Tata Consultancy Services is creating a product brand for its artificial intelligence (AI) product Ignio and has hired from US companies to drive sales of the standalone product, a move that analysts say is akin to building a software company with a different model to its traditional services.
The company is working to ensure the Ignio brand is a standalone — with a separate website that has minimal TCS branding. Digitate, the unit that houses Ignio, is only once referred to as a TCS venture.
Indian IT companies have so far always sold their AI platforms as part of services and TCS is among the first to sell it as a standalone product. “TCS has taken a different approach to automation and cognitive computing than its competitors in the amount it is spending and that it is building its own software from the ground up and then attempt to sell it independently of its services,” Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO at IT advisory firm Everest Group, said.
But in performance rankings, TCS, Cognizant, HCL, Accenture and L&T Infotech are honored for creating best ‘overall experience’ for clients
Despite large-scale investments by service providers, 48 percent of enterprises surveyed by Everest Group are not satisfied with their service provider’s performance. In particular, service providers are performing poorly as “strategic partners” for enterprises and score an average rating of five on a scale of one to ten.
There are also significant gaps in enterprises’ expectations and service providers’ performance with respect to innovation, creative engagement models and day-to-day project management.
“Most service providers are perceived to be technically competent, but technical expertise and domain expertise are considered ‘table stakes’ by enterprises across industries,” said Chirajeet Sengupta, partner at Everest Group. “Enterprises now expect their service providers to move beyond day-to-day delivery and focus on larger strategic business issues. Unfortunately, service providers still have a long way to go to meaningfully engage clients and become strategic partners, and that is a significant concern for the industry. This research signals the wake-up call and offers service providers guidance on how to strategize their engagement approach and prioritize investments to meet mounting customer expectations.”
In general, enterprises believe that mid- and small-sized service providers bring considerably more innovation and engagement flexibility than their larger counterparts. In fact, enterprises believe some large service providers have become lethargic and complacent and are indifferent to client requirements.
In contrast to these sentiments, five predominantly large service providers received the honor of creating the best “overall experience” for clients, based on client commentary and weighted aggregate ratings given by interviewed enterprises on key assessment dimensions.
Accenture: Accenture is perceived to bring market-leading domain expertise to solve complex problems and drive business outcomes.
Cognizant: Clients appreciate Cognizant’s approach to becoming their strategic partner as well as its flexibility in commercial constructs.
HCL: HCL is perceived to be extremely flexible in commercial models and strong in retaining key talent in its client accounts.
L&T Infotech: L&T Infotech is perceived to provide strong commercial flexibility as well as domain competence in the specific industries it operates in.
Tata Consultancy Services: Enterprises appreciate TCS’s technical capabilities and initiatives to drive strategic partnership with clients.
These results and other findings are explored in a recently published Everest Group report: “Customer (Dis)Satisfaction: Why Are Enterprises Unhappy with Their Service Providers?” The research summarizes over 130 interviews conducted with enterprises across the globe regarding the capabilities of their service providers with respect to applications, digital, cloud and infrastructure services. The report also details the technology investment priorities of enterprises and opportunity areas for service providers.
Key takeaways from the research findings are summarized in a set of high-resolution graphics available for complimentary download here. The graphics may be included in news coverage, with attribution to Everest Group.
The graphics include:
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction: Nearly half of all enterprises are dissatisfied with their IT service providers
Enterprises’ technology investment priorities largely focused on innovation
In the last 10 days, analysts tracking digital services across the world woke up to highly savvy India-heritage service providers lapping up marquee digital deals in the world of sports. These new partnerships include HCL and Manchester United (soccer), Wipro and Chelsea (also soccer), and Infosys and the ATP World Tour (this one in tennis.)
These deals are prized because of the impact they create.
Strong digital services pedigree for these service providers: Because of their brand association with offshoring, labor arbitrage, and pure-play services focus, the India-heritage providers have traditionally been frowned upon when they entered the discourse on digital and technology products and platforms. Such deals will go a long way in changing this pedigree and association
Brand recall and stakeholder connect: Digital services are a different ball game. As you are not necessarily selling to the CIO, you need to reach stakeholders unreachable through the traditional sales route. These deals are excellent in that regard. For instance, Manchester United has 659 million followers across the world, second only to Facebook. Imagine the kind of global reach and exposure the deal creates for the HCL brand!
Sponsorship deals under the garb of services?
As an industry analyst, I am used to analyzing deals for their profitability and total contract value, i.e., the impact they create on the books in upcoming quarters. Looking at the above deals through this lens, I immediately saw that these are not traditional services deals. In fact, something tells me they will not figure similarly on the accounts as other services deals do. Indeed, Infosys candidly called out that it will be a “Global Technology Services Partner and Platinum Sponsor” of the ATP World Tour. Hence, it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that these three deals are essentially sponsorship arrangements (with an inbuilt services component) that the service providers have entered into under the garb of a services construct. A very easy way to decipher this is to compare the positioning of HCL’s and Wipro’s logos on the Manchester United and Chelsea websites, respectively. It makes it very clear which provider “spent” more on their “sponsorship.”
