automation services

Automation Services — The 5 Steps to Success

John O'Brien (Research Director)
Max Claps (Research Director, IDC Government Insights)
Ewa Zborowska (Research Director)
Martin Sundblad (Research Manager, IDC European Skills Practice)

Automation is complex and challenging for many services providers’ strategy and business development leaders. The breadth of applications, tools and diversity of personas to involve — and the fact there is no chief automation officer in the business — make it exceedingly difficult.

Automation in one form or another spans almost every area of the business, from IT to software development, to business functions and operations. Automation’s remit is only going to expand over the coming years.

If we needed any convincing, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed just how many areas of the business could have remained online if they had been able to “switch to automatic.” IDC’s COVID-19 wave sentiment surveys have shown that two-thirds of European organisations now see automation as a priority across their horizontal business functions, and this is highest for customer services (75%) and IT (85%).

Automation Enabling New Sources of Business Value

Automation is not an outcome in itself. Automation must be seen as an ingredient in broader digital transformation (DX) and change — and an enabler of new sources of business value. Many organisations still see automation as a threat due to the impact it has on current job roles and current business processes and because it is difficult to foresee the consequences it has on the workforce. But that would be short-sighted. It needs to be about optimising resources — how to reskill teams where job roles have changed and how to enable data to be used more intelligently. Automation needs to be measured in ways that capture this value.

So, it’s not just about hours back to the business, but also about what people then do with that time to drive more responsive and empathic customer service, make operations more resilient, innovate products and services, and embrace new business models that involve ecosystem partners.

At IDC Europe, we have created a squad to explore these ideas in an agile way, specifically to address questions being asked by service providers and their customers as they seek help in redefining their businesses and expanding their automation services portfolios.

We believe there are five key factors that service providers need to consider:

  1. Where could service companies add value through automation?

The challenge: Most business processes operate suboptimally in some way because they have been changed, adapted, reengineered and integrated in a rather organic (sometimes chaotic) manner, rather than being transformed as a result of a strategic road map.

Advice: The opportunity for automation to transform processes is huge and can be identified anywhere organisations are under pressure because of resource constraints or sub-par performance, or where there are untapped opportunities to explore. For service providers this covers a wide range of services that could add value, from business and technology consulting around process redesign to development and integration of automation tools to automated business process provisioning. Opportunities are therefore not limited to companies offering automation tools and related services only — with the right capacities and offerings, any service provider from consulting companies to system integrators to business process outsourcers can create value.

The value itself may have a different form: a shorter operation time, improved quality, embedded compliance or lower cost. This is where robotic process automation (RPA) in particular has captured a lot of attention. In an automated BPO process, for instance, one robot is estimated to cost a ninth to a third of a full-time employee working in the US, Western Europe or India.

  1. How could services companies best organise to add value through automation?

The challenge: Many service providers still lack a unified strategy across automation, as it applies to the business and IT user domains. Many firms are focused on creating centres of excellence around specific technologies, rather than looking at unifying teams and expertise around customer use cases and outcome needs.

Advice: Service providers need to take a multifaceted approach to their investments in the automation area. They should acquire or nurture skills and build automation teams that specialise by industry. Many big names in Europe, such as Accenture and Atos, have been making significant acquisitions in related areas that support automation delivery — for instance, in cloud-native application development and platform as a service (PaaS) to capture a high growth opportunity to build services around industry platforms and hyperscaler solutions.

Adoption of automation will follow the same maturity curve that any new technology with big impact has followed, such as cloud technologies and the Internet of Things. It’s first phase starts off with departmental, uncoordinated pilot projects and proofs of concept, and then it moves on to departmental projects, but with a centralised coordination team that supports the implementation with expertise and platform choice.

As maturity grows, the centralised programme team evolves, chooses partners, platforms and methodology, and acts as the implementer for the departments. At this time, executive management starts to drive the implementation to ensure optimisation of outcome.

The final stage is when the technology is mature enough to be embraced by the business. At this stage it has become mainstream and part of day-to-day business. Automation service providers need to recognise the evolution and respect it.

A larger service organisation needs to experience the maturity stages, otherwise it will fall short on lack of internal skills and experience and will never be able to reach the final stage of embracing the new technology.

  1. Who should services companies work with to add value through automation?

The challenge: Automation is a transformation enabler for both business and IT teams. However, this is often where service providers come unstuck. Organisational complexity, rigidity in existing processes, lack of documentation, internal politics and often mismatched priorities make finding the right personas within customers incredibly challenging.

Advice: Automation only really works when the right people are bought into the programmes and can support the internal/external engagement and building out of teams. There are big opportunities for service providers that can provide this important navigation and advisory role for their customers.

One example of this in action is Accenture, which worked with T-Mobile Czech Republic and Slovak Telekom to deploy automation into their customer service processes. The idea was to help front-office contact centre workers do their jobs more easily while automating more tedious and repetitive back-office tasks. Process experts from both operators worked together with Accenture specialists as one team to ensure the results meet customers’ expectations.

