Evolving Retail is Digitally Transforming to Cater to the Individual Shopper

There is no mistaking the fact that technology is changing everything from the work environment to the way we vacuum our floors. The shopping experience is also being affected by this ever-increasing phenomenon. While visiting a physical store for everyday needs is still commonplace, more and more we are familiar and comfortable with online shopping via computers and mobile devices. Not only is it a matter of increased purchasing channels and convenience, but we are also more likely to get exactly what we want when we want it. The driving forces behind these changes are advanced technologies and connectivity both playing pivotal roles in changing the shopping environment and experience. Such advanced technologies are not only the luxuries for giant retail chains, but affordable solutions are also increasingly available for small and medium retailers (SMRs).

Omni-Channel Commerce

By definition, “Omni-” stands for in all ways or places without limits. Not just physical stores and e-commerce, but all possible ways of shopping including via mobile devices and marketplaces. As a shopper, I often have trouble finding what I want in physical stores. Almost always my size and favorite color are out of stock or sold out, and my must-haves often become close outs and no longer available. I was either extremely lucky or it was a miracle to find exactly what I wanted. However, now because I am becoming more of an online shopper, I am now increasingly lucky, and I am experiencing such miracles daily. What I was told was “no longer available” in the neighborhood stores can be easily found on online stores or marketplaces and directly shipped to my home without significant delay or high extra shipping cost.

What makes such “miracles” happen is digitally connected supplier networks and centralized inventory management systems in the cloud. In a legacy retail system, warehouses and inventories are separately allocated for physical and online stores. Therefore, physical stores don’t know what their online store has in stock, and vise-versa. Resulting in customers’ bad luck – more likely experiencing an “out-of-stock” situation when they visit one store. Centralized real-time inventory management enables store staff to be able to check inventory and location, so that they can directly ship the merchandise from the closest possible location. This could be from another store in a different location or a central warehouse. It’s also true that an online shopper will receive the desired product from nearest possible physical store carrying the item.

Such systems may sound relevant only for large retail chains that have multiple stores and online outlets. In reality, the rising popularity of participating marketplaces by SMRs has boosted multi-channel commerce across all sizes of firms. Omni-channel inventory management surely benefits even small retailers. A variety of software products designed for SMRs are available for affordable SaaS pricing include Lightspeed, Vend, Veeqo and Clearly Inventory to name a few.

Marketing Strategy – Shift to Individual

The other tangible digital transformation area is marketing. Thousands of startups are now offering marketing tools and apps in various approaches to improve the customer experience. The universe is clearly in an experimental phase – technology vendors and product brands are testing what approaches are effective where and for whom. The ultimate goal for retailers is to sell the right merchandise to the right customer at the right time.

This means strategy is shifting from a product-based marketing campaign to an individual customer’s need/want base. There are roughly 3 types of marketing techniques: macro-marketing, micro-marketing and individual marketing. Macro-marketing is the technique mainly used for branding – improving brand/product awareness and public image. Actual sales boosting is through micro- and individual-marketing. Traditionally, product brands and retailers create a campaign to sell a specific product. Therefore, they analyze and profile customers who are most likely to buy the product and select the most effective methods to reach them. Targets were a group of people who share similar characteristics. But now the strategy is shifting to how to satisfy a customer on an individual basis.

I myself have experienced “individual marketing.” I recently remodeled my 30-year-old kitchen. Looking at the updated kitchen, I felt like getting new dining chairs that fit a modern open kitchen design. I started to explore dining chairs by browsing some online stores to check availability. Soon, I started receiving emails everyday notifying me of “dining chair sales.” Did I looked for dining chairs at the right time when several home furnishing stores were offering discount prices? Clearly that was not the case. Those stores tracked my website browsing history and found out that I was looking for dining chairs. Catching my demand, they created “personal sales” for me.

What made a “personal sales” approach possible are behavioral analytic tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. The tools catch and analyze individual behavior on ecommerce sites – from keyword searches, visiting the website and clicking product pages until the visitor leaves the website. Realtime analytic tools can empower chatbots to provide the site visitor with information he/she is looking for using friendly natural language.

