Barely a third of outsourcing deals are now safe: Window-dressing legacy engagements is over

We’ve been talking about the legacy model of butts-on-seats “mess for less” outsourcing fizzling out for years, but somehow the same old candidates have clung on grimly to the same old model, relying on clients that still find a modicum of comfort negotiating rate cards down to the lowest common denominator, content to hobble along with average service delivery that just about keeps everyone paid… and somehow relevant.

As we’ve bemoaned the decreasing growth rates across almost all traditional areas of business and IT services, no one’s pressed the panic button to do anything wildly different. In fact, many have used the recent stagnant times to merge with each other to eke out a bit more revenue growth and rationalize costs wherever possible.

Meanwhile, all the providers have slapped the lovely “digital” tag on pretty much ever new client dollar that wasn’t obviously a help desk deal or some server consolidation. Yes, people, even good old app testing today has managed to be magically reformulated as a “digital” service by some.

The balance of power sits firmly with the enterprise clients, and many have no choice but to jump ship from the old model

Being realistic, the IT and business services business is no different than it was five years ago, except there is a lot more cloud… and a lot more window dressing. But that is all changing, and our new research reveals a new services economy is upon us.

But, finally, many enterprise clients are wising up to the reality they now wield a lot more power over service providers as the market flattens to a state of hyper-commoditization and negligible-to-pathetic growth. Many are, finally, awakening to a new dawn that service providers can (and most are) able to takeout delivery cost through better deployment of cloud, less costly SaaS apps, and applying robotic process automation to reduce manual workarounds and augment people delivery.

Simply put, if your long-time service provider is failing to deliver you any of these benefits to your business, or at least is making some strides to incorporate pricing that is tied to successful service execution and not only people effort, then it’s time to cut bait before you get fired yourself for perpetuating a legacy model that is depriving your firm from finding new thresholds of value your smarter competitors are already enjoying.

As this year’s State of Operations and Outsourcing study of 381 enterprise operations leaders across the Global 2000 reveals, only 30% of these relationships will continue to operate in the old model, while a similar number will stick with their service provider if they can have a shift towards business outcome pricing and a degree of automation applied. 27% have already given up on shifting the model with their current provider and have declared their attention to switch, while 17% want to end the misery and focus on bringing the work back inhouse, and look to simply automate it:

The Bottom-line: Outsourcing is finally entering the uncomfortable phase of change that’s threatened for several years, and it’s going to get ugly.

Judgement day is now upon the industry once known as outsourcing and this one will get pretty ugly before it eventually finds a new groove, where enterprises and service providers find real value in each other again.

History has told us time and time again that nothing in this business changes until deals are lost and the C-Suite is forced to address why this is really happening… and actually act on it. This is the fine balance in which we find ourselves today, where

actions will change dramatically when 2% growth spirals into a 5-10% decline because that is what will happen to many service providers if they truly cannot pivot to deliver value beyond cheap labor.

Those providers which have the capability to make the necessary investments and adjustments will take a few hits, but rebuild for a new phase… those which think they can keep papering over the cracks, repeating to same old spin, but never fundamentally changing how they invest in solutions, talent and their clients, will quickly start moving backward (and fast) in the new services market that’s emerging.

There needs to be a coming-together of consulting and outsourcing service delivery, the likes of which we have yet to see at a broad scale in the services industry.

The outsourcing of responsibility: half of today’s F&A BPO deals are now advised!

 

While the combination of increasing commodization of basic BPO services and an ever-smartening buyer, seemed to signal the end of transactional advisory services, the consulting industry has found a way to adapt to keep itself relevant and much more price-friendly, while still being in a strong position to help clients…

Why aren’t I happy with my outsourcer?

How many times have you heard someone say that all our service metrics are green, but the relationship is red? This sort of non-specific concern about an outsourcer seems to be as old as outsourcing itself.

 

Source: enterpriseirregulars.com-Barely a third of outsourcing deals are now safe: Window-dressing legacy engagements is over

 

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What Entrepreneurs Should Know About Outsourcing to Ukraine

Ukraine seems to be on its way to becoming the new darling of IT outsourcing. The country’s pool of engineering talent is extensive, and its software development and quality assurance rates are fairly cheap. This is why many tech giants, including Samsung, IBM and Oracle have already set up their R&D offices there.