But when you check Chelsea’s website, you have to scroll all the way down to discover Wipro’s logo sitting in a corner sulking with Singha Beer for company.
Am I contemptuous of this sponsorship-deals-under-the-garb-of-services construct? Not at all! In fact, I am pleasantly surprised by the gumption shown by HCL, Infosys, and Wipro in taking this leap of faith to build a strong brand connect and pedigree. It shows they are willing to challenge the traditional constructs and meet the digital market head on. In a highly consumer-oriented world, new business will not come by just being efficient nerds. India-heritage companies are up against the likes of VC-funded start-ups, reforming technology majors (Google, IBM, Microsoft) and niche enterprise software firms (NetSuite, Workday, etc.,) all of which have stronger credentials in digital constructs. Given the buzz these deals have created, there is enough market validation for the tactical approach taken by these service providers. What is even better is that these are not typical paid sponsorship deals – these service providers will actually be providing services that will be touch and feel for millions of fans of these sporting giants. If they successfully manage it, this will create an exponentially stronger brand recall compared to what they have achieved in decades – being efficient service providers to enterprises, working in black boxes.
Hence, do not be surprised if TCS, which sponsors the New York Marathon (and many other races), turns around tomorrow and says that it is sponsoring managing all IoT (health sensors, speed sensors), platforms, and analytics of the race.
Keep watching this space for more on these developments!
TCS has a sophisticated suite of apps and delivery tools. They accept small engagements with the intent to grow those accounts by being reliable and over-delivering. And they’re willing to shift away from their comfort zone. But this isn’t why TCS is a leader in the services industry.
Why are they so successful? To answer this question, we used Everest Group’s framework of six characteristics necessary for success.
Our assessment is that TCS’s success is due to aligning all six aspects in the framework. By doing so, they perfected an industrial global services model in which they are able to take a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to large-scale processes. These processes must have at their core the ability to deploy TCS’s local services offshoring model in a highly repetitive or highly predictable consistent-quality manner.
Using this core understanding of who they are, TCS operates in a wide variety of geographies across a wide variety of industries. They apply this core understanding to a bewildering set of disciplines ranging from applications to infrastructure to F&A to customer service. On the surface, these service disciplines look highly unrelated. But when you dig deeper, they all have in common the ability for TCS to apply an industrialized global services model to the benefit of their clients.
This understanding of their essence and their discipline about applying it has allowed TCS to emerge as a true industry services leader.
Wipro just hired Abid Ali Neemuchwala as COO and group president. Clearly the provider is setting up a succession plan for him to take over Wipro from current CEO, TK Kurien, who has been driving the firm’s transformation. This is an intriguing move as Wipro appears to be succeeding in the turnaround. So it makes sense that the industry is questioning the move. If the turnaround is, indeed, happening at Wipro, why bring in an outsider?
Abid comes to Wipro from TCS with a pedigree of having run the TCS BPO business. This is a big step up for him, from running a $2 billion business to a $9 billion business. The good news is Wipro is giving him at least a year to learn the ropes.
It’s interesting to reflect on why Wipro did this. I don’t believe the firm is stepping away from the transformation that TK Kurien has been driving. Nor do I think Wipro looks to capture some of the TCS magic and execution capability. I believe the firm is reinforcing its need to continue changing and is bringing in an outside perspective to drive change. This move follows in the footsteps of Infosys, which similarly brought in outside leadership.
Wipro gave TK formidable power, and five years, to drive significant change and transformation. Like any transformational plan, it has been painful and has taken time. But as I blogged before, the transformation is starting to show promise with Wipro wins picking up in the marketplace just as TK’s five years comes to a close.
So why bring in an outsider? I believe the answer is that the journey has just begun. The services industry is at an inflection point. It is clear that with changing technologies, client expectations and business models, leadership in the existing space does not guarantee leadership in the future. I think Wipro understands this and is looks to challenge its organization with fresh perspectives.
Running faster with the old model will not allow for leadership in the future. Fresh perspectives and augmenting existing talent is necessary to give Wipro the best chance at being a leader as the market evolves.
The challenges Abid will need to take on will shape and continue to drive Wipro to change how it delivers services, takes advantage of new technologies such as the digital and analytics space, and how it deals with changing client expectations demanding value beyond labor arbitrage. And Abid will bring new perspectives on how to successfully guide Wipro through the transition into the new business models of SaaS, BPaaS, platforms and consumption-based IT and business processes.
Over the last few weeks, we saw “bad news” about massive layoffs at IBM (100,000) and TCS (25,000), two of the industry’s largest services companies and market leaders. Those numbers proved to be overstated, but clarification on the real numbers isn’t what’s important. The numbers distract from the real issue. Attention-grabbing news headlines and social media’s frequently salacious, overhyped comments created a “fog” around the true picture of layoffs at both companies. So let’s cut through this fog and look at the truth of what is happening and the real issue for services providers and customers.