From the shoppers’ point of view, it sounds good as it cuts down research time but it is not perfect yet. “The personal dining chair sales” was a good try but I didn’t purchase anything. Their apps were able to understand my personal demand (wanting dining chairs,) but didn’t know what dining chairs – my selection criteria and preferred taste. The discount price was a powerful push but didn’t convince me to take a limited time discount offering at the expense of my idea for new dining room coordination. Personal preference and taste are probably the most difficult and tricky areas in purchase behavior analysis – ideas inspired by a massive influx of information from social media, even mood and weather impact final decisions.

Also, how hard to push is a factor that needs to be considered. Too often multiple pushes impact negatively, but too little doesn’t work either. Yet, overtime along with accumulating data, AI and ML will learn even whimsical personal tastes and act like a personal shopping assistance to strengthen the customer engagement. Retailers, regardless of size, will soon have no choice but to adopt such solutions to keep competitive.

The digital marketing space is now extremely crowded. Theoretically, the market will eventually select winners. At this point, it’s extremely difficult to predict just who those winners will be. What is quite clear is the retail industry is shifting to an individual marketing approach to improve the overall customer engagement.

~ Yuki Uehara, Senior Director

Who Will Win the Golden Boot in the Cloud Wars?

The ongoing 2018 FIFA games being held in Russia have already given the world the first set of surprises – Germany losing to Mexico, Argentina and Brazil drawing their respective games to relative underdogs, and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi—five times voted the world’s best player— misses a penalty!! Unpredictability in the leader quadrant and the ability of the smaller players to rise to the occasion have made an early impact on the World Cup and similar trends have been seen in the ever-present Cloud War.

AWS’s capability to offer innovative, scalable and dynamic cloud infrastructure has made it the most successful provider in this space. My first impression from the AWS Analyst Summit in Mumbai was that of a giant with one of the most extensive partner networks. AWS is financially strong, has an evolving service portfolio and is working closely with Fortune 500 companies to co-innovate. While AWS is garnering a growing base of happy clients, they have been faced with perceptual challenges in client services, response time to issues and price has turned many of their loyal to its nearest competition, Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft is gaining ground quickly under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella and a “cloud first” initiative. They are building their own huge global cloud network and their reputation for delivering business-aligned productivity solutions (WW SMB spending on services like Office 365 are expected to grow at a CAGR of 25% to $40 Billion by 2022), is increasing their cloud user base. At a recent event, Microsoft took pride in taking us through their “Garage” in Hyderabad, which is their hub for open innovation. While competing with AWS, Azure continues to enjoy a reputation for superior service quality, a robust productivity suite, a stronger-by-the-day partner network, and a solid cash flow. However, they seem to be battling a perception war on innovation. A stronger PR initiative and thought leadership is the key to overcoming these obstacles.

Internet giant Google has been busy expanding its public cloud services under the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Google’s initial reluctance to commit adequate resources to the cloud compounded its struggle to rival competitors. A transformation was needed and boy what a transformation it has been. What I noticed at the 2018 GCP Summit in Mumbai, was an increased investment by GCP in data-centers, robust global networks and an increased focus on security. However, GCP must strive harder to sharpen its B2B strategies and build a robust partner network/strategy, targeting MSPs, CPs, SIs and ISVs, to compete with Azure and AWS in India and the ASEAN region.

For quite some time, IBM roundtables and strategy summits have been focused on Watson, intelligent cloud, servers, and systems. However, IBM’s substantial existence in all aspects of the IT services space limits its appeal to other players seeking cloud partnerships. Moreover, when separating cloud on its own merit, their vision is somewhat misty, which continues to cast a doubt whether the firm is really a true contender in the cloud war.

While AWS can be compared to the “German Football team” – a well-oiled, ruthless, fighting machine which will steamroll anything it’s path; GCP is the quite come from behind team. GCP is more relaxed, confident, intelligent and a competent giant which is preparing itself to face the storm. What stood out to me at these summits, was Microsoft and its legacy of strong delivery capabilities, which is more like the erstwhile “Brazil Football team” possessing demeanor plus aggression and super skills up-its sleeves.

According to AMI-Partner, globally, about 22 million firms are planning to allot more of their IT budgets for hosted/cloud solutions as opposed to on-premise IT products and services. The war is not yet over, but for the time being, AWS and Microsoft are the two front runners in a heat to the top spot. And when you are considering the cloud wars in the APAC region, watch out for my review on Alibaba Cloud!! This company will surely be a force to be reckoned with.

