HCLT’s groundbreaking apprenticeship initiative: Long-term vision, near-term effects

In the battle for talent, prepare for the long war

Recruit, retain and train. Every IT services vendor over the past couple of years has been pulling every lever to find, manage and reward talent in a chaotic market in which new competitors and newly empowered professionals have spiked attrition across the board and strained HR staffs as never seen before. The pandemic brought about a new appreciation for employee well-being while proving virtual engagements and delivery could work for IT services vendors. As 2022 starts, filling talent gaps in the near term will continue to challenge every vendor. Notably, HCL Technologies (HCLT) has begun investing in the long term with a program that is perhaps unique among IT services vendors and certainly, in TBR’s view, timely, a little risky and genuinely good for society. 

On Dec. 9, TBR spoke with Ramachandran Sundararajan, HCLT’s EVP of Human Resources at HCL America, and Rohan Varghese, HCLT’s VP and global head of Analyst Relations and Customer Advisory Board, both of whom provided details on the new apprenticeship program. The following reflects that discussion and TBR’s ongoing analysis of HCLT.

Flexibility, STEM and a 5-year apprentice journey  

With the company’s new apprenticeship program, announced in November, HCLT has crafted an expansive, flexible, multiyear journey for students intent on joining the IT services and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) ecosystem. The core program begins with a year spent at HCLT as a salaried employee, including a three-month “boot camp” that introduces apprentices to various aspects of HCLT’s IT services, consulting and technology businesses. The second phase focuses on practice-based learning. Sundararajan emphasized the “practice” part, noting that apprentices would have exposure to and gain experience working across many of HCLT’s core areas, such as SaaS, cloud, security and networking services. Over the final three months of the first year, apprentices join a live project environment, supporting and providing help at an appropriate proficiency level and putting to use skills learned from working in sandbox environments.

When apprentices graduate from this last phase, they become eligible for an HCLT-funded college program and can fully appreciate the flexibility that HCLT offers. Graduated apprentices can enroll in a four-year STEM program at any university, with HCLT picking up the tuition and fees and keeping the student on the company’s payroll. Apprentices can also choose an associate degree track to move more quickly to full-time employment. Or apprentices can opt for industry-recognized certifications, moving even more rapidly into the full-time workforce. In all three journeys, HCLT pays the academic costs, allowing the apprentices to earn a degree without any student debt.

Looking beyond the usual boundaries while staying aligned to HCLT’s core

Notably, HCLT has designed the apprenticeship program to seek candidates both geographically and economically diverse from the standard STEM talent pool. HCLT wants to attract students with fewer financial advantages than the average college student and will be recruiting most heavily in cities away from the technology hubs of Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and Boston. Sundararajan said HCLT will work with community groups in Cary, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; and Sacramento, Calif., among other cities, although HCLT would welcome apprentices from any part of the U.S. In addition to throwing the net wide in terms of who and from where, Sundararajan said the goals of the program centered on building skills for the future, recognizing that the technical skills, who has them, and where they live will have lasting effects across their communities.

HCLT builds its IoT practice on experience, expertise and IP

TBR perspective

While HCL Technologies (HCLT) initially used its intellectual property (IP) to create complete solutions for its customers, it is now making available other third-party solution packages, white-labelled components and solutions for end customers, other systems integrators, and value-added resellers. The company’s partnerships with PTC and edge hardware vendors Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) facilitate the delivery of integrated software and hardware solutions for engineering- and manufacturing-centric OEMs. These edge-to-cloud solutions integrate IT and operational technology (OT) data sources and are highly scalable; HCLT’s representatives estimated that they are now approximately 50% to 60% preconfigured and can be rolled out to multiple plants and locations in a pre-built factory model. Irrespective of HCLT’s decisions regarding routes to market, the company continues to create reusable IoT building blocks.

Reuse is at the heart of IoT maturity

The continual development of reusable solutions and components has always been the key to growth of information technology. In the wave of interest in IoT, starting about five years ago, the relative lack of reusable solutions and components demonstrated the immaturity of this segment. While growth has been substantial, it has not been explosive, similarly reflecting this immaturity. Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) estimates the current size of the IT portion of IoT at $565 billion, growing at a slightly accelerating 24.6% annual rate, and we do not anticipate growth to slow for at least five years. One driver of this acceleration is the accumulation of experience, expertise and intellectual property by vendors and customers.

