Nearshore Americas | The New Axis of Outsourcing » News & Analysis http://www.nearshoreamericas.com Experts in BPO, IT and Software in Latin America and the Caribbean Tue, 26 May 2015 17:37:50 +0000 en hourly 1 Cracking the Innovation Code: LatAm IT Companies Need to Foster, Demonstrate Innovation http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/latin-american-companies-demonstrate-innovation-remain-competitive/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/latin-american-companies-demonstrate-innovation-remain-competitive/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 20:08:23 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45376 By Bianca Wright Talking about innovation and being innovative are two different things. For software development companies, the need to innovate is paramount, yet the question always remains: how do you demonstrate innovation? More importantly, perhaps, how do you instil a culture of innovation among your developers? In an increasingly competitive IT environment, answering those two questions has never been ...

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By Bianca Wright

Talking about innovation and being innovative are two different things. For software development companies, the need to innovate is paramount, yet the question always remains: how do you demonstrate innovation? More importantly, perhaps, how do you instil a culture of innovation among your developers? In an increasingly competitive IT environment, answering those two questions has never been so vital.

During a Nexus panel discussion at the end of April, Alex Robbio, Co-Founder and President of Belatrix Software, pointed out that it is very easy to claim innovation, but more difficult to prove it. He noted that his company has adapted Ideo’s Design Thinking concept to foster innovation among its developers.

In a statement on the Ideo website, president and CEO Tim Brown, explained that Design Thinking is “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Drive For Innovation

This concept ties into a larger trend to combine design into the broader development framework. Gustavo Aguirre, the new VP of Innovation at Latin American software development company Globant, said: “What we are seeing lately is a stronger and stronger demand to merge design and innovation from the very beginning in all our software development engagements.”

Aguirre added that this is driven by customer demand. “For example today, as customers when using a mobile banking application, we do not compare its design and user experience with other mobile banking apps, but we expect it to be as ‘cool’ as any other application we have on our smartphone,” he said. “We are seeing the same behavior with corporate employees; they expect the company’s internal applications to be as user-friendly and innovative as the applications they use outside the corporate world.”

Aguirre noted that previously innovation and design were done by specialized boutique companies and then were specifications sent to an engineering company. “This was obviously a very inefficient process, so nowadays the market demands all these practices – innovation, design and engineering – to be integrated,” he said.

One possible approach to greater innovation is what Sam Elfawal, President for U.S. Operations at Neoris, calls co-innovation. Co-innovation, he noted, is about partnerships that help to stimulate innovation. He emphasised in a Practical Insights post that “In order to succeed, co-innovation efforts must have the 4Cs: collaboration, cost-containment, continuity, and commitment. For today’s global IT and consulting services providers, it is imperative to mold ourselves into top rated co-innovation partners for our clients. This can be accomplished by adopting on-shore or near-shore models to deliver the 4Cs, and promoting the advantage of regional proximity and lower labor costs.”

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Aguirre explained that innovation is about culture. “It is not a single thing. For example, at Globant the offices layout is built thinking about innovation and collaboration, special rooms for brainstorming, whiteboards everywhere, 3D printing labs — even the desks are organized such that there are spaces in between for collaboration,” he said.

He added that they also do many innovation-related activities, like brainstorming sessions, or organizing FlipThinking Sessions where they bring experts from different fields to talk about subjects that may seem unrelated to our business: NeuroScience, Rockets and Satellites, Biotech, Nuclear Engineering, and so on.

Patrick Millar, Co-Founder and CMO at Formatic.Ly, emphasized that if providers in Latin America want to succeed — within the context of, for example, SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) technologies — they need to demonstrate their ability in the innovation space. “Providing software development services is a low margin business. In this ‘me too’ space where skill differences are quickly leveled, the advantage goes to providers who can add clear value by innovating with their clients during the development process. In many cases this will require clients to be more agile in their processes, but it also requires providers to create an environment that encourages innovation and to coach employees on how to innovate,” he said.

Not Ideal For Innovation

Recent steps towards insourcing in some quarters has been linked, by some, to lack of innovation in outsourced environments. Bill Huber, Managing Director at Alsbridge, explained that one key driver behind the move to insourcing is that outsourcing has fallen short of its promise to deliver innovation and transformation. “By taking services back in house, organizations often believe that they can achieve the benefits of labor arbitrage, while bringing more flexibility and focus on the customer,” he said.

Huber added: “The problem is that in traditional outsourcing, business cases are focused on cost take-out rather than improving the effectiveness of service or enabling business objectives. The result is that contracts are structured with rigid service levels to reduce costs rather than enrich business services.”

Mike Slavin, Managing Director of Alsbridge said: “Traditional large infrastructure outsourcing relationships have been unsuccessful at driving innovation because of their basic commercial constructs.” He added that very few, if any, agreements have items such as a standing innovation committee or an innovation fund built into the deals.

Slavin said: “Many innovative projects, such as moving to cloud, potentially cannibalize existing revenue streams and assets that are not fully depreciated. That means that, under the traditional constructs, providers have a clear disincentive to push for innovation.”

He agreed that functions being repatriated are often related to innovation, and the data does clearly shows that lack of innovation is one of the top three complaints that clients have about outsourcing. “So while there are certainly other factors driving smaller and shorter deals, that repatriation of certain functions has been a contributor,” he said.

Huber went on to explain that lawyers seek to “de-risk” outsourcing contracts and fail to include innovation elements, which in any event are difficult to define legally. “Another problem is that sponsorship and governance of outsourcing are frequently done at an operational rather than strategic level, with a ‘keep-the-lights-on’ focus,” Huber said.

The potential perception that outsourced environments may not foster innovation means that Latin American companies need to ensure that their innovation is recognized and that they put in place strategies to encourage the required kind of innovation in their development teams. As Aguirre noted: “You should have innovation as an important corporate value, and encourage and reward innovation.”

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Automation and Client Demands Drive Evolving BPO Skill Sets http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/todays-bpo-workers-techsavvy-broad-capabilities-employers-offer-clearer-career-paths/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/todays-bpo-workers-techsavvy-broad-capabilities-employers-offer-clearer-career-paths/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 15:59:55 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45358 By Duncan Tucker As clients grow more demanding and technological advances facilitate the onset of automated work, BPO workers must become more flexible and rounded, with universal skill sets that enable them to perform a broader range of tasks. Meanwhile, in order to improve retention and develop a more mature and sophisticated workforce, their employers must invest in more comprehensive ...

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By Duncan Tucker

As clients grow more demanding and technological advances facilitate the onset of automated work, BPO workers must become more flexible and rounded, with universal skill sets that enable them to perform a broader range of tasks.

Meanwhile, in order to improve retention and develop a more mature and sophisticated workforce, their employers must invest in more comprehensive training programs and ensure that staff see tangible long-term career opportunities within their organization. That was the message that executives from BPO giants Capgemini and Teleperformance conveyed to Nearshore Americas when questioned about how the evolution of skill sets required for global BPO work.

Jean-Christophe Ravaux, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Business Transformation at Capgemini, affirmed that today’s BPO workers need more Cloud and analytics training as well as further specialist training to oversee automated work. For this reason, he said, Capgemini has adopted a new curriculum in order to meet the levels of demand and sophistication that clients are now demanding.

“In terms of skill sets we’ve moved drastically from being a strong business operator to a more holistic engagement executive role,” Ravaux said. Rather than mere back-end support staff, Capgemini’s BPO workers are more like front-end consultants specialized in different industries and with a broad capacity to grow and work on diverse projects, he explained. “After a couple of years they become team leaders. Every 18 to 24 months our staff change roles. They change clients and they change industries,” Ravaux added, noting that having multi-talented staff like this makes the company more credible in the eyes of its clients.

Capgemini recently doubled its presence in North America through the acquisition of Indian technology services provider iGATE, Ravaux said. He could not reveal how many staff the company is taking on from iGATE in the nearshore region but he said that the acquired firm’s assets and vertical-centric IT solutions will complement Capgemini’s operations nicely: “We bring the methodology and they bring these capabilities and products and I think that should be a very positive combination.” Noting that 40% of iGATE’s business is related to financial services, Ravaux said the acquisition will reinforce Capgemini’s finance-related offerings in Brazil, although this is a market area where the company was already particularly strong. Taking on iGATE’s Mexican operations will also complement Capgemini’s BPO operations in neighboring Guatemala, which have also “recorded massive growth,” he added.

Skills and Certification Challenges

Alejandro Hernandez, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Teleperformance in Mexico, told Nearshore Americas that there is a greater demand for what he describes as “universal profiles.” He explained, “I see more and more approval of profiles when the need is for people with universal skills who can change from one kind of call to another, thus giving clients a more flexible workforce. Before agents worked in customer service, technical support or sales, but now clients want people to be able to handle all three. It’s something that they’re demanding now so us BPOs need to have the ability to develop or identify the right talent to meet their needs.”

