Tag: service providers

Why Mess with a Good Thing: Recalibrating Our PEAK Matrix Assessment Methodology | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

We regularly make small adjustments to our PEAK Matrix™ assessment methodology – minor tweaks to fine-tune our approach to align with market evolution. This year, however, we have decided to undertake a more comprehensive modification to the assessment.

Why mess with a good thing? To make it even better and more relevant. In particular, we’re making changes to keep pace with the rapid evolution of IT and business process services, particularly as innovation, intellectual property (IP), digital, and technology-driven solutions take center stage in the delivery of these services.

While our fundamental principle of using a fact-based assessment remains core to our methodology, we are enhancing our PEAK Matrix assessment methodology in three principle areas.

  1. Maximize IP and innovation. We are recognizing the rising value of IP and innovation in global services by significantly increasing the weighting assigned to them. Of course, IP and innovation have always been a part of the PEAK Matrix Assessment, but their status will rise in the assessment, as has their significance in the global services market.
  2. Eliminate FTE count. At the same time, we are eliminating FTE count as an assessment dimension altogether. As technology increasingly fills the roles FTEs had managed in the past – at lower cost and often better outcomes – the size of a provider’s delivery talent pool has become irrelevant.
  3. Minimize scale. The provider’s overall scale – a combination of financial strength and focus on the service area being assessed – will remain as part of the assessment, but will decline in importance in the evaluation, making room for innovation to take on a larger role.

Together, we believe these changes assure that our assessment framework continues to be aligned with the emerging and future direction of the global services market.

We expect these changes to have a couple of implications for service providers. First, those providers that bring innovative programs to their clients will be recognized for their efforts – and expense. Furthermore, overall scale will have less impact on the providers’ ratings, assuming they demonstrate high levels of innovation and good business outcomes.

The recipients of these services, the enterprise buyer, will have a much clearer view of each provider’s ability to deliver innovation and outcome-oriented solutions. And they will gain insights that will help them better understand how service providers’ capabilities align with future objectives.

As the dynamic global services industry evolves, we will continue to make adjustments to our PEAK Matrix assessment methodology – some minor, some major – to ensure that it retains its universal relevance and value.

Because sometimes messing with a good thing is a good thing.

UHG-Aetna and Anthem-Cigna Merger Rumor Mills May Give IT Service Providers Goose Bumps | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Rumor mills are buzzing over the potential acquisition approaches made by suitors United Health and Anthem for Aetna and Cigna, respectively. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the growing focus on consolidation to drive health insurance premium/cost rationalization have led to these tactical maneuvers. While the equity analysts and investment banks have already started to split hairs on the potential implications for capital markets and stocks, our focus here is on the implications these mergers may have on the IT/BPO services market.

These four companies – Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and UnitedHealth – are star accounts for some of the largest IT service providers that focus on the payer industry. Some service providers have so much revenue exposure to these accounts that their healthcare revenues can take a hit of over 200 basis points, simply as a consequence of IT budget realignments or vendor consolidation.

Impact on IT services

These potential mergers may lead to the following key transformational IT implications:

  • Systems and applications integration: Merging organizations reduce redundancy by retiring transactional systems and applications, and opting for integrated systems that can work across the merging entities. The biggest impact will likely be on claims, members, and product rationalization initiatives
  • Database and datawarehouse consolidation: This is one of the biggest imminent implications, as some of these organizations (especially Anthem) have gone through a decade long initiative to create an enterprise view of organizational data. Going through another round of database integration will be an imperative hard to push to a future date
  • Infrastructure rationalization: These are huge capital assets, and mergers often present an opportunity to divest some of these assets in favor of cloud-based (most likely private) services
  • Vendor rationalization: There are likely to be significant vendor redundancies, given that most of these organizations have mature vendor portfolios.

Implications for service providers

  • The most likely beneficiaries of these mergers will be service providers that have systems experience across both the acquiring and target entities, as this will help with any integration initiative
  • The second most likely beneficiaries will be service providers that are strongly entrenched in one of the entities and have indispensable systemic knowledge. However, given the potential hazard of these systems being retired as part of redundancy rationalization initiatives, these entrenchments can also be huge risks for these service providers
  • Competitive presence will also be a key differentiator. Service providers with smaller visibility into these accounts may find their portfolios being overtaken by competitors with wider system coverage and presence in these accounts. Organizations today do not fear putting all their eggs in one basket. In fact, they rely a lot on service partners that will not only share their risk but also be strong partners in their transitional initiatives.