Leveraging common technology and business processes across vertical divisions

Some of HCLT’s solutions, outlined here, require integration typically performed by HCLT:

  • Manufacturing: Remote Services Management, Inventory Management, Predictive Operations Monitoring, and Real-time Manufacturing Insights
  • Healthcare: Remote Patient Monitoring, Smart Clinical Trial, Medical Devices – Remote Monitoring and Servicing
  • Travel, Transportation, Logistics: Remote Asset Monitoring, Warehouse Automation, Building Automation
  • Energy and Utilities: Remote Asset Monitoring and Predictive Operations, Intelligent Linear Asset Monitoring, Active Grid Management, ADMS and AMI Testing, Distributed Grid Operations – Resilience at the Edge
  • Retail: Real-time In-store Insights, Warehouse Optimization, Cold-Chain Logistics, Supply Chain Insights

There is overlap of solutions across verticals, which reflects overlap in both business processes and relevant technologies. In keeping with IoTWorks’ orientation toward reuse, common pieces of solutions are joined to additional components to create new solutions. In the case of Real-time In-store Insights, HCLT added radar-based customer tracking hardware to keep track of customers with lower data-related costs, while improving customer privacy. HCLT Engineering designed the radar modules. An RFID-based asset tracker for end-user devices was adapted to help make sure airplanes have the full tool kit accounted for before takeoff. A similar solution applies to surgical kit tracking and compliance monitoring in hospitals.

HCL Technologies’ onshore centers provide entry points for larger-scale upselling opportunities tied to cloud, AI and cybersecurity

Vendors are strengthening offshore and low-cost talent, particularly in India, to offset investment costs related to infusing digital into their portfolios as well as to supplement delivery and innovation efforts. For example, Atos opened a delivery center in the city of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, India, that is expected to house 2,300 software engineers, and Capgemini opened two Digital Academies in India. As HCL Technologies (HCLT) has an established network of delivery and production facilities in India, the company has invested in developing its presence in EMEA and APAC during 2019.

In October HCLT announced the opening of an innovation center in Paris to support its emerging technology offerings and increase interactions between local clients and data scientists and engineers. The company also opened an innovation center in Hamilton, New Zealand, focused on blockchain, cybersecurity, cloud and AI services.

Earlier in the year, HCLT opened a digital transformation center in The Hague, Netherlands (February), and established a Google Cloud Platform Center of Excellence within its existing Cloud Native Labs in London (April) to bring skilled experts to the region and help increase adoption of the company’s Mode 2 services and solutions, particularly cloud- and digital-based services.

All of HCLT’s centers help the company strengthen its global brand, increase its proximity to clients and enhance its relationships, leading to upselling opportunities. HCLT brings cloud, cybersecurity and AI offerings to clients in a collaborative and innovative environment that enables the company to drive business value for clients and provide long-term revenue streams. However, as European vendors such as Capgemini and Atos hold market presence in the region, HCLT could face challenges in expanding its addressable market, forcing the company to focus to look for additional selling opportunities within its existing client base.

Note: More detail can be found in TBR’S 2Q19 IT Services Vendor Benchmark.

According to TBR’s 2Q19 IT Services Vendor Benchmark, total headcount growth for the 29 vendors tracked in the benchmark continues to expand, with low-cost headcount accelerating ahead of onshore and total headcount to support offshore delivery and innovation efforts. Onshore headcount is also increasing as vendors use their emerging technology portfolios to expand client bases.

India-centric professional services rivals compete to prove themselves as front-runner in European market

Vendors look to Europe for new revenue pipelines, but some are falling short

India-centric IT services vendors are looking to do more in Europe, utilizing a few different strategies to get there, including pursuing acquisitions, developing new offerings and building on-the-ground workforces. This allows them to diversify revenue streams geographically. TBR feels this push into Europe is a crucial move for India-centric vendors, to not only remain competitive with each other and advance their bottom lines but also to reap the benefits that the European market has to offer, such as new investment opportunities and a larger talent pool for recruiting.

Vendors look to Europe for new revenue pipelines, but some are falling short

The five leading India-centric professional services vendors — Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH), HCL Technologies (HCLT), Infosys (NYSE: INFY), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro (NYSE: WIT) — explored new pipelines for expanding their presence into the mature and growing European market. Infosys worked to close the gap on HCLT in 1Q19, while TCS, Wipro IT Services (Wipro ITS) and Cognizant are feeling the pressure to conform to stay competitive.

HCLT improves position in DMS with portfolio investments, but must leverage its niche expertise to capitalize

Digital marketing services provide HCLT with an entry point for transformation opportunities

As clients look to transform CX and pursue omnichannel projects using technology solutions, the DMS space provides growth opportunities for vendors that can generate engagements by bridging together CX offerings with digital platforms to drive clients’ marketing campaigns. Bringing data to the center of the engagement, collected from sources throughout clients’ organizations and combined with analytics, will lead to future initiatives for both the client and vendor.

