Tag: cloud

Challenger’s Advantage | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion. Every lion wakes up knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle. So when the sun comes up in Africa, you’d better be running. We see this happening in the services world — as cloud and as-a-service models move into mainstream adoption and trump labor arbitrage, everybody is running and the hunters become the hunted.

It’s clear that the services world is changing due to the new technologies and models. Historically the dominant players in one era failed to make the transition and become dominant players in the next era. Established dominant hunters do not know how to behave or succeed as game; the emergence of a super predator disrupts the natural order.

The dominant providers really struggle with making the change. They talk about it. Their senior executives recognize the need. They have structured their business to perfection to facilitate the incumbent model. It’s very difficult and very unusual for them to successfully transition to a new model. We see this time and time again.

Here’s a real-world example. I was on an airplane and headed home after a meeting with senior executives of a major IT provider. At the meeting they laid out their commitment and strategy to cloud and as-a-service models and the massive investments they made and are facilitating to make to facilitate this transition.

On the airplane I sat next to another executive from the same company. He was returning from a trip to South America where he advised clients about future technology. He spent most of the trip spouting scorn and ridiculing that the new cloud technologies are not appropriate to run enterprise-class applications and stating confidently that they would never replace or threaten the existing order.

Think of the confusion and conflict customers face when they hear dueling and contradictory positions coming from the same company. They are much more likely to adopt a provider that is completely aligned with the new models. This is why, historically, challengers succeed.

A similar situation occurred when I returned from a provider conference where top execs laid out their grand vision. But less than a week later Everest Group observed the provider working in a client account and the account team espoused exactly the opposite of what the senior leaders said.

We see similar behavior within Indian firms. They make the most money when they deliver work from a low-cost location (ideally a tier-3 city) with the most junior people (the freshers). That’s the heart of the pyramid, the heart of their factory model and it achieves the highest margin a service provider can make. Incumbent providers with factory models have high turnover as they constantly push to the next generation of junior people coming in.

They do this even though they know their customers want less turnover and more work delivered onsite at the client or at least in country as they want more customer intimacy. So their needs and commercial interests are unaligned.

We see providers’ executives making big announcements about more people delivering services in country and on site. But what their salespeople say and what the management and operations people do is the opposite.

In the above examples, providers’ employees did not buy in to the new models. And this is but one of a thousand different points of alignment that needed to happen. The incentive structure, organization structure and underlying technology enablement must change. And the hearts and minds of employees need to change.

Customers aren’t stupid. And they do change providers. We’ve seen a big jump in challenger models across the board in outsourcing. Increasingly the challenger has an advantage over the incumbent. They’d better be running.


Photo credit: Flickr

Global Services Trends and Tipping Points for 2015 | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It’s the season when analyst/advisory firms flood the media their predictions and top-10 lists. One problem with those lists is the services world rarely has 10 things that are different from the year before. Another problem is we tend to hype new technologies and business models and make predictions about their impact in the next year, when in reality they take multiple years to validate and start to build traction. So rather than falling into this trap that I and others fall into every year, here are my thoughts on a few big secular services trends and their tipping-point positions.

Cloud

We’re over the tipping point here. As I blogged previously, the cloud experiment is over. The last three years have been a grand experiment in examining cloud and the cloud products family. 2015 will see enterprises increasingly planning and implementing new functionalities in the cloud environment.

Labor arbitrage

We’re now atop an inflection point for change in the labor arbitrage market. It’s alive and well and still powerful, but in 2014 we saw value propositions that are dominantly arbitrage based diminish in effectiveness. We also saw the growth areas increasingly shifting to an “arbitrage-plus” model in new areas. The implications are that arbitrage-based offerings will be less effective and their growth rates will continue to drop.

2015 will be a year in which provider growth is driven by differentiation around industry knowledge, firm knowledge and functional knowledge, rather than cheap resources from India. Firms that pivot and provide more and better resources in country, more focus around industry and function, more specialization for those that will succeed.

Service providers talked the talk of differentiation in 2013-2014, but they didn’t walk the walk. In 2015 providers that are successful in growing share will execute really great, meaningful differentiation rather than just giving lip service to differentiation.

Automation

The tipping point for automation is still in the future. The industry has had a couple of years of experimentation with automation, but we don’t think the experimentation phase is finished. We have yet to see the automation play done at scale either on infrastructure or BPO; it is yet to move into the mainstream and is yet to be acknowledged for the full power and capability that it possesses. So the stories of automation destroying the arbitrage game are premature.