  1. Who should service providers partner with to add value through automation?

The challenge: Service providers are often themselves still hampered by siloed teams and internal competition, particularly in pivoting to fast-moving early-stage sectors like automation. They need to be able to unify teams across IT and business and across technologies and put the customer need front and centre in the way they go to market.

Success is going to depend on being the honest orchestrator of solutions and services for the specific use case at hand, rather than being committed to one solution or another.

Advice: Many automation solutions start with the technology and work backwards. This must change. Successful service providers here are taking an outside-in view of the customer challenges, through design thinking led ideation and prototyping, multidisciplinary teams and co-creating with the customer and industry and technology experts. The choice of technology becomes one of the outputs of the ideation and design, not the starting point.

  1. Should service providers create their own IP?

The challenge: Without IP to differentiate from the competition, service providers are going to struggle to win business. IP is about creating a unique defensible proposition that brings together best practice methodologies, tools and industry expertise for the client.

Many service providers are building their own automation IP — think of DXC Bionix, TCS Ignio, Infosys Edgeverve, HCL DryICE, Wipro HOLMES and Accenture MyNav — and an ever-growing number besides. These come ready built, often infused with AI, with the aim of providing a faster, more preconfigured and therefore cost-effective services provision, ultimately driving faster time to business outcomes.

Advice: Flexibility in both offerings and business models is key to IP-led delivery. Service providers will therefore need to constantly innovate here to stay ahead. Don’t try to be a one-stop shop, as no single provider can claim to be the best at everything.

Many providers are now having to change strategy to embrace a multipartner ecosystem within their platforms, managing both their own IP and third-party products to ensure maximum choice for customers. This has made IP creation and orchestration a necessary part of the automation services armoury.

What Next?

Over the coming months, IDC’s squad on automation services will dive deeper into these and other related topics. Please let us know what you think about these topics and let us get the conversation started.

 

To learn more about our upcoming research, please contact John O’Brien, Massimiliano Claps, Ewa Zborowska, or Martin Sundblad, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.


Officials are working on a tablet

Making Data and Technology Matter in the Next Normal of Public Services

Max Claps (Research Director, IDC Government Insights)
Joe Dignan (European Head, IDC Government Insights)
Louisa Barker (Research Manager, IDC Government Insights)

Public sector executives, whether they are program or IT leaders in large national governments, or city and regional officials, face a conundrum in the years to come. They need to use the substantial funding made available by the COVID-19 recovery packages wisely, while figuring out how to realize the benefits of the tsunami of data and technology innovation.

A Once in a Generation Opportunity to Re-imagine Social and Environmental Outcomes

Worldwide COVID recovery packages amount to a total of €10 trillion. European Union institutions are pumping resources into the economy. €750 billion come from the Next Generation EU plan. €1.1 trillion will come from the EU 2021-2021 Multi-Year Framework. Countries like Germany and France are adding another €100 billion each.

The COVID recovery funding offers European public sector leaders a once in a generation opportunity to re-imagine their economies. This is an opportunity to make societies more inclusive, infrastructure more efficient and resilient to shocks, cities more livable and prosperous, mobility more convenient, affordable, and safe.

It is an opportunity to deliver on the promise of a net-zero economy which is more sustainable against long-term stresses, like climate change. Leveraging data and technological innovations will be critical to realizing this opportunity.

The Data and Technology Innovation Tsunami

National government departments, regions and cities have used information and communication technology for over 40 years. The pace of innovation has accelerated in the past five to ten years.

Technologies like the Internet of Things, edge computing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotic process automation and digital twins, have become affordable at scale. These technologies hold the promise of not only supporting existing government services and processes, but also re-imagining them and empowering public services leaders to translate the massive amounts of data that they collect into valuable insights to make intelligent policy and operational decisions.

The COVID emergency has accelerated this transformation. Social distancing measures made digital interactions between government and citizens, government and businesses, and among governments the norm. It catapulted civil servants in the future of remote, flexible working arrangements. It prompted the government to roll-out urgent public health and economic recovery measures that had to be translated into new business workflows and digital services.

Enabling Long-term Societal Outcomes Through Data and Technology Innovation

European public sector executives must use data and technology to make intelligent, transparent, and timely policy decisions on how to design and execute critical programs. They must deliver seamless and intuitive services to citizens and businesses, so that constituents can realize the benefits of these recovery programs.

They must use data and technology as the keys to unlock the next normal of efficient, trusted, highly responsive, inclusive and convenient (ETHIC) public services, so that they can re-imagine how people achieve economic prosperity, realize physical and mental wellbeing, sustain a pride of place, and engage in trusted relationship with their friends, communities and institutions. In one word, how people pursue happiness.

Source: IDC

Public sector leaders that succeed in realizing these opportunities will make data and technology innovation central to their operations. Those who linger, risk wasting taxpayer money on costly, insecure legacy technology, fancy but unused citizen apps, outdated working models, rigid, manual processes, data buried in forgotten tapes and piles of paper.

They will struggle to respond to the fast evolution that citizens and businesses expect.

If you want to know how to make sense of the data and technology tsunami, join the IDC Government Executive Summit to hear how visionary public sector leaders are shaping the next normal of public services to re-imagine policy outcomes.

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To learn more about our upcoming research, please contact Massimiliano Claps, Joe Dignan or Louisa Barker, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.