Hernandez noted that is also greater demand for BPO workers with a higher level of educational experience today. Clients “prefer for staff to have past experience, or high school or further education. This educational experience gives you greater flexibility and maturity, basic skills for being able to tend to customers,” he said. “There are people out there but it can be hard to find those with the right profile. Sometimes those who are available in the market didn’t finish high school because they moved to the United States or started their own business. They have the right abilities but they don’t have the certifications,” Hernandez added. “So I think we must work with the government through open school programs to solve this problem, so that the people who are apt and available are able to obtain the certifications in order to meet the requirements that clients establish in their contracts.”

Ravaux agreed that a lack of certified workers had been posing a problem for Capgemini. In a bid to resolve this issue, he said, “We’ve invented a BPO certification around transformation capability for people who can do content modeling and have consulting skill sets – they’re a different kind of talent.” Capgemini has developed its own universities and academies which offer training and certification programs based on a curriculum devised by the company. “We’re perfecting these models, area by area and industry by industry,” Ravaux said of Capgemini’s training programs.

In order to accelerate the development of Capgemini’s most talented new employees, the company has also introduced a mentoring program that partners vice presidents with high-performing employees of the opposite gender. The idea is to bring together people with different experiences from different generations, genders, cultures and put bright new recruits in “situations where they can further demonstrate their ability,” Ravaux said. “We get them certified because we’re not deviating from the curriculum that we’ve put in place, but they will be progressing a bit faster than others. It’s also good for retention. This is a way to show that we genuinely do care about people. When you’ve got top leaders coaching individuals from other parts of the organization then the loyalty we show people is paid back ten times over.”

Teleperformance has also “evolved and been working very hard on our training programs,” Hernandez said: “We have programs in which we provide participants with opportunities to develop their skills so that they can become supervisors or coaches or work in quality assurance. We’ve changed the content of our curriculum because times have changed. I think this is essential for any BPO or any organization because if you stop investing in your first-line management then you’re done for.”

Improving Retention

Ravaux repeatedly emphasized the crucial importance of retention and creating clear career paths for employees. “This is a talent industry and we try to avoid a talent war. We select people who can climb the ladder or the pyramid,” he said. “We need to be smarter and faster than our rivals. We always need to be ahead. We’re in an industry where to do nothing is not an option. To retain our people we not only need to have more and more clients but also to elevate our training programs and create more interesting jobs. That’s what we’ve been working on for the last five or six years. This is why people stay with us.”

Encouraging employees to frequently work in new areas instead of one fixed-position not only makes them more flexible and attractive workers but also keeps them motivated and mentally stimulated, Ravaux added. “When you look at the new generation their attention span is reduced to 12 to 18 months. So they need that stimulus,” he said. “But not many clients – even global corporations – can offer work that is not position-based. So if they don’t get a promotion after two or three years the employees move on because they are bored and nobody’s investing in their education.”

Even when Capgemini does lose staff, Ravaux said it’s not uncommon to see them return within a few years: “We have clients poaching our talent from time to time because of their expertise. They overpay them to attract them but after two years they often get bored because it’s position-based, they’re working with just one client and soon they’ve had enough and they come back to us.”

Overall, he believes Capgemini offers “a pretty rich career path.” Many people start out there almost by accident and only regard it as a short-term option, he admitted, “but then they realize that after many years in the business they’re enjoying it more and more because they can grow as people leaders, take on added responsibilities and have partner roles.”

Hernandez described the perception of BPO work as a short-term career option as an undeniable problem for the industry, but one that can be overcome. “There are some businesses out there who don’t take human capital seriously,” he said, “but we have a policy of investing heavily in our people; we’re constantly carrying out employee satisfaction surveys and we’re certifying more and more sites with the Great Place to Work institute. I think we must work very hard to show people that they can develop here. We have many success stories of directors and managers who started out taking calls.” Hernandez added: “Nearshore workers tend to have strong social and cultural aspirations. They’re people that have lived in the United States or studied English and they want to keep growing. We try to make sure that they have very clear career paths so that they understand how far they can go. I think if you give people a clear idea of how far they can go then those that are focused will achieve it.”

Finding the Right Profiles

In Latin America there is a growing need for profiles with greater technical skills and high-tech knowledge,” Hernandez said. “The way in which people contact our staff is changing. We’re evolving from the telephone to social networks,” he added. “Although the telephone is still the principal means of reaching customers, it’s very important that we bear in mind that social networks are the channel of the future.”  When it comes to finding talent with the right skill sets, Hernandez said he believes in-house training is more important than an ability to find the perfect potential employee. He also stressed that “the government a needs to work with us to develop the industry as an important source of employment.”

Hernandez explained: “One of the greatest needs of all Latin American countries is for job creation and we see ourselves as great generators of employment. So we need to talk to our governments and say ‘hey, help us out with this.’ I think if we work together we can achieve our aims. In Mexico I think there are about 80,000 or 90,000 people employed in the BPO industry and we’re a country of 120 million inhabitants. Surely there are more people out there who could be working in this industry.”

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Mexico’s Talent Shortage is a Barrier to Internet of Things Innovation http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/mexico-overcome-talent-shortage-advantage-demand-internet-innovation/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/mexico-overcome-talent-shortage-advantage-demand-internet-innovation/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 13:31:23 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45314 By Duncan Tucker The Internet of Things (IoT), an all-encompassing network of microchips implanted or attached to your body, home, car, household appliances, clothes and practically anything else you can think of, is set to revolutionize our world in the near future. This great technological leap is creating massive opportunities for both hardware and software producers, with less than 1% ...

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By Duncan Tucker

The Internet of Things (IoT), an all-encompassing network of microchips implanted or attached to your body, home, car, household appliances, clothes and practically anything else you can think of, is set to revolutionize our world in the near future.

This great technological leap is creating massive opportunities for both hardware and software producers, with less than 1% of all the physical objects that might one day form a part of this fabric currently unconnected. Cisco predicts that the global IoT market could be worth over US$19 trillion in the next decade, with $860 billion corresponding to Latin America. But if countries like Mexico are to become major providers of IoT solutions then they will have to produce more talent and more companies will need to get in on the act.

Neoris’ IoT Solutions

Global business and IT solutions provider Neoris has been working on IoT innovation strategy for three or four years now, CTO Manuel Belaunzaran told Nearshore Americas. Having grown out of Cemex, Mexico’s largest construction firm, Neoris has a history of creating IoT solutions for remote control and monitoring of concrete plants, he explained. At any given time, Neoris has between 35 and 80 consultants in different areas working on IoT innovation, Belaunzaran said. These include employees in Monterrey, Mexico and in Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as some staff based in Spain.

“Some analysts calculate that by the end of 2020 there will be eight or nine billion small devices connected to the IoT. That is a huge market and it doesn’t stop there,” Belaunzaran said. “Our projection for 2030 is that there is going to be 50 trillion connecting devices. It’s a staggering amount of data that’s going to be sent. These kinds of devices will require data to be hosted and Cloud is the perfect solution for that.”

Aside from creating solutions for Cemex, Neoris also develops IoT solutions to monitor energy grids for telecommunications firms like Telefonica. Other IoT offerings it is working on include specific solutions for maintenance of industrial plants and transportation logistics, smartwatch and smart TV development, security services, healthcare equipment and even solutions for more efficient management of vending machines.

“Our main focus is on the U.S. market, because the United States is always one step ahead in terms of innovation and technology,” Belaunzaran, although he noted that Neoris’ solutions are also broadly suitable for the global market. “There are companies in Latin America that want to have the newest technology so we have very specific cases where customers here in Mexico approach us and ask us to produce solutions that involve IoT for certain industries such as mining for example,” he added. As for when the IoT will really take off? Belaunzaran said we will see some significant projects happening this year, though 2016 is when he expects many more companies to embrace this new technology.

Mexico’s Talent Shortage

Ricardo Medina, a Mexico City-based business development manager with 24 years of experience working with businesses such as Microsoft, Blackboard, IBM and Telmex, believes the IoT presents great opportunities for Mexican developers, but only if the country can produce the necessary human talent to meet the needs of the market. Having grown concerned by the lack of IoT development work taking place in his country and the drastic shortage of developers trained in IoT technology, he founded Megahabilidades, a company that provides specialist training, develops IoT prototypes for software developers and creates its own IoT prototypes.

“A great challenge we have is that not one university in Mexico is formally producing human talent prepared to work in IoT. So we’re going to start a project with the Secretariat of Public Education to train 5,000 students in the development of IoT prototypes,” Medina told Nearshore Americas. Aside from training young students, Megahabilidades will also coach seasoned professionals who lack expertise in IoT. “Some of my clients are software companies that don’t know how to develop for IoT. It’s a new form of working so we need to train not only students but also people who already work in software businesses,” Medina explained.

