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global services

Middle East and Africa: An Emerging Frontier for Global Services | Blog

By | Benchmarking, Blog, Outsourcing, Talent

Numerous locations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are emerging as upcoming destinations for global services delivery. Several multinational companies have set up their centers in the MEA region to deliver services to Europe and North America, and tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Uber are leveraging it for global services delivery.

What’s the appeal?

Availability and quality of talent pool

There’s been a consistent increase in the pool of entry-level talent and experienced professionals with domain-specific skills. Egypt is the leader in the region; due to various government measures to improve education quality and a significant rise in contact center operations in multiple languages, including English, French, and Arabic, the country posted an enormous 35 percent increase in the headcount for global services exports in 2018.

There’s also been a considerable rise in R&D centers and Centers of Excellence (COEs), where talented professionals with relevant and often advanced technological skill sets work to develop state-of-the-art solutions.

Less competition for talent

Because there’s a relatively large population base, limited jobs, and high unemployment rates throughout much of the region – for example, South Africa is at 27 percent and Nigeria is at 23 percent – organizations can procure talent easily and train the workers as per their specific business needs.

Cost arbitrage

Some of the countries in the MEA region offer highly attractive cost arbitrage compared to source geographies. For example, Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya come in at 70-80 percent less (although Nigeria and Kenya are primarily leveraged to serve domestic markets), and South Africa (for non-voice F&A) and Morocco (for voice-based services) offer cost savings of 40-60 percent over source geographies.

Proximity to Europe

Proximity with various European countries is a big selling point of many African locations. For example, because Morocco offers both cultural and geographical proximity to France and Spain, companies are increasingly leveraging it for French and Spanish voice-based business process services. Because the English language was introduced by British colonists, and because there’s shared cultural affinity, South Africa is becoming a popular destination for voice-based services delivery for U.K. companies. Additionally, because most African countries share similar time zones with Europe, delivery and client teams are able to collaborate in real time, thereby, optimizing work in both the geographies.

The leading locations in the MEA region

The map below highlights key locations leveraged by global enterprises and service providers for global services delivery. While the emerging locations house 20,000 to 100,000 FTEs across global services, nascent locations employ less than 20,000 FTEs in this space.

 

A snapshot view of the top five global services delivery locations in MEA

  • Egypt: Offers the most attractive cost-talent proposition, with strong multilingual skills, especially in English, French, and Arabic languages. However, relatively higher operating environment risk with concerns around high inflation rates and repressive government policies
  • Morocco: Primarily leveraged for French and Arabic language voice-based BPS and IT services. Morocco offers moderate-high competitive intensity and strong government support (especially for the IT-BPS sector through financial, tax, and customs advantages)
  • South Africa: Characterized with large, high-quality talent pools and the highest maturity across functions, South Africa houses multiple organizations delivering voice and non-voice BPS, including complex processes. It has a stable geopolitical environment, well-developed infrastructure, high ease of doing business, strong government incentives for the IT-BPS sector, and limited safety and security concerns
  • Mauritius: It is leveraged for IT (both ADM and infrastructure), non-voice business process services, and R&D services to serve French and Canadian markets. It offers a favorable business environment, with government incentives for the IT-BPS sector, such as tax-free dividends and foreign tax credits
  • Israel: Leveraged for delivery of advanced IT (including IoT, ML, and AI) and R&D services, primarily to support the U.S. and Europe. Israel offers a highly favorable business environment with lower tax rates and conducive government incentives, such as low corporate tax and grants up to 20 percent of the amount of the investment.

For a detailed view of each of these locations, please read our latest Location Spotlight reports. Each report analyzes the individual country’s global sourcing profile, key opportunities, drivers, challenges, talent and skills availability, financial attractiveness, and environment risks.

 

What Are the Hot Global Services Initiatives for 2019? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Talent

There is little doubt that 2018 has been an interesting year.  And it makes one wonder what’s ahead.

As we all know, the fate of most businesses is now based upon the global economy. In the U.S., the economy has been on fire with great GDP growth, record stock markets (until the recent dip!), and unemployment rates that are at generational lows. But President Trump’s “America First” policies have introduced a layer of uncertainty to the business world. And the rest of the world certainly has experienced a mixed bag of economic results.

So, what’s next? While it is easy to worry about rising interest rates, tariffs, increasing global/regional geopolitical tensions, and maybe even global warming – none of these issues are directly within your business’ leadership team’s control.

