Tag: IT-BPO

Einstein’s Definition of Insanity and Its Applicability to the Healthcare Solutions Industry | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Starting with the premise that all providers and all clients in the healthcare industry enter into large, multi-year arrangements with honesty, fairness, and a desire for a successful engagement…why do only a small handful come in on time, on budget, and with measurable outcomes? I think Albert Einstein’s famous statement, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” is, unfortunately, applicable here.

In financial and clinical implementations, ITO/BPO engagements, ADM solutions, clinical transformations, and clinical trial deployments over the past several decades, the providers and clients have been doing essentially the same thing, again and again, and in most cases the engagements have ranged from lackluster to volatile. Yet with all the increasing governmental requirements, major advances in personal and mobile technologies, and demands from patients, customers, physicians and clinicians – and let’s not forget escalating competition – we need to stop the insanity to ensure the problems of the past aren’t continually replicated in the next generation of healthcare solutions.

For healthcare industry improvement or transformation initiatives to succeed, we need methodologies. We need qualified staff to help guide and manage the projects over a multi-year period. And we need to deal with unplanned turnover, inflexible contracts that don’t allow for any change in the client’s strategic direction, ever-shrinking budgets, and the client’s desire to finally have measurable outcomes. So, assuming both sides want to deal in an environment of honesty and candor, and both parties have strong resources, why do we continue to fail? One single word – misalignment.

Misalignment occurs between clients and providers due to differences in objectives, priorities, and performance. For example, if the provider thinks the major objectives are cost and capital expense avoidance, and the client thinks improved service quality, skills and innovation, and time to delivery are the critical success factors, we have misalignment. And the result is relationship tension that can ultimately derail the engagement. Yes, in a perfect world each party knows the other’s objectives. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and so this doesn’t happen often. Combine that issue with the changing landscape the client deals with over a multi-year engagement, e.g., acquisitions, new product offerings, strategic changes in direction, etc., and the relationship can explode quickly. And even if the two parties agree on the business objectives, it does not mean they both give them the same priorities. For example, I know of one particular instance in which the client wanted significant focus on innovation and meeting strategic objectives, while the supplier felt it was doing its job by using low-rate resources. Without understanding these types of gaps, how can we fix the misalignment? We can’t!

We’ve heard similar discussions before, and each fix had a methodology or clever name. But few were implemented, and even fewer were successful. The result is continuation of Einstein’s definition of insanity. As we deal with next generation solutions for the healthcare industry, let’s get sane and change the results by viewing large, complex or strategic engagements from a holistic point of view.

Growing Renewals in Asia: Time to Plan Ahead? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As Indian service providers announce their results for the year, one can’t but be amazed by their spectacular growth. For fiscal 2011, TCS’s annual earnings grew by 29 percent year over year (YoY), and Wipro’s IT services revenue grew by 19 percent YoY. While North America and Western Europe have traditionally fueled growth for the Indian heritage service providers, the focus is increasingly turning to Asia to capitalize on the growing economic shift.

In this context, the next several years are set to be quite interesting for the Asian markets, as we estimate that more than 500 first generation ITO and BPO contracts, worth US$25-30 billion, are up for renewal in Asia (Middle East, India and South East Asia) through 2014.

Outsourcing Contract Renewals

As we ran an analysis of potential renewals through our deal databases, some interesting trends emerged:

  • India, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, in that order, have the largest renewal opportunities; and India is the largest market by far, possessing 50+ percent of the potential renewals by value.
  • In India, a large number of early stage telecommunications deals are coming up for renewal; in the rest of the region, financial services will likely dominate renewal activity.
  • IT contracts will likely contribute nearly 80 percent of these renewals, with infrastructure being the most significant component.
  • Clearly, large buyer enterprises (Forbes 1000 firms or private firms with revenues of over US$5 billion) will dominate these deals, except in Middle East Asia, where there is a greater presence of small-to-medium sized contracts.

What makes renewals unique in the Asian market?

First, over the last decade, Asia has undergone a much more rapid change in service provider capabilities than developed markets. Today, most global IT-BPO providers have sizeable Asian market practices, and have brought global offerings to service regional buyers; a decade ago, it was just a select few.