Social media and irresponsible reporting allowed initial numbers that later turned out to be significantly over-stated. The official number for TCS was less than 5,000 and IBM called the 100K number “baseless” and “ridiculous.” But even the subsequent clarifications on numbers distract us from the real issue – the fact that the services industry is witnessing a fundamental discontinuity and is in need of massive reskilling to meet customer demands.
Layoffs at IBM and TCS are not signs of companies in distress, and neither company is leaving the services space. Rather, these are two market leaders proactively dealing with the major disruptive transition now happening in the services space. IBM and TCS have been market leaders, IBM the undisputed leader in infrastructure services and TCS the largest provider in the arbitrage and offshore space.
Both companies recognize that they don’t have enough of the new skills needed for the new digital services markets and both have too much talent in the skills that made them leaders in infrastructure and labor arbitrage – services segments that are now diminishing as customers switch to digital services and new consumption-based models.
From our discussions with both companies and with some of their customers, it’s clear that their customers are demanding they take steps to acquire the necessary new skills so they can serve customers’ new demands. For example, providers’ reskilling efforts may need to include such talent as creative UX experts and data scientists.
As leaders, both companies understand that the services market is changing fundamentally. Services and technology leverage are shifting from being an efficiency/cost play to one generating revenue and growth for customers. Both are simply taking necessary steps to ensure they stay relevant and retain their leadership positions as the market evolves and customers demand new skills to address their needs.
IBM’s recent moves appear to be radical and more significant, but that’s because its acquisitions are larger (such as acquiring SoftLayer so it can compete on AWS’s level for cloud services) and it’s also divesting the kinds of business (such as voice services and chips) that could hold Big Blue back from continuing to be a leader in meeting customer expectations.
Issue for services customers
All organizations using third-party resources these days should ask their existing and/or future service providers what steps they are taking to ensure relevance and necessary talent to deliver services in new business models and new technologies.
Issue for service providers
We at Everest Group believe the reskilling actions of IBM and TCS are a harbinger of things to come for all service providers – ongoing rolling waves of disruption affecting talent needed for the fundamental changes happening in the services space. I’ve been blogging about these changes (growing maturation of services, pricing pressures, lower demand for labor arbitrage and shifts in customer demand) for more than two years. With the proactive steps of IBM and TCS, the industry now has tangible proof that the landscape is indeed changing.
In the past year, multiple global service providers have engaged in restructuring initiatives that will significantly alter their business model and fundamentally change the competitive landscape. Some of these restructurings include:
Numerous providers have also announced plans around changing operating and talent models. For example:
HP has announced ~55,000 job cuts since 2012 in a move toward workforce rationalization
IBM’s company-wide employee count dropped in 2013 for the first time in a decade as a result of massive lay-offs
Increased offshoring leverage, particularly in India
Capgemini plans to increase share of India to 50 percent of overall firm’s headcount by 2016
Atos has announced plans to double its employee strength in India by 2016
While this is not the first instance of service provider restructuring, this time is unique because multiple firms have announced programs at essentially the same time. In addition, there is speculation that other global majors will launch business portfolio restructuring initiatives (i.e., carve-outs, leveraged buyouts).
Why is this happening now? The reasons are relatively straightforward. First, many global providers have experienced reduced profitability in traditional “non-core” businesses. This, coupled with increasing competitive intensity and the shifting competitive landscape is resulting in pricing pressures. Second, next generation capabilities (e.g., social media, SaaS, analytics, and cloud) are poised to become the next growth engines, and all leading players are channelizing their investments in these areas. Finally, most global players are moving toward rationalizing their portfolios for focused investments, due to strained management bandwidth and focus.
But these initiatives will create multiple impacts beyond the obvious strategic objectives. Consider this: over the last eight quarters, the operating margins of the leading global service providers (Accenture, Aon Hewitt, Convergys, CSC, HP Enterprise Services, IBM Global Services, Unisys, and Xerox Services) grew the most in Q2 2014. This restructuring trend will likely continue as some of the long-term benefits translate into improved profitability for global service providers.
Improved profitability of global majors will also impact buyers and other service providers. We anticipate increasing focus by offshore-centric service providers on inorganic growth by acquisitions. They are also likely to scout for more collaboration opportunities to build capabilities, particularly in next generation global services. We also foresee buyers aggressively monitoring provider investments to evaluate sourcing model decisions (i.e., build vs. buy).
Interestingly, one of the unintended after-effects of these restructurings is that the offshore-centric service providers have witnessed better revenue growth than the global majors, and thus have improved in their relative rankings by revenue. For example, TCS recently overtook CSC in terms of overall revenue. And other offshore-centric providers are also bridging the revenue gap with their global counterparts. While this ranking reshuffling has been occurring for some time, the global major’ restructuring initiatives and focus on profitability (sometimes at the expense of revenue growth) has further accelerated this trend.
For more details on these restructuring initiatives and their impact on the global services industry, and other information on leading service providers, please refer to our Market Vista™ Q3 2014 report.