Yet, there is one common issue (at least in the U.S./European markets) that is becoming even more persistent, and that is the talent shortage across many different segments of the economy.  Our hypothesis is that organizations are going to need to double down on their automation efforts to get more productivity out of their existing workforce.

Do you agree with our automation prediction? Or are there other challenges more pressing for your organization? We want to hear what you think are truly the most important topics impacting your organization and its plans for 2019.

Take our 10-minute survey and let us know what you think about:

  • Your top growth challenges
  • Changes in global services buying centers and service delivery activities
  • Your digital priorities
  • Your talent challenges and priorities

As thank you for your participation, we’ll share a summary of the results; you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the areas where your peers are focusing their attention. Are they the same as yours? Completely different? A mix? Will 2019 be a repeat of 2018 Crazytown? Take the survey and see. (Although no promises on getting the right answer to that last one.)

TAKE ME TO THE SURVEY

UK Symposium: Thriving in A World of Change — March 22 | Event

By | Events

Everest Group’s March 22 symposium, Thriving in a World of Perpetual Change, brings together industry expertise and rich resources to help you identify practical strategies to thrive in a time of global disruption. Join us as we explore ways leading enterprises are planning and organising to take advantage of disruption to improve outcomes.

About the event

Ongoing global disruption – in the form of economic uncertainty, political upheaval, legal/regulatory change, and technological development – is forcing the global services market to completely transform how service delivery is organised and executed. Keeping up with the latest developments is difficult enough, let alone understanding and planning for potential consequences.

What you will see, hear, and learn

  • Findings from our first ever assessment of how leading organisations are achieving Pinnacle, or best-in-class, status in leveraging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in their service delivery organisations
  • Early findings from our RPA Technology PEAK Matrix™ 2018 research
  • Predictions for how the global services market will evolve in 2018, including demand trends, impact of RPA and other technology trends, digitalisation, the service provider landscape, delivery locations, vendor management and pricing, GDPR, and more
  • A panel discussion about what organisations should do to survive in a changing world

The programme will be followed by a networking session industry colleagues and Everest Group analysts over drinks and canapes.

Date

Thursday, 22nd March, 2018
3:30 to 7:00 pm

Location

Frobisher 2 Auditorium | Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

Register for the event

Last year’s event exceeded capacity very quickly – register today to save your space!

Retrospective on the 2017 Global Services Market | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

As I look back on this year, it’s impossible to unplug digital from the determinants of the year’s most significant business changes. A review of how the rotation to digital impacted the global services market in 2017 provides a glimpse of factors that will be at play in 2018 as companies seek to be more competitive. In this blog, I’ll focus on three of the top factors that affected businesses this year.

Global Services Market Deceleration

Both the global services market and the Indian sector further decelerated this year. When we made projections for 2017, Everest Group was the only firm to make that call. In fact, although we were overly criticized for being overly pessimistic, the market decelerated even more than what we forecasted.

Deceleration is not the same as shrinkage. In the legacy space, the offshore labor arbitrage talent factories went from a growth space to a three percent contraction this year. Also, there has been portfolio rationalization and industry consolidation in that space. As the space shrinks, the larger firms do better than the smaller firms.

Related: 2018: The Year When Faking Digital Won’t Work Anymore



This year brought the rotation to digital with companies moving from services based on labor arbitrage to services based on disruptive digital technologies. The digital space now constitutes 25 percent of the overall market and is growing at 20 percent. The legacy arbitrage factory is 75 percent of the overall market and it’s shrinking at three percent. Within the shrinking, the big five Indian players are consolidating the market to take share; so they eked out a 1.5 percent growth while other providers shrank.

Interestingly, the compression driven by the cannibalization of digital and legacy environments is partially offset by new workloads coming into the legacy environment due to changes in market segmentation.

Market Segmentation Changing

A major factor at play in the services market in 2017 is the market beginning to segment between (a) digital transformation and (b) modernization of IT and business process services (BPS).

The digital market began splitting this year into two pieces: digital transformation vs. modernization. We clearly see two distinct, separate markets emerging in digital. This year we also saw digital transformation pilots go into programs. Pilots that ranged in size from $500,000 to $2 million in size now consistently hit between $50 million to $500,000,000 billion.