Second, buyer maturity in the region has increased significantly. Asian buyers today have had multiple deal experiences with providers, and consequently understand sourcing and governance in far greater depth than in the early 2000s. Today, transformational deals are not unheard of, and sophisticated service management frameworks are the norm, not the exception.

Third, consider changes in the global context that also affect the environment in Asia: the growing adoption of virtualization; the emergence of the Cloud; enterprise-scope BPO services; and consolidations in the provider landscape.

Together, all these factors make the case for a careful look at contractual parameters as end-of-engagement terms approach. Typical end-of-term alternatives include:

  1. Renew: Resign the existing contract with minimal changes.
  2. Renegotiate: Modify a limited number of elements of the contract.
  3. Restructure: Rethink the structure of key contract provisions and key business terms.
  4. Recompete: Terminate the existing contract and enter into a fresh competitive bid process.
  5. Repatriate: Terminate the current contract and bring previously outsourced services back in-house.

As Asian buyers consider these options, they need to carefully evaluate market capabilities (given significant market changes), and take a closer look at deal robustness to ensure that market best-in-class service management/contractual frameworks are incorporated. This implies that restructuring and recompeting are very real options in the Asian context.

Everest Group’s experience indicates that end-of-term evaluations take nearly six months in typical global deals. Given added complexities in regional deals, buyers would be wise to begin their evaluations up to a year in advance.

Historically, it is not uncommon to see buyers continue with their incumbent service providers. While some fail to leverage the market effectively, others get bogged down with challenges of repatriation or risks of changing service providers (such as business continuity risks, contractual lacunae for transition-out or incumbent provider hold-up). However, heightened competition, changing service provider landscape, newer delivery models (e.g., cloud) and increasing maturity in the Asian and Middle Eastern markets could well change this going forward.

Size Does Matter – The Real Pecking Order of Indian IT Service Providers | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Earlier today, Cognizant reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2011, bringing to an end the earnings season for the Big-5 Indian IT providers – affectionately referred to as WITCH (Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Cognizant, and HCL). Cognizant’s results were yet again distinctive: US$1.37 billion in revenues in 1Q11, which represents QoQ growth of 4.6 percent and YoY growth of 42.9 percent. The latest financial results reaffirmed – yet again – Cognizant’s growth leadership compared to its peers and are a testament to Cognizant’s superb client engagement model.

Q1 2011 financial highlights for WITCH:

WITCH Q1-2011 Financial Highlights

In a recent blog post, my colleague Vikash Jain commented on the changes in the IT services leaderboard, and especially the questions and speculation on the relative positions of Wipro and Cognizant in the Indian IT services landscape. Cognizant’s 1Q11 revenues are now just US$29 million below Wipro’s IT services revenues, and based on current momentum, Cognizant could overtake Wipro as early as 2Q11, making it the third largest Indian IT major in quarterly revenue terms. The guidance provided by the two companies for the next quarter – Cognizant (US$1.45 billion) and Wipro (US$1.39-1.42 billion) – provides further credence to the projected timelines.

How important is this upcoming change in the relatively static rank order of the Indian IT industry (the last change happened in January 2009 post the Satyam scandal)? Not very, in our opinion. As and when this happens, the event will indeed create news headlines and the occasional blog entry, but the change in rankings does not imply a meaningful change to the overall IT landscape. Further, other than providing Wipro with even more conviction to make the changes required to recapture a faster growth trajectory, the new rank order does not suggest any changes in the delivery capabilities of either of these organizations.

As we advise our clients on selecting service providers, we believe that it is more important to understand the service provider’s depth of capability and experiences in the buyer organization’s specific vertical industry. While total revenues and financial stability are important enterprise-level criteria, performance in the vertical industry bears greater relevance and significance as buyers evaluate service providers. In our 1Q11 Market Vista report, we examine the CY 2010 revenues of the WITCH group to determine the pecking order in three of the largest verticals from a global sourcing adoption perspective – banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI); healthcare and life sciences; and energy and utilities (E&U).