The following image illustrates the current exposure of key service providers in these four entities. As you see, these mergers may be beneficial for most of these large service providers. However, a few, such as Infosys in UHG-Aetna, CGI in Anthem-Cigna, and IBM in both UHG-Aetna and Anthem-Cigna, may have at-risk portfolios given competitive underpinnings and systemic maturity of the acquirers.

We’ll be reporting our views on this story as it unfolds, so keep watching this space.

UHG Aetna Anthem Cigna Account-level Exposure of Key Service Providers

Why Is ADP So Successful? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

At Everest Group, we’ve been assessing why some service providers are so successful. Using a framework we created that focuses on six characteristics, it’s easy to understand why ADP is so successful. At the heart of their success is the fact that they live up to their promise of being the most trusted firm in payroll services.

As the figure below illustrates, branding, go-to-market approach, and portfolio are three key characteristics in successful companies.

Assessment framework technology service companies

I think what’s remarkable about ADP is that they align their brand of trusted payroll services with all their operational aspects. They go to market in a way that aligns with their brand choices and allows them to dominate or at least serve every geography, both large and small. They design their portfolio of products to be payroll itself and surround the payroll system to reinforce or deliver their complete promise.

They have the most comprehensive ecosystem around the payroll process, connecting with tax jurisdictions and integrating into a wide range of HRIS, financial, and ERP systems. As such, ADP may not at any one point be the leading provider of technology, but they are the most trusted provider. They achieve this through the breadth of their ecosystem, the breadth of their global offerings; there is no jurisdiction in the world in which they don’t keep up with the regulations of tax and payroll.

This allows them to service something very rare – both very large and very small companies. And they are the safest pair of hands in payroll.

Assessing the other characteristics necessary for success, it’s clear that ADP is always relevant in terms of technology. They continue to invest in technology, never allowing their technology to become out of date or antiquated. Staying relevant with technology doesn’t necessitate that they be leading edge; in fact, the leading-edge role would take away from their “most trusted” status.

They largely grow their own talent and don’t rely on large recruitment from outside. Therefore, they are able to deliver a high degree of quality and consistency in their talent. They ensure that ADP is a rewarding place to work and grow a career, which allows them to nurture talent.

ADP’s business model is completely aligned with where the services industry is headed. For example, any way you look at it, ADP was one of the first users of SaaS – before most of us knew what SaaS and BPaaS were.

All of these characteristics make ADP incredibly formidable in all things payroll and able to serve an incredibly wide variety of customers in almost every industry and geography. Bottom line: ADP delivers a nice, steady return to shareholders and trusted services to clients.


Photo credit: Flickr

Avoid the “Gotchas” in Purchasing Next-Gen Tech Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The new technologies sweeping the market hold great promise of competitive advantages. But there’s a disturbing trend occurring in the services sales process for these technologies that poses a risk for buyers. Look out for providers talking about cloud, mobility, big data, the Internet of Things, and social in the same breath as SaaS/BPaas, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Providers that jumble these technologies together as though they are homogeneous really don’t understand the implications of what they’re trying to sell you. They’re basically throwing mud against your wall and seeing what sticks.

The possibilities with all of these technologies are exciting, but they have distinctly different impacts on the buyer’s business.

As illustrated in the diagram below, we can bucket one class of impacts as those that create new business opportunities. They provide new types of services that enterprises can use to change the composition of their customers or provide different kinds of services. For example, the Internet of Things holds enormous promise around allowing enterprises to provide a completely different class of services to their customers. In mobility and social technologies, the digital revolution holds the promise of changing the way businesses interact with their end customers.

Changing technology opens up new opportunities but also creates strategic challenges

Changing technologies

The second class of new technologies (Saas/BPaaS, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence) changes how services are delivered. For example, SaaS takes a functionality that was available but delivers it through a different mechanism. Automation and robotics changes the way service is provided by shifting from FTE-based models into an automated machine-based delivery vehicle.

The two buckets of technologies have different value propositions. The first class of technologies (cloud, mobility, big data, IoT, and social) are about getting new and different functionality. The impacts in the second class are lower costs and improved flexibility and agility. Each class of technologies has different objectives and value propositions and thus needs a different kind of business case. Buyers that mix these technologies together in a business case do themselves substantial disservice.