We think that, much like cloud in the last three years, in 2015 the automation journey will continue its experimentation and advance toward a time where it is implemented at scale and is able to change the value proposition in a meaningful way.

In 2015, we do not expect automation to take meaningful share from the BPO or infrastructure players. But we expect many more proof points to develop and more hype or industry attention to focus on automation.

As a service

We’re not near a tipping point in moving to a consistent as-a-service model, but we’re definitely seeing a growing uptick in experimentation with this model. In 2014, we saw a number of important companies experimenting with implementing as a-service solutions, but they weren’t multi-tenant. What they’re doing is taking their entire supply chain and turning it into a consumable, as-a-service supply chain and achieving similar benefits that are derived from a multi-tenant SaaS offering but without having the multi-tenant characteristic.

The implications of early experimentation are very significant for legacy environments. We expect 2015 to have a number of announcements of leading firms implementing this approach. We believe this is an important development but will not become an industry standard for several years to come.

Service provider landscape

As to the service providers, in 2015 we expect some changes in dominance and success. Cognizant and TCS always do well and will do so again in 2015. What’s interesting is to look at those that are going to change their fortunes. Specifically we’re watching two companies: IBM and Wipro. In 2013-2014 both made structural changes that position them well for entering 2015.

IBM decided to address the cloud issue head on. Big Blue’s purchase of SoftLayer, the moving of IBM’s middleware suite to an as-a-service delivery vehicle and willingness to deal directly and forthrightly with customers on cannibalization issues positions IBM for a potentially strong turnaround in 2015. We already see signs of that in the three megadeals IBM announced in the last quarter of 2014. We believe IBM is in for a strong year in 2015 if it stays the course.

Likewise, I’ve blogged before about Wipro laying the groundwork for a resurgence. Specifically I call out the firm’s early adoption of automation and increased focus on the large megadeal space. We believe Wipro’s adoption of automation allows the provider to be a cost challenger without giving up margins in the multi-tower megadeal space. I expect Wipro will continue its momentum into 2015, building on early successes.

This is not to say that other service providers won’t do well. I highlight these two because they took big steps to turn around their business and position themselves for the future and for velocity coming into 2015.


Photo credit: harmish khambhaita

The Cloud Experiment is Over, but are Buyers Waiting for Godot? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The cloud experiment is over and the debate in enterprises about its benefits and risks is settled. We know it works, it’s more flexible and cheaper, and it makes it easier for IT to align with business needs. So should buyers put their applications into a cloud environment?

My advice: Don’t rearchitect your legacy applications that were designed and implemented in a legacy environment and port them over to the cloud. Organization of all sizes have been waiting for providers’ porting solutions. Unfortunately, that’s sort of like the Samuel Beckett tragicomedy play, “Waiting for Godot,” in which two characters wait days for Godot even though they don’t know where or when he might arrive. Buyers wait, thinking cloud porting solutions will arrive in the market, but it just doesn’t happen. That’s because porting is really expensive and really risky.

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I’ve blogged in the past about CSS Corp Cloud Services and Redwood Software platforms for easily migrating legacy apps to the cloud. But as we get further into the cloud story, it looks like replatforming offerings will be far rarer than we anticipated. I’m not saying they won’t exist; I’m just saying they won’t be the dominant model.

As the smoke clears from cloud experimenting and pilots, the best-practice dominant model for moving into the cloud is shaping up as follows:

  • Look for opportunities to make incremental improvements to your legacy environment. Rework legacy by increasing the level of virtualization and automation in your data center.
  • When you develop new applications, architect them for the cloud environment.

This strategy of adding virtualization and automation may get your legacy environment into a private cloud, but it doesn’t get you into the agile low-cost public cloud environment. However, it allows you to improve the efficiency and resiliency of the existing legacy environment without the huge cost and risk of rearchitecting.

The strategy also helps CIO organizations regain some of the influence and credibility they’ve lost with business units as they’ve addressed new functionalities enabling where the business is moving. It enables the organization to be more agile, better aligned and do so with lower cost, which significantly relieves the tension of having to get a huge amount of funding for a set of high-risk legacy projects.

The fact is for many legacy applications the best you can do is make incremental progress. You can move them out of dedicated hardware into virtualized hardware. And other than some potential cost savings, there is little to no business benefit from taking on the risk of reengineering them for a public infrastructure or shared environment.

