Procurement

The Latest

25 January 2022: ServiceNow has recently launched ServiceNow Impact that provides AI-driven recommendations along with human-powered solutions on technical support, prescriptive guidance, preventive solutions, role-based training, curated content, and coaching using the Now Platform. Users will receive personalised recommendations on customer success, progress monitoring, platform architecture and performance management to improve their overall workflow automation.

ServiceNow’s AI is leveraged to deliver recommendations that allow users to optimise their existing ServiceNow platform, without integrating third party tools into the system. The solution also provides personal support through on-demand training, and dedicated expert teams and developer consulting depending on a user’s subscription package. 

Why it’s Important.

IBRS has observed a rise in the number of AI decision support services being integrated into workflow automation tools. Hyper-automation on decision-making processes built on top of existing workflow platforms and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions is where most organisations will obtain the quickest impact from AI - specifically machine learning (ML). Therefore, instead of investing in separate ML tools and developing custom algorithms, it may be more prudent to leverage existing SaaS platforms emerging AI and ML capabilities.

In addition, many service providers that use AI to automate workplace processes, customer journey flows and enterprise spend management continue to expand their tool’s capabilities in terms of customised solutions to address each organisation’s requirements on value acceleration. In this regard, AI will continue to maintain its essential ‘invisible’ role by recommending better workflows, which in turn drive service quality and agility.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • System administrators
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Look for opportunities to leverage AI (and ML) from existing investments in SaaS platforms. In particular, look for how AI is being used to make recommendations on improving workflow with low-code development platforms. Bespoke AI initiatives will be less utilised in favour of AI being added to already existing SaaS applications.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Machine Learning Operations (MLOps), the AI Productivity Fast Track
  2. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT
  3. How can AI reimagine your business processes?
  4. VENDORiQ: ServiceNow to Acquire RPA Vendor Intellibot

The Latest

25 January 2022: IBM has announced its acquisition of Sydney-based data analytics software company Envizi. In an official press release, the move was finalised to boost IBM’s capabilities to provide environmental, social and governance (ESG) analytics, which is an emerging specialised field.  

Envizi will be integrated with IBM’s existing package of manufacturing and supply chain solutions such as IBM Maximo, IBM Sterling, IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite (EIS) and IBM Turbonomic to support feedback automation in their operations and corporate environmental initiatives. 

Why it’s Important.

IBRS has observed increased activity by large vendors acquiring small, local Australian enterprises that specialise in data analytics. Some of these include the following:

  • Fujitsu’s acquisition of Melbourne-based data and analytics firm Versor in 2021
  • Cognizant’s 2021 purchase of Sydney-based Servian, a data analytics and AI vendor
  • Healthcare tech firm Beamtree’s acquisition of New South Wales-based comparative analytics enterprise Potential(x) in 2021
  • Accenture’s 2019 purchase of Australian big data and analytics consultancy Analytics8 then its series of acquisitions involving advanced analytics firms overseas such as Bridgei2i and Byte Prophecy in India, Novetta Solutions and End-to-End Analytics in the United States, as well as PRAGSIS BIDOOP in Spain.

Aside from these, acquisitions of data analytics startups by other firms outside of Australia have become prominent in the industry with the likes of Capgemini on Sweden-based Advectas, Genpact on Enquero, and Infogain on Absolutdata, which were all formalised in 2020.

IBRS believes that while it is beneficial for the industry to have vendors expand their analytics capabilities, customers or enterprise partners need to constantly assess the likely impact on their existing service contracts with analytics partner vendors. Some of the areas that are critical include terms and conditions, possible pricing changes, future services, contracted support and personnel changes, among others.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations need to be prepared for their analytics partners to be the next targets for acquisitions. As part of its strategy, organisations must remain vigilant and engaged with their analytics vendor partners regarding any acquisitions and the potential impact on services and costs. This includes assessing the implications of the potential scenarios that are most likely to occur, as well as the risks or opportunities that may be present with regard to adjusting to ramifications to the existing service, if there are any. Some potential risks or challenges that must be reviewed by the organisation’s legal and procurement teams can be found on this checklist.

Finally, organisations need to be cautious on assurances that are critical to their operations if these have not yet been put into written agreement. Becoming more pragmatic about the new vendor will minimise service disruptions in the future.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Mergers & acquisitions require federated service providers governance
  2. Mergers and Acquisitions - Devising the Right Strategy for IT

The Latest

4 January 2022: RingCentral recently announced that it is expanding its telephony solutions through the Message Video Phone™ (MVP™) platform via a ‘bring your own carrier’ (BYOC) offering. The vendor will also enhance its service to enterprise call centre solutions by allowing Microsoft Teams clients in Australia to integrate the RingCentral app for embedded dialler integration, direct routing solution and fax, call-to-web and voicemail capabilities.

