Tag: agile

CIOs Need to Avoid a Mistaken Path to DevOps | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

DevOps is the completion of the Agile methodology and creates an engineering environment in which developers can achieve speed. How fast is the difference? Agile is like a person running fast – about 20 miles per hour tops. DevOps is like a person driving a Ferrari who can exceed 200 miles per hour. Often as I talk with CIOs, I learn they focus on automated provisioning as an important aspect of DevOps. And it is. But it’s only a small component. Achieving the engineering environment similar to the acceleration of a Ferrari requires fundamental operating changes.

Read more at CIO online

Transformation Services Procurement: What’s Wrong with this Picture? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

For large transformation projects, the services world has locked itself into a world permeated with high dead deal costs, wasted solutioning, and long transitions of nine to 18 months where the client sees low value and tries to get the provider to absorb the cost as well as expensive consultants and legal fees for the client on top of distracting management. And in the end, we have a lot of unhappy clients. This needs to change.

Remember John Lennon’s song: “Imagine?” Imagine a world in which we compress these cycles and we don’t have high transition costs. As Lennon wrote, you may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Over the years there have been a lot of experiments in how to shorten the sales cycle. But largely they were frustrating. Even when you rush through the process, it still tends to straighten back out to the nine-plus months’ duration because it takes time for the enterprise to understand and absorb the journey and get to decisions. Others have experimented with sole sourcing, but it doesn’t really shorten the sales cycle and has a lot of limitations from the client side in terms of leaving them wondering whether they got a market deal, despite benchmarks and pricing assurance.

From studying this over the years, I’ve come to believe that as long as providers and clients define the goal in terms of procurement, they’re likely to be disappointed. The process and price become too influential and the provider loses sight of the client’s real goal. So they end up with incremental gains but not breakthrough, transformation gains.

Let’s think about these deals as transformation journeys instead of procurements. Just imagine ….

After all, the client doesn’t want the outcome to be a contract; the outcome needs to be a transformed state of the client’s process or capability. So we need to reconceive the origination of these transformation deals along this line.

We need to first focus on the benefits, defining the game-changing benefits the enterprise wants to build. Typically those benefits in today’s world have something to do with efficiency gains, cost savings, better aligning the process to the requirements of the business users, and improving the speed and agility to be responsive to the business needs.

If service providers stop thinking about the procurement process and think from the consumer’s point of view, it works great. The client gets what it wants and needs, friction is reduced, it’s clear what the client needs to reach its goal, and the provider gets to pull the client on the journey rather than pushing and selling to the client.

After defining the business outcome goal from the client’s perspective, the next step in developing a solution would be to develop breakthrough metrics to drive the change through the client’s organization. I’ll discuss this in my next blog post.

The parties build the journey together, and the client sees the solutioning as value rather than a sales exercise to be viewed with skepticism. In effect, this method turns the procurement process on its head and eliminates the sales cycle. The provider get paid to assist the client in solutioning rather than for building a complete construct to be compared to competitors’ solutions and examined at every level.

The result is a better outcome, focused not on contractual terms but on results for the client. And this process goes a long way to eliminate the nettlesome issues around the procurement transition phase because transition is accomplished as the transformation journey progresses. Just imagine.

In John Lennon’s words, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

Liberty Source: Bringing Innovation to the Onshore Delivery Model | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

What if a service provider could build itself from scratch based on the learnings from the past two decades? Liberty Source, launched in 2013 as an impact sourcing provider, is trying to do just that in the highly competitive finance & accounting (F&A) outsourcing market. It has agreed to share its story with us over the coming months as its business continues to scale. We plan to look at how it optimizes its talent model to align to its social mission, its approach to using automation technology in service delivery, and other key issues which it faces as they look to compete in the market.

Our first discussion was with Steve Hosley, CEO of Liberty Source and a veteran of the outsourcing and shared services industries. We hope you enjoy this unique view into what it is like to start a new service provider company that is attempting to disrupt traditional models.

 

Eric: What is Liberty Source and how is it unique?

Steve: Liberty Source is an onshore BPO provider of F&A services. Our differentiators revolve around transparency and flexibility with our customers. Business is changing fast and flexible agreements are important to keep up with the pace. By flexible, we mean being able to pivot quickly to a company’s evolving delivery needs with a mix of automation and human capital needs.