The outsourcing industry in Ukraine has been growing at a stable rate since the early 2000s. It is projected to reach $4.5 billion by the end of 2018 (increasing 20 percent from 2017) and, therefore, it’ll become the third most profitable field for the country’s economy. The overall number of software engineers in Ukraine, according to IT Ukraine, is nearing 116,000 while by 2025 it’s expected to grow by a whopping 125 percent.

Why is Ukraine’s IT outsourcing sector booming?

Since the country’s separation from the USSR, Ukraine’s universities have made impressive headway in modernizing and adapting their degree programs and making them comparable to leading institutions of higher education in Europe and America. Many Ukrainian schools, especially those specializing in business, science and technology, frequently launch joint academic projects with world-renowned universities and have reputed guest lecturers giving talks on the latest methodologies and trends. The curriculums they provide prepare students comprehensively for jobs that require high-level qualifications.

Though the quality of education is high, it typically costs substantially less to enroll in various programs at Ukrainian universities than, say, at prestigious academic organizations in the U.S. or Europe. As a result, the country has an extensive pool of experts (scientists, software engineers, managers, etc.) with diverse expertise and strict work ethics to boast of.

Here’s where Ukraine is, in terms of software engineering skills, according to various ratings:

  • Global Sourcing Association (GSA) named Ukraine the “Outsourcing Destination of the Year” in 2017.
  • Gartner has featured the country in its list of top 30 countries for offshore services for seven years straight.
  • 18 Ukraine-based IT companies are on the IAOP’s list of the world’s top outsourcing providers of 2018. Ukraine, therefore, has more of its companies included in the list than any other country.
  • Clutch.co, a reputable research firm from Washington D.C., regularly adds Ukrainian IT vendors to its global leaders matrix in both “Top Custom Software Development Companies” and “Top IT Outsourcing Firms” categories.
  • SkillValue’s 2018 rating of the countries with the most talented developers includes Ukraine at eighth place. The average score index of a Ukrainian developer is 91.26 percent.

Many large tech firms are contracting out their development initiatives to Ukrainian vendors to have them executed diligently and at a cheaper price. This is due to the wide range of technologies Ukrainian engineers have proved to excel at, including:

According to DOU, one of Ukraine’s most respected technology outlets, software engineers account for 52 percent of people employed by software vendors in Ukraine (14 percent of these people are QA engineers and only 6 percent are top and middle level managers).

Why do companies choose Ukraine?

The reason Ukraine has managed to become an offshore darling despite its political turbulence of the last years is quite nuanced. I’d say that, for the most part, companies such as Intel are just impressed by the sheer quantity of talented engineers living in the country.

Ukraine, though not a small country, only has about one-seventh of the population of the U.S. yet, every year, it produces nearly half as many software engineering graduates. For Ukrainians, as opposed to Americans and those living in western Europe, software engineering is among the most lucrative jobs available, so there’s no wonder the IT talent pool over there keeps growing a frenetic pace.

Another appealing factor is, of course, the prices. That the job title “programmer”isn’t all that revered among American youth, resulting in a fairly low number of talented engineers available for hire in the U.S. The demand outstrips supply and, therefore, top (and even mediocre) engineering talent costs a lot.

An average software engineer in the U.S. might charge as much as $100 per an hour of work, while a more experienced one might only agree to a $150/hour rate. This puts a substantial strain on the budget for American companies who decide to opt for local sourcing exclusively, whereas employing a Ukrainian team can help them avoid overspending.

Junior programmers (up to two years of experience) in Ukraine can cost as low as $20 per hour. Mid-level developers (two to five years of experience) charge about $30/hour, while senior software engineers with five-plus years of experience will usually work for you if you pay them $40/hour. Add this to the fact that most of them speak English at an intermediate level and that the country’s location — in the center of Europe — makes it easily reachable from almost any place in the world, and you’ll get why the likes of Apple, IBM and Microsoft have been so eager to open their R&D centers there.

All in all, Ukraine is a great location to outsource your development to. Though it generally costs a bit more to hire Ukrainian developers than, say, the ones from India, the quality of work they provide is well worth the price.