As we recognize there are differences in the way these providers segment results, for simplicity we are relying on reported segmentation (which we believe does not meaningfully alter the results). The exhibit below summarizes the results of our assessment:

Industry leaderboard for WITCH:

WITCH Industry Leaders1

Our five key takeaways:

  1. The ranking of WITCH based on enterprise revenues has limited correlation to industry vertical rankings. The leader in each of the three examined industries is different.
  2. In BFSI, while TCS is the clear leader, Cognizant is rapidly closing in on Infosys for the second spot. (Note: Wipro is already #4 in this vertical).
  3. In Healthcare and Life Sciences, Cognizant emerges as the clear leader with 2010 revenues greater than those of Wipro, TCS, and HCL combined. (Note: Infosys does not report segment revenues for Healthcare).
  4. In E&U, Wipro leads the pack and is expected to widen the gap through its acquisition of SAIC’s oil and gas business. TCS achieved the highest growth in 2010 to move to third position ahead of HCL (TCS was #4 in 2009) and narrow the gap with Infosys (Note: Cognizant does not report E&U revenues).
  5. Finally, the above ranks are going to change quickly. Based on the results announced for the first calendar quarter of 2011 alone, we anticipate a change in the second position for each of the three examined verticals:
    • Cognizant’s Q1 BFSI revenue of US$570 million is nearly identical to that of Infosys’ US$572 million
    • TCS’ Q1 Healthcare and Life Sciences revenue at US$ 119 million is higher than Wipro’s US$111 million (which also includes services)
    • TCS reported Q1 E&U revenues of US$103 million, versus Infosys’ US$93 million

While it will be interesting to see the impact on a full year basis, the above changes in momentum already indicate further changes in the industry leaderboard before the end of the year.

On an unrelated note, by the time we revisit the Wipro versus Cognizant debate when the Indian majors announce their Q2 results starting mid-July, WITCH will assume an additional meaning – the last installment of the Harry Potter movies is due for release on July 15, 2011!

How Will the IT/BPO Industry Leaderboard Change? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

This past weekend, many people were glued to their televisions watching the 2011 Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National. As the days rolled by, the leaderboard changed in some surprising ways – the young McIlroy slid a long way from Number 1 on Day 1; Tiger Woods finally showed his old spark and stayed steadily within the top 5 throughout the game; and Charl Schwartzel jumped into the front-runner spot to take the Green Jacket.

While we now know the Masters winner, there is significant speculation on the changes in the IT services leaderboard, both today and going forward. The market is rife with questions on where Wipro and Cognizant will end up this season. The discussion on C-level changes at Infosys made a leading Indian newspaper speculate on issues it may be facing, with TCS speeding on and Cognizant being on steroids and catching up quickly. The next day, analysts said TCS would continue to outpace the other TWITCH majors as the quarterly results season starts.

We will know the answers to these questions in the next few weeks, after all companies report their numbers. But the more important long-term question is, what else will change in that leaderboard? Will we see more M&As, new entrants, or exits? And fundamentally, what will the future structure of the IT services industry be, and who will the winners be?

In a recent meeting, a CEO of an IT services company made an interesting point about there being steps at the US$500 million, $1 billion, $5 billion, and $10 billion marks, and that it is progressively challenging to get to the next level. It was clear he was thinking that some, including those in the $2+ billion scale, will struggle to reach the next level, and some will stabilize in their current or adjacent level.

The TWITCH discussion is interesting, but then there are the mid-tier IT players. We are just past the first quarter of 2011, and already three (iGate, Patni, and Headstrong) no longer exist, at least not in their original form. From all we hear or understand, several more may go before the end of 2011.

Then there are continuous speculations about pure play BPO players being shopped about. The rumor that Cognizant will take out Genpact has been around for ages. EXL is up for some action, and the market is abuzz with other speculations. As one of my colleagues recently blogged – will the Indian pure play BPO companies survive in the same shape and form past 2011 or 2012?

Net, net, here is the big picture. Some large Tier 1 players are struggling, mid-sized IT is not necessarily the best place to be, and pure play BPO companies are a vanishing tribe.

All this raises more questions: What is the future structure of the global services industry? Will Accenture, IBM, Dell, the Japanese majors, TCS and probably a few others become the super majors by 2015 or 2020, and will the rest need to find their own places under the sun? What other categories and groups of service providers will exist, and what will their characteristics be, for example, regional specialists, vertical specialists, etc.?

