Blockchain makes more noise in 2H19: Hearing from services vendors and consultancies

Last month, my colleagues Geoff Woollacott and Boz Hristov published a report on the business of blockchain, and next month, Geoff and I will be attending a KPMG event on the same topic. We are looking forward to learning how that Big Four firm approaches both the technology and the business model impacts, on itself and its clients. Our May 2019 event perspective on EY’s blockchain summit may serve as a way to contrast and compare two of the Big Four; how they differentiate will be key as technology diminishes differentiation across consultancies’ digital transformation activities. And we want to hear more use cases, including what clients have done beyond experimenting and how they are getting to scale.

Earlier this month, we had a chance to get feedback on our blockchain analysis from Atos and from another client that said the following:

  • “TBR believes that blockchain is here to stay and transforming transactions through blockchain allows vendors to accelerate digital transformation.”
  • “The biggest challenge for participants is solving the coopetition paradox, which revolves around establishing common governance and standards across competitive and cross-industry ecosystems — and yet also presents a long-tail opportunity, especially as optimizing financial management functions and improving IT operations management rank as the top two areas where buyers are looking to prioritize spending in the next few years.”
  • “[TBR mentions] the materialization of a network of networks that will scale distributed ledger adoption as the de facto economic commerce platform. However, reaching broad blockchain network interconnectivity will take years, if not decades.”

I think our client summed up the analysis well and left open a few important questions. First, what can serve as accelerants for “broad blockchain network interconnectivity”? If clients clamor for more and faster, which actors taking what steps will speed this up? Second, how will partnerships between consultancies and blockchain technology vendors evolve, in commercial, go-to-market and even intellectual property terms? Third, if and/or when this becomes the de facto economic commerce platform, who will be disrupted and who will capitalize on the shift to this platform?

All this and more will be on our minds next week in New York City — event perspective to follow!

Device market disruptors

AR, VR, smart speakers and AI chips are part of the digital transformation story

New technologies have driven growth in the consumer device market. Smart speakers are ubiquitous, and adoption of these devices has grown faster than for any new product since smartphones. AR and VR adoption is growing more slowly but the technology is important in entertainment and gaming. Most new smartphones include specialized AI chips. TBR believes all of these technologies are beginning to affect the enterprise and that their influence is growing. Join Ezra Gottheil as he discusses how these new technologies are playing an evolving and growing role in the commercial market.

  Don’t miss:

  • How the conversational interface of smart speakers will drive data utilization          
  • How AR and VR will improve training and performance
  • How new AI chips will spread machine learning in business

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

Will ‘new’ management consulting models support digital transformation?

An exclusive review of TBR’s Management Consulting Benchmark

As a diverse set of IT services vendors take consulting-led approaches to capturing new logos and delivering digital transformations, the established strategy consultancies have invested in emerging technology capabilities and diverse talent. In a world in which every services vendor is also a consultancy, these old-school firms continue to reinvent their business models to keep their prices high and revenues per employee higher.

Join Kelly Lesiczka, Elitsa Bakalova and Patrick Heffernan as they dig into key findings from TBR’s latest Management Consulting Benchmark.

Don’t miss:

  • How business model shifts will impact consultancies in different ways
  • Where the talent will come from for an emerging tech-enabled traditional consultancy
  • What performance metrics and trends from the last few years, particularly around technology consulting, forecast about the next few years

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

India-centric vendors defy gravity and all sensible expectations

An exclusive review of TBR’s IT Services Vendor Benchmark

Every quarter the large India-centric IT services vendors — Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, Cognizant and HCL Technologies (HCLT) — produce revenue growth and profitability that keep them in the top half, and sometimes in the top five, vendors TBR tracks, despite market trends that seem to run counter to their core strengths. As consulting-led digital transformations using emerging technologies and delivered on-site (not from offshore) drive investments and acquisitions, these five vendors manage to expand into new areas just enough, hire the right onshore talent, and manage costs to sustain their growth. But for how much longer?  

Join Kelly Lesiczka, Kevin Collupy, Boz Hristov, Elitsa Bakalova and Patrick Heffernan as they dig into key findings from TBR’s latest IT Services Vendor Benchmark.

