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Top 3 Predictions for Global Delivery in 2022

Robots hire robots, talent uproots to anywhere, and TikTok takes on TCS

Fallout from the pandemic will lead to the most disruptive year in global delivery since the start of outsourcing

TBR anticipates sea changes on three fronts in 2022. First, accelerated adoption and sustained refinement of automation will lead to AI-enabled platforms determining the automation tools needed to optimize an increasing number of processes. And those AI-smart platforms will make procurement decisions independently. In short, robots are hiring robots, with all the implications on talent, productivity, KPIs and pricing.

Second, the pandemic proved IT services can be delivered from anywhere. In 2022 that reality will shift compensation models, as vendors begin to eliminate disparities based on location. Smart IT services vendors will hire talent anywhere and reward professionals who find ways to meet their colleagues in person. Lagging IT services vendors will cling to now-outdated compensation models that pay a professional in Boston more for doing the exact same job as someone in Bangalore, India.

Third, the rise of enterprises that are outside the software and IT services realm but differentiate based on software and IP will exacerbate the ongoing war for software developer talent. Is that too many mentions of “software” in one sentence in an IT services predictions paper? Yes. But the large IT services vendors with business models built around skilled developers will start losing talent to the likes of TikTok and Tesla, and may also eventually lose business to those new competitors.

We are not exaggerating: By the end of 2022, global delivery will be a different game. 

2022 global delivery predictions

  • The robots will hire each other, complicating the people part of global delivery
  • Get paid for what you do, not for where you live goes global, with business model and business culture implications
  • Software developers defecting to TikTok challenge IT services vendors’ talent models

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Telecom Business Research’s 2022 Predictions is a special series examining market trends and business changes in key markets. Covered segments include cloud, telecom, devices, data center, and services & digital.

Think Digital 2021: IBM brings AI to hybrid cloud

Integration of AI into open architecture positions IBM hybrid cloud as ideal platform for mission-critical workloads

Since acquiring Red Hat, IBM has undergone a major strategic shift to accommodate for hybrid cloud, abiding by the philosophy that the hybrid model — whether it consists of core or edge infrastructure and/or multiple public clouds — captures more value than a traditional cloud. Drawing on more than a decade of experience in traditional and cloud-ready infrastructure, IBM provides a foundation on which to run Red Hat OpenShift and deliver a common software layer designed to abstract the underlying complexities.

However, Red Hat’s prowess in containers and Linux only completed half the story as IBM built on top of the platform with a suite of software, including IBM Cloud Paks and partner SaaS, and services supported by the “advise, build, move, manage” methodology that trickles down the technology stack. Based on Red Hat OpenShift, which has grown to nearly 3,000 clients, this architecture gives credence to this statement from IBM Cloud & Data Platforms SVP Rob Thomas: “There is no AI without IA (information architecture).” A key theme at Think Digital 2021, AI is becoming more relevant in IBM’s overall strategy as CEO Arvind Krishna looks to define IBM as a “hybrid cloud and AI company.”

Unifying AI with hybrid cloud speaks to IBM’s attempts to gain share in “Chapter 2 of the Cloud,” or take large amounts of data, which can largely be accessed through AI, and extend it to the cloud. Given that operational AI is most successful running on containers and Kubernetes by allowing users to apply AI algorithms across architectures with consistency, IBM again benefits from Red Hat’s underlying platform and gains positioning to deliver AI to the enterprise with a degree of flexibility and vendor-agnosticism. For example, IBM Watson Studio is available as an add-on to the new Red Hat OpenShift Data Science service, to create and manage AI. With the support for Red Hat, applying AI to areas such as security and compliance, application modernization, IT support, and business process transformation could be the differentiating factor IBM needs to capture new cloud customers outside the IBM ecosystem.  

IBM tackles automation as it looks to democratize AI and bring all software back to the platform

IBM asserted itself in the AIOps market at Think Digital 2020 with the announcement of Watson AIOps, which is designed to automate how clients run their IT systems. However, in the last year, IBM has accelerated investments outside AIOps, making big bets on automation underscored by acquisitions in robotic process automation, process mining and business process automation. These investments were likely prompted by market changes stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which Salesforce President Bret Taylor noted at the event brought a “decade’s worth of digital transformation into 13 months.”

