Gearing Up for the Fifth Industrial Revolution – a Glass Half Full

Two years ago, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its Future of Jobs report – exploring employment, skills and workforces in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This sparked debate – and growing concern – around a changing global employment landscape as the result of disruptive technologies, studded with widening skill gaps, new jobs and job displacement.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, combined with other socio-economic and demographic changes, will transform labour markets in the next five years, leading to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies.”

Recently, at a London-based robotics event, attendees were asked the same question that the WEF did: did your job exist when you were in primary school? The 67% ‘no’ response was hardly a surprise – the job landscape is evolving constantly, so it’s naïve to expect to be on a career path set during our early school years.

Headlines of this type are often strongly associated with ideas of robots replacing humans in every profession – although clearly there are always roles more suited to humans and their capacity for empathy. But rather than accepting this pessimism as truth, let’s embrace the new generation of jobs that automation will offer us.

We grumble at the fact that our current careers may not have been mapped out for us at infant school, instead of celebrating the fact that we somehow emerged prepared for the jobs we have today. To ease our fear, it might help to recognise that tomorrow’s workforce is more than capable of taking the same path if we guide them wisely: the fact that government is now backing education initiatives that will support children in their future professional lives is a leap in the right direction.

Last year, a group of liberated educators took steps to evolve the curriculum so that children are prepared for a future with automation – the creation of new qualifications and courses dedicated to human centric skills such as leadership and collaboration was evidence of this.

It’s refreshing to hear that 2018 is set to see government beginning to back educational initiatives with cyber skills training; hopefully the next step is more government funding surrounding training for the jobs students will need in the age of increasing automation.

In addition, we’ll need to address the current gap of skills needed for robotics and Artifical Intelligence (AI) by investing in software development, systems design, engineering, programming and data science amongst other areas, to ensure workforces of today – and tomorrow – are skilled to take charge in the robotics world. Taking into consideration the hole in numbers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects currently in university, we have a five-year lag in students moving into this area.

It’s time for government to get smarter when it comes to incentivising students in this direction – this doesn’t necessarily require radical thinking. How about reducing tuition fees for STEM subjects as a start, and creating conversion routes from other subjects?

Until then, we must focus on educating students in a way that will help them collaborate with AI in the years to come. The essence of roles that will be filled by children currently in primary school will be their humanity. Curriculum must continue evolving so that the members of the future’s workforce leave school with skills that focus on adaptability, collaboration and resilience. Instead of focusing only on the retention of facts, it’s time to teach how to question these facts.

If we can build on current momentum and continue to bridge the gaps to encourage new ‘age of automation’ careers, headlines in 2018 and beyond might look more optimistic, pointing towards a future where robots and humans work collaboratively to deliver improved services and bright new opportunities. It’s up to us to decide how full – or empty – the glass looks when it comes to the future of jobs.

Source: futureofsourcing.com Gearing Up for the Fifth Industrial Revolution – a Glass Half Full

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Accelerating Growth … For Some: The Global Services Outlook for 2018-19 – Intelligent Sourcing

After several years of slowing demand growth, demand for services will accelerate in 2018 – but only for some specific segments of the market. Are you in one of them? Everest Group sets out five predictions for the coming 12 to 18 months.

Source: intelligentsourcing.net-Accelerating Growth … For Some: The Global Services Outlook for 2018-19 – Intelligent Sourcing

When should IT consider an outsourced help desk?

The very thought of outsourcing IT probably makes most IT professionals cringe. After all, nobody wants to have their job outsourced. Even so, an outsourced help desk does have its place in the enterprise.

IT should never recommend an outsourced help desk to an organization purely as a cost-saving measure. Not only would that put the help desk technicians out of jobs, but it could also negatively affect productivity.

In-house help desk workers are familiar with the organization. They know the systems configurations and the common issues to look out for. An in-house staff also generally knows which users are computer savvy and which are prone to call the help desk over nonissues.

When IT outsources help desk services, the third-party company does not have this organization-specific knowledge and may take longer to help users with problems. Furthermore, many organizations that outsource help desk services to offshore providers find that users often report language barrier issues, which stand in the way of getting help.