Don’t miss:

  • How India-centric vendors compare to other leading IT services vendors
  • Which vendors are transforming faster and with better results
  • TBR’s predictions on where the IT services market is heading
  • Which vendors have the most to lose from sustained success among India-centric vendors

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

Separating the tricks from the treats in the emerging technology sector

An overview of ICT trends, business models and best practices

As TBR separates which emerging technologies are tricks from those that are business strategy and financial performance treats, we will also provide insights on how to be the house with the best candy in town.

Technology disruption and innovation are constants across all segments of the ICT industry, and the pace of change is always accelerating. Established vendors are racing to launch new business segments and portfolio offerings to capitalize on emerging trends, as well as jumping into markets they previously had avoided or not considered addressable. “Born digital” players are sprouting up across all markets and threatening to take the share of established players.

In this environment, there is more customer choice than ever before, and more confusion about which technology trends have translated into currently viable business models, offerings and customer solutions, and which trends are purely marketing talk, backed by slick PowerPoint collateral, that promise outcomes that will only be delivered to customers years in the future. It is critical that vendors help customers separate the talk from the reality, as well as articulate where they have business models and solutions capable of addressing tangible current customer needs.

Don’t miss:

  • TBR’s views on the current business model and financial realities of emerging technology trends such as IoT, digital transformation, edge computing, quantum computing and others
  • Best practices that leading vendors are utilizing in commercial model, portfolio and go-to-market execution to establish real business models around each of these trends
  • TBR’s recommendations for how vendors can best message business models and offerings tied to emerging technologies to customers

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

Year in review: Shifting from a monocloud to a multicloud and hybrid cloud landscape

2019 has been a notable year for the cloud and software markets, shedding light on the cloud landscape as it becomes progressively complicated. From customers’ increasingly complex use cases to vendors’ sustained but slowing growth, along with acquisitions, new challengers and new ventures, the market continues to transform.

Join Allan Krans, Meaghan McGrath, Jack McElwee and Catie Merrill from TBR’s Cloud and Software team as they recap the most salient events of 2019 and look ahead to what those changes hold for the coming year. 

Don’t miss:

  • Shifts in cloud consumption
  • Cloud vendor adaptations
  • Expectations for 2020

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

Family and friends: PwC makes Analyst Day in India all about the clients and their stories

8 clients with 8 stories and plenty of common themes

Setting the tone for the day, India Advisory Leader, Deepankar Sanwalka explained that the event would be about discussion and about clients and the work PwC is doing with them, with four successive breakout sessions in the morning and four more in the afternoon. The clients — almost all India-based companies or government agencies — spanned the industry spectrum from pharmaceutical to software to manufacturing to municipal authorities. In addition to the common themes that emerged across the day, described below, TBR noted that every client had prepared for the standard analyst question, “Why did you choose PwC?” Notably, half of the clients used a competitive process to select PwC as a vendor, a high percentage in TBR’s experience. Clients said they worked with PwC because the firm:

  • Shared the client’s cultural value for trust and commitment to strict adherence to compliance, even across global operations
  • Understood the client’s customer. Beyond understanding clients’ business, operations and industry, along with the specifics of the India market, one client said PwC demonstrated a deep understanding of the client’s specific target audience and the personas shopping for this client’s specific product. As part of the engagement, and an element the client said was critical to its success, PwC colocated with the client a core team made up of more than 60% strategy, design and marketing consultants, with the remaining professionals handling technology.
  • Possessed “skills, scale and speed.” While other clients cited the first two as PwC strengths, this client explained that “speed” referred to PwC’s ability to keep pace with the client’s accustomed pace of innovation, experimentation, adoption and change.
  • Understood the client’s business with such depth and clarity that PwC could recommend what SAP customizations the client did not need. In TBR’s experience, every consultancy professes to know its clients well. In this case, the client explicitly understood that the long-term benefits from a massive SAP upgrade depended on minimal customizations in order to facilitate easier maintenance and upgrades. Surprisingly, the client went further in saying PwC was able to force the issue around standardizations by making compelling arguments that the client’s needs did not justify the diminished long-term value of customizations — compelling because PwC so fully understood the client’s business.

Also notable was the very presence of eight clients telling their stories — impressive for a one-day analyst event. TBR observed many of the clients attended breakout sessions with other clients, likely providing the firm with further opportunities to increase its footprint. Finally, the clients all told compelling stories, perhaps because the event was adamantly free of PowerPoint presentations (zero slides in 8 hours). Without slides as a crutch, clients (and PwC professionals and analysts) more easily adapted to the friends-and-family feel of the entire event.