We have chosen to run our onshore center with a social compass. Our team members – or as we call each other “shipmates” – primarily have a direct military affiliation as spouses of active duty military members or they are veterans themselves. This represents over 70% of our employee base. Our culture continues to be built around the U.S. military community.  We believe that this community makes us look and operate much differently than a typical BPO operation. For example, we have “family meetings” instead of the more stereotypical “all-hands meetings.” Our conference rooms are named after famous U.S. military spouses with our Boardroom named after Martha Washington. Our transformation training revolves around the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) rather than the typical Six Sigma.

Lastly, we aim to create a business that is known as a transformation center – where customers come to transform their work and employees come to transform their careers.

 

Eric: Where is Liberty Source finding this military talent?

Steve: Our current operations center is in Fort Monroe Virginia, near Virginia Beach. It is located near five bases, home to over 70,000 active service members and the largest naval base in the world. 85% of our employees have college degrees and of them, 21% of them are holding Masters Degrees. This helps confirm that we have a talented workforce that is simply seeking big company, multi-national experience. The fort has a storied history and is known as Freedom’s Fortress. Under Union General Benjamin Butler during the U.S. Civil War, it became a beacon for tens of thousands of slaves to come and gain their freedom. We believe, that that in small way, we hope to continue in the spirit of Fort Monroe by providing real commercial technical skills and careers to a population of well-deserving and very talented U.S. military spouses and veterans.

Our spouses are allowed to take their positions with them when they are PCS’d (permanent change of station) so now with over 10 percent of our employees operating virtually, we aim to continue to expand our footprint of Liberty Source coverage to all the major U.S. military bases around the world.

 

Eric: How is Liberty Source structured, legally and financially?

Steve: Liberty Source was created to capture the growing commercial demand for onshore BPO delivery but do it in a manner that was socially responsible. We established ourselves as a Public Benefits Corporation, or a PBC. This allows us to operate as a commercially viable and market relevant for-profit enterprise, while also holding the company accountable to a social mission. Given that this structure and delivery model was new, we elected to initially go to market as a wholly owned subsidiary of Digital Divide Data, which pioneered the offshore impact sourcing market in the early 2000s.

 

Eric: What successes has Liberty Source had to date?

Steve: We are a little over a year old in terms of go-to-market efforts and have stabilized our first client, a very large contract with 15 different processes. These were brought back from India from an eight-year incumbent. We transitioned in 100 FTEs and have been live with the client’s work since February. Our first client attained the same price as it did in India, and now the work is only three hours away from them versus being in India.

We achieved price neutrality by doing the work more efficiently. The efficiencies have been gained through three primary drivers. As we stated previously the community we are building is loyal, resulting in single-digit attrition this year. What we have found is that this lack of attrition makes us more competitive in that we are not having to spend time and effort on retraining and extensive review cycles. We inherited an ingrained functional tower orientation and migrated it to end-to-end process teams, which really helped reduce rework. Lastly, we are benefiting from building a business in the era of “As a Service” and cloud offerings so our infrastructure is light and efficient. A combination of things like email from Office365, general ledger from NetSuite, payroll from ADP, and all workstations are laptops to provide DRP (disaster recovery plan) flexibility. Most importantly we strongly believe that we are in the people business and that our success in delivering quality service back in the U.S. on this tough economic contract, is due to the fortitude and dedication of our employees. This is most evident in that we successfully trained 100 people in 120 days with a limited background in SAP and SFDC applications to work effectively in those environments.

 

Eric: How has the organization and its business matured in the short time Liberty Source has been in existence?

Steve: With the monthly delivery to our foundational client, now stable and our second client underway, the Board of Directors of Liberty Source made the decision last month to exit the foundation stage and enter our next stage of growth given that we have proven the viability of the model and have positive momentum. This growth stage includes investing in pursuing other clients. Our second client, also a large Fortune 500 multi-national, is undergoing a transformation and wanted a BPO provider that was willing to be flexible as its strategy evolved. This translates into taking on work that is initially about providing performance-based labor, which they need now, while also working on a project to automate the work, and then eventually rebalance the delivery mix into the appropriate levels required to be done by humans after the automation is completed.

The market and customers have spoken to us, so we have pulled forward the training, building and management of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in our business model and invested in it earlier than we had planned.