When to outsource help desk services

There are situations that justify an outsourced help desk. If an organization’s help desk staff is completely overwhelmed by the call volume, then outsourcing is a good option. When doing so, it may be possible to reorganize things in a way that enables the outsourced provider to act as a secondary help desk.

The outsourced help desk would only handle first-tier support issues, such as resolving username and password problems, or the excess call volume. Using this approach, the organization gets to keep the in-house help desk expertise, and the help desk staff get to keep their jobs.

If an organization’s help desk staff is completely overwhelmed by the call volume, then outsourcing is a good option.

A second option for outsourced help desk support is moving the existing help desk staff into the IT administrator staff. The help desk team has detailed knowledge of what is and is not working for end users, and it can provide valuable insight to other members of the administrative staff.

An outsourced help desk is also something to consider if an organization has outsourced all other IT operations. Although there is real value in having in-house help desk expertise, an organization that has outsourced all other IT operations is not managing its own operations anyway. Outsourced help desks would enable such an organization to break free from the last remnants of in-house IT.

Source: searchenterprisedesktop.techtarget.com-When should IT consider an outsourced help desk?

A Clear Understanding of Outcome-Based Contracts?

It’s easy to hear a buzz word in the industry and make assumptions. However, what happens when those assumptions prove incorrect? And what happens when those assumptions are the bedrock under which a sourcing contract is being shaped, priced and a customer/service provider relationship is developed?

I’ve heard it many times; “I don’t care how you do it – but we need the job done.” This can be a dangerous mindset if seeking to embark on an outcome-based project. If the customer is stating this, they have missed the point of an outcome-based agreement and should re-think their approach. If a service provider is on the other side of the table hearing that statement, they should challenge the customer’s approach and determine whether the customer has fully comprehended the level of work and commitment associated with the outcome-based approach.

Outcome-based contracting is not a tool by which customers can shift responsibility to their service providers and seek to avoid the effort and time associated with good governance and performance delivery. It is an operational model that requires a strong customer and service provider relationship, trust and a genuine sharing of risk and reward. If a customer misunderstands what outcome-based contracting is (and perhaps confuses it with output-based contracting as this statement suggests), the customer’s expectations are already misaligned with the service provider’s and what each party should be committing to.

Outcome-based models are by no means new to the sourcing world but now with a greater understanding and implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the customer side, they have grown again in popularity as we see a resurgence in customers demanding greater innovation and more cost-effective service, particularly in process-driven services such as finance and accounting.

But with potential for misunderstanding and customers confusing output for outcome, will we start to see an increase in issues arising from outcome-based contracts?

A true outcome-based model requires a considerable amount of strategic planning from the customer before engaging with service providers. A customer needs to be capable of introspective analysis to understand, develop and communicate its business values and strategic agenda. However, this flow of information will need to go both ways as the parties will need to determine whether they share the same business values and approach on which to base the relationship. While trust will be of utmost importance, this flow of communication should be subject to early contractual commitments of confidentiality. Both parties may want to share, at a high level, their business strategies and potentially confidential information about business projections and future aspirations. This should be done in a controlled and respectful manner, sharing only the information that will benefit the relationship, with the requisite protections in place.

Ultimately both parties need “buy in” from senior stakeholders and will need commitment from every level of the organisation before a strong working relationship can be established. All levels of the customer organisation have to want to work with a service provider as a strategic partner and see the benefit in the service provider helping them achieve their organisational goals. This is more than just the parties outlining and agreeing to certain contract outcomes. A strong and well developed business case should be circulated to ensure that internal alignment. In turn, the service provider has to want to align its business with the customer and trust that the customer will commit to a true risk and reward model.

Each party will need to invest in the process at an early stage. The customer will need to have the right resources available for its internal analysis and baseline of existing services. Both parties will need their project teams to invest time and effort in deal structuring and seeking to exclude external factors that may impact the measurable outcomes that the service provider is remunerated upon. Early investment of this type (on both sides) will be key to demonstrating commitment to the process and a successful, working contract. The time spent in the early stages of development of core principles, agreed measures and conducting due diligence means that there is a significant level of work done before the parties reach contractual negotiation. If customers are not capable or cannot spare the resource to take on these tasks, they would do well to consider using a consultant who understands the complexities of an outcome-based approach and who can assist with baselining the relevant existing services and create a true risk and reward program.