With an atmosphere designed for relaxing and sharing stories, PwC’s Analyst Day in India captured the firm’s current position as a global consultancy with intense local client relationships, a well-defined set of offerings across the entire digital transformation landscape, and a solid, sustained, evolutionary framework in BXT (Business-eXperience-Technology). PwC gathered roughly 30 analysts, from Europe, Asia, India, and one from the U.S., for a dinner and then a day of client stories, PwC briefings and informal discussions in the firm’s Gurgaon Experience Center (EC), which was configured for the event to resemble a house, complete with a living room, dining room, garden, play room and kitchen (plus a library, but how many houses today have libraries?). The playful design of this ‘house’ idea was more than just design alone, with a real emphasis on PwC inviting clients and analysts in for the day to discuss, exchange and spend time together, much as one would do at home with friends and family. Over the course of the day, TBR met with PwC clients from across India and with the firm’s global leaders for Clients and Markets and Technology Consulting, as well as PwC partners and professionals responsible for client accounts in India, Japan and the Middle East.

Trusted facilitator: Atos discusses its place in the blockchain ecosystem

Atos’ global lead for blockchain, Klaus Ottradovetz, confirmed TBR’s assessment that as many companies move beyond evaluation and proof of concept to implementation of blockchain solutions, the broader IT ecosystem will see the benefits and acceleration of a networking effect. If IoT marries analytics to connectivity, blockchain binds transactional partners in an ever-increasing series of interwoven networks. Within those blockchain ecosystems, collaborative models with multiple stakeholders sharing costs and benefits provide the backbone for new value-generating services based on the advantages delivered by blockchain. To illustrate his point, Ottradovetz described a crop insurance solution (which recently won the Technology Excellence in Blockchain award at NASSCOM) as an ideal use case for blockchain, in which the various stakeholders, including insurers, reinsurers, farmers and content providers would all benefit. The solution uses smart contract functionality and mobile payment to create a cost-effective and fully automated claim settlement process, which also strengthens the trust between the two entities. Insurance companies can use the application to collate weather data through satellites and measure weather conditions (e.g., rainfall, drought), which are then used to compensate farmers for crop losses.

Atos adds value to blockchains by working with all stakeholders   

Ottradovetz noted, and TBR agrees, that our report did not include many details on Atos’ blockchain practice, which resides with the Business and Platform Solutions division and leads industry-specialized go-to-market activities and service delivery around consulting, integrating and operating blockchains. Atos taps into the Infrastructure and Data Management division for hosting and running nodes in blockchain networks and also integrates offerings from its Big Data and Cybersecurity division, such as cybersecurity services and IP-based products like the Evidian Identity and Access Management software suite and the Trustway Hardware Security Module. Ottradovetz said Atos has focused on working with its existing clients, including in the government sector, and that Atos acts as a “services provider” and is “not in a position of taking value from others within the blockchain ecosystem, not taking value out of the product chain.” In a characterization that TBR believes accurately describes Atos’ market position, Ottradovetz said the company serves as a “trusted” functionary, “the independent advisor to each stakeholder…we help [clients] build a cooperative blockchain.”

Is the term data protection anachronistic?

The only real constant in the technology industry is change, and that change has been accelerating rapidly and is now poised to explode. During the many transformations that have occurred in the industry, legacy terms well known for one thing lose favor or actually wind up adding confusion rather than clarity to the discussions.

Business intelligence, for example, was a well-known term that seemingly addresses what analytics, cognitive computing and machine learning deliver better today than when the term gained broad adoption 20 years ago.

Distributed computing crystallized the value of minicomputers as a way to move computing out beyond glass walled mainframe estates. Engineering wise, it is what we do at the so-called “edge” today as well as on chipsets deployed in endpoint devices.

And data protection is the new term to wind up sounding anachronistic in our current conversations. Data protection historically meant protection from loss or theft. Today’s data protection has to include exposure of that data in the normal course of business that does not violate privacy as well.