Irrespective of how the industry evolves, consolidation will continue, and the M&A juggernaut will roll. This business generates cash, and doesn’t require a lot to sustain it…so companies will invest in buying capabilities, assets, businesses, and people in attempts to win top spots on the leaderboard.

We certainly are headed for some interesting months ahead. Is anyone betting on who the winners will be at the end of 2011?

Genpact Acquires Headstrong – End of Pure-Play BPOs? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Earlier today, Genpact (a global BPO-centric service provider) announced a definitive agreement to acquire Headstrong (an IT services player with a focus on capital markets) for US$550 million. Genpact has scaled ITO capabilities, but more than 85% of its US$1.2 billion+ revenues is still driven by BPO. Moreover, Genpact’s ITO revenues have been flat over the last few years. So I think it is only fair to call them a pure-play BPO – that was until today! With the acquisition of Headstrong, the split between BPO and ITO for Genpact will be closer to 70:30.

Genpact’s topline growth has fallen from 25-35% in 2007-2008 to 7.5-12.5% in 2009-2010. Not bad considering a growing denominator; stable to increasing margins; and a bad economy. But growth is slowing, and I believe this acquisition will be important for Genpact to ensure scalability in the medium to long term. Here is why:

  • BPO-only services have a strong value proposition for the first 3-5 years of an engagement driven by arbitrage and operational efficiencies and effectiveness – and Genpact has been successful in riding this wave. However, it is often difficult to drive the next wave of value from pure BPO and often this requires integrated IT-BPO capabilities. With a majority of Genpact’s BPO client base entering this end-of-term phase, Headstrong’s capabilities will allow Genpact to present an integrated value proposition. Genpact’s proprietary add-on tools for BPO (remember the acquisitions of Creditek, Avolent and Symphony) and process capabilities (from Six Sigma and Lean expertise to SEP) with Headstrong’s IT capabilities will be a strong combination.
  • This acquisition will also help Genpact ride the potentially disruptive trends in the areas of cloud, SaaS and BPaaS. Their partnership with NetSuite last year was another step in this direction.
  • Headstrong’s acquisition is also interesting from an industry expertise perspective. BPO is fast morphing from being a horizontal service to a more industry-specific offering. Even in traditional BPO services like F&A, more and more industry-flavors are being included – be it around revenue cycle management for healthcare providers or meter-to-cash for utilities. Within financial services (one of the largest recipients of global services), our research shows that capital markets BPO is the fastest-growing segment. This is where most of Headstrong’s capabilities reside. Healthcare (another strong area for Headstrong) is another industry poised for strong global services growth in the near term.

There are potential challenges (as with all acquisitions) essentially around the integration of the two organizations. Genpact has been running successful sales and marketing engine focused around BPO. With a significant IT component – will it get distracted from its focus? Its differentiation in the market is around process excellence, and it remains to be seen how successful the go-to-market for an integrated ITO+BPO offering will be. Headstrong’s existing clients will also have questions on Genpact’s vision and strategy for them.

Look around the BPO industry and you’ll not find any major pure-play BPOs left. Consider the leaders on Everest’s PEAK matrix for FAO – Accenture, IBM, Capgemini, Genpact, HP, and Infosys. No pure-play BPO except Genpact (until this morning). What will happen to others in the same bucket (WNS, EXL and the likes)? For the moment WNS will probably take the tag of becoming the largest pure-play BPO – but for how long? Will it acquire or get acquired?

Anticipating the Unexpected: Implications of the Egypt and Tunisia Crises on Global Sourcing | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

After spending most of Sunday evening watching the ongoing Egyptian crisis unfold on TV, our mailboxes were flooded with analyst perspectives and journalist queries on the impact it will have on Egypt’s information and communications technology (ICT) industry. While the recent turn of events is likely to hamper the brisk progress Egypt and Tunisia were making in global services, it may be too early to predict the impact on the future state of these outsourcing/offshoring destinations. As market participants in these countries try to weather the storm, and the concerned global sourcing community looks on, global investors and IT-BPO sector countries and industry organizations stand to learn important lessons from this situation.