Why it’s Important

IBRS has observed a rise in the number of call centres integrating apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom in their operations for embedded phone features. In March 2021, MaxContact, a vendor of a Cloud-based call-centre solution, announced it is supporting integration of Microsoft Teams clients. 

The increased interest in integration of popular video collaboration solutions is a direct result of customers’ recent experiences with video calling. The pandemic has raised expectations for digital service delivery and omnichannel experiences.

IBRS predicts that within the next three to five years, video call centres will be common, and supplement existing in-house facilities. This will coincide with the majority of call centres adopting real-time agent solutions to off-load common service requests and free up operators to offer a deeper, hyper-personalised care that will increasingly include video. These companies will also leverage advanced real-time analytics and artificial intelligence that will accurately detect client sentiment and reaction in every digital interaction.

However, while white-glove service is ideal and will be the norm in the coming years, two challenges will arise. First, even if the technology is already available, it is too early to determine which industries will lead the way and what impact it will have on traditional call-centre outsourcing models. For instance, Australian banks have relocated their call centre operations back to Australia to streamline communications and quickly resolve issues firsthand.

Second, will be the value of outsourced call centres, especially in Asia Pacific where millions of business process outsourcing (BPO) workers in the Philippines cater to telecommunication, banking and insurance customers in the United States, Australia, Europe, Canada and Japan. Video calls will require more than just accent training to make it appear that the servicing company is based locally. The entire user experience - including the call centre environment - will need to be ‘localised’ for different markets.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • User experience/customer journey teams
  • Customer service teams
  • Call centre teams

What’s Next?

Call centre managers must invest time in exploring new modes of communication with the aim of enhancing customer relationship management (CRM) tools. However, given that it is highly profitable for vendors to take advantage of this trend in the next five years, call centre solution vendors will be looking for ways to differentiate themselves, while also supporting a wide range of common integrations.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Why is Zoom Pivoting? Do You Need to Be on Top of the Fourth-Wave of Unified Comms?
  2. Better Practice Special Report: Microsoft Teams Governance
  3. VENDORiQ: CommsChoice becomes Australia's first vendor of Contact Centre for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing

The Latest

December 2021: Data centre and colocation service provider NEXTDC announced it will buy 20 per cent (AU$35m of equity) in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider AUCloud to support the latter's Cloud platform zone expansion in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. These centres will be operational as early as the fourth quarter of 2022.

Why it’s Important

NEXTDC is a major data centre provider in Australia with strong contracts in the public and private sectors. By buying into AUCloud, the firm is preparing its position for what is expected to be a wave of 're-localisation' of Cloud services, bringing Cloud workloads back from geographically spread environments to smaller, Australian-based sites.

With re-localisation, enterprises can benefit from highly responsive support from regional Cloud providers that do not just ride the trend of introducing solutions based on US or European requirements and enforce it for local enterprises.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads

What’s Next?

Organisations must consider the advantages of working with localised Cloud service providers, especially those with a strong reputation in the industry. They have to look into the benefits that it can bring to their platform in terms of service and technology, delivering geographic redundancy while taking advantage of the proximity to their facilities. These localised services can help with latency and meet data security and compliance requirements demanded by some industries.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Industrialised Web Economy - Part 1: Cloud Computing
  2. VENDORiQ: Google Next: Distributed Cloud is More Than Hybrid and Multi-Cloud

The Latest

2 November 2021: Two former Western Sydney TAFE (WSI TAFE) executives have been charged by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for allegedly engaging in illegal solicitation and acceptance of $450,000 from IT consultancy firm Oscillosoft. The three-year investigation published its findings in a public report that revealed how the executives failed to comply with the proper IT procurement processes when they acquired the iPlan software program on behalf of the institute.

Why it’s Important.

IT-related fraud and corruption have grabbed the headlines in the past years, including:

  • the payment of false invoices in 2015 by a former IT manager who worked at several Australian universities 
  • the 2016 corruption investigation involving $1.7 million in payments for the personal business of an ICT manager at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute 
  • the 2012 illegal ICT contractor recruitment by the head of ICT projects at The University of Sydney 
  • and just recently in 2020, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) investigated fraud allegations concerning $2.8 billion worth of procurement contracts by government agencies made with IBM. 