Historically, data protection was generally left to IT administrators to determine. However, data privacy and the attendant impact on brand image have changed that dynamic, leading TBR to say that data protection has changed from a boiler room to a board room decision. This implication was on full display during a PwC Risk Assurance event attended by TBR in April 2018 where the conversation in the buffet lines at lunch centered on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony taking place at the same time. No corporate executive wants to have to testify before Congress about topics violating their customer trust.

Furthermore, virtualization makes the concept of a security perimeter for protecting data seem archaic given data sits literally everywhere. Defending the data center has given way to securing the persona, with individuals having multiple personas across multiple work and personal access points.

What, then, should be the all-encompassing term to address the broader context of what it means to protect data?

In custom projects around this topic, TBR spends a great deal of time and attention to parse out definitions at the onset of the research. In TBR’s point of view, historical data protection remains a vital pillar within the overall context of data stewardship. If data is the new oil, then managing, protecting and leveraging that data drive the business.

  • Managing data implies to TBR the establishment of the global business rules and company governance models. Governance extends beyond the traditional requirements of regulatory compliance to incorporate the corporate risk appetite for exposing data for different use cases. Integral to this is the permissioned access to data users and the permissioned exposure of the different data suppliers, most notably customers.
  • Protecting data addresses all the traditional elements associated with the legacy term data protection.
  • Leveraging data is the delicate balance of the business management team. On the one hand is the revenue lift that can come from infusing a business action with data mapped back against the risk to the business of exposing that data in that particular use case. Here is where the board room leadership makes the business judgment calls in the data economy, and hence why TBR states that data protection as we knew it has shifted from a boiler room to a board room decision.

Quantum.Tech: Brilliant minds collaborate on current tech challenges while also separating hype from reality

The variety of organizations involved in quantum computing demonstrates the vast reach this technology will have once commercialized at scale

At Quantum.Tech, attendees heard from a diverse group of speakers from established companies directly involved in the quantum computing space, such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), as well as startups, such as Zapata Computing and IQM Quantum Computers. In addition to encouraging great minds to work together, Quantum.Tech did an excellent job of demonstrating the sheer magnitude of reach that quantum technologies will have once unleashed. There were speakers from multiple government agencies, both within and outside of the U.S., as well as from healthcare, banking, venture capital, telecom and security companies. These organizations have a vast reach and are also just a small representation of the sheer volume of industries quantum technologies will impact. Time and time again, these speakers noted that the commercialization of a fault-tolerant quantum computer is expected to be achieved within the next 10 years, indicating that economic advantage is on our doorstep and that large-scale quantum adoption is just around the corner.

Quantum sensing will change human activity and has changed centuries-old standards definitions

Atomic clocks, quantum sensors and lidar (light detection and ranging) were several of the small-scale quantum technologies discussed, in addition to the general-purpose quantum computing, networking and security aspects of mainstream computing use cases. Quantum-enabled lidar appears reminiscent of early radar technology first brought to market during World War II and the great-great-grandparent to current GPS technology. Quantum-enabled lidar will be adopted traditionally, being put to use for military applications first, then moving to commercial aircraft and ultimately over to automobiles, drones and other modes of human transportation.

During a discussion at Quantum.Tech, RSK, a civil engineering firm in the U.K., indicated it already uses quantum sensing technology for site assessments. These mid-six-figure devices pay for themselves in six months to a year, and in at least one situation, the $10,000 to $15,000 fee for service enabled the client to gain information that previously would have entailed risking $5 million for a project to uncover. Later in the talk, the device was also shown being towed behind an automobile mapping the ground below the road. In this fashion, municipalities can pinpoint areas where water or sewer lines are leaking, for example.

Quantum.Tech spanned two days with three discrete presentation tracks for over 400 attendees. There was a smattering of references to existing commercial products amid discussions about persistent challenges being researched around the globe. Academics, government agencies, technology companies, venture capitalists (VCs) and enterprise businesses had their turns to discuss the challenges and anticipated benefits of quantum computing. The general tenor of the event was one of tempered optimism. Advancements continue, challenges persist, and the pace of scientific breakthroughs can be uneven. Concerns were expressed about over-hyping the technology while working on real scientific obstacles taking months, if not years, to solve. Hyping the expected pace of discovery could trigger a “quantum winter,” with VCs pulling back necessary funding for long-term developments as hype leads to unrealistic expectations of rapidly tangible results.