~Kishalay Choudhury, Director

Accelerate Cloud Migration Success with The Right Tools

Take any business today, and they are likely to have at least one of their workloads running in the cloud. More and more businesses are making the move, with email and productivity being one of the first workloads to be migrated. Cloud migration brings new levels of agility, scalability, and cost efficiency to an organization, but the process can be challenging without the proper tools. It is imperative for an organization to setup a well-designed process before initiating the migration. Without suitable planning, the migration is likely to take longer, cost more, and fail to provide the expected benefits.

Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) generally lack IT resources and expertise and often look toward Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to aid in the migration process. As mentioned earlier, SMBs typically migrate their email and related productivity tools as the starting point for their move to the cloud. WW SMB spending on services like Office 365 are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 25% to $40 Billion by 2022. More and more SMBs are relying on trusted partners like MSPs to lead them and provide ongoing support as they traverse unknown territory. MSPs, in turn, are collaborating with vendors that can provide the right solutions to bring the benefits of the cloud to their customers.

In a recent study conducted by AMI-Partners, we uncovered several benefits that MSPs accrue by using the right tools and processes when migrating their customers’ emails and related data to the cloud. This study was an expanded follow-up to AMI’s 2015 email data migration tools study. The results of the latest study were published on June 12th, 2018 in our whitepaper titled Accelerate Growth and Profitability with Office 365 Migrations and Ongoing Cloud Services: How MSP-ISV Partnerships Are Empowering Small and Mid-Sized Business in The Cloud. The study focused on vendors that offer email migration tools, such as BitTitan, Microsoft, SkyKick, and region-specific vendors such as CloudMigrator365 and CodeTwo in Europe. Continue reading “Accelerate Cloud Migration Success with The Right Tools”

Moving Towards an Era of “Everything-as-a-Service”

We are living in an era where everything can be availed with a click or a tap. Whether it be cab services, entertainment, food, hotel stay, software applications, IT services or anything in between. In other words, all services and products, that are not yet, will soon be available “as-a-service”. This model is known as Everything-as-a-Service or “XaaS” in the IT world. Its origin comes from various technology-based products, services and applications that can be accessed through the internet or via a traditional purchasing and delivery mode.

Everything as a Service (also referred to as “Anything as a Service”) has evolved in recent times. This is due to the popularity of the cloud and expanded through various “as-a-service” (aaS) models such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS) and many more.

It all began with SaaS. From there, various service models have evolved. Then along came the cloud enabled environment where any device, service or technology solutions could be delivered on a pay per-month model or simply based on the amount of usage by the consumer. These services can be accessed over the internet or through a traditional delivery model. Some examples of such as-a-service models in recent time are Device-as-a-Service, Personal Computers-as-a-Service and Printer-as-a-Service among many other bundled services offered on a pay-per-use basis.

Three levels of a Cloud-based Service Model

With the explosion of data now be capture, there is an increased need for more data analysis and it is essential to make this data relevant for businesses. Most companies are eager to adopt this model and plan to migrate to cloud based infrastructure if they have not already.

There are some key reasons for the migration to a cloud-based model.

  • Be it hardware, software or services there is a reduction in overall cost, maintenance, time consumed by their IT staff in day-to-day IT activities with a cloud-based model.
  • All new applications and technologies are developed and supported by the cloud. Hence, it is easier for the businesses to adopt by just downloading an application.
  • By handing over all the IT related services and maintenance to a cloud-based model, companies can utilize all their capabilities to develop and expand their business.

XaaS leads to Digital Transformation
Globally, the XaaS model has been expanding and getting more traction from all vertical industries and service sectors. XaaS has covered all possible services and solutions be it technology-based services or day-to-day requirements ranging from food-delivery to baby care services and everything in between.

Some major reasons for XaaS as a business model to grow and expand worldwide are:

  • Now a day’s work isn’t confined to the office or to fixed office hours. Rather the modern workplace has a growing number of mobile workers who need to connect with their client and business associates 24/7. These workers need near real-time updates. With the changed work culture, the everything-as-service model will develop and grow.
  • For a company to further their journey on the digital transformation path, they need more flexibility, agility and scalability. All of these are essential for any company to accomplish this transformation. XaaS allows any company to select the service package that is suitable for their present business needs with the option to make any changes as their needs evolve.