We saw this same best-practice model happen with distributed computing; new applications went into distributed computing and eventually we reached a tipping point where we needed to move legacy apps. I anticipate the new functionalities, new work will similarly drive the shift from legacy to cloud.

Going forward until the tipping point occurs, put all your efforts into standing up your organization’s new environment to take full advantage of the business alignment, flexibility and cost that the cloud family offers and just make incremental changes to your legacy environment. If you wait for a huge re-platforming surge of cloud porting solutions, I believe you’ll be waiting for Godot.

Philips’ Journey to Consumption-based Computing | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

In October 2013, Philips started to transform its IT infrastructure to a truly consumption-based model on the cloud. Alan Nance has been leading this activity in strong collaboration with Philips Procurement. Per the model, service providers charge no start-up or termination fees, and Philips pays only for what it uses. These terms are set out in a charter which all of Philips’ major IT infrastructure providers have signed up to.

One year on, I caught up with Alan to learn more about the transformation and progress to date. The full text of the interview has been published in a new Everest Group report called “Practitioner Perspectives.” In this blog I share some highlights from the interview and look at some of the key drivers for change at Philips.

These drivers include financial synchronicity, elimination of IT infrastructure Capex and speed to market.

Financial synchronicity is needed to bring IT costs in line with corporate revenue. The ultimate aim is to eliminate fixed IT costs altogether. Philips is on the way to achieving this goal. Although the transformation to consumption-based computing is still in its early days, Philips has already cut €30m of fixed costs – they have another €380m to go.

Synchronicity also applies to product development and speed to market – IT working in step with product requirements and with no Capex. One example is taking Philips’ Smart Air Purifier to China in three months. Philips’ speed to market ambitions in this case were achieved by working with Alibaba, which supports the air purifier’s mobile app on its cloud infrastructure. The app allows users to remotely monitor and manage air quality in their homes in real-time. By using Alibaba’s cloud, Philips took the product to a major new market without the need to set up new facilities such as a datacenter, in China. It tapped into Alibaba’s local presence and capabilities.

Philips’ infrastructure transformation has not been without challenges. Examples include:

  • Ensuring that service providers’ offerings meet regulatory compliance requirements in different countries
  • Developing a capability to monitor, assess and act on the impact of external changes on live services and operations
  • Evaluating products and services for inclusion in Philips’ cloud catalog – this has been more manual and time consuming than Alan expected

Then there is the need to re-skill staff. Some of the people who are good at design, build, run, and operate need to apply their skills in different ways, such as, in the service design discussion with the business and selecting the right components from Philips’ catalog. Some people have been able to make that transition, and some have not.

Despite the challenges, Philips is boldly going where few companies have gone before – a truly consumption-based computing model that is pushing the boundaries of services contracts and outsourcing. As to why Philips is opting to pursue this model, the answer is provided to us by its business model. Firstly, Philips is creating more and more products that have interactive components with some form of data sharing between central systems and apps on smart handheld devices and mobile phones. Examples, as well as the smart air purifier and its mobile app, include tools for sharing medical information between doctors and patients, and Cloud TV which streams TV channels over the Internet to Philips smart TVs. This comes with an app that lets Dropbox users view their photos, videos, and music stored online. Cloud and consumption computing are ideal for supporting this business.

The need for agility is underlined in other aspects of the business; Philips is separating its lighting business from its health technology business. The consumption-based computing model is going to make it easier to separate the two companies as resources get divided between the two new entities with little infrastructure Capex impact on Philips. There are also acquisitions, the most recent being that of Volcano Corp., the US medical imaging company that Philips is acquiring for $1.2bn. An agile infrastructure would allow it to incorporate new acquisitions into its main business quickly.

Philips has recognized the role of infrastructure in business agility and is acting upon it. There are very few other companies that cannot benefit from Philips’ model. More and more products and services are being complemented with social and digital interaction channels and mergers, acquisitions and divestments are a business reality. The questions is why are not more companies following in Philips’ footsteps?

A conversation with Alan Nance, Vice President Technology Transformation at Royal Philips – the first of a new Practitioner Perspectives Series can be accessed by Everest Group registered users here: https://research.everestgrp.com/Product/EGR-2014-4-O-1350/Practitioner-Perspectives-Alan-Nance-Interview.