Building on last year’s theme of solidifying a hybrid cloud architectural approach through Red Hat, at Think Digital 2021, IBM (Nasdaq: IBM) emphasized the importance of infusing AI into the platform to help enterprises make sense of data and achieve true insights in a digital economy. IBM again used the event to emphasize the power of adopting hybrid cloud architecture integrated with AI-driven cognitive services to help businesses adapt to change. Naturally, AI and automation were key themes of the one-day virtual event, and discussions with CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL), among other companies, highlighted how AI has supported IT and business transformation across industries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

IT services market: 2Q21 insights from TBR’s Professional Services team

IT services market rebounding in 2021 after pandemic-caused trough

Revenue growth for TBR’s benchmarked IT services vendors was flat during 2020 as growth challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected vendors’ revenue generation. Investments in cloud, cyber, AI and industry specialization will accelerate revenue growth for benchmarked vendors during 2021. This pent-up demand is also fueling a rebound in additions of resources with skills in cloud, cybersecurity, AI and product engineering services, following year-to-year deceleration in 2H20. Vendors, though, must account for digital exhaustion, especially as remote working will likely continue for the time being. 

In this upcoming webinar, Patrick Heffernan, Boz Hristov, Elitsa Bakalova and Kelly Lesiczka will reveal insights and latest trends of the IT services market and global service delivery. The group will also discuss vendors’ roads to recovery post-pandemic based on findings in TBR’s latest IT Services Vendor Benchmark and Spring 2021 Global Delivery Benchmark.  

Don’t miss:

  • TBR’s overview of performance and key trends during 2020 for the 30 vendors in our IT Services Vendor Benchmark
  • How pursuing technology-enabled transformational opportunities will enable vendors to ramp up revenue growth during 2021
  • How vendors have managed resources amid the global pandemic, and what is next for their headcount strategies in 2021
  • State of adoption of automation in service delivery and the impact on vendors’ P&L

Register today to reserve your space

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].

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PwC unleashed: A professional services firm adopts Netflix-like business models

From Products to Digital on Demand and ProEdge

We reported this time last year that PwC Products completely shifted from being an old-school, white-shoe, tax- and audit-focused professional services firm from the previous age of the Big Eight to being a business solutions provider, with those “solutions” including SaaS, managed services and platforms. Now the firm has taken another large leap forward, adopting elements of business models most notably deployed by Netflix to bring its software and solutions into clients’ environments in a completely new way, while simultaneously reorienting the firm’s professionals around the skills and capabilities needed to serve their clients in a new world. We understand that assessment sounds over the top in a market already swamped by exaggerated claims around digital transformation.  

Sustained investment and committed leadership — it is that simple

PwC launched PwC Products in early 2020, as covered in our special report, in which we noted: “PwC is a business solution provider, and some of those solutions include products — tangible, defined assets that allow the firm to be, as the PwC leaders noted, ‘better, faster, and cheaper for clients.’ Some of those assets will remain within the firm, scalable but deployed only to increase speed or efficiency in certain engagements. Some assets will remain with the client, paid for in full, through licensing or by subscription. For all of the solutions, PwC’s approach will start with a business problem in mind, rather than employing a systems integrator mindset of plugging technology into a business.”

Building on PwC Products, perhaps on a timeline accelerated by the remote-working realities of the pandemic, PwC rolled out Digital on Demand and ProEdge in late 2020, bringing to clients two distinct offerings made possible by years of sustained investment in digital capabilities, including software and the firm’s own IP, as well as a leadership commitment to adjusting the firm’s business model to fully accommodate subscription-based pricing and software-centric engagement models. In TBR’s view, the first element — investing in technology — does not differentiate PwC from peers, except perhaps in the firm’s early start in some areas and sustained commitment to an organizing framework. The second element — leadership and adjusting the business model — marks a critical difference for PwC. Even though peers have made some similar changes, PwC has aggressively gone all-in and adopted multiple changes to its business models.

Digital on Demand: All the apps you want for one low monthly price (Netflix model 1)

In essence, Digital on Demand is PwC’s version of Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) App Store, but with a client experience more akin to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), where every option is available immediately without separate pricing or technical concerns. Similar to how everyone can watch their Netflix shows on their own device, PwC’s Digital on Demand solutions can be downloaded into the client environment, where they can be configured.

Led by PwC Labs Partner Michelle Wilkes, from the firm’s Consulting practice, and US Automation Leader Jeff Lower, from Tax, Digital on Demand belongs within the larger PwC Labs practice and carries through a relatively basic premise: Take the automation PwC incorporated internally, curate the solutions and refine the automations, and then make them available for PwC’s clients to deploy into their own environments. According to Wilkes, PwC built the foundational 6,500 automations across its own back office and for client engagement and saved 8.6 million hours of staff time across the firm.