While these headline grabbing examples are concerning, the reality is questionable contracting and programming in ICT is far more pervasive than most executives would like to admit.

IBRS has seen multiple examples of this problem. 

Sometimes these have been uncovered as part of ‘project rescue’ engagements where IBRS has been asked to review why a project is failing and recommend remediation. This is the worst time to discover that the consulting services being procured are more or less thin air, as it means significant budget has already been spent. In one case, IBRS identified a project to implement a major information system had burnt through $3.5 million over three years without a single delivery milestone being met and no code being available for review. There was a ‘friendship’ between the contracting company and the ICT executive.   

In another case, IBRS uncovered consulting being awarded to a family member of the person granting the contracts, and the organisation had an ‘over-reliance’ on contracting.   

Neither of these situations may warrant a corruption investigation. Though they certainly skirted the edges of the law.

At other times, IBRS has uncovered questionable contracting and procurement as part of project assurance reviews. This is the best time to reveal problematic procurement, since it occurs earlier in the project cycle and thus heads off significant losses. More importantly, when staff know that such activities are likely to be exposed as part of the regular due diligence of project assurance, the temptation to engage in such activities that just barely skirt corruption is far less likely to occur.

There is a great deal of financial and reputational savings to be accomplished by putting appropriate governance, such as formal gateway reviews and project assurance programs, in place. 

That said, not every project needs a top-down approach to procurement. Still, the industry needs a more careful process of choosing the right level of governance and assurance for the right projects, taking into consideration the context and culture of each organisation.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Procurement teams
  • Executive board

What’s Next?

For fraud and corruption to be prevented, better oversight by an institution's board should be extended to overriding controls, reviewing financial transactions and reporting processes, coupled with a program of project assurance.

Internal controls in payroll, procurement, inventory, sales and financial reporting must be proactive to prevent the manipulation of processes. 

Finally, organisations must review procurement processes regularly and amend sections that promote poor supervision and weak adherence to routine audits.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The difference between fraud and cybercrime
  2. Critical Controls for ERP Projects: The Human Factor
  3. Recognising cognitive biases for better decisions

The Latest

19 August 2021: Microsoft has announced pricing increases for its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 offerings, which has resulted in a great deal of media coverage.Microsoft is at pains to point out that it has not increased its prices on 365 for a decade, and during that time has added a great deal of functionality (20+ applications) to the portfolio.

The Specifics

Microsoft is still working through how the new pricing will be applied in the Australian market and an announcement is expected soon. IBRS will perform a detailed cost analysis at this time. However, Microsoft has confirmed that any changes to local pricing will mimic the North American price changes. 

Based on the US data, enterprise and business plans will see increases in March 2021. Based on US$, the dollar amounts range from US$1 to US$4 per user per month, or US$12 to US$48 per user per year, with the percentage increases running from a low of 9% to a high of 25%. Microsoft F-series licences for frontline workers and Microsoft 365 E5 are not subject to price increases. Consumer and education-specific plans (the A-series) are also unaffected by the price increases.

The new pricing structures will disproportionately impact small businesses and those with the lower levels of the Microsoft suite, while enterprises with E5 licences will be left unscathed. That in itself reveals Microsoft’s clear intent to nudge the market towards its E5 offerings. It is estimated that only 8% of Microsoft customers globally opt for E5 licensing, though IBRS has seen strong interest among Australian organisations to at least explore the more expansive capabilities found in E5.

At this time, we believe the majority of IBRS clients will see price increases in the lower range. However, given that Australia has been one of the fastest adopters of Office 365, and has for decades suffered from ‘the Australia tax’ of software vendors, the increases will still be felt deeply across the industry.

Why it’s Important.

For many IBRS clients, the immediate impact is the need to set aside extra budget for its existing 365 environment. 

Something that is not gaining attention is that the new pricing also increases the cost of Microsoft’s Unified support, since it is calculated as a percentage (10-12%) of the overall Microsoft spend. IBRS recommends that organisations set aside a budget for this increase as well.

However, the price increase is not the full story. A closer look at how the new pricing is structured, plus other less publicised changes, suggests it is geared towards making E5 licences more attractive to mid-sized organisations. 

The increases came shortly after Microsoft announced that its perpetual-licence Office would see a 10% increase and that its service for Office would drop from 7 years (it was previously 10) to just 5. Even more telling is that Microsoft has effectively engineered a one year ‘gap’ in N-2 support for Office (with the persistent licensing model), which forces organisations with older Office Pro licences to either purchase an upgrade sometime before 2023, or migrate to Office 365. 

