Vanity Fair ran a terrific article in its recent August issue, entitled "Microsoft’s Lost Decade." The gist of the article is that since 2000, Microsoft, under the guidance of CEO Steve Ballmer, has fallen flat and failed in most new arenas it’s tried to enter: e-books, music, search, social networking, etc. It also highlights that in recent years, Microsoft has been much more of a follower than an innovator. So it should be no surprise then that at our recent Forrester Research sourcing and vendor management Forums, I found that the one vendor that inspired most discussion, disagreements, and polarized opinion amongst the attendees was Microsoft.
Why? The theme of our Forums was "innovation," and this question repeatedly arose: Is Microsoft ready to take back a position as a leading innovator? It certainly dominates the market, and its huge revenues always cause mutterings of discontent (or is it jealousy?) from others in the market, but when it comes down to innovation — and to paraphrase Monty Python — just what has Microsoft ever given us?
Let me give you a straw poll of comments overheard at our recent Forums:
· Various operating systems for the fledgling PC market had been around before IBM handed the golden goose to Microsoft to deliver an operating system for its entry into the PC market place.
· On the desktop, Lotus 123 was the first good spreadsheet and WordPerfect was the first good word processing program. Both were crushed when MS Office came along offering what many at the time thought were inferior products in Excel and Word, but which enjoyed the benefits of being bundled into one integrated suite.
Last Friday, we hosted our first roundtable in Singapore focusing on the IT services industry in Asia. The goal of these quarterly events is to create a community of services leaders who can network and exchange ideas on the growth opportunities and challenges in the region.
Senior leaders from 14 large services vendors gathered this morning to discuss how a perfect storm of technologies (including cloud, social, big data, and mobility) is transforming the way clients engage with service providers in Asia. Forrester analysts John McCarthy, Frederic Giron, and Dane Anderson brainstormed with business leaders from services vendors including Atos, BT, HCL, HP, and IBM around the four factors that are reshaping the IT services industry (see Figure 1):
The restructuring of the Asian economy. The economic uncertainty has now spread to emerging markets, and economic growth is expected to slow down significantly in India and China this year. Forrester has revised its IT services spending forecasts downward by two to four percentage points in these countries for 2012 and 2013. Participants corroborated this downgrade and mentioned they were seeing the process of making decisions on large transformation projects getting longer, especially in the manufacturing industry.
On August 10, rival IT outsourcers hiSoft and VanceInfo announced their intention to merge. The resulting entity will comprise a much bigger organization, with more than 20,000 employees mainly located in China, making it one of the largest IT services vendors in the country. In another recent example of market consolidation, BeyondSoft announced on August 18 that it would acquire six Chinese and Japanese subsidiaries of Achievo, a US-based offshore IT services provider.
Over the next 18 months, we believe that IT services vendors in China will face increasing price and margin pressure driven by rapidly increasing local labor costs. The days of relying on low labor costs to drive business in the US, Europe, and Japan are numbered. Chinese IT services vendors are being forced to evolve from a cost-based to a business value-based approach. As a result, we expect the Chinese IT services market to consolidate over the next 18 to 24 months as vendors seek ways to improve their organizational and operational maturity.
The challenges hiSoft and VanceInfo will face after the merger are indicative of broader market pressures, including:
An increased capacity to better compete in large deals. As separate entities, hiSoft and VanceInfo both faced significant challenges when bidding on large-scale outsourcing projects with a total contract value of more than $50 million. With this merger, we expect the newly formed organization to gain better access to these deals as they become more visible to MNCs. However, the new company will still be small by Indian offshore standards.
In November 2011, Atos and Yonyou (formerly Ufida) announced the creation of a joint venture dubbed Yunano™ aimed at the European SMB market. The two companies are at it again, this time focusing specifically on the Chinese domestic market. I recently met with Herbie Leung, CEO of Atos in Asia Pacific, to discuss the partnership and future market opportunities in China. This new agreement essentially covers three areas of collaboration:
Bringing PLM and MES expertise to Yonyou customers. With more than 1.5 million customers, Yonyou is one of the largest software providers in China with strengths in ERP and CRM solutions. However, the company lacks capabilities in adjacent areas like product lifecycle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution systems (MES). Following the SIS acquisition, Atos has significantly strengthened its capabilities in these domains and will offer them to Yonyou clients.
Helping Yonyou’s customers migrate to private cloud architectures. The lack of private cloud technical skills in China led Yonyou to leverage Atos’s expertise to develop private cloud assessment workshops and ERP migration services targeting the China market. Atos will in turn leverage Canopy, a company it recently created in partnership with EMC and VMware to provide cloud solutions to its clients globally.
Helping Yonyou expand into new markets in Asia. Like many Chinese companies, Yonyou has global aspirations.While theYunano joint venture focuses on bringing Yonyou’s ERP solutions to the mid-market in EMEA, the new partnership will leverage Atos go-to-market capabilities to take the Yonyou solutions to other markets in Asia.
SAP is advertising for a new Director Of Pricing & Licensing. The job description states “The Strategic Pricing Director is a key member of SAP’s Revenue Strategy and Pricing Group. Pricing is a critical component of SAP’s overall strategy and go-to-market activities.” Duties include:
· Develop and implement pricing strategies based on economic and competitive dynamics.
· Price products and services appropriately based on the value customers receive.