Starting Small

One of the companies that Medina has been helping with IoT training and infrastructure is BrainUp Systems, a Mexico City-based tech firm founded in 1997. Emphasizing the importance of “constant innovation,” BrainUp Systems Director General Guadalupe Sanchez told Nearshore Americas, “We realized there was a very strong trend toward the Internet of Things and a whole world of opportunities because you can create solutions for connecting almost anything you can imagine.”

The company is currently working on its first IoT project: “a cheap and simple home-security apparatus” featuring input from sensors and security cameras, Sanchez said. “We chose a small project that will enable us to enter the market quickly. Maybe it won’t make us millions but it will give us the expertise to develop more IoT solutions,” she explained. “It’s a first step toward gaining knowledge of methods for IoT development, which requires much greater expertise than app or software development.”

One of the biggest challenges has been the shift toward “creating technology because a lot of the time in Mexico we’re more accustomed to adapting technology than creating it. Implementing this cultural change within our business and the people who collaborate with us is a challenge,” Sanchez said. Finding the talent has also been difficult, she added, “because it’s something that’s only just emerging here. Obviously if you break down each individual task we have people who can make sensors and people who can do the programming, but the complete knowledge of how to do an IoT project is difficult to find.”

The only organizations giving seminars and providing training in IoT in Mexico are “the big brands like Google, Dell, Microsoft, IBM, SAP and Oracle,” Medina said. However these companies are obviously focusing on developing solutions centered around their own products and services, he noted. Beyond those technologies there is an alarming lack of development occurring in Mexico, he warned.

While most of us have seen relatively little practical implementation of IoT technology to date, Medina believes it will take off very soon. “Towards the end of the year and from the start of 2016 onwards I think we’re going to start seeing many, many benefits based on this technology, like intelligent cars, appliances, clothes and homes,” he said, in agreement with Belaunzaran. “The impact is going to be enormous in the short term.”

First Mexico, Then the World

While Mexico could become an important producer of IoT solutions for the United States and the global market, Medina is convinced that developers should first concentrate on the domestic market as they test out the new technology. “I’ve always believed that the development of the industry as a means of accelerating competitiveness has to happen locally. You have to impact the local ecosystem before impacting external markets. If we’re going to talk about smart cities then we have to transform our cities first. If we want to develop prototypes for intelligent homes then we have to experiment first in our own homes,” he said.

At Megahabilidades, Medina explained, “what we’re doing is inviting businesses to develop IoT solutions that meet the local needs of wherever they’re from in Mexico. Then, once these solutions are proven, we can export them.” Once Mexican developers have become more familiar with the technology they can begin to provide solutions for the rest of the world and in particular the United States, he added. “When you consider the nearshore market, it’s always hugely attractive to be so close to the world’s biggest consumer of IT. If we manage to carry out high quality projects and if we can find the way to offer the development of IoT prototype projects based on international standards like CME or Scrum and Agile methodologies then we’ll be able to offer them very easily to the rest of the world.”

While acknowledging that Mexico has a “historic opportunity” and is projected to do big things in IoT innovation, Medina reiterated his concern over the lack of vision and preparation that he’s witnessed in the industry. “We have a great risk,” he said. “Mexico is the second biggest consumer of videogames in the Americas after the United States. But we consume infinitely more than what we produce. If we don’t get our act together and start working seriously in fomenting human capital and developing IoT prototypes then we’re going to condemn ourselves to be consumers instead of producers, like what happened with videogames.”

Making sure this does not happen requires broad cooperation, Medina added, affirming that the government, universities, the private sector and even civil society all share responsibility for fomenting the necessary human capital. “That’s why I think what we’re going to do with the Secretariat of Public Education is so important,” he concluded, “to launch campaigns to prepare human capital in order to be able to carry out more IoT projects.”

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Latin America Can Lead the Way in SMAC Evolution But Challenges Remain http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/latin-america-lead-smac-evolution-work/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/latin-america-lead-smac-evolution-work/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 14:56:31 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45281 By Bianca Wright The importance of solutions that offer integration of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud – often abbreviated to the acronym SMAC – is increasingly difficult to ignore. Although the term was coined a few years ago, it is rapidly becoming the key buzz-term in IT, whether on-, off- or nearshore. As SMAC continues to evolve and client needs ...

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By Bianca Wright

The importance of solutions that offer integration of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud – often abbreviated to the acronym SMAC – is increasingly difficult to ignore. Although the term was coined a few years ago, it is rapidly becoming the key buzz-term in IT, whether on-, off- or nearshore. As SMAC continues to evolve and client needs change, Latin American companies are embracing the change and tackling aspects of this type of integration.

Katharine Rudd, Managing Director of Transformation Services at Alsbridge explained that SMAC is a pretty broad spectrum of services and technologies that is moving quite quickly with regards to evolution.

Alsbridge's Katharine Rudd, Managing Director of Transformation Services, said Latin American companies need to consider SMAC in the context of customer interaction and analytics.

Alsbridge’s Katharine Rudd said Latin American companies need to consider SMAC in the context of customer interaction and analytics.

Patrick Millar, Co-Founder and CMO at Formatic.Ly, emphasized that “Everybody is social, everybody is mobile; so from the perspective of the customer (all of us), the need for companies to have good social media engagement and good mobile technology is critical. This is a given; Darwinism will thin out the ranks of companies that don’t have excellent social and mobile strategies.”

He added that analytics and cloud are critical for providers of mobile and social. “Consumers don’t care about how their social and mobile solutions are provided, as long as they are easy to use, reliable and secure,” Millar said. “Providers of the social and mobile services need to stay on top of the rapidly changing analytics and cloud ecosystem so they can deliver best in class services.”

Minacs’ VP of Solutions Architecture & IT Governance Neri Basque added that, for companies trying to stay on top, integration of SMAC is of paramount importance. “Expectations are such that consumers will only prove loyal to the solution of the moment, the innovative and customer-centric solution,” he said. “The next generation has very limited loyalty and patience, thus it’s important to be ready and flexible.” The message from all seems clear: ignore SMAC at your peril.

The SMAC Evolution

While the current emphasis on SMAC is gaining attention, SMAC itself is evolving. Millar noted that the trend continues to shift radically toward more mobile and more social. He cited the Kleiner Perkins annual state of the internet slide deck which shows massive shifts in usage that are happening on very short timelines.

Millar added that the buyer of software development services for social and mobile is switching – arguably has switched – from the technology group to the marketing team. “The CMO will be outspending the CIO in these areas,” he said.

In addition, he noted, cycle times are shorter than ever. “Formal releases every few months (or years) are going the way of the dinosaurs. Apps and cloud-based platforms are being continuously updated, which creates the need for excellent DevOps skillsets,” Millar said.

Millar emphasized the increasingly greater demand for analytics to measure how well the social or mobile solutions are working. “Gone are the days of assuming that an app will help polish the company’s brand. That app now needs to have demonstrable ROI. Analytics are not just ‘chart porn’; they are critical to understanding customer behavior and shifting trends at a detailed level,” he said.

According to Millar, the level of analytics now being delivered is resulting in new classes of employees being needed. “The much-hyped Data Scientist is a real need to go through the statistics being generated and make sense of them,” he said.

Minacs’ VP of Solutions Architecture & IT Governance Neri Basque said SMAC will have great impact on user experience and the Internet of Things.

Minacs’ VP of Solutions Architecture & IT Governance Neri Basque said SMAC will have great impact on user experience and the Internet of Things.

Basque highlighted two areas where he sees the most impact with regards to SMAC: User Experience and the Internet of Things (IoT). “With the evolution of SMAC, the next generation of enterprise applications is beginning to focus on usability, end-user experience, and easy portability,” he said. “These measures will ensure the architecture is integrated, managed, and personalized providing a contextually relevant experience to end users supporting their new work style.”

With the expectation that there will be 20 billion connected IoT devices by 2020, Basque said that IT departments will need to provide an information infrastructure layer capable of processing vast amounts of data streaming into the enterprise in real-time, as well as learning from this information and making real-time intelligent decisions.

Millar added that security is front and center for consumers of social and mobile. “While common sense, it should be stressed that social and mobile applications are not an area to take short-cuts. The power of the infrastructure can work for you, but also massively against you if your security is breached,” he cautioned. “It is quite possible that a failure of your mobile and social stack due to a security breach could also mean a failure of your company due to massive loss of consumer trust.”

He noted the need for significant advances in testing methodologies and services. “Due to the scale that consumer apps and cloud solutions can experience, they need to be tested in very different ways to understand how the systems will handle potentially extreme loads,” Millar said.

Latin America Makes Its Mark

With shifting and evolving focus areas, it is easy to assume that the U.S is keeping in step while other parts of the world – Latin America included – rush to keep up. That is not quite the case, however.

Basque explained: “The Latin American region is addressing the SMAC trend, in a lot of cases even better than we are in North America. Latin American companies have had to adapt a lot faster, case in point is the growing service models through WhatsApp driven by sheer customer demands.”