Although not yet at contracting phase, the work effort involved in this early stage of development should be documented and agreed to by the parties. In addition, the baselines from which the outcomes can be measured, the outcomes themselves and any risk factors that may adversely impact the service provider’s efforts should also be agreed on and clearly documented. Outcome measurements will involve negotiation and discussion between the parties. Each measurement should be capable of being objectively monitored rather than an internal metric understood by only one of the parties.

Strong governance is key in most (if not all) sourcing relationships, but it is even more important when working on an outcome-based model. Governance structures should be developed early in the relationship and be robust with the ability to flex over time in line with the relationship needs and both customer’s and service provider’s businesses. It is of paramount importance that the parties – at all levels of the relationship – adhere to the agreed structure. Like with all sourcing models, if one party deviates from the model, the relationship is strained and trust is lost.

The parties will need to trust each other sufficiently to afford a greater level of transparency than is customary with other contractual models. If a party experiences changes in its interests, business strategies or demands, it is important that this information be shared in sufficient detail to allow the parties to address what changes may need to be made, whether that should cause a re-baselining or a change in measurable business outcome. These will be difficult to legislate for at the outset but the contract should afford the parties sufficient flexibility to ensure the ongoing success of the contract for both parties.

Some may feel an outcome-based contract implies a greater level of understanding and more sophisticated level of contracting between customer and service provider. However, more simplistically it involves good planning, a clear demand from the customer for increased innovation and cost savings and a genuine alignment of the service provider’sI lov and customer’s interests. Outcome-based contracting is not suitable for all services but for business processes the model is a joint endeavour that rests on the strength of the relationship and an honest and open sharing of information and risk and reward.

Source: futureofsourcing.com-A Clear Understanding of Outcome-Based Contracts?

Outsourcing DevOps? Here’s What to Look For – DevOps.com

DevOps synthesizes methods, processes and tools with the goal of improving your company’s velocity at which you deploy applications, which serves your customers better. Teams using DevOps best practices and tools to create production software are much faster than organizations using traditional infrastructure management and software development methods. In 2016, RightScale’s “State of the Cloud Report” estimated that 70 percent of SMBs were adopting DevOps methods. Every indication is that percentage has increased.

For companies that already understand the value of software development outsourcing, partnering with a capable outsourcing vendor for DevOps is a natural next step. For companies who want to embrace the benefits of DevOps but haven’t yet, aligning with a qualified DevOps outsourcing company is really worth considering.

Consideration No. 1: Pick the Right Project

If DevOps is new to your company, or the DevOps partner is new to your company—or both—it’s very important to pick the right project to begin work together. Also, it’s possible that the project you target will influence the selection of your DevOps outsourcing partner.

Here are some questions you may want to use in selecting the right project:

This question…. is important because… Which software, if successful, will show the clearest benefit (i.e.: ROI) to the company? Software with clear business benefit will generally get better buy-in from the user community, and higher quality participation. Which software has the clearest goals and scope of work? It’s always easier to achieve the goal, when the goal is clear. Do any projects require the use of new, unproven technology? Unfamiliar technology can be a dangerous variable in your work and risk estimates. How many other systems will the newly completed software need to integrate with? Integration testing is time-consuming and requires a high levels of coordination. Which projects are expected to have the longest duration? Unforeseen variables naturally occur in long running projects — personnel changes, other business distractions, loss of momentum, etc. Which projects are expected to require the largest number of participants? More people involved equals more complexity. What employees (IT and business stakeholders) will be part of the projects? DevOps requires good collaboration and speed. IT and business area participants must be able to fulfill their roles accordingly.

Consideration No. 2: Vendor Communication

In selecting the right outsourcing DevOps partner, the ability to communicate well is one of the most important considerations. A partner who communicates poorly can derail a relationship that has all the right methods and tools in place for success. design iterations and project sprints simply cannot happen if your outsourcing partner lacks the proper communication skills. Conversely, an outsourcing vendor who is truly acting like a partner in the relationship, communicating well and often, can help you overcome any number of unforeseen issues along the way.