Three Possible Directions for Contact Center Outsourcing | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The contact center outsourcing (CCO) marketplace is mature. It’s a large market, and companies across a wide number of industries and geographies use the services. The market is now $70-75 billion, which is approximately 20 percent penetrated by third-parties vendors and 80 percent by in-house captives. Now that this space is mature, what will happen to the industry? I believe that there are three likely directions.

Optimization trend

As in similar mature marketplaces, customers are looking to extract more value from the service. One way to optimize it is to embrace new disruptive technologies such as social media and analytics.

Alternatively the market is increasingly recognizing that not all work should be in low-cost locations. Consequently, they’re repatriating some of the work from low-cost locations such as India back onshore and matching it with workloads that demand more intimate services with better language skills or local knowledge requirements.

As the CCO market further matures, I believe providers have three choices.

1. Stay the course

Providers that choose to stay the course will need to meet customer demands by continuing to refine the model through actions such as embracing the multi-channel social media and integrating analytics. They will also need to add more value to the existing offer base and further optimize it. In this world, providers can expect ongoing pressure on margins and on price, increased requirement for investing in technologies and also can expect slow growth.

2. Consolidate

This is a fractured industry now with few large players, and the large players control only a small portion of the total volume. So I expect industry consolidation. Providers will get big or sell and go home. I also expect that several players will execute a roll-up strategy where they build economies of scale and economies of presence.

3. Disrupt

The third possible direction for the mature CCO space is to be disruptive. I believe a segment of this market will follow the path that data centers have gone in that there will be a cloud or cloud-like as-a-service offering that will bring a different business model to this segment.

New providers coming in and disrupting the space will likely capture high rents far exceeding those of the first two alternatives. Like their cloud and SaaS counterparts, they will operate very different business models with much more focused value propositions. These business models will deliver similar as-a-service benefits that SaaS and cloud deliver. However, they will accomplish this not by building a multi-tenant platform but by turning every aspect of the supply chain into a consumption model. This service model will be much more finely targeted at a customer’s needs rather than the service components such as people and technology, and it will allow customers to move away from the FTE take-or-pay model that currently dominates the industry.

2015 will be an interesting year for contact center outsourcing, as we’ll see segments of this market diverging on all three paths.

Sales Strategy Shift in the Cloud Services Market | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The fact that enterprises are making a strategic intent shift to cloud and as-a-service models changes more than the service delivery model. It also changes the value proposition and therefore causes implications for provider’s sales strategies. For starters, the focus turns away from the provider’s capabilities.

Sure, those capabilities are still important. But with the new models the focus shifts to the customer’s needs.

The old strategic intent and value proposition was to achieve cost savings. Providers presented offer-based solutions touting the provider’s services. For example, a provider selling to a potential client in the P&C insurance industry might describe the kind of clients it services and how many clients it has, as follows:

“We have 25 clients in the P&C space with five million policies, 1000 analytics professionals with advanced statistical knowledge. We have 5,000 FTEs in eight offshore, nearshore and onshore locations. And we have a platform-based solution.”

Competition would take place on which provider’s offer is the most compelling to the customer. Typically in an offer-based solution the winning provider would be the firm with the most experience in the industry that targets the customer’s areas at appropriate price points.

But cloud and as-a-service solutions focus on the customer’s needs. This gives providers the opportunity to shift to needs-based messaging, as in the following example for a P&C insurance company:

“P&C insurers are battling high expense ratios, coupled with low interest rates globally. This is putting strains on their finances. Our solution can help you automate underwriting and shorten quote times by up to 60 percent, improve fraud detection by over 40 percent and facilitate early identification for subrogation helping improve overall margins.”

One of the most significant implications of the enterprise shift to the cloud is that focusing on needs-based messaging instead of the provider’s capabilities offer-based messaging will change the brute force product-selling mechanism that has come to define the market as we know it.

Implications for the Application Development Outsourcing Market from Strategic Intent to Cloud | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The current enterprise shift in strategic intent toward cloud services has major implications for the outsourcing market. I’ve blogged about the implications for the infrastructure outsourcing market. Clearly the strategic shift will also affect application development outsourcing. We see three major implications for this market.

Everest Group is working with large enterprises as they consider the issue around migrating to the cloud. It’s very clear that they over-provisioned their application development and maintenance teams. And they spend a lot of time and effort in managing teams rather than focusing them on delivering business value.