Source: Entrepreneur-What Entrepreneurs Should Know About Outsourcing to Ukraine

Study: DevOps Outsourcing Can Cost You

The new report by DORA on the state of DevOps in 2018 found outsourcing to be the crutch of low software delivery performers.

The DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA), which is a collaborative effort between DevOps experts Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Gene Kim, and Jez Humble, has released its 2018 State of DevOps report. This report is released annually and is in its fifth year. The researchers use cluster analysis, which allows readers to compare their performance to their rubric of software delivery performance, which categorizes performers as elite, high, medium, and low.

This year the report looked at the outsourcing of IT and software delivery functions, among other metrics, and how it affected software delivery performance.

The survey showed that functional outsourcing (one role as opposed to an entire process) had a negative impact on performance.

“Low-performing teams are 3.9 times more likely to use functional outsourcing (overall) than elite performance teams, and 3.2 times more likely to use outsourcing of any of the following functions: application development, IT operations work, or testing and QA. This suggests that outsourcing by function is rarely adopted by elite performers. ” — Accelerate: State of DevOps report.

“[Functional outsourcing has] been a common barrier to the adoption of DevOps,” says Jez Humble, CTO and founder of DORA. “We see teams all the time [say], ‘We’d like to do DevOps, but we have functional outsourcing…so it’s impossible to collaborate,’” says Humble, adding that he was glad to see that what they are hearing in the field was strongly confirmed in the data.

According to the report, one reason why outsourcing negatively affects software delivery and operational performance (SDO) is that outsourcing often results in batch software updates, which can lead to longer lead times.

When high-value features are batched with low-value features, there can be significant costs to the business.

(Image: Shutterstock)

The report provides an example from shipping company, Maersk Line. The top three features had a cost of delay of around $7 million per week or $30 million per month. At that rate, the cost to delay features would pale in comparison to the cost savings of outsourcing.

When it comes to outsourcing, Humble says it doesn’t have to be a cost drain, but it needs to be properly evaluated. “Consider [outsourcing] holistically, consider the economics holistically, and find out if it really is the benefit you expect.”

The expectation of simple experiences along with the preference of mobile devices is changing what consumers and businesses expect and need.

Brought to you by Wells Fargo Bank

While functional outsourcing does seem to have a significant negative outcome on SDO, it’s not the only factor that impacts SDO. For example, the research also found that the way cloud infrastructure is implemented also had an impact.

According to NIST, and as documented in the report, there are five essential characteristics of cloud computing: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, measured service.

“Even though over 80% of people said they were using cloud, only 22% of respondents said they were met all five of these essential characteristics, and then when we do the math on it, we found that if you meet all of those [cloud] characteristics, you’re 23 times more likely to be in elite performance group,” says Humble.

One more key takeaway from the report was that the research showed that high performance is not only for the small, nimble, and unregulated industries. It’s industry- and company-size agnostic.

“Anyone can do this,” this being high software delivery performance, says Humble. “We find highly regulated, big companies in our high performers, we find small non-regulated companies in our low performers. We don’t find any statistically significant difference between different verticals on software delivery performance,” says Humble, although he adds that it is hard work.

Source: informationweek.com-Study: DevOps Outsourcing Can Cost You

How to make outsourcing work and ensure outside firms are ‘on brand’

But there is always one proviso and that is the company must live that mantra at every single touch-point, day in and day out. Consistency is key.

For example, on the Eir website I found this: “Everything we do is built around our customers. You’re an essential part of our vision of a brighter, modern and more dynamic future together”. This is what Eir claim they do today. If you’ve had any contact with Eir over the years, you can decide if it lives up to this promise.

Now I know that’s tough and delivering perfect consistency is a Holy Grail for most. Even the great Superquinn back in the day, suffered occasionally from out-of-stocks which of course annoyed some customers. But we know that the culture in Superquinn that drove this agenda, came from the top and delivering consistently great customer experience was core to the business.

The Hidden Hearing Challenge

When Hidden Hearing embarked on a culture-change programme in 2015, it put the patient at the heart of all decision-making. Processes changed, resources were beefed up where necessary, internal and external communications changed and most of all, the behaviours of its people were recalibrated.