 The Future
Everything-as-a-service has vigorously disrupted the traditional business model and given a significant advantage to those businesses that are eager to take their environment to a higher level.  The as-a-service model will not only provide more opportunities to managed service providers (MSPs) but also more challenges. MSPs will need to cater to the growing needs of their customers developing and suppling more customized solutions and on-demand models that will be able to meet the more varied needs than are presently required.

This model offers equal business opportunities for channel partners who with their strength of customer knowledge, can be important players in the changed business environment. A hybrid business ecosystem with equal opportunities for all the stakeholders will be available through an everything-as-service model there by improving overall business efficiencies. With the continuation of new technologies and innovations to come, the everything-as-a-service model will continue to gain more traction and will flourish in the coming years.

~ Arpana Bharti, Research Analyst

PC as a Service (PCaaS) – A Key Tool to Boost PC Market!

On a global front, PC as a service (PCaaS) is garnering a good deal of attention lately. There are a few queries that need to be explored. For one, what exactly constitutes PC as a Service? What are the driving factors for PCaaS adoption? What is the need for this technology at this moment in time? Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions.

What is PCaaS?
PC as a Service can be defined as the combined package of hardware, software, lifecycle services and financing. This is all offered as a package from a single provider with a fixed monthly price for every employee in a particular business no matter what the size of the company is (small, medium or large enterprises). Presently, this service is evolving gradually with more options for mobility, data management and security applications being developed. There is a continuous movement towards IT and digital transformation for most enterprise users with an ever-increasing adoption of technologies such as cloud computing, analytics and social media. PCaaS offers a business model that is ideal for most enterprise companies experiencing a significant increase in their mobile workforce.

PCaaS and the Product Lifecycle
Apart from providing the latest version of devices, the PCaaS model also offers additional bundled services. This includes pre-installed all the necessary software (OS, Apps, Security, etc.) and software updates on a recurring basis. With a PCaaS model, vendors are engaging with their business customers throughout the device lifecycle allowing vendors the opportunities to provide support, maintenance and other services as and when required. To ensure that PCaaS will become the preferred business model for businesses, vendors will need to be able to offer financial assistance to these customers. To this end, many vendors are offering new initiatives to promote PCaaS in tandem with various financing organizations.

PCaaS – Added Advantage over a Traditional PC Procurement Method 

 A Win-Win Situation for All Players
Let’s look at how PCaaS is affecting the various players.

  • Vendors/OEMs
    • Due to a lower demand for PCs and their longer lifecycle, PCaaS would be an alterative business model increasing profits to PC vendors. This model would also enable PC vendors to reduce their present on hand inventories.
    • PC vendors would be able to initiate a longer engagement with enterprise customers throughout the device’s lifecycle extending their role beyond just a traditional hardware seller.
  • Reseller/Channel Partners
    • PCaaS model facilitates resellers to expand their product portfolio offerings based on the customers’ specific needs.
    • They are supported by other players in the PCaaS ecosystem for all unpredictable risks, the services offered and financial assistance.
  • Enterprise Customers
    • PCaaS alters the spending pattern from a one-time CAPEX mode to the smaller, monthly recurring operational cost.
    • Existing IT staff can be utilized in key strategic organizational IT initiatives since they would be free from the day-to-day PC management tasks. A PCaaS model also reduces the refreshment cycle.
    • With a PCaaS model, millennial/tech-savvy employees can prioritize their work with more device flexibility within an efficient IT environment.

Making a Long-Term PCaaS Model Work
To develop PCaaS as the new-age business model and enhance its popularity among enterprises, all players need to work together developing each other’s capabilities and infrastructure. The role of channel partners is vital in this endeavor since PC vendors require a wide and robust network of partners to reach out to enterprise-users with their PCaaS offerings. Also, collaboration with a software expert is required to provide regular services and solutions. All other players having capabilities in different technological areas (e.g. security, data management, cloud, mobility) are required to join the evolving PCaaS ecosystem to extend its reach and influence.