The way you need to evaluate the two distinct types of technologies (and providers offering them) is completely different. A provider that recognizes that automation, robotics, and SaaS are about changing the nature of delivery will have a much more thoughtful conversation with you and build its value proposition around flexibility, speed, and quality of service and cost.

A provider that recognizes the impact of mobility, cloud, big data, and the IoT technologies will talk to you about a value proposition around standing up exciting new capabilities, creating new offers and changing the conversation with your end customers.

So, buyer beware. If you’re talking with a provider that mixes these technologies’ distinct value propositions together, you’re dealing with a provider that really doesn’t understand what they’re offering.


Photo credit: Flickr

How Service Providers Can Illuminate Clients’ Path to Transformation | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

One of the biggest issues facing executives today is that they see the need to change their organization through automation, analytics, or other big ideas that are clearly vetted, but they struggle to drive the change. Their organization is reluctant or frightened to change, much like horses in a steeplechase race that shy at jumping the fences. Consequently, service providers are frustrated. They see potential for their business, but they’re unable to move from project to program. How can a provider help clients to jump the obstacles instead of shying away from them?

How can a provider illuminate the path forward to transformation and get the client on board for change? Let’s start by talking about what doesn’t work – white papers. No executive these days reads white papers. It just doesn’t happen. As I’ve blogged before, they’re too dense, too theoretical and too preachy.  And they’re nakedly self-interested.

So what are the tools that enable clients to jump the fence? At Everest Group we’ve been thinking about and researching this. Executives need simple yet rigorous, relentlessly objective instruments that they can use to challenge their organization. And once they examine an instrument, a clear path forward opens up behind it.

What would such an instrument look like? It might be a maturity index showing competitors’ degree of progress in the field. Everest Group’s PEAK Matrix™ is another example of a first step in instrumentation; it illuminates providers’ capabilities in the marketplace.

Every organization is unique, and they struggle with how to apply transformation or disruptive technologies to their uniqueness. A set of objective instruments allows executives to have a conversation in their organization and challenge their organization. The organization can then ask for help and imagine a roadmap – without a provider telling them what the roadmap should be.

Simple but rigorous instruments will illuminate the way to transformation and assist in the organization internalizing the path forward through the challenges.


Photo credit: Flickr

Services Sales through the Looking-Glass | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Lewis Carroll is famous for his novel, “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.” In this whimsical world, everything starts out as familiar things but, on examination, turn out to be nonsense. It puts me in mind of many service providers’ sales pitches.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Looking-Glass novel is Jabberwocky, a poem in which Carroll strung together nonsense words. When put together, they sound impressive and one wants to believe they tell a story. But as you can see in the verse below, the words are just nonsense.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

It’s like service providers’ sales teams that talk to potential clients about a transformation agenda and driving business value from IT. They throw in words such as “agility,” “flexibility” and “cloud.” Or phrases such as “consumerization of IT” and “as a service.” They even sprinkle in entire sentences such as “outsourcing will allow you to variabilize costs.”

These pitches sound wonderful and sound like there is deep thought associated with what the speaker says. But on examination, one finds the claims are largely nonsense. For instance, there is no variabilization of costs; it’s virtual, and there is little time to business value. And the supposedly agile environment is anything but agile.

It’s very easy to grasp for platitudes and read blogs and take the ideas without really understanding them.

So just like Alice, we find ourselves asking, “Which way should I go?” Well, like the Cheshire Cat says to Alice, “It all depends on where you want to get to.” Providers’ impressive-sounding presentations, on examination, are often just gobbledygook and attempts to intrigue the audience and get them to buy services. But they fall apart on close examination.

Successful sales depend upon a clear understanding about what the customer and provider will try to accomplish, how they will do it and the steps necessary to accomplish the goals. The best presentations use common, plain language to identify the issues and how to meet the goals.


Photo credit: Flickr

The CSC Split: More than What Meets the Eye | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Yesterday, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) announced that it was splitting the company into two independent, publicly-traded entities – U.S. Public Sector and Global Commercial. The split, expected to be completed by October 2015, will be accompanied by a special cash dividend of US$10.5 per share. After the bifurcation, the U.S. Public Sector business will focus on federal, state, and defense customers within the country, and employ 14,000 people. The remaining 51,000 employees will be a part of its Global Commercial business that will focus on commercial customers, and public sector organizations outside the United States. The two businesses generated US$4.1 billion and US$8.1 billion, respectively, in annual revenue during FY2015. Everest Group’s CEO Peter Bendor-Samuel shared his top-level insights shortly after the announcement. Following is our evaluation of the different potential scenarios arising out of the split.