The as-a-service orientation seeks to address this by aligning apps with infrastructure by application or by service area application family.

Increasingly application maintenance and development are more commoditized and less sticky than they were in the past. We see this demonstrated in the big jump in challenger wins in recompetes.

Implications

  1. The incumbent providers will need to shift to new models or suffer loss of market share. However, it is unclear at this time whether or not providers that have succeeded with the traditional factory arbitrage model will be able to make the shift, potentially opening the door for a new range of challengers coming through.
  2. The shift to an as-a-service orientation appears to put more emphasis on the need for provider domain and industry expertise
  3. The as-a-service model also will require a greater proportion of flexible delivery close to the user, hence challenging Indian firms’ established factory model so prevalent in the arbitrage era.

The implications are still emerging. But it is already clear that the services industry has a potential challenger model emerging in the outsourcing applications development space.

IBM Takes Steps to Ensure It Will Be Relevant for the Future | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

IBM is taking some bitter medicine right now in its series of divestments. Big Blue recently exited the chip manufacturing business by spinning off that division to Globalfoundries. The move comes on the heels of having exited its server business and voice and transaction BPO business. There’s a lot of media attention to “IBM’s blues” and a lot of water cooler talk about what IBM is up to. Are they going to be viable, or do they have a foot in the grave? I look at it as they are ensuring that they have both feet on a very solid growth platform.

But the series of divestments raise a lot of eyebrows and create shareholder discomfort. It takes time for shareholders and customers to process what IBM is doing.

Here’s what’s happening:

  • The divestments were not failed businesses. They just are not the future of IBM. The company is simply pruning back its operations that have been a drag on earnings and siphoning their management attention and resources.
  • IBM has been acquiring almost one company per month, largely in the areas of cloud software, analytics and Big Data.

Often the assets IBM sells do well in other hands. Lenovo has done very well with IBM’s former PC business and looks to do well in the server business. And I expect Globalfoundries to do well with the chip business.

Simply put, IBM is remaking itself and making very deliberate and assured steps for its future. It is rare for large organizations to have the discipline to exit businesses. Most large organizations are eager to buy new growing businesses but struggle in the divestment of businesses that are no longer strategic or are struggling to perform. But IBM has managed to remake itself a number of times in their long, historic journey.

IBM now clearly has both feet in the future, whether it’s a growth platform for cloud, analytics, or high-value IT and BPO services.

I think this should be a comfort to IBM customers. Big Blue is taking necessary steps now to not become a Kodak and not consign itself to irrelevance for customers’ future needs.

Implications of the Enterprise Strategic Intent Shift toward Cloud | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Since the beginning of 2014 Everest Group has seen a real shift in large enterprise CIO organizations in their strategic intent toward cloud services. What are the implications on the traditional infrastructure outsourcing market from this strategic intent?

Timing

First, we expect that this shift will not happen overnight. As organizations work on their cloud plans, it’s clear that this is a three-to-five-year journey for migrating some or all their environment into this next-generation environment.

Runoff of work from legacy environments

Second, we expect the runoff on traditional outsourced contracts to accelerate. The runoff has been running at about 5-10 percent a year. We expect this will pick up to something close to 50 percent of the workloads to shift over to the cloud in the next three years with 30 percent of that shift happening in the next two years.

So this is a dramatic runoff of work from legacy environments into the next-generation models. This will put significant pressure on the incumbent service providers in that space.

Who will be the likely winners?

The third implication is the likely winners from this strategic shift. We think that at least for the next two years the Indian players or those with a remote infrastructure management (RIM) model will enjoy substantial benefits. Often a move to cloud or next-generation technologies can be facilitated by a move to a RIM model. So we see RIM continuing its torrid growth.

We also believe the providers with enterprise-quality cloud offerings will be players. One that particularly comes to mind is IBM’s SoftLayer, which we think is well positioned for the shift. It has its own runoff and can grab share from asset-heavy or other legacy providers as runoff occurs there.

We expect to see Microsoft and its Azure platform play an increasingly prominent role in cloud services. It will be interesting to see if AWS, Google, and Microsoft can make the shift from serving rogue IT and business users to enterprise IT. At this time we certainly believe IBM can. And it looks like Microsoft is making deliberate efforts to transition its model. It remains to be seen if AWS and Google are willing to shift their models to better accommodate enterprise IT.


Photo credit: Photo Dean

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