Obstacles to becoming a customer/patient were identified and efforts made to eliminate those obstacles. For example, the 30-day refund policy was extended to 90 days. Warranties were increased from two to four years. A patient can now get free batteries for the life of the device and Hidden Hearing will keep talking to patients every few months to re-adjust devices for free.

But they have to find those customers in the first place. The marketing business model is designed to pull big numbers of relevant people into a funnel. When those customers engage they become part of the CRM system and are contacted by the contact centre to make an appointment for a free consultation. This is where a gap emerged.

Because of the specialism involved in running a contact centre, which includes high-tech telephony, IT systems, data reports and skilled people, Hidden Hearing outsourced this service.

After some time, service levels dropped and so did sales. Managing director Stephen Leddy is rightly very protective of the brand DNA, as articulated through the mission and values. The evidence was that customers were not getting the quality of care and attention at this critical first point of contact. “Simply put, the contact centre just wasn’t ‘on-brand’,” he said.

At considerable capex and ongoing operating cost, the contact centre is now a fully functioning department in its Citywest head office, fully integrated and managed by the management team. The decision was taken to bring it back in-house so that the company can control it fully and ensure a seamless customer experience at all touch points.

Change Tips for Outsourcing

Despite this, I believe in the outsourcing model. However, I also believe that it is critical for an outsource provider to ‘be on brand’ or suffer the wrath of demanding clients in a changing marketplace. This is what I advise when considering outsourcing:

1 Is outsourcing appropriate? If the project requires a specialist set of skills, technology or capex that is not within your current parameters, then outsourcing is worth considering.

2 Build a plan with clear metrics: Be very clear on what your objectives are, what is essential and what is desirable, and what are the measures of success. This will enable a proposed partner to bid effectively and agree a strong service level agreement (SLA).

3 Select a provider that can deliver on your brand promise: The partner should take time to really understand your business and display that they have similar values to you. They should illustrate how they will integrate seamlessly with your people and your customers.

4 Don’t let price be the main criteria: The adage, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ will show its ugly head here if you select a partner on price only. I saw it with an in-house caterer who won the bid on price alone. Within weeks, the morale of the workforce dropped dramatically. Be sure the metrics in the SLA also reflect qualitative measures such as customer feedback, etc.

5 Get a dedicated team: If the provider insists on being able to rotate their own people across different organisations to cover peak trading times, watch out. This may enable the provider to manage their own costs, but not without risk to the quality of the service.

6 Communicate regularly: Don’t let time zones or language prevent regular, structured and effective communications. Clear metrics and flashy reports are not enough. There is nothing to beat sitting down on a regular basis and chatting through the detail. Continue to own your own project.

Turning now to the service provider: You may be a contact centre, logistics provider, caterer, R&D specialist, contractor, IT or HR practice providing services to your clients. But if you are not offering a seamless service both to your clients and their customers, cracks will show eventually.

Customer experience in my view, is becoming the next great battleground for business. As a service provider you already know the steps outlined above. But as the market continues to change, the need for seamless integration with your client has never been more acute.

  • Alan’s debut book ‘Premium is the New Black’ will be launched in October.
  • Alan O’Neill is managing director of Kara Change Management, specialists in strategy, culture and people development. Go to http://www.kara.ie if you’d like help with your business

Source: Independent.ie-How to make outsourcing work and ensure outside firms are ‘on brand’

RPA Is a Bigger Threat to White Collar Jobs Than Artificial Intelligence

Independent analyst firm, rpa2ai has released RPA50™, the first in a series of in-depth research reports on Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA50™ is the industry’s most comprehensive listing of RPA vendors to-date.

The RPA50™ infographic lists the top 50 global vendors within the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) marketplace. It also identifies eight different vendor categories and provides guidance on when to consider which category of vendors.

In addition to vendor summaries, the research analyzes the RPA ecosystem and marketplace development, examines the impact of RPA, highlights implementation challenges and the role of professional services.

