Cost of operations for digital services varies widely across key locations for service delivery
Cost of operations for digital services varies widely across key locations for service delivery
The promise of Lean Six Sigma is continuous improvement and that it will deliver business performance improvement by 3% every year. That was great in a business world where 3% was enough. But not today, when organizations can gain performance breakthroughs of 40-60% or more. Plus, Lean Six programs didn’t enable organizations to change their competitive position. Those two facts are why digital transformation is overwhelming Lean Six Sigma. But to capture the value that digital promises, it’s important to understand how it differs from Lean Six Sigma.
What is it about digital transformation that makes it so much more powerful than Lean Six Sigma? The outcomes from Lean Six Sigma depended on adjusting business processes. In contrast, digital transformation enables the opportunity to reconceive the underlying business model and completely transform the business.
Digital services now represent up to 20% of business portfolios of leading firms.
In 2017, global services providers witnessed sluggish revenue growth in their legacy businesses, while their digital businesses grew remarkably. Digital-focused deals increased nearly threefold in 2017, with cloud application and analytics forming a major portion of digital deals. However, while there is increased focus on next-generation technologies and cloud services, deal volumes in traditional business processes and legacy infrastructure services remained stagnant for many of the leading service providers.
This trend was evident in Q1 2017 as well. Activity in the global services market witnessed a notable increase in Q1 2017 compared to Q4 2016 (383 deals to 367 deals, respectively), owing to a significant rise in ITO deals, while BPO transactions declined.
“There is increasing demand from enterprises for next-generation services given need to improve customer satisfaction and increase efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. Service providers are accordingly making digital investments to adapt to changing market dynamics,” said Salil Dani, vice president at Everest Group. “In 2017, we witnessed 40 acquisitions to expand digital capabilities, 140 alliances between providers and technology providers or startups, and the setup of 35 new centers and digital pods to help clients rethink their digital strategies. Unfortunately, this robust activity cannibalized traditional business services investments and resulted in a deceleration of service providers’ overall revenue growth to a compound annual growth rate of between 0 and 5 percent.”
These results and other findings are explored in “Market Vista™: Q1 2017.”
Market Vista: Q1 2017 includes data, analysis and insights on transaction trends, major outsourcing deals, global in-house center market dynamics, trends in offshoring, emerging destinations and service provider development (including latest development on next-generation technologies such as digital services). The report also includes Standard Locations Database, which tracks 23 leading offshore locations.
***Download complimentary report abstract here***
Other Key Takeaways
Given the newness and complexity of digital technologies, it’s not surprising that the previously relatively scarce pool of resources working in the digital arena commanded premium pricing. However, in the last six to 12 months, we have observed an improvement in the supply side, particularly in social and mobility, and to some extent in cloud and analytics. Thus, the premium prices being paid for these skills are starting to come down.
From a geographic standpoint, there are some differences in the digital demand-supply scenario. For example, while the North American, European, and Nordic markets have a robust supply of digital resources keeping up with the demand, (interestingly, the Nordic countries were very early adopters of smartphones and high speed Internet), APAC nations such as India, Philippines, and Singapore are still relatively behind in bridging the gap. This is likely due to the higher demand in these countries, since they are the key offshore sourcing locations. In China and Japan, demand for highly skilled mobile app developers, especially in the gaming domain is quite high. These roles are mostly filled by local resources, as global competitors find it difficult to break through the cultural and lingual barriers.
Although prices are dropping for many types of digital roles, some still command a significant premium due to relatively low supply and advanced skill set requirements. Roles in this category include data scientists, graphic designers, scrum masters, and usability experts, etc., as they not only need to have technical expertise but also creativity and knowledge of how ideas and actions can generate greater customer satisfaction.
In the short run, we don’t see the premium these digital roles are demanding going down, as they play a key role in the digitization of business models, which is a key priority for enterprises these days.
At the same time, new technologies will unquestionably enter this transforming landscape, once again changing the demand-supply-pricing picture.
For another take on hot, yet rapidly revolving, skills in the IT services arena, please read: “Modern Today, Legacy Tomorrow: The Nature of Fast-Changing Skill Demand in IT Services.”
Recently, corporate developments, such as management changes, corporate governance, and investor activism across Indian IT service providers, have bombarded the investor community. Many investors perceive the initiatives taken by these companies to be a watershed moment in their histories.
Furthermore, with next generation automation, digital services, artificial intelligence (AI), and other disruptors creating massive, requisite, and unavoidable change in the IT services industry, investors and service providers are in increasingly opposing schools of thought. However, many of the investment firms we work with struggle to correlate these developments with their investments and returns.
Given the scale of the IT industry and the pace of disruption happening in the entire ecosystem, it’s valuable to take a few minutes to dissect and analyze the situation.