Evaluate how well prospective vendors respond to your due diligence questions. Their responses could tell you a lot about how they’ll interact with you during the project. Are they clear? Do they interact in professional ways, or does it seem a bit random and disorganized? Are they prompt and timely in their interactions, or are there “black holes of silence”?

If you see evidence of poor communication during the due diligence process, you’ll almost certainly have problems when you’re actually engaged in working together. As you check references, try to determine if other customers experienced problems in communication and interaction—those can pose as red flags when it comes to selecting your vendor.

Consideration No. 3: Vendor Location

Global software development outsourcing is a proven success for many companies. However, you must be attuned to the vendor’s geographic location compared to yours. Would time zone differences be an issue? This may affect the geographic location from which you’ll select your outsourced DevOps team. In a recent survey, one-third of U.S. companies that outsourced to India considered the 10-hour (or more) time difference to be a big challenge. DevOps activities cannot be artificially hampered because of time zone issues. The best DevOps outsourcing companies have a business model that allows U.S. time zone companies to interact easily with the vendor’s “A team” supporting your project. Be wary of companies that assume that all Skype and conference calls will be done off-hours to your normal business day—or plan to have secondary members of their team available during your normal work hours.

Consideration No. 4: Vendor Technical Skills

As you examine a prospective outsourcing DevOps partners technical capabilities, consider these questions:

  • Do they have the relevant skills and tools experience I need?
  • Is this a core competency of the company, or the expertise of a small select few inside the company?
  • How does this company go about attracting new talent with these same skills?
  • What certifications do they hold?

Automation of good process makes it possible to eliminate bottlenecks in the software development cycle, so you can truly “sprint through your Sprints.” Automation tools must be used with consistency by you and your outsourcing DevOps partner. Perform an inventory of the available tools:

  • Will you be able to seamlessly (and automatically) promote code?
  • Can you perform test-driven design?
  • Can you perform test-driven development?
  • Can you easily associate features and fixes with promoted code?
  • How will you perform regression testing?

DevOps teams will have programming language expertise that includes Python, Ruby, PHP and Java. Remember: DevOps means infrastructure as well as applications, so a true DevOps outsourcing company will have employees with expertise in infrastructure-oriented software and tools such as Windows PowerShell, Docker, Puppet, Ansible and SaltStack. You may also want to look for expertise and certifications for networks, databases, and operating systems.

DevOps outsourcing companies should be experienced with the continuous integration (CI) method—the CI tools which support the associated processes. CI tools help merge source code updates from all developers on a specific software build, notifying the team of any failures in the process. Popular CI Tools include CruiseControl, Jenkins, Travis CI, TeamCity and GitLab.

The best partners employ a programming staff that have achieved certifications that are important for your DevOps project needs. In addition to certifications around the tools and language mentioned earlier (such as Puppet Certification, for example), you will want to look for certifications in:

Consideration No. 5: Vendor Commitment to Training

As you evaluate a prospective DevOps outsourcing company, ask yourself: Is continuous training a part of their business model? A good partner invests in their programming staff’s training on a continual basis. We like to see evidence that their programming staff regularly renews their certifications—and the outsourcing company should be actively advocating this.

Consideration No. 6: Vendor Experience and Size

To succeed with DevOps outsourcing, you need a partner who has relevant experience and is a size that complements your company size.

Experience. The ideal DevOps outsourcing team will have experience in your business vertical (example: discrete manufacturing, banking, etc.). It also should have expertise in the system functional area of your target project (e.g. finance, e-business order processing, warehouse management, etc.). Of course, the demonstrable experiences should include work using Agile and DevOps techniques.

Size. The right partner should be neither too large nor too small. The outsourcing company needs a pool of programmers large enough to keep with the intended work pace of your project. Conversely, we caution IT managers to be wary of extremely large outsourcing companies. Your project and company must be “big enough to matter” to the partner you select. If you are seen as too small in terms of the revenue opportunity, the outsourcing company will defer attention and their top talent to larger customers who are more able to influence decision-making.

 

Source: Devops.com-Outsourcing DevOps? Here’s What to Look For