He added that companies in the region are more advanced and creative, younger, smaller and able to take more risks. “Local teams are trying to be innovative and competitive. Take Guadalajara, for example; they are known to be the Silicon Valley of Mexico due to the number of IT-related engineers, proximity to California, and the investment that companies like IBM and HP have made there.”

Tyler Pharr of Alsbridge noted LatAm's visible interest and investment in SMAC, particularly in Mexico.

Tyler Pharr of Alsbridge noted LatAm’s visible interest and investment in SMAC, particularly in Mexico.

Tyler Pharr, a Director at Alsbridge based in Mexico City, said: “There is visible growth and interest and investment around SMAC, certainly in Mexico.  IBM recently announced their opening of a cloud center in Querétaro, featuring their SoftLayer cloud technology, that will deliver cloud services locally to Mexican clients as well as nearshore to U.S customers.” He added: “Providers like Argentina-based Globant focus on newer technologies, value-added services and innovative solutions that include SMAC as well as Big Data, gaming, consumer experience and wearables.”

Millar added that there is more than a little irony in the fact that Latin American markets are sometimes more advanced than the U.S in their use of SMAC technologies. “The primary computing device in much of Latin America is the smart phone – and people are doing more with their smart phones there than many people in the U.S,” he said. “I would love to see more of this innovation and creativity make its way into the software development projects that are worked on by teams in this market.”

The trend can yield increased interest in nearshore, too. “The most obvious Latin American connection is with regards to customer interaction and analytics. Offshore and nearshore contact center and client interaction and engagement will be greatly affected by mobile integration and business analytics, via big data and cloud,” Rudd said. “Every consulting and services company now has digital advisory services and offerings, which SMAC falls right in the middle of.  How to deliver digital transformation and how to leverage outsourcing will be key in the next five years.”

Alsbridge MD Bill Huber highlighted SMAC’s significant potential for Latin America.

Bill Huber, Managing Director at Alsbridge noted that SMAC has significant potential for Latin America. “For one thing, SMAC technologies, together with automation, neutralize some of the advantages of offshore labor costs. In addition, a significant percentage of customer-facing ‘digital’ application development is being performed in an ‘agile computing’ model – meaning closer to the business with accelerated development times, with social media and mobile apps at the forefront,” he said, emphasizing that this type of work favors geographic and time-zone proximity.

“At the same time, the large-scale offshore “factories” are becoming less advantageous. This means that smaller-scale development shops with greater cultural affinity – such as can be found in LATAM – can be an advantage,” Huber said.

Avoiding Obstacles

It is not all smooth sailing for Latin America, however. “The A in SMAC is not well served in the nearshore community,” Millar noted. “This is potentially a great growth opportunity for nearshore companies as there is a dire shortage of people in this space in the U.S also.”

He added that analytics is not only about providing interesting data sets and charts, but also about interpreting the data and providing meaningful commentary. “I am only aware of one nearshore company that is looking into this with the eye to hiring data scientists,” Millar said.

Millar went on to say that cloud presence would continue to be a tough issue to work through. “At this time I am only aware of Amazon and Microsoft having big cloud data centers in South America and these are only in Brazil – Sao Paulo for both, Rio also for Amazon. I believe that IBM may have more data centers in South America but am not aware of the details. Working remotely in North American data centers will be slow and painful – there is no avoiding the latency involved in the long round trips for data.”

Other challenges for Latin American companies include English skills and client business understanding. Basque emphasized: “The challenge is to make sure that every project keeps SMAC top of mind; that it actually becomes second nature, in your development DNA.”

He emphasized that Latin American companies need to demonstrate:

  • Technological relevance: When LatAm developers are consistently and appropriately showing U.S developers cool new ways to do things in the new SMAC world, then they will have arrived. This is only happening in selective instances at this time and has much room for improvement across the industry.
  • Cutting edge methodologies: While Agile has been fairly broadly adopted in Latin America, it has not been adopted uniformly well. There is plenty of room for growth, but there are stand-outs who are doing well.
  • Demonstrated innovation: If providers in LatAm want to succeed with SMAC technologies, they need to do better in the innovation space. The world is flat in terms of talent and ideas, so we should be hearing of more ideas coming from Latin American firms rather than the assumption that the clients have all the ideas.
  • Design thinking: Design is often left as a last minute consideration or, in the case of nearshore, something that is done in the US. The most progressive firms are encouraging clients to incorporate design in the overall flow of the project.

Millar cautioned that evolution is not a smooth process; it is one of punctuated equilibrium, where longish periods of slow change are interspersed with rapid explosions of diversity. “In the fossil record we have events such as the Cambrian explosion. In IT, this period will be looked back on as one where many companies that could not adapt either died or were absorbed my more successful ones,” he said.

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Twenty-four Hours in Port au Prince, Haiti http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/twentyfour-hours-port-au-prince-haiti/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/twentyfour-hours-port-au-prince-haiti/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 23:43:06 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45268 By Kirk Laughlin Like many people in the Nearshore services marketplace, I have long considered Haiti to be a market that will one day “get there” and become a viable contender for BPO business, but that day always seemed to be in the distant future. Much like Cuba, Haiti may be near, but it is far from a regular focal ...

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By Kirk Laughlin

Like many people in the Nearshore services marketplace, I have long considered Haiti to be a market that will one day “get there” and become a viable contender for BPO business, but that day always seemed to be in the distant future. Much like Cuba, Haiti may be near, but it is far from a regular focal point for new BPO investment interest. When CFI Haiti – the investment promotions group – invited me to visit Port au Prince recently, I gladly accepted and in a short span of time I was able to toss aside a bunch of inaccurate notions about the country and replace them with a list of unexpected assets and points for further inquiry.

Below is a time-lapse summary of what I saw, who I talked to and what observations and thoughts were generated along the way:

May 5th 3:46pm EST: Arrive on a Copa flight from Panama into Port au Prince.  Passed through three checkpoints, first stop was to collect a US$10 entry fee, second was the immigration folks and third was customs. All were done expeditiously: From de-planning to stepping into the CFI transport van, not more than 20 minutes elapsed. Traffic moved leaving the airport, although congestion was commensurate with what you would expect for an emerging-markets city of 700,000.

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4:55pm EST: Checked-in to the brand new Marriott Hotel, approximately 10 miles from the airport. The $45 million, 175 room hotel opened in February – where former President Bill Clinton was on hand along with Digicel’s founder and CEO Dennis O’Brien, who credited Clinton for pushing him to invest in the hotel three years ago when things were looking pretty grim in Port au Prince. Digicel, the dominant mobile carrier in Haiti and across much of the Caribbean, also operates a 1,000-person plus operations center just adjacent to the Marriott (Haiti has added 2,500 new hotel rooms in the last three years, totaling nearly 4,500 for the whole country). The hotel is equipped to handle small conferences and exhibitions, by the way, and also houses a nice restaurant opening to a large, sun-baked patio.

7pm EST: I met up with two local entrepreneurs – Ricardo Merores and Edouard Baussan –  who own and operate a small BPO firm called “Davos International.” Both men studied in North America, and Ricardo gained significant professional experience working at a BPO center in Toronto. We ventured over to a new rooftop lounge at the Karibe Hotel, just outside of Petion-Ville which is a prime hub for shopping and nightlife. Ricardo and his partner were open about the fact that “selling Haiti” remains a serious challenge. The lack of a strong track record for BPO operations, a perception of instability in government, and assumptions that a French-speaking country has little to offer an industry demanding English-speakers are among the biggest obstacles.  While enjoying a few bottles of “Prestige” – the national beer – we had a more serious discussion about what Haiti really offers and how wide the gap is between reality and perception (a familiar topic for virtually anyone doing business in Nearshore). So far, Davos has been supporting domestic back-office work, mainly in government and insurance.

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9:30pm EST: Back at the Marriott, and having interacted in the last few hours with maybe 20 or more Haitians – all speaking great English – I began to already question my assumptions about Haiti being a ‘French-first’ market.  Started looking at data on the levels of deportees returning to Haiti from the United States, and based on summary review, learned there has been a steady increase in recent years.

May 6th 8AM EST: On our way with team CFI Haiti to our first stop – a former warehouse, textile mill that has largely been converted for use in services and BPO. Claude Apaid, CEO of Triangular S.A., and owner of the complex welcomed us in – and explained the reason he has begun investing in BPO: “We expect Haiti to be increasingly well positioned to support global services.” His argument that Haiti was “becoming more competitive” prompted a quick bit of research on the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Index rankings. Haiti, again being the poorest of countries in the Americas, does struggle in virtually every competitiveness category – however the surprising finding came when reviewing the country’s “labor market efficiency,” which placed Haiti at the exact same level as Colombia, Guatemala and Panama and above the Phillipines, Mexico, Brazil and India. The figures seemed to reflect Haiti’s relatively strong support for fair labor practices (Claude, by the way, made clear that unions are a non-factor in the BPO industry in Haiti). Claude also stressed the strength of Haiti’s ICT infrastructure – slowly but steadily loosening the monopoly grip by the former government incumbent which is required now to lease capacity and, as a result, broadband prices appear to be dropping (our quick assessment: Telecom costs are probably somewhere in the medium to high category as compared to other markets in the region. Another point for further inquiry).