While HCLT has traditionally avoided large-scale investments around its DMS portfolio, the company has recognized demand for services and growth opportunities within the DMS space, which we believe guided the company’s March 2019 launch of a digital marketing platform, HCL ADvantage Experience. Based in Adobe Experience Cloud, the platform works with multiple marketing sources to collect and store customer data that supports clients’ user experience and enables HCLT to quickly scale clients’ marketing campaigns, including compatibility with legacy systems, through improved user integration on a DevOps framework. The platform will support HCLT’s position to capture application services opportunities, but the company will face pressure from other vendors that have developed similar platforms, limiting its ability to differentiate and compete for growth opportunities outside of existing clients.

Where HCLT’s partnership with Adobe does not necessarily provide an enhanced position for a vertical play, integrating HCLT’s engineering and R&D services capabilities and legacy data from its manufacturing and automotive expertise would enable HCLT to leverage a vertical strategy and better connect with vertical industry clients as well as begin to create separation from competitors.

Additionally, HCLT used its April 2019 acquisition of Strong-Bridge Envision, a U.S.-based digital consultancy, to expand the strength of its Mode 2 services and solutions to support business outcomes for clients through data insights. Strong-Bridge Envision joined HCLT’s Digital & Analytics portfolio, which bolsters HCLT’s position within the DMS space in the U.S. and supplements existing offerings, allowing HCLT to pursue consulting-led engagements with more specialized expertise on digital strategy, business transformation, CX and organizational change management. We expect HCLT will look to expand wallet share and mindshare from existing clients as well as generate consulting-led opportunities, but may face challenges in gaining permission around C-Suite-level conversations. Focusing on its mature verticals, such as financial services, technology and services, and manufacturing, which collectively contributed 57.3% of total revenue for HCLT in 1Q19, may be an easier path for the company to follow as it holds stronger client relationships and market share. While HCLT is able to pursue opportunities within other verticals, we believe financial services, technology and services, and manufacturing serve as a starting point from which HCLT can begin to build its brand around DMS and DT-related consulting before expanding into other areas.

HCL Technologies’ reinforces technical and engineering roots with the addition of IBM Software products

HCLT’s acquisition provides entry into emerging areas

Building off its long-standing partnership with IBM, on Dec. 6 HCL Technologies (HCLT) announced the acquisition of seven IBM Software products for $1.8 billion. The acquisition, which is expected to close in February 2019, includes IBM’s AppScan, BigFix, Notes/Domino, Connections, Digital Experience (DX), Unica and Commerce as well as 10,000-plus existing clients. Each product falls into one of three focus areas: security (AppScan, BigFix); multichannel e-commerce (Commerce, Unica, DX); and collaboration (Notes/Domino, Connections). While these offerings directly tie to HCLT’s Mode 3 products and platforms, they mostly complement Mode 1 and Mode 2 services and solutions, creating the opportunity for HCLT to upsell and cross-sell new services as Mode 2 includes the company’s emerging technology portfolio offerings (i.e., Digital & Analytics, IoT WoRKS, Cloud Native Services, and Cybersecurity & Governance, Risk and Compliance [GRC]).

In August 2017 HCLT and IBM announced an expansion of their partnership, creating five IP products around automation and DevOps solutions, supported by HCLT’s $780 million investment. The partnership intended to shift HCLT’s infrastructure into emerging areas while maintaining growth. The five products developed through this extension of the partnership were included among the seven announced in the planned acquisition. HCLT’s engineering team supported the original product development and will now support the integration of the acquired assets into the HCLT portfolio as well as the development of additional emerging technologies.

Compare to peers

HCLT acquires peers that enhance and build out its core capabilities around emerging technologies. For example, HCLT acquired H&D International Group (June 2018); Butler America Aerospace LLC (January 2017); and Geometric Limited (April 2016) to improve its engineering and R&D skills. HCLT further expanded its business process services offerings and systems integration capabilities by purchasing C3i Solutions (March 2018) and Alpha Insights (September 2017); and Urban Fulfillment Services LLC (April 2017). The acquisitions also support HCLT’s shift from legacy technologies. HCLT’s planned acquisition of the product sets from IBM will elevate the security, commerce and collaboration expertise in HCLT’s portfolio. Peers such as Cognizant, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro have also been executing an active M&A strategy in areas such as digital design to support transformation engagements (e.g., Wipro’s acquisition of Syfte and TCS’ acquisition of W12). Additionally, Cognizant purchased Advanced Technology Group (ATG) and SaaSfocus to add Salesforce advisory and integration services.