Starting with finance functions, where PwC has legacy strengths and strong brand permission, the firm has partnered with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), UiPath, Alteryx (NYSE: AYX) and others to provide clients a menu of downloadable automations (access to cloud-based AI models via information extraction using natural language processing and machine learning), deemed by PwC’s Wilkes as “proven and relevant” because the automations had been designed by people who are deeply familiar with the finance functions and have experience in the finance environment. In short, Digital on Demand is readily deployable software built by finance process people for finance process people. Wilkes said the firm has 393 downloadable automations today, with plans to reach 500 by May 1.

On Feb. 18 and 19, 2021, TBR spoke with several PwC leaders: Michelle Wilkes, partner, PwC Labs; Jeff Lower, US Automation leader; Suneet Dua, chief product officer, PwC US; Darren Lee, partner, PwC Consulting; Mike Mendola, senior associate, PwC Labs; and Maria D’Alessandro, strategy director, PwC Products. This special report includes information and analysis drawn from these discussions and looks at how much the firm has changed and where the future of consulting lies for PwC and its peers. 

ServiceNow takes a platform approach amid plans to emerge as the standard for enterprise workflows

TBR perspective

Defining reputation as a platform company

While many customers are poised to increasingly adopt best-of-breed solutions for diverse use cases, ServiceNow’s roots as a platform company allow the vendor to sidestep many traditional SaaS competitors and lead with a best-of-suite approach. The Now Platform — dubbed by CEO Bill McDermott as the “platform of all platforms” — is the driving force behind ServiceNow’s workflow narrative, as it is where all products are built and serves as a foundation for ServiceNow to stitch together its IT, employee, customer and creator workflows for lines of business and C-Suite clients.

The way companies operate is hybrid in nature, with multiple departments running different systems, and rather than directly competing with ERP or CRM systems, ServiceNow is helping enable these applications through an integrated, vendor-neutral approach, which TBR views as increasingly imperative in today’s technology landscape. ServiceNow’s revenue profile is also receptive to this approach, as roughly 80% of new business for the company stems from existing customers, paving the way for ServiceNow to scale to $10 billion and beyond in annual revenues.

AI moves to forefront of ServiceNow’s platform strategy

Following the intelligent automation capabilities unveiled as part of the Orlando release in 1Q20 and the subsequent appointment of Vijay Narayanan to the newly created role of chief AI officer, ServiceNow’s plans to lead with AI are not unexpected. However, as the Now Platform continues to be positioned as the core product that enables workflow delivery, ServiceNow’s AI vision is evolving to deliver greater time-to-value and ROI for AI customers. To achieve this, ServiceNow has been leading with M&A to build on the existing capabilities of the Now Platform, including incidents, agents, documents and cases, among others. For example, in January ServiceNow expanded its foray into AIOps with the acquisition of Israel-based Loom Systems, which was a strategic callout in many event presentations, due to Loom Systems’ IT Service Management (ITSM) solution that relies on AIOps to predict and monitor IT incidents.

TBR believes ServiceNow will utilize Loom Systems’ expertise in AIOps technology as an interim step in helping customers transition to DevOps and agile methods and help bridge gaps between development and operations teams across departments. Additionally, in the AIOps market, ServiceNow is working with IBM (NYSE: IBM) to help customers preemptively identify incidents and initiate a faster response. While Loom Systems’ tool is already integrated as a previous partner into ITSM and IT Operations Management (ITOM), ServiceNow announced plans to re-platform this technology into the Now Platform with the Quebec release in March 2021, underscoring ServiceNow’s strategy of bringing all major innovations back into its foundational platform and increasing customer adoption.

TBR believes the next step beyond empowering AIOps will be broad-based automation and optimization, as ServiceNow unveiled new process automation offerings in the Paris release, including Process Automation Designer, which will be generally available in the Quebec release, and various playbooks that are now available across the Now Platform. As a feature of the Now Platform, Process Automation Designer automates cross-functional processes and provides managers with a customizable user interface. Meanwhile, administrators now have the option of selecting from no-code playbooks with Playbook Experience to provide agents with insight into their workflows, powered through Process Automation Designer. Future tuck-in acquisitions in the area of process automation cannot be ruled out as ServiceNow looks to continues to strengthen its foundational play.

ServiceNow Digital Analyst Summit: In between reporting another strong earnings quarter in 3Q20 and releasing the Now Platform Paris, ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) hosted a virtual industry analyst event, which included two days of breakout sessions, one-on-one discussions with company leadership, and product demonstrations. Key highlights included the company’s product strategy, which continues to underscore the importance of the Now Platform; how ServiceNow is redefining its go-to-market engine through partnerships and industry solutions; and the refinement of the company’s cloud strategy.