The legacy environment is also splitting into two markets: work that will be modernized and work that is too risky or expensive to modernize. We’re now 30 years beyond the inflexion point of where the market began moving from mainframe to client-server environments. Many companies still have a portfolio of applications remaining on mainframes. This is a classic example of legacy work that is too expensive or risky to modernize. As a result, companies are content at this point to let that work remain in the legacy structure. However, this year clearly brought movement in this space of companies building APIs and microservices to connect with that work, whether it is in an internal legacy infrastructure or in an outsourced legacy talent factory. This enables the companies to turn their attention to the work that they need to modernize.

What we haven’t seen is business process services (BPS) modernization take hold. IT is leading the pack currently. At the beginning of the year, we thought that BPS might lead the modernization, but it turns out we were wrong. The IT segment is moving much faster than the BPS segment in modernization work.

Rise of Small Firms

Also in 2017, we saw the rise of small provider firms. Where we see industry consolidation on the legacy side, we see vendor proliferation on the digital side. We believe this proliferation is because companies are looking to new firms to do new work. They believe the incumbent service providers are distracted and have a conflict in interest in moving to digital – a self-interest in preserving their profitable legacy arbitrage-based work. Consequently, this year brought a surge in companies looking to smaller, new service provider firms to help them understand and drive both digital transformation and IT modernization.

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

By | Blog, Outsourcing, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

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.

Clues into Amazon’s HQ2: What Does the Vancouver Announcement Tell Us? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Talent

In early November, Amazon announced that it will expand its presence in Vancouver from 1,000 jobs to 2,000 jobs by 2020. Although this did not receive nearly the same attention as Amazon’s request for proposals for the 50,000 employee location dubbed “HQ2”, there are some valuable clues to glean (see our earlier detailed assessment on the viability of Amazon’s HQ2 strategy and potential locations for our more complete analysis).

We read three important clues in this announcement.

  1. Vancouver is not a serious HQ2 candidate. Although Amazon is clearly comfortable enough with Vancouver to continue expanding there, it is a signal that Vancouver is not a serious candidate for the second headquarter location. If Amazon felt otherwise, the announcement did not need to be made and lose leverage in negotiating incentives for HQ2. There are multiple reasons why Vancouver may not be a strong candidate – size or cost of talent pool, too similar to Seattle, no time zone diversification, or that the complexities of operating in Canada outweigh the benefits of mainly operating in the U.S.
  2. The targeted scalability of HQ2 is going to be REALLY HARD. Assuming that Vancouver and HQ2 will have roughly similar mixes of talent, we can see that Amazon is scaling at only 15% of the rate targeted for HQ2. After setting up in 2015 and reaching 1,000 employees in 2017, Amazon is planning to reach 2,000 employees by 2020. Let’s assume that is 2,000 people over four years for an annual rate of 500 net-new employees. HQ2 is targeting 50,000 employees over 15 years, which is over 3,000 per year – 6 times what is being achieved in Vancouver. This supports our earlier view that any city under 4 million in population is clearly not viable (Vancouver is under 2.5 million) and even the largest cities (which are 7-15 million) will struggle to consistently grow at the rate indicated by Amazon for HQ2.
  3. Hmmm…is Amazon truly serious about HQ2 as stated? For purposes of our earlier analysis, we assumed that Amazon truly intended to pursue its stated vision (up to 50,000 employees in 15 years with an average salary in excess of US$100,000 and the HQ2 acting as an equal to Seattle). The announcement about Vancouver is interesting and revealing because it is inconsistent with Amazon seeking to aggregate its scale into large locations. A 2,000 employee location is certainly large, but it is much smaller than currently located in Seattle or the planned HQ2.

If centers at much smaller scale are valuable to Amazon, why even pursue the HQ2 strategy?

First, Amazon might realize that a single 50,000 location is likely too big and contemplating whether it can make “clusters” (cities within very short distances from each other) produce similar benefits as a single location, which would be multiple buildings anyway. If Amazon believes this, it might be looking to select multiple cities within a cluster for the HQ2 strategy (think Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC).

Second, Amazon may have intentionally set a very, very large 50,000 employee target to get maximum attention and creativity, but is planning to structure the eventual single location agreement to only commit to 5,000-10,000 employees. Still very large, but something it has a much easier chance to fulfill and then potentially exceed as it so desires.

In summary, we believe these clues Echo many of our earlier perspectives and underscore that the eventual outcome may be quite different than stated – we remain Primed to hear what Amazon decides in 2018.