9am EST: Claude, who both operates his own BPO and also rents space to local BPO operators, rounded up a group of agents. We met nine – all with outstanding English skills, and virtually all of them had lived in the United States – one for over 40 years.  The individuals not only spoke well, but they presented well – confident without being boastful. There was a palpable sense that they felt fortunate to have a full-time, professional  job and remarked that many more friends and associates who had previously lived in the United States are among those looking for work in Haiti. The going rate for BPO agents? We gathered the range is somewhere between $300 and $400 per month, but with further analysis a sharper figure is sure to emerge.

 

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10am EST: A whirlwind tour of available office space was initiated, and our guide was Darragh Dolan, a Digicel executive and native of Ireland who has lived in Haiti for over six years. We toured two multi-story office buildings – both of which are owned by Digicel and acquired through acquisition (staff in both offices were integrated into Digicel’s main ops center about four miles away). Both buildings are clearly suitable for BPO operations – equipped with HVAC, telecom and electricity links and relatively easy access to public transport. The buildings (one measuring 1494 sq. meters and the other 1217 sq. meters) have the capacity to support – as many as 250 to 300 agents, depending on configurations.

Noon EST: Informative luncheon back at the Marriott with top executives from Digicel, CFI Haiti and also the head of a startup BPO talent recruitment firm.

2pm EST: Shuttled over to CFI’s main office to hear a really interesting presentation from Pierre Liautaud, the executive VP of Infrastructure at GB Group, which is engineering a very ambitious – 400+ hectares – ‘integrated economic (free trade) zone’, which in essence is a combination port, business park, and residential center all about 30 minutes north of Port au Prince, on the seaside. The office space is effectively a shell, within which BPO operators can customize their operations. The ‘Port Lafito’ project is intended to create more than 25,000 new jobs in Haiti by the year 2020.

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3pm EST: Summary discussions with team CFI around labor, tax incentives, rule of law, economic and political stability and overall message CFI is trying to get to the larger outsourcing community. Nailing down an exact number of adult-age, ready to work English speakers in Haiti was a bit challenging – but the conservative figure we came away with was: 20,000 Haitians.

4pm EST: Venture back to the airport – easy passage through security and after one final check from a random police officer (he quickly backed away after explaining what I was there for), I boarded my flight back to Panama.

Summary: You can only get so far during a quick 24-hour visit, but without question I came away with the sense that Haiti is building a pretty powerful argument to find its niche in the Nearshore BPO services market. With costs comparable to another strong new upstart – Guyana – and proximity that beats many other destinations, Haiti has the opportunity to build a compelling case. Political instability is certainly an issue – the upcoming elections seemed to have paralyzed the country to some degree with a large number of candidates seeking the presidency. Nonetheless, all Nearshore markets have their liabilities and Haiti – if it plays its cards right – can capitalize on its increasingly cosmopolitan, multi-lingual asset base to become one of the surprise Nearshore players in the next several years.

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Mexico’s Start-Up Ecosystem Drives Talent Development and “Global Reach” http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/mexicos-startup-ecosystem-drives-talent-development-innovation/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/mexicos-startup-ecosystem-drives-talent-development-innovation/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 18:14:00 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45223 By Emily Stewart Mexico is known for many things: tequila, tacos and mariachi music. But technology, innovation and startups? Actually, yes. The country has become an increasingly powerful player on the Latin American innovation map. It ranked 66th on the 2014 Global Innovation Index, behind Chile (46), Panama (52), Costa Rica (57) and Brazil (61), but ahead of Colombia (68), ...

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By Emily Stewart

Mexico is known for many things: tequila, tacos and mariachi music. But technology, innovation and startups? Actually, yes.

The country has become an increasingly powerful player on the Latin American innovation map. It ranked 66th on the 2014 Global Innovation Index, behind Chile (46), Panama (52), Costa Rica (57) and Brazil (61), but ahead of Colombia (68), Uruguay (72) and Peru (73). Gartner estimates that the Mexican IT market is worth US$64 billion and anticipates it will grow nearly 3% through 2018.

Mexico’s tech talent pool has already caught the attention of some big names in innovation.

Global Reach

Enterprise software and computer hardware giant Oracle established its third international development center (following the U.S. and Mexico City) in Guadalajara in 2011. The engineering operations of Ooyala, which provides video solutions for media companies, enterprises, broadcasters and operators all over the globe, are based in Guadalajara and have been since 2010. There is a Microsoft Technology Center in Mexico City, and Cisco inaugurated a global services center in the city earlier this year.

Growth is fueled by a number of factors – universities, government initiatives, investment. The Mexican startup scene has also proven a major contributor, becoming an increasingly important driver of the country’s growing technological prowess.

“I think [the startup industry] is moving very rapidly and growing very fast, and it keeps accelerating the pace,” said Marcus Dantus, the founder and CEO of Startup Mexico, a privately-held innovation company and campus based in Mexico City. “There are more projects coming out of universities every year, there are more people participating, and there are more people wanting to become entrepreneurs.”

“It’s still at an early stage, but it’s developing and growing rapidly,” said Diego Serebrisky, Managing Director at Mexico City-based venture capital firm Alta Ventures.

Talent Development

Dantus said that “talent abounds” in Mexico, adding that about half of the country’s population is under the age of 30 and claiming that Mexico now graduates more engineers per capita than any other country in the world.

But it is not just students who are going the startup route – seasoned professionals are looking in that direction, too. Fabian Aguilar Urbán, Fund Manager at Angel Ventures Mexico, explained that his team is coming across more and more startups with CTOs who are ex-employees of companies like Cisco, Google and IBM. “You do get a lot of skills if you work at a big corporation,” he said.

Serebrisky echoed Aguilar Urbán’s sentiment that it is not just students who are contributing. Seasoned technology professionals are getting into the game, as are serial entrepreneurs whose previous ventures have fallen outside of the technology realm. “It’s very broad. It’s not just the 20- to 24-year-olds,” he said.

He offered up two examples. Mobile payment company Clip was launched in April 2013 by Adolfo Babatz and Vilash Poovala, who previously worked at PayPal and Visa. According to CrunchBase, Clip has raised upwards of $8 million in venture capital funding. Similarly, Vicente Fenoll, the founder of peer-to-peer lending platform Kubo, had previously built the more traditional microfinance company Fincomún.

There have been a number of catalysts at play in this expansion of startup activity in Mexico.

Andres Barreto, serial entrepreneur and seed investor at Socialatom Ventures, pointed to the 2010 launch of Mexican.VC and its 2012 acquisition by 500 Startups as important drivers, as well as the 2013 establishment of the National Entrepreneurship Institute (INADEM), which is specifically aimed at developing a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico. “There’s been a boom in the startup industry,” Barreto said.

INADEM distributed more than $650 million in 2014, leading to the creation of 6,000 new companies and 73,000 new jobs. More than $1 billion in venture capital funding was committed to Mexico last year as well. Argentina-based accelerator and seed fund NXTP Labs has announced an agreement with Mexico’s naranya*LABS to invest $8 million in Mexico. Telefónica accelerator Wayra, which launched in Mexico in 2011, is still going strong, as is 500 Mexico City. While in 2010, there were approximately 40 venture capital funds committed to Mexican companies, today, there are around 80.

Overcoming Hurdles

The Mexican startup industry certainly appears to be up and running, but there are still a number of obstacles to overcome.

First of all, what shape will the startup scene take? Dantus, Aguilar Urbán and Barreto agree that a carbon copy of Silicon Valley is not the answer. They instead encourage a global approach, though they differ on exactly what that entails.

Dantus sees Mexico as an innovation bridge from Latin America to the United States and Europe, and Aguilar Urbán’s view is similar. Barreto, on the other hand, sees the greatest potential in Mexican companies and talent building global products. All agree that Mexico cannot just focus on Mexico. “The temptation of the Mexican market is that it’s a big market, so it is very tempting, but it’s half the size of the U.S. market, and it’s not half as difficult – it’s more difficult,” Barreto said.

The role of startups in producing tech talent in Mexico is unclear as well. While some engineering graduates are going the entrepreneurial route, others are still heading straight to software development factories and larger companies. Oracle plucks much of its Guadalajara talent straight from universities and trains them with specific skill sets to work on and develop products at scale.

“Big corporations are taking the lead in creating high-tech experts, but I think that’s going to change soon enough,” Aguilar Urbán said.

Beyond Acquihires

What does this mean for Mexico’s startups?