Vendors’ ability to develop nonlinear revenue growth model will be tested once again as COVID-19 sets the stage for demand in ‘as a Service’ sales

Market overview

The 14 benchmarked vendors continued to hire and acquire resources, albeit at a much slower rate in 1H20 than in 1H19 due to COVID-19, a trend we expect to accelerate in 2H20. 1H20 was a tale of two quarters as vendors had to swiftly change priorities and mobilize their staff to work remotely while continuing to provide support to ongoing digital transformation (DT) projects. As COVID-19 accelerated in late March and April, buyers paused many of their DT programs and increased focus on run-the-business projects, compelling vendors to adjust their hiring and reskilling programs and demonstrate capabilities in cloud, cybersecurity and workplace solutions management. Vendors can learn from their own experience three years ago when revenue contracted much faster than they were able to adjust hiring before rebounding back to maximize productivity and ROI.

Automation and profitability

As vendors went into damage-control mode amid the pandemic, most deployed legacy, proven, cost-rationalization methods, including layoffs, salary freezes, and limited SG&A spend to protect profitability. Automation also continued to play a role in this effort but was not, as many had hoped, the single most important variable in offsetting top-line and cost of services pressure associated with the legacy labor arbitrage model. With the consulting model most challenged due to limited face-to-face interaction, we expect vendors to begin exploring new channels to increase share of profitable sales. Vendors could either accelerate bringing consultants back to clients’ sites to increase higher-value advisory opportunities or begin to add digital routes as a sales channel to attract new buyers, particularly in the SMB space. Either scenario carries its challenges and opportunities, but in the long term, as vendors strive to increase “as a Service” sales, KPIs and expectations must also be aligned.  

The Global Delivery Benchmark provides efficiency comparisons, assessments and insights into global delivery strategies and investments across 14 leading IT services firms. The research highlights overarching resource management market trends, discusses implications to operations from increased labor automation and examines disruptors that shape new business models and KPIs.

Logicalis’ local scale and investments in services transformation offerings position it well to withstand the COVID-19 headwinds in LATAM

Following one of the last in-person analyst events held in in Sao Paolo, Brazil, just before COVID-19 took over our personal and business lives, TBR had a chance to reconnect virtually with Logicalis LATAM CEO Rodrigo Parreira and Logicalis LATAM Director of Strategy Eduardo Harada. Expanding on our discussion at the analyst event in February, Parreira confirmed many of the regional market trends are still in place, although some initiatives have been paused, with COVID-19 forcing buyers to reorient their budget priorities toward run-the-business awards.

A spike in demand around supporting remote work, implementation and management of collaboration tools, and security plays to the strengths of Logicalis’ value proposition, particularly within the infrastructure services domain. Parreira is even more optimistic about a resurgence of opportunities in 2021 as regional buyers begin to solicit services in areas such as automation and AI, creating increased opportunities around IoT and connected devices. As Parreira positioned it, “The crisis accelerated automation.” He also highlighted that more than 50% of Logicalis new bookings have been geared toward services, accelerating the company’s efforts to become an IT services leader.

TBR is not surprised to hear there is an uptick in demand for automation considering the technology’s potential to lower the total cost of ownership, which is of particular importance to highly price-sensitive buyers in the LATAM market. We believe vendors that have experience adopting and scaling automation tools to drive down their own costs, improve remote delivery and retain savings will see immediate rewards. However, Logicalis may face an uphill battle educating regional customers on the value of AI beyond cost optimization, as many continue to see AI as a threat to their jobs. The company, however, is well positioned to capitalize on the trust it has built over the past six decades of operating in the region.

TBR previously wrote, “While the company’s business consulting unit spearheads outcome-based pricing initiatives, we believe Logicalis could further accelerate its value proposition transformation if it approaches every opportunity with scale in mind from the beginning. To execute on such a strategy, the company would need to further build out its consulting and application services capabilities, with acquisitions in these domains highly likely.” COVID-19 will likely fuel market consolidation, including in the LATAM market. Both Parreira and Harada believe consolidation in the LATAM market will be even greater as the challenging macroeconomic conditions will drive many smaller vendors out of business. Acquiring for capabilities, not for scale, would deepen Logicalis’ value proposition in both existing and emerging domains, including AI and SaaS. Larger global peers, though, including the Big Four and multinational corporations, are also scouting for price-competitive targets, possibly pushing Logicalis to take more aggressive action sooner.

Rooted and stable yet innovative, HCLT relies on core strengths to drive profitable growth

TBR assessment

HCL Technologies’ (HCLT) Mode 1-2-3 strategy remains a core pillar in the company’s efforts to navigate the dynamics of the ever-evolving IT services market, and positions it to transition its portfolio and address client needs now and post-pandemic. At the 2020 Analyst and Advisor Day, HCLT President and CEO C Vijayakumar noted, “The strategy is applicable to any business or enterprise.” Executing successfully on the strategy requires equal commitment from leadership and employees.