In summary, Microsoft’s recent changes to Office licensing are a strategy that makes the price difference from E3 to E5 licensing less imposing and makes sweating perpetual Office licences far less attractive, if not unworkable. The savings from sweating Office licences over a five-year period are still there, but they are significantly lower than with seven-year cycles.

IBRS has long stated that Microsoft’s goal is not necessarily to drive up ICT budgets. A closer look at the additional capabilities found in E5 licensing reveals that most are aimed at moving Microsoft into adjacent product sets. For example, the additional security capabilities that become available with E5 licensing are clearly aimed at security incumbents, such as Symantec. Microsoft’s E5 strategy is to pull ICT budget away from competitors and into its own coffers. It is about carving out competition.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO & procurement
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

In the Australian market, IBRS sees few enterprises still on persistent licensing for Office. Globally, Australia has been an early adopter of E3 licensing, though until the mass push to work from home in 2020, many organisations did not take full advantage of the additional features and collaboration capabilities of the 365 platform. Furthermore, Google Workspaces is only making marginal increases in the local market, meaning Microsoft has little real local competitive forces working to temper it in the office productivity space (though this is not the case in other markets in the Asian region).

Therefore, the question for organisations is, is this strategy to push customers from existing E3 licences to E5 licences a trigger to start re-evaluate ways to leverage more value from the Microsoft ecosystem (that is, double-down on Microsoft).  

Organisations may respond to this price increase and Microsoft’s strategy to push customers from existing E3 licences to E5 licences as a trigger to:

  1. Re-evaluate ways to leverage more value from the Microsoft ecosystem (that is, double-down on Microsoft).  Just prior to this announcement, IBRS had drafted a paper on how to decide between E3 and E5 licensing. It is due for publishing in the coming month. However, if you wish an advance (draft) copy, please request it from nbowman@ibrs.com.au. It is focused on how to evaluate the additional benefits of E5 in the context of your existing software ecosystem.
  2. Set up a ‘plan b’ for enterprise collaboration. In a practical sense, this would likely be a shift to Google Workspace for part of the organisation, coupled with a percentage (generally 20-30%) of the organisation also having Office software, though not necessarily Office 365.  
  3. Set aside 12-15% extra budget for the existing E3 environment, plus a similar increase for support of the Office environment, and re-evaluate the situation in 2-3 years

IBRS also recommends considering what will happen in another 10 years, when many organisations have migrated to E5 (which is likely). What new business risks will emerge from this? Migrating from Office 365 E3 to a competitive product (e.g. Google or Zoho) is hard enough. When E5 features are fully leveraged, the lock-in is significant, but so too is the value. At the end of the day, the ultimate risk factor is trust in Microsoft not to engage in rent-seeking behaviour.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Pros and Cons of Going All-In With Microsoft
  2. Special report: Options for Microsoft support - Key findings from the peer roundtable: August 2020
  3. The journey to Office 365 Part 6: Mixing up Microsoft’s 365 licensing and future compliance risks
  4. DXC Technology and Microsoft collaborate on workplace experience
  5. AIP Should be Essential to Any O365 and Workforce Transformation Strategy
  6. AIS and Power BI Initiatives
  7. Microsoft Pivots to Target Verticals

Contract management can be more than just record keeping. When done well, it can enable organisations to explore the best ways to optimise their investments when conditions change.

This capability proved essential for the Australian government when COVID-19 hit, with investments in all manner of services and infrastructure being needed almost overnight.

IBRS interviews ZEN Enterprise, an Australian niche contract management solution vendor, and the contract manager from a large Australian agency to tease out the benefits and challenges of advanced contract management in an age of rapid change.

The Latest

18 March 2021: Zoho is a privately held, Indian, Cloud-based CRM vendor that has grown rapidly internationally. It has just turned 25 years old. While it’s CRM suite is not as sophisticated as that of SalesForce, it is supported by a suite of low-code development tools and marketing-oriented modules for small to mid-sized business.

zoho timeline

Why it’s Important

IBRS has noted that many Australian organisations - in particular the public sector - are only short-listing Salesforce and Dynamics for modern CRM. This is often due to the research into available CRMs being exclusively limited to vendors in leading positions on US-focused market research papers, or advice from consultancies that only refer to such public materials.