 Need of the Hour
The PCaaS adoption journey has only begun. It is likely to evolve further with a greater understanding of the ever-changing future needs of consumer PC users. Therefore, the PCaaS model has been designed to offer flexible, affordable and customized product & services offerings. At the same time, increased awareness of its value propositions, benefits and return on investments, change of mindset among potential users and innovative marketing strategies by vendors are the need of the hour to take the PCaaS model to the next phase.

Finally, the growth prospective of the PCaaS model for consumer PC users can be viewed as aligned with the mobile device market wherein vendors are offering a smartphone (the upgraded model) pre-loaded with all security, insurance, social media, brand specific software and entertainment apps with monthly payment options over the contract term. In coming years, PCaaS could evolve into a model like the mobile device market, enabling vendors to tap the PC market in small and medium business circles.

~ Arpana Bharti, Market Analyst

Artificial Intelligence is Modernizing the Future Workspace

Technology and data administration is maneuvering across vertical borders and previously isolated sectors are being integrated and creating new business opportunities. By capturing the diverse needs and expectations of today’s multi-demographic workforce, these connected technologies will help businesses of all sizes to plan and invest in their future workplace strategy.

“The modern workplace starts with empowering everyone in organizations to be more creative, collaborative and ultimately apply technology to help shape the culture of work” – Microsoft

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is among the most significant chapters in this great growth story. With a CAGR of over 50% through 2021, AI is developing into one of the key forces that in changing the outlook of the workplace, and will force many of today’s workplace habits, tools and environments to become archaic over the next 4-5 years.

With the red-carpet being rolled out for AI, we are starting to see the rise of a more personalized user experience which is vigorously adapting to capture and translate content in terms of relevance and preference. These technologies, when unified with cyber “customer service” agents, speech recognition interfaces and wearables, are leading to a more unified and collaborative experience.

A leading telecom, MNC having operations in India, is using AI to collect and crunch data from a variety of sources to find people with the right talents and the experience to match. Their HR system can also analyze workers’ email to identify job sentiments and triggers appropriate action for management. Similar cases have been seen in multiple domains where the use of chatbots and robotics have reduced human interaction from tactical jobs to more thinking roles.

The growing importance of AI in the workspace has triggered Google to transform its Translate Service to an AI model. In addition, Cisco and Microsoft have been advancing ways AI can impact everyday work life, from helping to connect users in virtual meetings to acting as an active listening agent that provides additional context regarding topics being discussed.

While countries such as U.S., China, Germany and South Korea have been making strong investments in developing their AI technologies, India too has picked pace in advancing its technologies. The Indian government’s push for ‘Make in India’ and ‘Start-up India’ has given a much-needed lift to the AI ecosystem. With tech start-up driving the way, India today has over 160 start-ups who are purely focused on AI and have raised over $30 million in venture investments to build their AI programs.

We are only at the beginning of this digital journey where AI and chatbots transform all aspects of the workspace including collaboration, communication, cross-function (HR, Production etc. processes), mobility, cloud, and security. We are seeing a huge migration of business processes becoming AI enabled and driving the business world forward.

However, the eminent fear that the advent and incorporation of AI will replace the human race with robots still looms overhead. Another way of looking at AI is to transpose the letters. “IA = Intelligence Assistance”. This would emphasize the fact that AI is only assisting the individual worker to work smarter and not make them less important to the workforce. In summation I would like to suggest that we all enjoy the change and let’s make our workspace a smarter place!

~ Kishalay Choudhury, Director Client Services

Riverbed New Channel Partner Program “Riverbed Rise” – Innovative and In-time Amid Ever-Changing Needs of Consumers

On February 9, 2018 we were invited to an analyst briefing that was hosted by Riverbed. Riverbed is one of the major players in the WAN optimization space with expansion toward software-defined technologies. They focus on providing hybrid networking, SD-WAN, SaaS and infrastructure visibility, working towards building a software-defined architecture for digital business. The purpose of this seminar was to introduce their new partner program Riverbed Rise. With this program they plan to consolidate their contact with partners from “compliance concept” to “capacitating their partners based on performance and value-based awards”.

Riverbed Rise is a clear transition from their traditional program, which is based on competency. This new program is based on the three-key designed operational principles of simplicity, flexibility and profitability. The objective is to expand their customer portfolio by tapping existing and new businesses and simultaneously ensure that partners’ performance is at their peak.