What does this mean for HCLT?

Short term

Pending the acquisition’s close, HCLT integrates the solutions within its Mode 3 products and platforms business and onboards new clients. Following the addition of IBM’s salesforce around these products through the acquisition, HCLT will benefit from a more seamless transition for clients currently under the IBM brand as it gains the specialists and salesforce maintaining the client relations as well as a quicker sales turnaround. Further, HCLT will focus on pursuing new client relationships using Unica, AppScan, Commerce and Big Fix to create additional revenue streams from the products formerly under the IBM umbrella. However, HCLT will seek to cross-sell the application capabilities of Domino/Notes to its existing client base.

Long term

HCLT plans to enhance Mode 1 and Mode 2 services and solutions using the acquired products by adding its security, commerce and digital marketing expertise. The products will enable HCLT to leverage a SaaS delivery model for its infrastructure management engagements, supporting the company’s shift into higher-profit software-driven services. HCLT will also improve its position within a variety of vertical markets as the products will bring existing product users, building its expertise around environment management. While the products will add SaaS capabilities, HCLT could benefit from pursuing a strategic partnership with a consulting vendor, such as PwC, or further expanding its relationship with IBM to access consulting services. The addition of services would improve HCLT’s ability to integrate the acquired products within its existing client relationships and transition clients into a different delivery model. This would allow HCLT to increase its client-facing expertise, enabling the company to work more closely with clients and coinnovate within transformation engagements. The additional client base creates the opportunity for HCLT to increase the volume of transactions and accelerate revenue growth, but HCLT will need to quickly onboard new clients and effectively communicate new offerings to transition engagements with existing clients and capitalize on the additional products and market.

Services Weekly Preview: Nov. 11-16, 2018

As we build toward the middle of the quarter, we’re wrapping up our periodic assessments of IT services vendors. Like last week, we also have some semiannual analysis on vendors in the management consulting space.


  • KPMG’s risk-averse culture pressured its performance, causing the firm to drop a spot in terms of revenue size among peers in the latest assessment of the management consulting practice. A potential KPMG and Bain marriage, however, could be a way for the firm to catch up with rivals and disrupt the management consulting space.
  • Continued expansion of its onshore presence, including the recent build-out of its co-innovation center in London, improves HCLT’s value proposition by enabling it to work alongside its clients to create larger-scale transformation engagements. However, HCLT faces some challenges in recruiting talent to support new centers, spurring the implementation of employee development programs.

Tuesday: Although Atos will grow revenues at a slower rate in 2018, the expansion of the company’s Digital Transformation Factory portfolio and recently announced acquisition of SIX Payment Services, which is expected to close in 4Q18, will enable the company to accelerate revenue growth in 2019. TBR’s 3Q18 Atos report analyzes the implications from Atos’ ongoing activities, such as the Syntel acquisition and investments artificial intelligence (AI) and security solutions and capabilities.


  • Senior Analyst Jen Hamel examines EY’s strategy to provide clients with technological enablement of business transformation in her profile on the firm for our Fall 2018 Management Consulting Benchmark. One key takeaway: Increasing its investment in technology-enabled services, including those involving blockchain and AI, by $1 billion over the next two years will improve EY’s competitiveness with solutions-led peers IBM and Accenture.
  • We continue looking for signs Wipro will see improved performance, as its India-centric peers have, to align with its digital transformation strategy and expanded portfolio and capabilities. In this latest assessment, we’re still searching.
  • Capgemini has made changes to its portfolio, organizational structure and sales model to address rising demand from clients’ business side, rather than their technology side. In TBR’s 3Q18 Capgemini report, we will dive deeper into topics such as AI, digital marketing, and Capgemini Invent, the new global business line Capgemini launched in September.
  • In TBR’s 3Q18 Perspecta Initial Response, we will provide an overview of Perspecta’s second quarter as an independent company. Made up of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s former U.S. Public Sector business, Vencore and KeyPoint Government Solutions, Perspecta faces some challenging financial and resource-related issues as it works to find its footing as a stand-alone company.  