HCLT’s leadership is “strong and stable,” according to C Vijayakumar, with 30 top executives with an average of 26 years of experience with HCLT — a striking contrast to some of the company’s peers that have experienced a slew of executive departures and changes at the helm in recent years, such as Wipro’s (NYSE: WIT) May appointment of former Capgemini executive Thierry Delaporte as CEO. As such, HCLT is able to stay the course of its strategy — to utilize engineering and infrastructure services as a core enabler to drive digital transformation engagements and profitable growth — without deviating too far into unchartered domains. Its leadership also acts as a talent magnet, as a charismatic and consistent vision often trumps micromanagement tactics.

Services remains a people business, and HCLT knows it. While the company continues to embed automation to augment services, it relies heavily on its greatest asset, its employees, to extract the most value from its investments. With engineering services at its core, HCLT can execute on what the client wants — provided the client knows what they want — and the company is not shy about challenging its clients as it seeks to not simply solicit new business but to introduce innovative ideas. All of this would not be possible if HCLT did not stay true to its talent strategy.

Just like with its portfolio offerings, HCLT relies on staff with core capabilities. Consulting engineers, not consultants, are what differentiates HCLT from many of its peers, which often lose sight and aspire to be something for which they are not known. Just as talent carries a significant weight in HCLT’s differentiation, the way the company manages its partner network also has an impact on value proposition. As services and software relationships evolve to account for changing buyer expectations, HCLT must remain vigilant in not just how it partners but also with whom it partners. With COVID-19 shifting buyers’ digital transformation priorities and forcing clients to consolidate budgets, maintaining trusted relationships with business leaders will be key, compelling HCLT to forge exclusive relationships with technology-inclined business consultancies to ensure long-term success.

“A simple strategy and relentless focus on execution” fueled HCLT’s ability to accelerate revenue growth while maintaining margin performance over the past two years. During the HCL Analyst and Advisory Day, company executives, along with regional and segment leaders including the CEO, walked through HCLT’s business performance and growth areas, identifying bright spots within industry and service segments that align with the company’s business investments. While HCLT’s areas of investment, such as security, cloud, IoT and digital, do not vary significantly from those of its peers, the company has differentiated itself with its Mode 3-specific investments and leans on its talent and culture, ongoing innovation, and business outcomes achieved for clients to capture new opportunities around these growth areas.

In time of pandemic, IT services focuses on leadership, partnerships and automation

Accelerated automation

Following market leader Accenture (NYSE: ACN), IT services vendors will aggressively adopt automation tools to drive down their own costs, improve remote delivery and retain clients during the global economic downturn. Automation will help ensure standardized delivery, even as engagements, implementation cycles and large-scale integrations change amid more remotely managed IT environments. IT services vendors that have implemented automation at scale internally will most readily serve clients seeking the same.

Splintering acquisition strategies

Global economic conditions will allow some IT services vendors to acquire talent and IP at discounted prices, provided leadership at those vendors maintains control of cash flow and risk assessments. In contrast, those vendors ill-suited for work-from-home and remote delivery or struggling through corporate restructurings will miss the opportunity to soften organic declines with inorganic boosts. While on the surface this might not be significantly different from normal disparities in companies’ acquisition strategies, the current massive disruption will reveal weaknesses around leadership and organizational nimbleness that may see normally aggressive acquirers struggle and typically passive nonbuyers make bold moves. TBR expects M&A moves made within the first half of 2020 will substantially impact which vendors will be best positioned to grow during the expected late 2020/early 2021 recovery.

Every part of the economy, including the IT services market, will suffer serious disruption from the COVID-19 outbreak. While not predicting which of the many possible scenarios will be most likely to play out through 2020, TBR’s Professional Services, IT Services and Digital Transformation team anticipates three overarching themes will dominate, leading to six topics worth watching in detail. In the first theme, leadership at every level will not only reveal which IT services vendors and consultancies were best prepared for a pandemic disruption but also determine which will continue to succeed, relative to peers. Second, alliances between IT services vendors and their technology partners will be stressed by immediate economic pressures, talent constraints, and uncertainty surrounding 2020 and 2021 forecasts. And third, IT services vendors that invested in automation early and at scale will see their ability to standardize delivery and reduce costs become essential to retaining clients and meeting their own financial targets. Automation, already a priority for some, will become a mission-critical capability, and accelerated adoption will separate leaders and laggards.