Acquisitions – and acquihires – may not be as likely as many entrepreneurs hope. HotelTonight, Uber and Yelp have gone straight to the Mexican market. They are hiring commercial and sales teams locally, but not engineers, and they are not acquiring local copycats.

That being said, Serebrisky clarified that there are still opportunities for local iterations of proven ideas – depending on the nature of the business. While it may not work for Facebook or Uber to acquire in order to order markets, for others, it does. “For some it makes sense to do the acquisition of local players because it gives them a head-start in having a team, in connections, and gives them an initial market share of an existing base of clients,” he said.

And even without acquisitions, companies that are looking for Mexican technological talent may not search in startups and may instead go to the bigger players, recruiting more senior workers directly from companies like Ooyala, Oracle and even Rocket Internet. Reports indicate Amazon is set to land in Mexico in 2015, but it is not clear yet who they will be interested in hiring – or from where.

Mexico’s startup and technology industry provides quite a bit of food for thought for entities large and small considering nearshore opportunities in the country. Most are still testing the waters, but the prospects are very real. “There is a true opportunity in hiring teams in Mexico,” Barreto said.

Expanding Opportunities

One such example is 3D Robotics, an open-source unmanned aerial vehicle technology company and the manufacturing arm of DIY Drones. The company’s manufacturing operations are in Tijuana, Mexico, and its founder, Jordi Muñoz, was named in Inc.’s 35 Under 35 Coolest Entrepreneurs of 2014.

Bismarck Lepe, the co-founder of Ooyala, has kept development operations in Mexico with his latest venture, Wizeline. The bulk of the company’s engineering efforts is based in Guadalajara.

Google has a good-sized office in Mexico City, as does Facebook. And they certainly won’t be the last to take notice. “Some of the tech multinationals have opened or are opening operations and large offices here, and in part, I think that’s because many of them see that it’s a good place to have headquarters or offices that are regional, so that it’s not only Mexico but other countries in the region they cover from here,” Serebrisky said.

There is no question that Mexico is becoming an increasingly powerful player on the technological map, nor that its talent pool is attractive. Those looking for hiring opportunities will find them.

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Bosch Pushes Brazil Expansion, Diversification of Services, Despite Brazil Economic Slowdown http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/bosch-pushes-brazil-expansion-diversification-services-brazil-economic-slowdown/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/bosch-pushes-brazil-expansion-diversification-services-brazil-economic-slowdown/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 14:51:39 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45201 By Silvia Rosa The growth of the IT and Telecom Technology (ICT) sector in Brazil, the sixth largest market in the world, has attracted IT multinationals, which have expanded their investments in the country.  Although the greater part of the investment in ICT is concentrated in the Telecom sector, there is also great growth potential in the IT sector. The ...

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By Silvia Rosa

The growth of the IT and Telecom Technology (ICT) sector in Brazil, the sixth largest market in the world, has attracted IT multinationals, which have expanded their investments in the country. 

Although the greater part of the investment in ICT is concentrated in the Telecom sector, there is also great growth potential in the IT sector. The IDC forecasts 7% growth for the IT sector in Brazil this year, a number lower than the double-digit pace reached in the last few years but, nevertheless, above the 3.4% forecast  for world average, said Renato Rosa, Brazil Research and Consulting Senior Analyst at IDC.

As the largest market in Latin America, Brazil has attracted IT multinationals recently, such as the German firm Bosch Service Solutions, the Indian companies Tech Mahindra and Wipro and the Spanish Indra. “Brazilian companies are gaining maturity and are modernizing their processes,” said Rosa, from IDC.

One of these companies is Bosch Service Solutions. As part of its global strategic realignment, the company is expanding its operations in IT services in Brazil.

The Bosch Communication Center, a division of the German company, was renamed in September 2014 as Bosch Services Solutions, reflecting the repositioning of the company, which is aiming at expanding its operations beyond the Business Process Operation (BPO) towards a focus on innovative service solutions.

Expanding Repertoire

Since 2013, the company has operated in the call center segment in Brazil and the plan is to expand the services portfolio, which includes help desk, fleet management, data analytics, social media platform analysis and complaints management. “The goal is to develop solutions in partnership with clients,” said Sebastián Funes, general manager at Bosch Service Solutions in Brazil. Bosch Service Solutions employs 5,000 employees worldwide and has 23 subsidiaries in 15 countries, serving more than 1,000 customers.

In Brazil, Bosch Services Solutions has increased its service portfolio, which involves IT tools and services such as data analytics, social care, help desk, and others. The company offers services focused on four main pillars: customer interaction, mobility, infrastructure and business support. “Our goal is to contribute positively to the customer results through the improvement of their processes and applied technology,” said Funes, from Bosch Service Solutions.

Currently, Bosch Services Solutions has two regional service hubs in Brazil. In São Paulo, the company provides management services and interaction intelligence with the customer, as well as mobility services, such as fleet management and vehicle tracking, besides alarm monitoring in buildings and homes. The company also has a business process center in Joinville, which is responsible for performing financial and accounting services, payroll processing, training logistics, among others.

Bosch Service Solutions has wide experience in the financial and insurance industries, as well as in technology and telecommunications, automotive, travel and transportation areas, besides other segments, such as media, retail, pharmaceutical and manufacturing. Among its international customers are large companies such as Mercedes Benz, Lenovo, Lufthansa Cargo, Michelin, etc. In Brazil, among its main customers are two large insurance companies for which the company provides customer care services, accident reporting, hotline and feedback and complaints management.

With a significant presence of the Bosch group in the automotive sector, Bosch Service Solutions is also responsible for the customer services of a large automobile manufacturer and it has recently closed a contract with a large company from the civil construction sector.

In the case of the automotive industry, the company offers services such as eCall (Emergency Call), support for vehicle maintenance, control and remote services, as well as fleet management, including tracking, monitoring and cost management. The Bosch portfolio also includes services such as quality monitoring and customer service process, solutions to optimize costs and processes, etc. In addition to this, the company offers customer services in several social media channels. “All these services, as well as our approach, are directly based on an intensive use of IT resources, which allows us to have both a broad and critical analysis on the possibilities for improving the process,” said Funes.

Mobile & Social Media

Regarding mobility services, Bosch Service Solutions developed a range of solutions called Fleet Management. The services provided include, for example, monitoring, recovery of stolen vehicles, customer driver service, management of vehicle maintenance in the Bosch Car Service garages, cost control, and other customized services.

Another focus is the monitoring and analysis of data from social media platforms. Bosch Service Solutions developed a platform called Dave (Digital Native), which allows the company to have a more complete view of clients, regardless of their channel of interaction with the brand, product or service for which Bosch makes the relationship management.

In that way, it can identify and classify what is being discussed, its relevance, its viral potential and correlation with other interactions, even in the case where there isn’t any direct involvement of this individual with the brand. All this is done both through social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) and through any other digital or traditional channels of interaction (voice, self-service, etc.). “When the aim is to improve the customer relationship service of our clients, it is essential to hear and understand their expectations, create open and effective channels for this, measure the weight of the expectations and assess how this can change the company’s plans,” said Funes.

The Bosch executive said that through the use of big data analysis it is possible to understand the purchasing profiles versus the availability and offer focus, identify trends that point to recurring problems that could become damaging to the brand, as well as to take proactive initiatives.

Despite the slowdown of the Brazilian economy this year, Bosch Service Solutions maintains its plans to grow in Brazil.  “Brazil’s economic situation is an extremely important factor, but this had been taken into account when we elaborated our strategic plan, and we continue to seek the results,” said Funes.

According to Rosa, service contracts in the IT sector are usually long term and, thus, they are less impacted in this scenario.

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Nexus 2015: Communication and Cultural Understanding Key to Software Development Innovation http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/nexus-2015-communication-cultural-understanding-key-software-development-innovation/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/nexus-2015-communication-cultural-understanding-key-software-development-innovation/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 13:10:39 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45127 By NSAM Staff Getting software development right in an outsourced environment can be tricky, but in the nearshore context time zone and cultural affinity combined with the ability to create blended teams minimizes some of those challenges. Panellists comprising users and those on the supply side in the Engineers’ Ensemble session at Nexus 2015 agreed that collaboration and communication are key ...

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By NSAM Staff

Getting software development right in an outsourced environment can be tricky, but in the nearshore context time zone and cultural affinity combined with the ability to create blended teams minimizes some of those challenges. Panellists comprising users and those on the supply side in the Engineers’ Ensemble session at Nexus 2015 agreed that collaboration and communication are key to making such development work.

“The availability for collaboration in the nearshore is so much easier than the offshore. Nearshore gives us the availability of test leads to be responsive. I have loads of project work that requires someone to be there usually during the East coast hours, and I don’t get that availability obviously from off-shore,” said Iris Trout, Vice President and Global Senior Testing Director at TD Bank.

