organizations in low-cost areas) are expanding their scope. In this post, I’ll highlight four reasons why the DIY GIC movement is growing and delivering value.

  1. Lower Barriers to Entry
    Historically, building a GIC or captive has been difficult and risky due to the substantial barriers to entry. It’s a daunting prospect to go into a country where you don’t have a presence, particularly in a developing country such as India or Eastern Europe or South America and master the complexities of local property regulations, business licensing, hiring practices, finding and identifying the right leadership, finding and hiring the necessary talent teams.

Read more at Peter’s Forbes blog.

From Captive to Catalyst: The Next Milestone in the Global In-house Center Evolution Story | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

At a conference I attended recently on the role of global in-house centers (GICs) in digital and RPA, one of the speakers asked everyone to imagine what their organizations would look like in the future. The answers from a room full of enterprise and GIC leaders were varied and fascinating. My personal favorite was the one where robots will manage all forms of work while people relax on a beach, soaking up the sun, and sipping their piña coladas. Tempting as that sounds, I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

But what is happening now is a flurry of changes in the business environment globally. Amidst recent geopolitical developments in the U.S. and U.K., increasing talks of protectionist policies, the advancement of RPA and other service optimization technologies, and regulatory pressures affecting the global services sector, GICs and shared services centers find themselves at a crossroads. As the global services sector moves from an arbitrage first to a digital first delivery model, GICs have an opportunity to break away from the orthodox boundaries by taking the road less traveled, and enhance their role in enterprises’ global sourcing strategy.

Everest Group has seen first hand the evolving role of GICs, which has expanded beyond providing low- cost delivery to being agents of change – or catalysts – for enterprises’ back- and middle-office services.

Now, GICs are at an inflection point in their evolution journey, well positioned to take on this enhanced role driven by: increased endorsement from the enterprise and the shift towards insourcing; a strong foundation and ability to offer an insider’s view; tight integration with the existing core business; and strong adjacency with existing focus on driving efficiency and optimization.

What does the future of GICs look like?

Global Services - CatalystTo successfully undertake changes within their enterprises and redefine their role from captive to catalyst, GICs need to:

  1. Drive business impact and thought leadership
  2. Develop global leaders and talent/skills
  3. Play a pivotal role in the transformation of processes and service delivery
  4. Lead organizations through digital disruptions in global services.

Here are Everest Group’s recommendations on how GICs can capitalize on this opportunity:

  • Redefine the art of the possible, and adopt a business outcome-oriented mindset, which is significantly different from the current delivery mindset
  • Identify and prioritize investments, such as their choice of functional and technology segments, and the best approach to gaining more than just incremental growth
  • Change their talent model (e.g., hire for learnability, strengthen culture of innovation) and operating model (e.g., different onshore-offshore collaboration models due to agile/DevOps) to catalyze the digital agenda.

Our newly renamed CatalystTM subscription research program (formerly known as Global Sourcing) provides GICs and enterprise clients with actionable insights to navigate through the evolutionary journey from captive to catalyst. Benefits of a Catalyst subscription include:

  • Industry-leading research and viewpoints on multiple topics relevant to GIC market
  • One-on-one briefings with Everest Group analysts and SMEs
  • Exclusive invitations to GIC events – including webinars, roundtables, and virtual networking sessions – organized by Everest Group

Learn more about our work in the GIC space, and see details about our Catalyst research program.

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