The key focus area of this program is to align Riverbed’s sales strategies to expand their portfolio sales and strengthen their commercial segment. Riverbed has introduced a performance & value-based reward system to acknowledge the performance of all partners with different requirement levels and financial models.

Riverbed Rise a Partners’ Panacea:

  • Riverbed aims to address issues related to new technology adoption and digital transformation of its channel partners through this new program of industry-leading digital performance solutions.
  • Riverbed’s new partner program offers more choice options to customers. It also ensures that the new partner program accommodates all unique business needs of their partners and at the same time guides them vis-à-vis decision making for investment and profitability plans in the long run.
  • Further, partners have more possibilities to select the different Training and Certifications criteria in accordance with their businesses.
  • Riverbed Rise is primarily based on dividends. These are determined by the overall partner performance and not on competencies or revenue attainment. It gives equal opportunities to all Riverbed partners to compete on individual strengths and customer value propositions, in their preferred target markets.

In the changing and rapidly disruptive business world, Riverbed’s program provides partners with individual decision power with the added benefits of earning and spending criteria that would also be unique in every instance.

Riverbed’s Journey in 2018:

Riverbed has made significant changes to its product portfolio in the last 18 months. Building on its legacy as a leader in WAN optimization, the company believes that these changes will create new opportunities for partners, to expand into new technology areas including SD-WAN and Digital Experience Management. Its focus on Digital Performance is aimed at addressing some of the most pressing challenges businesses are facing as they embark on digital transformation and move to the cloud. Riverbed Rise is an innovative program designed for partners of all types to respond immediately to these rapidly changing customer needs.

Riverbed Rise promises the partners to achieve more on productivity, performance and profitability through the unique reward system based on new business models and a diversified range of services. With this innovative reward matrix giving dividend and achievement rewards to associated partners, Riverbed is highly placed on the diverse partners’ ecosystem and in the competitors’ circle.

The new partner program has also enabled Riverbed to expand its partner base into new business avenues, emerging markets and newer verticals. Furthermore, Riverbed Rise is expected to help build a new partner portal with strong marketing tools revolving around simplified, flexible and a profitable dividends-based model.

As We See It:

Riverbed Rise has more commitments beyond the traditional partner schemes. However, the need of the hour is to sustain the longer retention of partners while keeping the product portfolio diversified.

Enforcing the authorized partners to use all their dividends for training, shows Riverbed’s priority on partner training and indeed supporting the partners to elevate their expertise.

In addition, Riverbed should also ensure the reach of this newly launched program to small and emerging markets where end user dynamics are very specific to each region and industry. They can also enrich their product positioning and roadmap with inclusive strategies for when partners’ investment plan is minimal or indecisive regarding changing adoption trends of various technologies.

What Does Their Success Depends On?

The strength of the Riverbed Rise partner program is centered around a strong partners’ base and a diversified product portfolio. With this program, Riverbed is aiming to strengthen their present relationship with existing partners as well as new market regions and in the ever-changing technology scenario. The more Riverbed empowers their partner ecosystem and enhances collaboration with their partners, the more likely Riverbed will obtain the success they are envisioning from this program.

~Arpana Bharti, Analyst and Subrata Sarkar, Sr. Analyst

From Reseller to MSP – A Complex, But Lucrative Business Transformation Journey

Business Transformation is Complex, but Manageable

Channel Partners selling technology solutions to small, mid, and large-sized businesses are having to transform their businesses to stay relevant as their clients move an ever-increasing number of business processes and workloads into the cloud.

This transformation requires carefully mapping the initial cloud and managed services portfolio against available customer base, internal technical and sales skills, service delivery tools, and available investment dollars. Further, modeling the total revenue and profitability impact of this transition is key to understanding the impact on cash flow, especially from smaller annuity streams, which need to be renewed annually.

How to plan and successfully execute the transition from being an on-premise services provider to delivering managed services and cloud solutions is where the channel ecosystem is expecting help from their vendor-partners.