Convenience is not the only driver for nearshore options, however. John DeMassi, Director of Special Projects at Liberty Mutual, stressed the importance of the social conscience element. “The challenges of going to India and China always deal with time zone, but a lot of Indian companies will accommodate you and they will come in late and stay late. When you build a relationship with them, you realize that you are impacting their lives, not just on the days you are socializing with them, but every day. They are not seeing their kids because they are coming in at 10:30am and leaving at 20:30.”

He added: “I look at that challenge as a time zone issue, but it is also a social issue. When you are working with the nearshore, you know that you don’t have that.”

The Right Blend

Ed Schwarz, Co-Founder and Vice President of Engineering at Gorilla Logic, agreed that the social aspect in blended teams is crucial. “We do most of our delivery in blended teams. In making software for a lot of user interaction and for a lot of web and mobile applications that we are doing, time frames for development are very short, and developing those projects with an agile methodology isn’t only an engineering challenge, in fact it is increasingly a collaborative social project.”

He added that it requires not only the basics of communication and being in the same time zone, but “fundamentally being on the same page socially is actually a pretty important piece of the puzzle. The time zone does make a big difference. If one side, one team, is eating all of the late nights and early mornings and the other isn’t, it creates a certain dynamic in the team that is very hard to overcome. So we don’t think we have on-shore and offshore teams; we have one team and if we feel like there is a distinction being made we swarm all over that.”

Despite time zone and cultural affinity, software development in the nearshore is not without challenges. Patrick Millar, Co-Founder and CMO of Formatic.Ly, has succeeded in bringing complex software development projects to Latin America.

He said: “The real key to success was keeping an open mind in terms of the feedback from partners; we have our ideas but we also needed to listen to them. We tackle this in a number of ways; one very basic one is to have blended teams. We used agile methodologies. We had the joint meetings not just in the execution of the sprint but during planning and in the retrospective – and it made us better.”

Alex Robbio, Co-Founder and President of Belatrix Software, said: “This is an exciting time for nearshore. The next frontier in nearshore is to go beyond time zone and culture – that’s a given; we need to look at providing additional value, innovation, creativity, and fast time to market.”

For Robbio it is not about competing with India. He said: “We want to be a great complement to India. We see that our larger clients they are keeping India, but while still engaging with us. We are doing work on the user experience side, creating engaging experiences, mobile applications, and applying agile testing. There’s a lot going on.”

The Need to Innovate

Inspiring innovation is vital in such a context. “Everyone can talk about innovation but how do you prove and how do you make it a process that. We have addressed this by training our people in design thinking. It’s a great way to create new features, new processes. It’s a process developed by Ideo in Silicon Valley and it works really well in agile software development,” Robbio said. Ideo’s concept is a human-centered approach to innovation.

Schwarz also emphasized the need to develop innovation within teams. “We are really looking for the best skill match regardless of the location. We look for innovation anywhere in the team. It’s finding a place where everyone can contribute and starting to treat everyone with the same kind of respect,” he said.

He went on to add: “We have seen that be tremendously powerful. We have seen tremendous delivery with small focused teams just like you expect or are supposed to get with agile and we have managed to deliver successful projects in nice short time frames in 10 weeks, eight weeks, three weeks, maybe, with the blended team. It is a great way to work and nearshore makes it possible.”

Millar shared one technique that he had used to encourage innovation. They ran a quarterly hack week where people would submit ideas, pitch for it, and people would vote on the ideas, for any technology that was complementary to what was being worked on in the company.

“We used to do this before we were working with nearshore and once we started to work with nearshore we asked the question: ‘does somebody not get to do it because someone has to watch those projects?’ We made the decision to include nearshore. For the eagle-eyed accountants for an eight percent direct cost, we found that over 90% of those projects were going into our mainstream code base, so you could pretty much eliminate that cost,” Millar said.

He added that the positive impact on communication, understanding and collaboration was fantastic. “Innovation is very sensitive to relationship, it is very sensitive to trust. [This project meant] hearing ideas come from different areas, from different geographies, and saying ‘I hadn’t even thought about it that way’, and that’s when it highlights culturally how people think differently about things,” he said.

Cultural Complexity

Although many places in Latin America have a greater cultural affinity with the U.S than offshore locations, cultural differences can complicate matters. “Nearshore, onshore and offshore are all challenges. It’s really about culture and understanding the differences but also embracing the differences,” Trout told moderator William Martorelli, Principal Analyst of Sourcing and Vendor Management at Forrester Research. “I have spent a lot of years trying to force someone from India to be American or to get someone from Mexican to understand something when they really don’t understand it.”

Trout explained that she had jotted down a few differences that she had noticed. “In Latin America, Americans are viewed as curt, and very individualistic. We are seen as not caring about our families; we are giving this perception. On the other hand, Americans view Latin Americans to be really into their fashion, to be slow on the upstart, to not have as firm a handshake as we would like. One I embraced the fact that people are different, the work became so much easier to do. The key is: Don’t try to make everyone try to fit the same mold.”

From the vendor side, the need to sensitize employees to cultural differences is equally important. Robbio noted that his company invests 120 hours per year in corporate training and most of that is in English and communication training. “It’s a customized program that includes a lot of detail on how do Americans prefer to say things, don’t take it personal, they get straight to the point. When we have that awareness on both sides, then it works very well.”

Trout added that in Latin America it is all about facial expressions and body gestures and when you email people cannot get the gist of it. “They want to see you face-to-face. So a lot of telecommunications is used because they want to see us,” she said.

Millar said: “Latin America itself is so diverse. Business culture is different in different countries. Each country makes its own jokes about the others. You talk about being abrupt; people might say that’s Argentina. But then Lima, Peru is a much more formal business environment. That can also influence at a very micro level what kinds of work you might source in the different countries. Some are more culturally aligned with USA, and for some projects that matters and others it doesn’t matter as much, but it is interesting learning that micro structure of the culture.”

Schwarz stressed that “communication goes both ways. You got to what you got do to make customer happy. But you also got to keep your ears open and get the conversation going both ways. It is really a bit of an eye-opener to look at the short cuts and assumptions that are leaving things for other people to do. In a mixed team environment, it is critical to listen to communication going both ways. There is tremendous amount to learn on both sides.”

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Nexus 2015: Cuba’s Internet Infrastructure Lags Behind, But It Can Scale Up Its Telecom Offerings http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/nexus-2015-cubas-internet-infrastructure-lags-telecoms/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/nexus-2015-cubas-internet-infrastructure-lags-telecoms/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 13:09:36 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45095 By Sean Goforth Since December 17, when President Obama announced the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba, there has been a frenzy of speculation over how foreign investment will target the island. Much of the talk has been grossly at odds with the reality on the ground in Cuba, where most of the population lives in subsistence conditions and basic ...

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By Sean Goforth

Since December 17, when President Obama announced the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba, there has been a frenzy of speculation over how foreign investment will target the island. Much of the talk has been grossly at odds with the reality on the ground in Cuba, where most of the population lives in subsistence conditions and basic infrastructure lags far behind most of the world.

To get a better handle on the real state of Cuba’s IT sector, Nexus 2015 convened a special panel with Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis at Dyn. Hailed by the Washington Post as “the man who can see the Internet,” Madory monitors Internet traffic in order to gauge trends, and forecast how networks can be connected and optimized.

At the outset of his Nexus presentation, Madory painted a picture of just how far behind Cuba’s Internet infrastructure is, even when compared with other developing countries in the region. For instance, the size of the Haitian economy is just one-eighth that of Cuba’s, yet Haiti’s telecom sector is far more advanced in terms of services offered by competing telecom providers. Nattcom, Digicel and Access Haiti all service Haiti.

Meanwhile, Cuba was until recently forced to rely on patchy and sluggish satellite Internet. To remedy this and improve Internet service on the island the Cuban and Venezuelan governments partnered to install a submarine fiber optic cable, known as ALBA-1. Yet even though construction on ALBA-1 concluded in 2011, there has been no significant change in Internet service since the cable’s completion, reinforcing the country’s digital isolation at a time of ever-quickening change.

Part of the problem is Internet access to Cuba, be it transmitted through satellite or via the ALBA-1 cable, is dominated by a single provider, a state office known as ETECSA (Empresa de Telecommunicaciones de Cuba S.A.). Madory diagnosed this as a single point of failure. So, if there is a technical problem that ETECSA cannot fix, it affects every Cuban. This was certainly the case in 2013, when Madory noted that an asymmetry in Internet traffic suggested a misconfiguration. After days of working to repair the problem, Havana confirmed the analysis of Madory’s team. But since then Internet service does not appear to have become more widely available in Cuba.

Moreover, Madory has monitored latency spikes, a common problem of congesting links that owes to many people using the Internet. During the times when many users are online, Internet connection times often slow down. In Cuba, the latency spikes are heaviest during the business week, whereas the opposite could be expected in the United States. The low level of Internet traffic during the weekend suggests most Cubans simply don’t have access to the Internet from their homes.