  • TBR’s 3Q18 Raytheon Intelligence, Information & Services (IIS) full report explores how the emerging geopolitical power struggle in space and cyberspace plays to Raytheon’s strengths in cyber hardening, computer network operations, advanced analytics and AI. The report examines how IIS was able to outgrow federal IT services competitors in 3Q18 and how its deep mission knowledge in the U.S. provides a strong foundation as it pursues riskier adjacent market opportunities in volatile markets such as the Middle East.
  • TBR’s 3Q18 Leidos full report examines the company’s first quarter of year-to-year organic revenue growth since it acquired Lockheed Martin’s IT services business in 2016. The report explains Leidos’ positioning across defense, health and civilian markets and how the company is adjusting to disruption amid the federal market’s shift from bespoke proprietary technology development to configurable commercial-off-the-shelf IT solutions.
  • In our 3Q18 results on Wednesday, TBR expects Cisco Services to continue to accelerate revenue growth during the rest of 2018 and in 2019, positively affected by Cisco’s ongoing portfolio investments in and acquisitions around next-generation and software-driven solutions that generate professional services opportunities. TBR expects Cisco’s recent acquisitions and partnerships in cloud, security and networking to generate increased professional and technical support services for Cisco Services during the coming quarters.


  • The previous edition of TBR’s Management Consulting Benchmark Profile: PwC described the firm’s efforts to make its Business, Experience, Technology (BXT) framework a companywide endeavor. Six months later, we’ve seen signs the firm’s ambitions around BXT have evolved from aspirational to operational, with global examples of the framework becoming an on-the-ground reality in working with clients.
  • Partners enable Fujitsu to enhance its core services with cloud, software and digital capabilities, helping to ease clients’ transition into emerging areas while offsetting declines from traditional services. However, without expanding its client base outside of Japan, Fujitsu could face challenges in maintaining revenue growth.

HCL Technologies (HCLT): IoT NXT Summit

Working with leading technology vendors to develop emerging technology offerings in areas such as Internet of Things (IoT) challenges HCL Technologies (HCLT) to differentiate from peers. However, leveraging its deep engineering expertise integrated with vertical capabilities enables HCLT to be more competitive, driving business transformation for new and existing clients with IoT-based services solutions.

TBR perspective

HCLT’s IoT WoRKS business unit benefits from demand for IoT, primarily among existing customers. The company has some advantages in the IoT business and will continue to expand its IoT practice as it generates IP that will prove useful as IoT becomes an increasingly important part of both build and run services.

HCLT has a long history in electronics and mechanical engineering and continues to provide engineering and R&D services beyond the usual scope of IT-oriented companies. TBR has written extensively about HCLT’s engineering heritage and offerings, noting the company’s engineering and R&D expertise serves as a key differentiator within the broader IT services space. Our white paper HCLT’s Intelligent Sustenance Engineering Service Line Unit delivers data insights to extend the product life cycle discusses the impact of engineering and R&D expertise on the value of HCLT’s data analytics services through differentiation. HCLT’s history and continued use of engineering and R&D help the company navigate customers’ operations technology (OT) areas in both technical and cultural engagements, a necessity in IoT. Nevertheless, in IoT, the company engages primarily with customers’ IT organizations, and HCLT’s advantage in the IoT space enables it to efficiently implement IoT-driven solutions using more complex OT factors. However, as OT is far more diverse than IT, one type of OT expertise does not imply knowledge of another. Although HCLT’s established engineering experiences, combined with its IT services for IoT environments, provide an advantage for the company, adding OT skills would bridge any gaps within OT areas and create a simple but strong advantage. TBR believes that OT organizations will continue to initiate IoT solutions, but will evolve to integrate IT-based practices focused on security, scalability and manageability.


On Aug. 22, 2018, TBR attended HCLT’s IoT NXT Summit at the company’s recently opened IoT COLLAB innovation center in Redmond, Wash. The center is located on the same property as HCLT’s Lab 21, which was opened in collaboration with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) around artificial intelligence (AI) and Cortana Analytics in the Azure Cloud. The analyst event centered on HCLT’s 3-year-old IoT WoRKS business unit and featured demonstrations of HCLT’s IoT solutions and how the company works with its partners to develop IoT portfolio offerings as well as extensive discussions with HCLT’s IoT WoRKS industry leads. During the event, HCLT emphasized its focus on existing assets, enhanced by partners and vertical expertise, which, combined with growing demand for cloud-based infrastructure services, enables HCLT to transform clients’ business operations with IoT solutions, providing scale and speed at the edge.

Cognizant, DXC, HCLT prepared to implement SCM systems for healthcare providers

In the current healthcare provider landscape, maintaining operational efficiency has proved to be costly and challenging. A patient’s information about products prescribed, drugs administered and services provided will flow through the hands of multiple stakeholders. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies, hospitals, healthcare staff and the patient must somehow communicate information with each other to maintain accurate records and deliver appropriate care. Healthcare providers must seek new technologies to not only cut costs but also change the way they deliver their services.