Strong Revenue Upside to Business Transformation

From less than 50,000 in 2016, the number of managed services providers will grow to almost 75,000 worldwide in 2021. AMI-Partner’s tracking of these MSPs indicates most have yet to fully penetrate their existing customer base. On average, an MSPs has so far converted only 20% of their customers to managed services. Clearly, this opportunity remains untapped for the most part.

More significantly, by transforming themselves from a reseller to an MSP, one in two have acquired net new customers that were previously beyond their capacity to serve thus expanding their business in ways unforeseen.

Technology vendors can help accelerate this transformation within their partner ecosystem by setting up formalized advisory programs that impart strategic advice via workshops, as well track key metrics on a one-on-one partner basis.

The key is to uncover best practices used by channel partners that have successfully transformed their businesses and deconstruct and replicate their secret sauce across a broader network of partners.

~Deepinder Sahni, SVP

SaaS – The New “Cash Cow”

The conversation about software as a service (SaaS) has been going on for a long time.  The evolution of hosted applications is pretty interesting. It all started back in the 1960s when IBM and other mainframe vendors offered computing power and database storage from their data centers to the financial industry and other large firms.  Fast forward to the 1990s when, with the proliferation of the internet, Application Service Providers (ASPs) began offering hosted business applications. According to Wikipedia, the acronym (SaaS) allegedly first appeared in an article published in February 2001 by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

Some may think SaaS is passé and has been talked about to death, but although SaaS can be considered a “mature” market there are some very good reasons to revisit cloud software:

  1. Industry analysts and mainstream media all cite SaaS as a technology with strong growth prospects for both adoption and spending. AMI estimates that worldwide, small, medium and large businesses (SMLBs) spent $62 billion on SaaS solutions in 2017 and that figure is projected to more than double by 2021.
  2. Globally, about 22 million firms are planning to allot more of their IT budgets for hosted/cloud solutions as opposed to on-premise IT products and services with the largest portion slotted for SaaS applications.
  3. SaaS solutions are major forces driving growth as industry mainstays, who were formerly strong on-premise vendors, shift emphasis to the cloud. For example, Oracle reported Q3’17 overall cloud revenue increased 51%, but SaaS revenues rose 62% and Microsoft reported strong increases across all of its cloud offerings and is now the leading cloud service provider (Office 365 revenues alone increased over 10%).

“SaaS” comprises a wide variety of different cloud-based applications, from the most basic e-mail to solutions tailored for very specific industries.  Spending in 2017 on prominent hosted applications was strong. Beyond email, other leading apps included hosted CRM, business intelligence, productivity and highly customized line of business software (vertical or industry specific software).

As SMLBs seek to leverage technology to help them reduce OPEX, improve efficiency and employee productivity and improve the customer experience, many are looking to the cloud as a solution. About one-third of firms we surveyed reported migrating more applications to cloud services was very important to their company’s continued success. Firms reported a variety of reasons for adopting cloud solutions, including cost savings, scalability and flexibility.  Many businesses feel SaaS solutions allow them access to technologies that might otherwise have been out of reach cost wise, while others utilize cloud services because it enables them to reduce system hardware by using cloud vendors’ servers to store data. In addition, SMLBs will increasingly look to bundle SaaS solutions when making new PC and device purchases.  Popular bundles include hosted productivity suites, security, data back-up/recovery, online data storage, and online document collaboration.

Overall, projected growth for SaaS apps is strong through 2021 (20% CAGR).  Fueling this growth will be solutions such as productivity, point of sales, business intelligence, email, quotes & invoicing and travel and expense solutions.

Software as a Service is a concept that will continue to evolve as it is a win-win for everyone.  SMLBs will benefit as they shift legacy on-premise solutions to seat-based models for cost savings, flexibility and scalability, as well as access to new technologies. Independent software vendors (ISVs) offering cloud solutions will be able to attract and engage firms that may not want to incur the large capital investments required for on-premise installations. Cloud hosters, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google and IBM, will benefit as more ISVs shift their current on-premise solutions to the cloud.

~ Eileen Zimbler, VP

Artificial Intelligence is Lending a New Dimension to BPO Managed Services

AI or Artificial intelligence is a rapidly emerging technology in today’s world. Literally everyone wants to automate repetitive processes to gain maximum output, efficiency and cost reduction.

So, what is AI? Artificial Intelligence is a way of making a system, a computer-controlled robot, or a software think intelligently, in a similar manner to which intelligent humans think.