How Cuba May Catch Up

Although the challenges that face Cuba’s IT industry are sobering, there is plenty of reason for optimism in the medium term. Other countries that were until recently digital laggards have opened up their telecom markets, welcoming foreign investment to finance the creation of modern telecom networks while also bringing in the expertise to get systems up and running.

Madory noted that Myanmar may offer lessons for how Cuba could modernize its telecom sector. For decades the country had been run by a military junta that intended to keep the country largely shut off from the outside world. In 2013, less than one percent of the population had access to stable Internet in Myanmar. But that is changing fast as the government has sought to open up the country. The government decided to auction off bandwidth to foreign firms, and those firms have proven eager to modernize the country’s IT infrastructure. According to a recent article in Newsweek, as much as 75-80% of the country will have access to 3G or 4G Internet less than a year from now.

While Cuba is currently at levels of Internet penetration akin to Myanmar a few years ago, the Caribbean island faces if anything fewer challenges when it comes to scaling up its telecom offerings. For one, as Madory noted, the island’s terrain would be more welcoming to the installation of telecom infrastructure than the South East Asian nation that is covered in jungle. Should Havana move in a similar direction by auctioning off bandwidth, access to the Internet on the island could expand by leaps and bounds in just a few years.

And in at least one sense, Madory says there is no parallel. Cuba boasts one of the world’s highest literacy rates—99.8% of Cubans aged 15 and older can read and write. With low levels of Internet access but a highly educated population, Cubans could quickly make the most of opportunities that expanded Internet access brings their way.

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Nexus 2015: Workforce Availability and Risk Concerns are Driving BPO and Customer Care Location Strategy http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/security-workforce-availability-continue-drive-bpo-customer-care-location-strategy/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/security-workforce-availability-continue-drive-bpo-customer-care-location-strategy/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 17:31:48 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45051 By Duncan Tucker When it comes to deciding where in Latin America to outsource to, finding a low-risk environment and a sizeable talent pool continue to be two of the biggest concerns for nearshore buyers. The availability of real estate and the existence of immigration treaties with the United States were also cited as key considerations in the panel on location strategy ...

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By Duncan Tucker

When it comes to deciding where in Latin America to outsource to, finding a low-risk environment and a sizeable talent pool continue to be two of the biggest concerns for nearshore buyers.

The availability of real estate and the existence of immigration treaties with the United States were also cited as key considerations in the panel on location strategy at Nexus 2015, but security – both personal safety and data security compliance – and workforce capacity/attrition rates remain the biggest issues in industry decision makers’ minds.

Fili Ledezma, the Corporate Vice President for Banking Services at Canadian outsourcer Minacs believes that “the whole world, and particularly Latin America, has been below capacity in the last ten years. Almost every country has a lot of idle capacity.” Rather than simply focusing on finding locations with ample workforces, he believes the challenge that companies should be focused on is “finding the expertise within the partner that understands the particular processes (that you need) and that can integrate with the client and assign the right tasks and the right processes in the right geographies.”

However, other panelists were quick to disagree. Luis Derechin, a partner at Nearshore Delivery Solutions, argued that “the easy availability of talent is something of a fallacy because it depends how complex the processes required are. If you want something BPO-wise that’s very simple to do then sure you can find the talent, but if you want something more complex for high-value customers or IT services you need to go to countries that have more than just a capacity availability. A lot of attention has to be turned to countries like Brazil, Colombia and Argentina that have a high availability of human resources in order to fill that higher value capacity.”

Michael Moore, the Vice President for Call Center and Sales Operations at Sirius XM, interjected that ultimately, it depends on what you’re looking for. “If you’re looking for a very specialized small group of people who you’re going to be in touch with and give a lot of feedback, I think any country in the region can do it. But when it comes to grater scale and complexity, exchanging people back and forth, that’s when it starts getting a little more complicated.” Moore recommended that, “If you’ve established a really solid relationship with your vendor… I try to challenge them by asking ‘what line of business is going to be best in this geography or this location? Or what’s the hiring profile going to be? How many people can they fill? Is it going to be all tech or all service?’ Making sure that they’re contributing to those conversations can be incredibly helpful.”

As for retention, the entire region outperforms the United States but attrition can become a problem when local markets get saturated. “Every non-U.S. site that we have outperforms all of our U.S. sites from an attrition standpoint,” Moore said. “I think that the jobs are valued in the countries that we operate in. I think people see call center work as a good job and a good career opportunity and I think that drives that low attrition rate.” Derechin added, “I completely agree until capacity is limited and then you have people fighting for each other’s employees. So attrition is low and linear until the point where a site doesn’t have enough engineers or call center staff. And all of a sudden you need to start poaching people. That’s when attrition starts going up.”

This may become more of an issue in the future as Latin America and the Caribbean is becoming an increasingly popular delivery destination not only for U.S. firms but also for Russian, Belarusian and French firms and even Indian service providers that are moving into the region. Competition for talent will only rise as more service providers from other regions realize that they will lose business if they do not introduce nearshore delivery capabilities, Derechin predicted.

Assuaging Security Concerns

With media coverage of Latin America often focusing on violent crime, personal safety is one concern that’s not leaving the nearshore region any time soon. Sandy MacLeod, the COO of Print at the Star Media Group in Toronto, explained that personal safety considerations played a significant role in his company’s decision to outsource to Jamaica. “When we picked Jamaica proximity came up as a key issue but the security issue was also very near the top of the list,” he said. “We have our staff in Jamaica for about 12 weeks a year and some of them are single moms so security really matters. It wasn’t the determining factor but it was a consideration for us. I had my research team consider the security situation in each of the countries and at the end of the day it was a significant factor for us. I don’t think it’s paranoia (to take it seriously).”

Service providers must play a proactive role in reassuring prospective clients, the panelists agreed. Moderator Stephen Loynd, the Global Program Director for Customer Contact at Frost & Sullivan, noted that some BPO firms are very attentive, making sure that they meet visitors the minute they land at the airport and carefully handle all of the logistics in order to reassure them throughout their stay. However, not all service providers are as smart and organized, he noted:  “There are some others that I’ve seen and it’s amazing that they don’t have everything in place, the little details that often make people wonder.”

Moore agreed that providers should thoroughly research security issues in order to allay the fears of new or potential customers. “When you have a good partnership or you’re working on developing a relationship then the BPO side of the house should pick that up as well,” he said. “The question has to be answered and the folks that are addressing it well are really approaching it head on and making sure that you don’t have to dig through (all the information that’s out there).”

Changing the Narrative

“Another important consideration is how the government transmits a feeling of security to investors looking to establish new businesses in their country,” added Rodrigo Baz, Commercial Director for Mexico and Central America at Cushman & Wakefield. “We have a very good example in Costa Rica,” he said, pointing to the establishment of CINDE, a one-stop-shop aimed at facilitating foreign investment. “You arrive in Costa Rica and you get in contact with this office and they provide you with all the important information for the company, they put you in contact with lawyers, workforce providers and developers,” Baz explained. “They have a very brief and easy to understand summary of how the tax system works there. Now El Salvador has copied the same model and I’m sure that once they put it into practice it will be easier to do business there.

Ledezma suggested that countries that are struggling with image problems take inspiration from the way that Colombia has reinvented itself in recent years. “I think most Latin American countries are looking at this success story and developing programs to develop positive PR regarding security in their countries. And they are directly engaging security firms in the U.S. that provide services to the largest corporations,” he noted.

Derechin agreed that Colombia has set a excellent example, but warned that again, private enterprises must share the state’s burden when it comes to confronting this challenge. “If you think about Colombia’s image 20 years ago you used to think Pablo Escobar and now it’s (Colombian coffee producer Juan) Valdez. It’s incredible. It’s certainly the government’s job but it’s also private industry’s job as well,” he said. “It’s important for us to go out and show that the image most people have of Latin America is wrong. We have to go out and do this ourselves. I was just at a panel in Nasscom in India six weeks ago and if you think Americans don’t know about Latin America then South-East Asians have even less idea and they’re just as scared. So it’s important for companies to partner with government.”

Data Security Compliance

Data security compliance is also becoming an increasingly important consideration, Moore noted. “I think that as we’re looking at new places we have to take into account any of the potential risks from a data security standpoint that may exist in those regions. It’s not that one area may be inherently worse than another – although there are areas that may be a little more susceptible to some of the things that are going on,” he said. “I think it’s become a very different environment today than what it was even a year and a half ago and regions do play into that.”

Discussing compliance with potential service providers for making any agreement is crucial, Moore added: “We’ve started at contraction level. We’ve said ‘here are our table stakes for security compliance and people have to be able to sign up for that.’ It’s caused a bit of pain for some of the smaller partners because going to get specific certifications is not cheap and particularly for some of the smaller BPOs that we deal with it’s a burden for them, but it’s now a requirement just to be able to come in and evaluate the company.”

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