Is Big Bad? Two Sides of the Coin for Scaled-up BPS Providers in the Digital-First World | Sherpas in Blue Shirts
One of my favorite quotes is “Disruption doesn’t discriminate.” And you’d have to be living under a rock if you hadn’t noticed the fundamental shifts taking place in the global services market due to digital disruption. We know that digital disruption is generally chaotic. It shakes up the existing business models, (likely destroys them), and paves the path for new ones. And it creates a set of opportunities not apparent earlier, while eliminating those we took for granted.
In general, big incumbents find it difficult to change, (change is hard, really hard when you are large – just ask prehistoric dinosaurs!), thus creating opportunities for smaller, nimbler ones that embrace it. Is this the case in the Business Process Services (BPS, also called BPO) market as well? Are the large incumbents necessarily in the disadvantageous position? The answer is actually more nuanced. Here are two big themes that highlight two very different sides of the coin:
- Curse of Incumbency The rise of automation (especially RPA) is creating the biggest challenge for incumbents in their existing business model. Everest Group research shows that on a like-to-like basis, buyers are expecting the price per unit of work delivered in transactional BPS to reduce by at least 25-30 percent. If the incumbent shows reluctance, buyers are not hesitant to move the work to others. To put things in perspective, it means a USD $1 billion BPS company would see its base shrink by at least USD $100-120 million every year on an as-is base account basis (assuming an average five-year contract term, 40 percent of the portfolio will each year face pressure coming from renewal (20%) or a mid-term benchmarking (20%) situation). In reality, providers with the right approach and strategy will be able to mitigate this through scope expansion and new wins. Nonetheless, the pressure on an existing large book of business is tremendous.
- Benefit of Data As I highlighted in a blog last year, scaled-up providers are sitting on a treasure trove of data that is ready to be exploited and monetized from a benchmarking and associated analytics perspective. Some of the providers have started to make the right moves here. The next frontier is leveraging it for artificial intelligence (AI). One of the big challenges of making AI tools enterprise-ready is helping them learn fast. Injecting the AI tool with variety, volume, and contextual data is key to making this happen. Large incumbent providers are uniquely positioned to exploit this opportunity. Combined with their deep domain expertise, this can act as a powerful differentiator, and help them create significant value for their client, and, in turn, for their own business.
Big is not bad. It is about identifying the digital disruption opportunities while managing the risks proactively. Speaking of size, my next blog will discuss what sized providers seem to be well positioned to exploit the opportunities created by digital disruptions. Stay tuned.