Artificial Intelligence is indeed a highly interesting field of study but also presents many questions? Will Artificial Intelligence ultimately overtake human intelligence? The question of robots holding human beings ransom has already been explored by many popular science fiction authors. Only in the last month, Sophia, a lifelike robot who was the first to get a country citizenship (Saudi Arabia) emerged at a Techfest in India and answered several questions; including a marriage proposal!

AI finds widespread usage areas

Artificial Intelligence has multiple areas of application within fields like information technology (IT), inform-ation technology enabled services (ITES), business process outsourcing (BPO), media, telecom, education, healthcare and defense.

Let’s focus on AI applications within the IT/ITES/BPO sector. Indeed, due to the emergence of AI capabilities in BPOs, services managed by BPOs are finding a new dimension.

AI can make a paradigm shift within the BPO sector

In the coming years, AI capability will be a key criterion in selecting an outsourcing vendor. Currently, close to 70% of BPO engagements in India are based on traditional models, these are likely to undergo transformational changes in the future. A direct impact of this transition towards AI in BPOs will be a 15-17% decline in India’s outsource services industry workforce by 2021. The impact of automation is likely to be mainly on the less-skilled worker. However, companies might move the freed resource from volume-driven work to value-driven and complex jobs thereby adding value to their organization. This will significantly enhance the productivity and efficiency of BPO firms.

All BPO Service Providers incorporating AI and or automation capabilities, at the earliest, are set to gain huge benefits from this emerging trend; mainly due to the lower cost advantages of AI. Many analysts are predicting the AI market will grow by a substantial 50%+ over the next five years.

Service Providers are now implanting AI tools within client premises to troubleshoot basic PC-related infrastructure issues such as PCs not booting up, login issues and virus problems. These may seem to be easy fixes but are indeed a pain point for a company with a PC installed base in the thousands!

 RPA: A key capability needed for outsourcers in the future

Nowadays, more and more companies include ‘Robotic-Process-Automation (RPA) capability’ as a criterion when researching Outsourcing Service Providers. The latter are considering an onshore + automation solution as a substitute to a purely offshore one. They also consider the compliance aspects and productivity benefits of using robots over humans. On a positive note for RPA, this capability can permanently alter the business and pricing models in the ITO/BPO spheres. RPA also allows BPO providers to come up to speed and offer new services to existing clients.

Due to RPA impact, RPA capabilities offered by the service provider (SP) can well be the deal-maker in terms of deciding outsourcing contracts. Traditionally, greater manpower was needed earlier to complete a large volume of work. The emergence of RPA has changed this equation. With enhanced automation and greater processing capacity than humans, routine and rule-based work can be done far more rapidly, thus adding greater value. Emergence of RPA has created a cost differential in outsourcing engagement models.

RPA: An opportunity to extract better value from their staff

Despite the emergence of AI, traditional outsourcing will not become obsolete soon. In fact, RPA is expected to strengthen existing relationships. Deloitte Business-Process-as-a-Service (BPaaS) is investing heavily to further develop its existing RPA capabilities. It has already established several strategic alliances with companies offering RPA platforms, e.g. Automation Anywhere, Open Span, Grid Infocom and Bizagi. To hone its RPA capabilities and push further innovation in its engagements, Deloitte is developing an innovation & automation lab in its Woodmead office in Johannesburg, South Africa. This lab will house state-of-the-art facilities and will have the capability to offer clients a live demonstration of its latest automation tools and smart technologies.

Automation Impact: Innovation will win the battle!

The key advantage will be gained by those investing in the next wave of opportunities, not those stubbornly resisting innovation and obsessively trying to protect legacy business models for whom the death knell has sounded.

Firms with greater IT infrastructure management needs will manage them through better cloud-based orchestration tools. Now, the onus in the service industry is shifting to using only people for tasks requiring human skills unable to be replicated by software. The trend is snowballing as more tools for RPA and autonomics management are being widely adopted by enterprises & service providers alike.

Because of these innovations, service providers really have no options. Their very competitiveness is at stake and they must adopt Intelligent Automation aggressively if they want to remain viable for ambitious clients and competitive with their counterparts.

~ Subrata Sarkar