 

Eric: How does Liberty Source plan to compete in the market moving forward?

Steve: We are targeting the market through a couple lenses. We are starting in the F&A area. We typically aim for companies that share our social mission of employing military spouses and vets. Finally, we resonate with organizations that have already outsourced before and are able to understand the benefits of our model when we explain things like transparent governance, providing a pathway to outcome-based pricing and how we embrace technology.

Because we have proven the model in Virginia, we would like to continue to scale and grow this location. We are also open to creating another center near an existing military population that may align with some other company’s geographic delivery or customer base and shares our social mission of providing opportunities to U.S. military families.

Lastly, part of our social mission is about providing upward mobility to our employees and we believe that embracing automation will over time elevate the remaining work and fulfill this commitment. In turn, our customers benefit from Liberty Source’s pursuit of these technology solutions though continuous improvement.

 

Eric: What are some of the things on your mind as you look forward to the next steps of Liberty Source?

Steve: We know the market need – it is seeking agility and flexible arrangements. Ones that can provide innovation and benefit to both parties. We feel our model and culture position us well to provide these differentiators.

Further, we must marry up this to the human capital strategy – we are beginning to build a virtual spouse model, which will give us even more elasticity on how to access and deliver talent. We also believe that bringing RPA into the service delivery model will provide flexibility in how we manage operations and our talent pool.

 

Eric: Thanks for your time and insights – I look forward to hearing more about how the journey has progressed when we speak again.


Photo credit: Flickr

DevOps: Disruptive and Changing the Purchase of IT Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Businesses now demand that IT departments dramatically change the velocity of the cycle time it takes to take ideas from concept to production – often from as long as 12-18 months to only four to six weeks. Organizations can’t achieve a change of this magnitude with just a change in methodology. To do this, they must move to DevOps – a disruptive phenomenon with immense implications for the enterprise IT ecosystem and the service providers that support it.

Put another way, many IT firms batch or create software releases once or twice a year in which they bring out updates to their enterprise platforms. Businesses now demand a cycle time of one to two times a month for updates. What they want and need is a continuous-release construct.

Methodology alone cannot create the conditions in which organizations can form ideas, build requirements, develop code, change a system and do integration testing in the new timeframes. Hence the DevOps revolution.

DevOps is the completion of the Agile methodology. It builds the enabling development tools, integrates test conditions, and integrates the IT stack so that when developers make code changes, they also configure the hardware environment and network environment at the same time.

To do this, an organization must have software-defined data centers and software-defined networks, and all of this must be available to be tested with automated test capabilities. By defining coding changes with network and system changes all at the same time and then testing them in one integrated environment, organizations can understand the implications and allocate work as desired. The net result is the ability to make the kind of cycle time shifts that businesses now demand.

DevOps implications

DevOps enables IT departments to meet the cycle time requirements. But the implications for how organizations buy services and how providers sell services are profound. Basically the old ways don’t work as well because of the new mandate for velocity and time. This causes organizations to rethink the technology, test beds, and service providers; and then manage the environment on a more vertical basis that cuts across development, maintenance, and testing, and allows the full benefit of a software-defined environment.

Let’s examine pricing, for example. Historically, coding and testing are provided on a time-and-materials basis. The productivity unleashed in a DevOps environment enables achieving approximately a 50 percent improvement in efficiency or productivity. Therefore, it is as cannibalistic or as disruptive to the development and maintenance space as cloud is to the infrastructure environment.

Furthermore, organizations can only operate a DevOps environment if they have a software-defined hardware environment – aka a private or cloud environment. This forces production into ensuring they perform all future development in elastic cloud frames.

Enterprises today are reevaluating where they locate their talent. Having technical talent in a remote location with difficult time zone challenges complicates and slows down the process, working against the need for speed.

So DevOps is a truly disruptive phenomenon that will disrupt both the existing vendor ecosystem and also the software coding and tool frames. Testing, for example, has been a growth area for the services industry, but DevOps environment largely automate testing services.

Another disruption is that DevOps takes a vertical view of the IT life cycle. It starts to integrate the different functional layers, creating further disruption in how organizations purchase IT services.

DevOps offerings are a new development among service providers, but the services industry to date has been slow to adopt the movement. DevOps is an internal threat to their existing business and requires providers to rethink how they go to market.

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