Growth vs. profitability equation – digital arbitrage vs. labor arbitrage
For the past two decades, Indian IT service providers have reported a stellar net profit margin in the range of 18-25 percent. The business grew on the investments made in human resources. The players achieved impressive returns primarily due to their grip on labor arbitrage. The investor community embraced the stocks, and experienced significant returns. For instance, an investment of US$350 in one of the top Indian IT service providers in 1992 would have yielded US$377,643 in 2015!
The emerging IT services model – driven by digital disruptors – gives little emphasis to labor arbitrage or the providers’ earlier factory model, and instead focuses on innovation and value creation for enterprises that extends far beyond greater efficiency. Not many IT service providers have demonstrated a mindset aligned to these new requirements. They are still hesitant to loosen their noose on profitability, as they set investor expectations very high with their earlier business model.
What is bothering investors?
Investment firms we work with believe that most disruptive technologies will drive lower profitability for Indian IT service providers likely in the 8-15 percent net profit range. They also believe that technology disruption will not allow the same level of offshoring as before, and will further erode profitability.
As most of the Indian IT service providers have zero debt and own huge piles of cash, investors think they should receive distributions in the form of dividends. Their demand is stronger when they learn the providers are going to invest in low-margin digital businesses, as they believe they will not receive the optimal reward they are due.
Believing that the market is undervaluing their stocks, IT service providers are planning share buybacks, spinning them as a way to reward shareholders. However, they actually plan to reduce tax leakages caused by dividend distribution, as Indian tax law stipulates they pay a 15 percent Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) on dividends paid. Additionally, the share buybacks help them increase their control over the company.
What is the reality?
Both these opposing schools of thought fail to think in the long term.
Investors looking for dividends aren’t acknowledging Berkshire Hathaway’s theory of dividends. If a business can deliver promising returns in the long-run, dividends act as a negative catalyst for growth. In an attempt to pacify their investors, most of whom are technology novices, most Indian IT service companies are relabeling their old offerings as “digital.” Instead of dividends, investors need to ask IT service providers’ leadership tough questions on how they plan to use their large cash piles relative to their IP, platforms, acquisition, talent development, and client relationship strategies. How do they plan to differentiate in this crowded market? When large-scale offshore development centers fail to provide the needed competitive advantage, what does their armory contain to create shareholder value?
The way in which IT service providers are surrendering to investor pressures gives the impression that they are not willing to utilize their cash for digital technology investments. This in turn reinforces the popular opinion that Indian IT service providers are not confident enough to tide over the current transition. That some of the providers are distributing cash instead of putting the money in beneficial investments is making some market observers uncomfortable.
Furthermore, if the providers are not planning to distribute cash, they must ensure that they use the money for useful investments rather than just share buybacks. This is a win-win situation, as the providers get a boost to their topline and ability to endure the current business transition, and shareholders get maximized wealth in the long term. Net-net, firms that invest wisely are going to withstand the changeover, while those that use their cash piles to temporarily shut out investors are likely to witness a tough time.
Are these companies capable of implementing the business model?
As the adage goes, easier said than done. Although service providers are vocal about re-skilling employees opening onshore centers focused on digital services, the viability of these initiatives are questionable. The majority of these companies have amateur design thinking capabilities, and their DNA is around supplying people, not innovation and strategic partnerships. Indeed, in our recently published report “Customer (Dis) Satisfaction: Why Are Enterprises Unhappy with the Service Providers,” enterprises only gave providers a score of five out of 10 on their strategic partnering abilities.
Only time will tell whether service providers made the right move in distributing cash or investing in low-margin businesses.
Amidst unprecedented uncertainty, Everest Group predicts 2017 will bring continued market slowdown and technology-led disruption in sourcing
While the global services industry experienced continued growth in 2016, the pace of year-on-year revenue growth1 slowed from 4.5 percent in Q1 to below 3 percent by the end of the year, and the momentum of new activity shifted towards in-house delivery as opposed to outsourcing. In fact, setups of Global In-house Centers (GICs) reached an all-time high in 2016.
Everest Group—a consulting and research firm focused on strategic IT, business services and sourcing—predicts a continued decline in the outsourcing growth rate1 over the next one to three years, falling to as little as 1.9 percent by late 2019, as a result of macro uncertainties, technological disruptions and competition.
Sourcing activity in 2016 was marked by increased location activity that was concentrated in the top-10 locations in offshore/nearshore countries. Another prominent trend in 2016 was the growth of digital services; the share of digital services in outsourcing deals as compared to traditional services rose to 35 percent in 2016, with cloud, analytics and mobility services leading the way.
The outsourcing transactions of United Kingdom buyers neared three-year lows in 2016 as UK buyers followed a “wait and watch” approach amidst uncertainty around Brexit. Similarly, buyers in the United States are facing considerable uncertainty in 2017 regarding the Trump Administration’s approach to visa and immigration reform as well as the political climate around offshoring in general.