Last attempt to avoid a buyout?

The announcement comes after the latest set of rumors about CSC’s potential sale. In February 2015, Carlyle Group and Capgemini were reported to be in talks to jointly acquire the company. Around the same time, CSC was said to be working with Royal Bank of Canada to review buyout options. Similar reports emerged in September last year with CSC exploring leveraged buyout via multiple private equity firms, including Bain Capital and Blackstone Group. CSC’s buyout (if it had materialized) would have been the largest leveraged buyout since Dell went private for US$16 billion in 2013. However, the talks over the year fizzled out as buyers baulked at CSC’s expected valuation.

If this move is a precursor to a possible sale, the question comes around to the identity of the suitor. Rumors have floated about interest from HCL and Accenture, but things don’t add up with those two suggestions for a number of reasons. HCL already has what it needed from CSC through its alliance, and Accenture already enjoys pole positon in the consulting markets, so they would have to radically depart from their infrastructure strategy to take on the CSC asset base. Given that Accenture is integrating infrastructure with operations as part of its GTM (go-to-market) strategy, we do not see the change in strategic direction that would indicate acquisition of an asset like CSC. A more plausible candidate would be someone looking for scale in the North American enterprise market with allied economic models creating scale and IP synergies.

Driving rationale 

The decision to split can be viewed as the culmination of CEO Mike Lawrie’s efforts to revitalize this ailing company. Since his inception in 2012, CSC has witnessed firm-wide cost takeout measures as a part of the “Get Fit” phase of its turnaround efforts. Attributable to these efforts, the company managed slight melioration in its operating margins during FY2014 and FY2015. Recognizing the fact that the cost takeout measures have already liquidated as enhanced bottom-line, and in the absence of a successful buyout, the management has settled on forming two separate business entities catering to different customer segments. Increasing profitability and value for shareholders could also shore up CSC’s valuation.

Apart from catering to different customer segments, the two entities have inherently exhibited great divergence in terms of their growth profiles and cash flow dynamics. The Global Commercial business has faced strong tailwinds, with revenue in FY2015 declining due to contract completions and lack of new opportunities. On the other hand, the Public Sector business managed to maintain the figures, backed by demand for next-gen IT solutions such as cloud. As it gears up for a potential sale, the government business is potentially value dilutive, and may not find many takers. There’s also an aspect around risk compartmentalization – troubled contracts in the federal marketplace can get service providers stuck in long-drawn out lawsuits and punitive damages.

The future

Keeping this context in mind, splitting the overall businesses can play out in a number of different ways for CSC. It can help offload the new entities of assets not core to their business, enabling them to be more strategic in serving clients and pursuing new opportunities. The new entities will be in a better situation to position themselves as specialists in their respective markets. While this may not be a pivotal factor for the Global Commercial business, it could be a turning point for the Public Sector business, wherein, organizations increasingly seek to engage with specialized technology partners. Despite the split, both entities stay as multi-billion dollar businesses, thus, ensuring that none of the two entities face any scalability issues in the market.

With its decision to split, CSC joins the league of technology companies that have lagged in adapting to the changing market dynamics (shift to mobile, cloud computing, and the As-a-Service economy), and are splitting up in response to market pressure. Last year, HP, another service provider plagued by similar challenges, announced a similar split. Two years ago Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) went down the same path and spun off its government technology services business as SAIC and rebranded itself as national security and engineering company Leidos Holdings Inc.

While the ultimate success or failure of such a strategic move is murky at best, it is beyond doubt that a rapidly disruptive and evolving services landscape will lead providers to ponder hard choices. In the last year we have seen multiple instances of this realization translating into different maneuvers – movement towards an integrated value proposition (Cognizant-TriZetto), geographic/vertical expansion (Atos-Xerox and Capgemini-IGATE), and focus on next-generation tenets (Apple-IBM). As this continues to happen, expect more industry churn, realignment, and consolidation.

CSC Splits Itself Apart | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

CSC announced it is splitting into two companies. One will provide service to commercial and government organizations worldwide; the other will serve the U.S. public sector businesses. What are the implications for the services industry?

CEO Mike Lawrie has been running CSC’s turnaround. The story line he drove was that he would first drive earnings and then fix growth. He has been spectacularly successful in driving earnings, but the pivot to growth hasn’t worked so well.