Tunisia and, particularly, Egypt are among the emerging offshore services delivery locations that have in recent years significantly invested in growing their IT-BPO industries as they recognized this sector as a key driver of economic growth. Both countries have achieved considerable offshore scale (more than 8,000 in Tunisia, and 20,000+ in Egypt), and both have successfully attracted marquee companies including Vodafone, Stream, Teleperformance, Wipro, and Microsoft, to source services from these locations to fulfill language skills, cultural affinity, cost savings and geographic proximity needs. And until the last two weeks, both countries were considered relatively stable locations demonstrating rapid progress in embracing reforms and FDI inflows (endorsed by UNCTAD, and World Bank/IFC.)

This all raises two critical questions: did location decision makers misread the developments in these countries, or fall short in anticipating these scenarios? To some extent, as such incidents are unprecedented and almost impossible to predict, they would not result in a “no-go” decision in a location selection exercise. At the same time, this is not the first instance of a partial disruption or complete shutdown of offshore support operations in a country. Episodes in the recent past (e.g., the typhoons in the Philippines, the military coup in Thailand, the earthquakes in Chile, the Mumbai attacks, and the swine flu pandemic in Mexico) have unquestionably affected operations in global delivery locations. Thus, it is important to “anticipate the unexpected” in location selection decisions by planning ahead, and putting in place investments and robust blueprints to manage such risks. In well-prepared organizations, these types of events trigger implementation of well-crafted disaster recovery/business continuity plans.  For example, Infosys has a disaster recovery site in Mauritius where business critical processes can be swiftly migrated, and critical resources enabled to travel at immediate notice via a blanket visa agreement with the Mauritian government.

Amidst the crises in Egypt and Tunisia, single location sourcing buyers are undoubtedly hurting more than users of global delivery networks-based models, as global delivery portfolios built on a ‘plus one’ principle ensure redundancy. In building a global sourcing portfolio, a role-based delivery network designed to meet aggregate demand, and scenario-based work placement to fulfill business needs, provides flexibility and ensures talent sustainability while optimizing costs and minimizing risks. For example, most leading global financial services companies have a headcount cap in each location, and route overflows to alternative sites in their portfolio.

Such moments of crisis also provide an opportunity to revisit the frameworks governing location selection decisions. Mature users of global services approach location selection as a risk-reward tradeoff on a relative basis. And as potential investors assess locations across parameters of talent pool, cost structures and structural risks, this episode underscores the importance of adopting a risk-adjusted view to cost savings approach, and allocating higher weights to geo-political and macro-economic risk. For example, while Egypt offers 70 percent cost savings on support services compared to Tier-2 locations in the U.K. and the U.S., in a situation in which country stability indicators are no longer favorable, the risk-weighted cost savings are less attractive.

These are clearly trying times for IT-BPO investment promotion agencies and country/industry associations in these countries. Due to the Internet blackout in Egypt, their ability to communicate with the external world has been hampered. While the immediate objective is to sustain engagement with existing investors, and extend support to help them cope with the situation at hand, it is important to keep channels of communication open with potential investors and key influencers to ensure accurate information dissemination. The underlying theme here is the need for a disaster management and communication plan for country/industry organizations. Once the situation stabilizes, these countries will need to engage in a public relations initiative to restore confidence within the international global sourcing community. A country rebranding exercise may also be necessary, if investor perceptions about Egypt and Tunisia change dramatically.

While there’s no denying these events impact the investment/stability ratings of these countries in the immediate-term, the political and macro-economic developments will need to be closely monitored with a longer-term view. Things to watch out for include endorsement of political leadership from both internal and international quarters, recast country ratings/indicators from the likes of World Bank and WEF, country administration reiterating its commitment to the services industry (specifically the ICT sector), ability to maintain investment-friendly policies (e.g., tax breaks, incentives, foreign investment practices), and the collective response of global IT-BPO companies operating in these countries.

As close watchers and proponents of global services, we remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the IT-BPO sectors in Egypt and Tunisia. Only time will tell how the situation pans out, and how the global sourcing community responds to the now imminent damage control exercise expected from the country/industry associations. The learning for the location decision maker from this crisis is more pronounced: Anticipate the Unexpected.

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