The sourcing industry is also facing substantial technology-led disruption. The increasing adoption of automation and DevOps; the growing utilization of IoT, machine learning and analytics; and the need for higher-skilled talent with digital expertise will be key drivers, causing enterprises to re-evaluate their location portfolios to address changing service delivery models.
Overall, Everest Group expects the preference for the in-house delivery model to increase, as it offers the potential for better risk management and control over IP, increased productivity, the ability to deliver more specialized or complex work, and other value benefits beyond labor arbitrage.
“We are seeing a definite skew toward in-house models as opposed to outsourcing, but we characterize it as a shift rather than a complete pendulum swing,” said H. Karthik, partner, Global Sourcing, at Everest Group. “Factoring in political uncertainties, the impact of technology, competitive drivers and many other dynamics in the market, we believe that in the coming year enterprises will continue to leverage both in-house delivery and outsourcing, but they will be more intentional about their location strategy and how to optimize their overall sourcing model.”
Everest Group’s latest research on the global services market explores the evolving market drivers and their implications for global services buyers and providers in two recent reports and a webinar deck available for complimentary download:
About Market Vista™
Market Vista —a subscription-based service of Everest Group—provides the research, analysis and insights that enable Global Sourcing professionals to navigate the complexity of today’s sourcing market and make informed and impactful decisions. Market Vista research includes developments related to service providers, locations, processes and sourcing models, as well as a comprehensive outlook of the fast-evolving global offshoring and outsourcing market.
1 in organic constant currency terms
Currently, the industry is dominated by businesses on which the sun may be ready to set. Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of US-based research firm Everest Group, adds, “Digital makes up 22% of the Indian services market. The remaining legacy services have shown no growth over the past 12 months.”
The world of business strategies is changing for U.S. businesses. All eyes are now on the bottom-line cost and productivity improvements achievable through digital technologies such as automation, analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), cognitive computing and cloud, along with their associated digital business models. The same is true with third-party service providers — all eyes are now on their bottom line with growth expectations pared back unless they offer digital services. As customers and providers try to find their footing in this new digital world, I believe customers must recognize a potential risk in their digital investment decisions.
The turn to providers offering digital services derives from a set of issues, as follows …
Enterprises, service providers see themselves as digital innovators, but most have only scratched the surface; Everest Group’s Digital Services research practice to identify, inform digital disruptors
Many of the world’s leading enterprises and service providers see themselves as digital innovators whose applications of digital concepts and technologies are cutting edge, when, in fact, these organizations have merely scratched the surface of digital’s disruptive potential, according to Everest Group, a consulting and research firm focused on digital services, strategic IT, business services and sourcing.
To guide organizations in the transformative adoption of the digital ecosystem, Everest Group today announced the formation of a dedicated team and a comprehensive research agenda devoted entirely to digital services. The new Digital Services research practice will address growing enterprise needs for data-based insights into Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), digital design and innovation, and successful business strategies based on digital concepts.
“Since Everest Group began covering digital services in 2013, the rate of enterprise adoption of digital technology has multiplied,” said Yugal Joshi, practice director at Everest Group. “However, the digital journey is about more than the technologies alone; it is also about the people, processes, design, and innovation philosophy of an organization.
“Unfortunately, many enterprises are pointing to their piecemeal application of digital technology—using a mobile app to engage with employees, for example—and equating that with digital leadership when, in fact, digital leadership is less about these application instances and more about leveraging the interplay of digital concepts and technologies to fundamentally change the structure of their business and even the industry,” continued Joshi. “Our goal is to elucidate this distinction and provide the fact-based analyses and insights that guide enterprises and service providers to move beyond ‘look at our cool technology’ to ‘look at our cool use cases.’”
Everest Group has planned a robust 2017 research agenda focused on digital services, including deep-dives into topics such as IoT, digital marketing, mobility, next-generation and conversational analytics, platforms and disruptive start-ups. Also, Everest Group’s Digital Innovation Index and PEAK Matrix™ assessments will provide insights into the comparative market position of enterprises and service providers in terms of digital innovation.
Furthermore, through fact-based research that imparts reality, the new Digital Services research practice will explore how enterprises and service providers are tapping the interplay of technologies to drive innovation and disrupt their industries.
“Our dedicated Digital Services research program will better serve clients not only by examining a broader scope of digital services but also by zooming in on how these are being used to support business objectives,” said Gunjan Gupta, practice director at Everest Group. “Take, for example, the application of artificial intelligence. Our research will be instrumental in more clearly defining hazy terminology, such as what it truly means to have an AI solution. It will also separate the wheat from the chaff—revealing what works and what doesn’t. And, most importantly, our analysis of market leadership in digital services will clearly distinguish between organizations using AI to simply crunch data versus those using AI to truly support a business objective or drive Transformation with a capital T.”
***Click here for more information about Everest Group’s Digital Services research practice.***