· Define and drive pricing strategy for new and/or existing solutions.
IMO, SAP does many things very well in the pricing and licensing domain. I cite it to other publishers as an exemplar of best practices in a couple of areas, such as its pricing by user category, use of business metrics for parts of the suite that deliver value independent of manual use, and tying maintenance volume discounts to conditions such as centers of excellence that filter out users’ basic support calls. However, SAP does have room for improvement, in terms of Forrester’s five qualities of good software pricing, namely that it should be value-based, simple, fair, future-proof, and published.
Considering those goals, and as an advocate for software buyers, here are some things that I’d like SAP to add to the job description:
During a recent global analyst event in Paris, Capgemini presented its strategy to a panel of market and financial analysts. It hinges on two main objectives: improving the resilience of the organization in an uncertain economic environment — especially in Europe — and finding new levers for margin improvements.
From an operations point of view, Capgemini intends to continue leveraging the usual suspects: industrialization, cost cutting, and accelerating the development of its offshore talent pool. It also aiming to optimize its human resource pool via a pyramid management program aimed at, among other things, allocating the right experience level to the right type of work.
More interestingly, the company showcased some of the global offerings it has put together or refined over the past 12 months. Capgemini’s strategic intent is to develop offerings addressing three major client-relevant themes – customer experience, operational processes, and new business models. The offerings will be enabled by a combination of cloud, mobile, analytics, and social technologies. Among the set of offerings managed globally, I found the following of particular interest due to their emerging nature and Capgemini’s interesting approach to developing them:
Services budgets represent 10% of annual IT operating and capital budgets[i], but Forrester sees considerable evidence that the influence of these IT Services vendors is proportionally higher — and growing dramatically. While there are several reasons for the rising importance of your services partners, at the most fundamental level Forrester sees that:
Business professionals need immediate access to tech-enabled innovation. Most strategic business initiatives now have an underlying technology component. Service providers come to the table with the tech savvy, vertical market expertise, and best practices to make these initiatives work.
IT professionals can’t keep pace with business demand. The volume and complexity of technology demands from business professionals means that traditional IT organizations have difficulty keeping pace. They too need to work with the best mix of IT service providers to meet the demands of their business. Effective supplier management is quickly becoming the most essential skill in IT organizations.
Microsoft is gradually improving the way it allows for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and other scenarios in which many employees use Microsoft on multiple devices. We’re getting growing numbers of questions from Forrester clients about this topic, and while Microsoft is making its approach fairer in some areas, it's also making it more complicated. One problem is that different Microsoft product teams continue to invent new ways to handle BYOD that are OK for their product but are inconsistent with how other product teams handle the same situation. Sourcing professionals need to understand all the different rules, so that they can work with IT colleagues to create a BYOD strategy that balances technical requirements and licensing cost, to take advantage of the available flexibility while avoiding the potential pitfalls. For example, Microsoft has announced cheaper, better BYOD support for the Windows client OS, but you might face significant extra costs for Microsoft Office if you enable it for BYOD unless you take care to avoid them.
Of course the fundamental problem is that per-device licensing is an obsolete model, so Microsoft should really enable BYOD by allowing per-user licensing, at least for Enterprise Agreements. However, since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, sourcing professionals need to be able to navigate the per-device rules. Here’s as simple an overview as I can create:
Corporate customers of cloud services are not having much fun when negotiating with emerging cloud suppliers.
Forrester clients seeking support for their longstanding contractual preferences ranging from access to supplier data centers for due diligence to more robust terms for liability and mutual indemnity, just to name a few examples, are facing frustration when cloud suppliers refuse to accommodate them. While cloud suppliers themselves are mindful of their need to be more flexible for large enterprise customers in theory, actual concessions are few and far between, and in some cases customers either grin and bear it or walk away.
Is it only a matter of time before cloud suppliers accommodate the same kinds of concessions and flexibility routinely accommodated by traditional outsourcing firms? Not necessarily. It is tempting to think that increased flexibility on the part of cloud providers will inevitably grow as a consequence of greater maturity; the reality is more complex. The very outsourcing suppliers that have routinely accepted these requests are becoming less anxious to take additional risk in client engagements, especially while cloud suppliers are allowed to skate around potentially thorny issues like liability. Yes, the outsourcing suppliers are willing to provide an indirect contracting model for cloud services while taking on additional service delivery risk in many cases, but there are limits to their forbearance.
I recently finalized a report* on software asset (SA) based IT services, this time looking at vendors’ best practices in terms of governance, organization, skills, tools, and processes. Needless to say, the move to software asset-based services will have a huge impact on the traditional operating models of IT services firms.
Obviously, IT services firms need to learn from their large software partners to understand and implement specific software asset management processes such as product sales incentive schemes, product management, product engineering, and release management.
This will induce a formidable cultural change within the IT services vendor’s organization, somewhat similar to the change Western IT service providers had to undergo 10 years ago when they finally embraced offshore delivery models.
I see a few critical steps that IT services firms need to take in order to facilitate this shift towards software asset-based business models:
Build a client-relevant SA strategy. Building an SA base offering is not (only) about doing an inventory of the existing intellectual property (IP) that you have on employee hard drives and team servers. More importantly, it’s about making sense of this IP and building strategic offerings that are relevant to your clients by centering them aounrd your clients’ most critical business challenges.