To ensure the best suite at the best cost-point is selected, IBRS strongly recommends that the following be considered during the shortlisting process: 

  1.  Be sure to explore niche CRM products, as some of these may have a better fit or specific industry sector focus that can deliver benefits more quickly and at significantly lower costs than the leading products. Just because a solution as complex as a CRM is leading the market, does not mean it is necessarily the best for your organisation.
  2. When reading international reports, keep in mind that North America and Europe have different technology market ecosystems to Australia. In particular, skills availability (and therefore costs) differ. Be sure to factor in local issues.
  3. Carefully consider your starting point. How complex is your software environment? Factor your organisation’s networking infrastructure and the integration requirements both immediate and longer term.
  4. Leverage the channel capabilities and skills of local implementation partners. Implementation partners play a significantly greater role in a CRM’s successful implementation than the product itself. It is therefore vital that buyers not only consider the product in question, but also the available partners. 

The ultimate impact of limiting modern CRM (and related digital services) to the major vendors is that organisations may find themselves paying for far more than they need in a system, while also introducing more complexity into business operations than is necessary. 

IBRS is not suggesting that Zoho (or any of the other niche CRMs from the myriad available) is right for your organisation. Salesforce and Dynamics are exceptional products. However, many organisations do not need exceptional: they simply need more than good enough for their current and future needs, and they need it quickly and at the right cost point.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Digital platform leads
  • Procurement teams
  • Business units executives

What’s Next?

Shortlists are critical for keeping procurement agile and within scope. However, do not short-change the shortlisting process by relying on generic reports that do not factor in:

  • specific industry needs
  • the Australian context
  • local channels and skills 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Trends for 2021-2026: No New Normal and Preparing For the Fourth-wave of ICT
  2. VENDORiQ: Salesforce Introduces Hyperforce
  3. Salesforce vs Dynamics
  4. CRM Modernisation Part 5: Microsoft Dynamics vs Salesforce Total Cost of Service
  5. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS Review Our Dynamics365 (D365) Licensing Calculations?

 

The Latest

20 March 2021: GorillaStack has released capabilities that allows it to monitor and apply governance rules to any external service that communicates with AWS EventBridge.

Why it’s Important

GorillaStack is one of the earliest vendors to address the complexities of Cloud cost management, having started in Australia in 2015 and moved to having strong growth in the international market. In May 2020, GorillaStack was acquired by the switzerland-based SoftwareOne.

Like its international competitors, GorillaStack moved from helping organisations monitor and optimise their Cloud spend, to monitoring the Cloud ecosystems for performance and security concerns. This recent announcement suggests that the next phase of growth for organisations in the Cloud cost optimisation space is not only to detect events in Cloud infrastructure, but also external services, and then apply rules to perform specific actions on those events. Such rules can not only automatically help reduce Cloud spend by enforcing financial governance directly into the Cloud infrastructure, but also helping to enforce security rules.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Cloud cost optimisation is already an important discipline for organisations with mature Cloud teams. Like software asset management (SAM), tools alone will not see organisations optimise their expenditure on Cloud services. An understanding of the disciplines required and setting up appropriate rules is needed. In addition, IBRS notes that many less-mature organisations have a ‘sprawl’ of Cloud services that need to first be identified and then reigned in before cost optimisations products can be fully effective. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. New Generation IT Service Management Tools Part 2: Multi-Cloud Management
  2. How to Get on Top of Cloud Billing
  3. Sourcing Monthly April 2020 – May 2020

According to a new IBRS study, spend on enterprise solutions is set to increase in 2019-2020. Both IT and line of business buyers need to consider how they manage procurement of these new solutions – and how they can make integration easy for their business.

According to the report, there are three degrees of integration an organisation can opt for: the pre-integrated enterprise, the core services and satellite apps enterprise and the business service mesh.

Understanding the kind of company you want to be is important, says Julie Ember, SaaS transition specialist at TechnologyOne, as that will help inform the decision about what business application environment fits your needs.

“Do you want to be in the business of IT, or focus on delivering your core business?” asks Ember.

“This is important because if an organisation does not, or cannot, build a large, highly skilled IT group, then they need to choose an application environment that can be easily supported – something like Software as a Service where the vendor manages the delivery and upkeep of the applications,” she says.

It is also important to determine if the business needs niche, best-of-breed applications to deliver core business processes, or if it is able to align with off-the-shelf enterprise software, she adds.

“An enterprise software strategy will provide a simplified application architecture with minimal integration, which not only makes implementations quicker, but also ensures the latest enhancements are easy to adopt.”

Full Story