Certainly there were rumors that CSC was up for sale, but it didn’t transpire. We believe this split into two entities is the natural next step, especially since it comes at a time when the industry is maturing. The separation allows CSC to behave differently.

Everest Group believes the federal component will become an attractive acquisition target with both defense contractors and private equities interested in the consistent cash flow and book of business.

The commercial side may also attract interest, but from a different group. Certainly there has long been speculation that one or more Indian-based service providers may have an interest in acquiring CSC’s infrastructure-based business. It would be a large acquisition with substantial adjustments as the Indians move the book of business to their labor arbitrage model.

For both of the new entities, whether they are acquired or remain independent, the split should allow them to focus more strongly on growth at time when growth is coming at a premium.

As to the implications for the industry, we see this split as playing into the industry’s ongoing story of maturing and playing also into the theme of industry consolidation and industry realignment.

Lessons from IBM | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Have you noticed how few service providers have the ability maintain a market leader role when the market changes to favor new technologies, or new service models? It’s very difficult to make this shift, and I’ve seen very few companies achieve the shift – let alone do it three times. Just one. Wow!

If we look back at the service provider landscape in the early 1990s in the classic outsourcing space, the leaders in the service industry were Accenture, CSC, EDS, IBM, and Perot.

Then the growth opportunities shifted to the labor arbitrage model in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Suddenly the group of leaders changed to Accenture, Cognizant, IBM, Infosys, and Wipro.

Now as we move away from those classic leaders and shift to the new models (SaaS, BPaaS, platforms, and consumption-based), there are three leaders: ADP, IBM, and Salesforce.

Lessons from IBM

Looking back at the market leaders over the years, some have disappeared, as the figure above illustrates. EDS is now owned by HP, Perot is owned by Dell, and ACS is owned by Xerox. What stands out in the graph is that only one company has been able to consistently shift when the market shifts – IBM.

How have they managed to do this? Here are some lessons we can learn from Big Blue.

  1. Be willing to divest. IBM has been absolutely ruthless and relentless in forcing itself to divest businesses that constrain the firm and prevent them from successfully moving into the markets.
  2. I blogged about the noise in social media earlier this year about IBM’s potential layoffs and explained it was a reskilling issue. I think this is yet another example of the firm having the discipline to take the medicine and do the things that allow it to succeed and maintain a leadership position.
  3. Buy, don’t build. IBM’s approach to entering new markets is often through acquisitions. The firm is quite willing to learn from others and leverage an existing business. IBM recognizes that business models are different, and it’s very difficult to build a new business model inside of the old one. Therefore, they buy new companies.
  4. Protect new businesses. After acquiring a company, IBM protects that business. They incubate them and allow them to grow. In the last two years, IBM launched two new divisions: analytics (Watson) and cloud. The firm pulls those businesses out of the rest of the company and connects the R&D to Big Blue’s customers in a tight loop. It also protects these businesses from IBM’s mainstream businesses, which would tend to prey on them and inhibit their progress.

These four strategies have enabled IBM to maintain market leadership despite market shifts. They stand out as lessons for other firms seeking to stay relevant and stay in leadership positions in the market.


Photo credit: Flickr

Which Service Provider Will Be Acquired Next? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Capgemini’s announcement that they have an agreement to acquire iGate is the most recent evidence that the consolidation pace in the services market is picking up. Slowing growth, collapsing margins, and availability of capital with interest rates close to zero are only intensifying the M&A activity. How will the consolidation happen? And which service provider will be acquired next?

At Everest Group, we believe there are three likely scenarios that answer these questions.

  1. Certainly we expect the big to get bigger. We expect the French (CGI, for example) and Japanese providers to continue to grow through acquisition. CSC put itself up for sale at least once in the last year, and that’s likely to happen again. We think Atos and Capgemini have completed their acquisition activities.
  1. We also expect the Indian firms to play a more prominent role in the consolidation activity. Cognizant has demonstrated it’s in the market and will likely strike again. Wipro, Infosys and TCS certainly have the capital to move, and we may see some of these players combining.
  1. And finally we expect some smaller firms to acquire one another and build scale. Potential market consolidators are bound to view EPAM, EXL, Virtusa and WNS as targets. And Syntel is not too big to be sold.

One of the most interesting scenarios to watch will be what happens with Genpact. They must take a “go big or go home” strategy. If they go big and become acquisitive, they will likely buy one or more IT firms. Short of that, Genpact isn’t too big to be sold and will become a highly attractive candidate for acquisition.

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