Key research findings include:

  • RPA has a greater potential to significantly automate and change the work of millions of white collar professionals than Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • The RPA marketplace is attracting a significant amount of venture capital investment, enterprise attention and employee anxiety.
  • While it can be an effective way to improve efficiencies and processes, RPA is regularly mis-sold as Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence enabled. In reality, most RPA products have little to no ML or AI capabilities.
  • RPA products vary widely in their provenance, functionality, architecture, deployment options and geographic footprint. One size does not fit all.
  • Business buyers are often avoiding and not involving IT in their decision making processes – resulting in failed implementations.

Analyst Quotes:

“The RPA market is witnessing hypergrowth and enterprise expectations are sky high, so some degree of short-term disappointment is natural,” notes rpa2ai Founder and Chief Analyst, Kashyap Kompella, “but as the technology matures, RPA can change the global services landscape and impact a number of white collar jobs.”

“Enterprise systems and applications rarely talk well with each other,” adds analyst, Apoorv Durga, “so, there is a serious need for software like RPA that can automate repetitive re-keying and other manual tasks. But don’t forget that technology is only one aspect of an enterprise automation strategy.”

“RPA is more of art, than science today,” says Alan Pelz-Sharpe, strategic advisor to rpa2ai, and adds, “aspects such as differing cultures, current state and the tech stacks can be major drivers for success of RPA initiatives.

Source: PRNewswire-RPA Is a Bigger Threat to White Collar Jobs Than Artificial Intelligence

The Evolution of Offshoring and Why it Still Matters

There is a very good reason we are seeing a marked increase in the continued growth of offshore captive operations, they simply make sense. In fact, many of the major 3rd party Business Process Outsourcing players we know today originally started as captive or in-house centers themselves.

Birth of new model

Companies like GE Capital, Dun & Bradstreet and British Airways all established in-house operations offshore in mid to late 90’s. Originally created to support internal operations, they evolved into 3rd party service providers Genpact, Cognizant and WNS respectively. It was apparent that the benefits of economies of scale, and capitalizing on the labor arbitrage principals of supplying high skilled workers at lower costs, was beneficial to not only themselves, but to potential external clients, as well. This allowed the originating firms to realize ROI on their investments at an increased pace. Ultimately, the captives became stand-alone BPO providers, with the originators as initial clients.

Y2K, Crisis in need of a savior

Just as the fledgling BPO model was getting started, the very computers and telecommunications infrastructure that made the industry possible were creating its biggest boom ever. In order to save valuable space in the expensive memory and storage capabilities of the 90’s, the format for date codes represented the year in 2 digits (1999 = 99). When the inevitable year 2000 hit, computers would recognize this as 00, a major problem that many experts predicted. Thus, the need for programmers, and supply and demand laws, dictated the cost of local qualified resources increased. As a result, due to availability and cost, the labor arbitrage model came to the rescue.

High demand for customer service and fundamental IT skills

Now that the proverbial cat was out of the bag, many service-oriented companies were enamored with the potential of qualified workers at lower costs, and the offshore Call Center/BPO industry took off. Call Centers housing thousands of agents in specially designed facilities, operating at off hours in their home countries to support the day-time hours of their client’s customer base, were practically popping up like mushrooms.

Industry begins to mature

The initial CC/BPO model has proven very effective and many customers have enjoyed the significant cost savings. A toddler toddles for a while, but eventually gains confidence, picks up its feet, and walks. The BPO client base began to raise its expectations and soon wanted more.

Combine learned improvements with increased competition, and you now have an industry utilizing many methodologies like Six Sigma and LEAN for ongoing process improvement. Adoption of standards such as ISO to validate proper controls were put in place, and development and incorporation of advanced Workforce Management (WFM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms were expected.

KPO – just like BPO only with specialty skilled workers

The CC/BPO industry has created an entire infrastructure with solid processes and measurements that niche players can capitalize on to provide highly skilled talent in a variety of focused customized disciplines (Medical, Legal, Accounting, etc.). The effects of global aging populations and lower adoption of particular skills in the consumer based countries, allows the often younger offshore CC/BPO provider nations to offer not just the “most cost effective” labor, but more importantly the “needed” skilled labor.

Everything old is new again

As the 18-time Yankee baseball all star Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again”. While pioneering captives were the foundation of the BPO industry, technology and infrastructure costs back in the day required significant capital expenditure to setup and maintain operations. Today, 25+ years of industry and infrastructure maturation have enabled an As-A-Service economy, and this has re-opened the doors to the significant benefits of the captive, in-house model. Now, many options to build an Operational Expenditure (OpEx) model exist, allowing the smallest of pilot projects to be cost effectively established, tested and proven with complete IP and end-to-end process control.

Source: ssonetwork.com-The Evolution of Offshoring and Why it Still Matters

Will Robotic Process Automation Bring Down The Curtain On Outsourcing?

If there is one area that Robotics Process Outsourcing affected widely is near and offshore jobs. Robotic process automation (RPA) is applied to a variety of business processes by automating rule-based monotonous tasks and bridging temporary gaps. Basically, the RPA engines are loaded with highly-specific process knowledge which enables rules-based automation. Today, robotics lifecycle is automating almost half the traditional back-office functions which are being augmented with automation and are offsetting the cost of locations, noted a Deloitte Financial Services paper. So far, the early stages of adoption have shown businesses great benefits. According to recent statistics, robotic automation market will reach $4.98 billion globally and is forecasted to grow at a rate of 60.5 percent.

Some of the key functions that robots follow are:

  • Gather, validate and analyse structured and unstructured data
  • Record and transport information and data
  • Communicate effectively with users, clients and customers
  • Learn, anticipate and forecast the behaviour outcomes effectively

So, how is RPA a threat to the BPO industry? A Sage Intaact blog indicates that RPA has the potential to make many outsourcing relationships obsolete. According to the top four accounting organisations, the costs savings of RPA over outsourcing are around 70 percent. Along with the cost-saving factor, RPA also gives organisations complete control over the automation process, can be scaled to suit demand, simplifies communication and delivers accuracy for rule-based tasks.

Do BPO companies and teams fear the onslaught of RPA? The fears are largely exaggerated and Tom Davenport of MIT Center for Digital Business and Deloitte Analytics says that automating types of tasks with a machine may not be earth-shattering, but the early adopters of RPA do seem to have generally achieved some impressive returns on investment. Citing an example, he emphasised in a blog post as to how one telecom company that automated 160 different processes, achieved an ROI that ranged between 650 percent and 800 percent.

  • According to Davenport, the processes that were structured and codifiable enough to move to services outsourcers are the same ones that will be automated.
  • Many outsourcers have realised this and now offer either their own proprietary RPA solutions or “white-labelled” versions from other vendors.
  • Currently, business processes that show a high degree of knowledge and expertise, from radiology to legal document review, are already being partially automated.

Will Cognitive Automation Spell The Doom For Outsourcing?

Which brings us back to the question — will automation kill the era of outsourcing and what kind of impact it will have on the labour market? Davenport revealed that all automation systems require human involvement in the form of configuration, oversight and maintenance. Also, the role of outsourcers will change in the future where they will have to go beyond mere labour arbitrage. Outsourcing companies will have to provide a range of automation technologies and reskill process and technology experts. Here’s how Davenport puts it — the mere fact that human involvement is required at every stage of the process for cognitive automation indicates RPAs will not make the vast majority of human functions obsolete.

RPAs Won’t Affect Outsourcing

Even though BPOs will become less profitable in the future, the technological advancement of cognitive automation will converge, mature and will be augmented by humans. The question that most outsourcing companies are grappling with today is to what extent will this affect the business of offshoring. On the upside, RPAs will enable companies to achieve unparalleled levels of process accuracy and efficiency and at the same lower the cost as compared to the work that can be done by human employees.

In addition to this, RPAs can effectively provide activity logs and evidence of how decisions were made, ensuring they meet auditing requirements. Besides, the trend will not just affect a few sectors but will be a global employment and economic trends. In terms of India, where outsourcing is one of the biggest sources of employment in India, this will affect the labour outcome.

A research report from KPMG’s Cliff Justice highlighted the shift to RPA is a double-edged sword. It will not only digitise labour with advanced machine intelligence, big data, analytics, mobile technologies and cloud computing, but also hugely impact the knowledge worker labour market. However, a section of economists suggests that RPAs will impact the labour market positively by expanding the job market and created new roles.

Source: analyticsindiamag.com-Will Robotic Process Automation Bring Down The Curtain On Outsourcing?