AMD

AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT Graphics Card Review: The Sweet Spot for 1440p Gaming

Mohamed Hefny (Senior Program Manager, Virtualization, Systems & Infrastructure Solutions, EMEA)
Andrew Buss (Research Director, European Enterprise Infrastructure)

The new AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT is the first mid-range graphics card from AMD to feature the RDNA 2 gaming architecture. It is packed with 96MB of Infinity Cache and 12GB of GDDR6 memory, and supports real-time ray tracing through 40 ray accelerators.

Source: AMD

AMD unveiled the new card on March 3, 2021, announcing that it pushes the limits of gaming by enabling high refresh-rate 1440p performance with breathtaking visual fidelity, addressing the needs of the fast-growing 1440p gaming segment. We received reference cards as a review samples and we are putting AMD’s claims to the test.

Great Features

AMD Infinity Cache

According to AMD, the 96MB of last-level data cache on the GPU die — dubbed “Infinity Cache” — provides up to 2.5 times higher bandwidth at the same power level and memory width as traditional architectures, to provide a higher level of gaming performance. This proves to be a very important feature, especially given the 192-bit memory interface on the 12GB of GDDR6 RAM.

Typically, a narrow bandwidth can hinder performance and, in specific gaming cases, create a stuttering experience. This was not the case with the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT, as we will see in our benchmarking and gaming test results.

Source: AMD

Ray Tracing

In addition to FidelityFX visual enhancement effects and variable-rate shading functionality (which allows the hardware to focus the rendering work where it is most needed), AMD added a hardware ray accelerator to each of the Radeon RX 6700 XT’s 40 compute units. This means that next-gen games that take advantage of DirectX12 Ultimate to implement ray tracing through DXR will be fully supported. 

As with all ray tracing implementations, frame rate performance is impacted, so games developers will need to implement this intelligently and give the user the flexibility to tailor their game settings to achieve the desired level of performance. AMD has announced that FidelityFX Super Resolution is being developed for release later in 2021.

This technology will allow increased performance in ray-traced games by rendering at a lower native resolution such as 1080p, and then upsampling the output to higher resolutions such as 1440p.

Source: AMD

AMD Smart Access Memory

The Resizable Base Address Register, also known as Resizable BAR, is a feature that increases performance by allowing the processor, via the PCIe bus, to fully access the entire graphics card’s memory (VRAM) directly, rather than in 256MB pages. AMD is the first GPU vendor to introduce Resizable BAR support as Smart Access Memory (SAM) technology.

SAM requires a platform based on an AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processor, Radeon RX 6000 Series graphics card, and a 500 Series chipset-based motherboard. AMD has also expanded support to select Ryzen 3000 Series processors. We checked by using Ryzen R9 3950X and R7 3700X CPUs on X570 and B550 motherboards from ASRock and Asus, and it works.

Price and Availability

AMD’s suggested end-user pricing for the Radeon RX 6700 XT graphics cards starts at $479. However, it is hard to determine the average selling price when the cards are completely unavailable. This makes it even harder to determine the value based on price per performance, or in comparison with other cards.

Various conditions are making it almost impossible for gamers to purchase a new graphics card, mainly the vastly increased GPU demand due to the pandemic and the resurgence of crypto mining. This has resulted in toxic practices motivated by greed, like scalping and direct sales for highest bidders on the channel level, instead of distributing to tech retailers and e-tailers at regular prices with good margins.

From its side, AMD has increased production and has taken several steps to help prevent bots from purchasing products on AMD.com, with manual auditing of orders to limit the ability to order multiple cards of the same model. The company also provided detailed guidance to retail/e-tail and board partners to help address this issue.

Test Systems

Our main tests and benchmarks were conducted on an AMD Ryzen R7 3700X processor, installed on an ASRock X570 Taichi motherboard and equipped with 16GB G.skill DDR4 3200MHz CL14 Trident Z RAM (2x8GB). We also tested the card’s 4K performance with a compact build featuring an AMD Ryzen R9 3950X with an ASRock X570M Pro4 motherboard.

We opted for a Ryzen 3000 Series processor in our benchmarking build, as this offers a good representation of a real-world mid-range to high-end system: Users are likely to upgrade their Vega or Navi first-gen card to the RX 6700 XT to achieve the best possible performance boost for the price, without necessarily upgrading the CPU to a Ryzen 5000 Series at the same time.

Source: IDC

Gaming Performance

At 1440p resolution with the highest quality settings, Cyberpunk 2077 ran at an average of 77fps, and the demo for the new game Outriders ran at 88fps. We had some Victory Royale wins in Fortnite at 140fps, taking advantage of Radeon Anti-Lag.

Source: IDC

What we found most impressive is World of Warcraft’s performance with ray tracing enabled:

Source: IDC

Godfall — a game that uses Unreal Engine 4 and the DirectX12 Ultimate application programming interface —ran at an average of 75fps with ray tracing, while the older Shadow of the Tomb Raider was 54fps with ray-traced shadows. These results mean that ray tracing is available and playable at this level, and not limited to the high-end cards.

Dropping the settings from ‘ultra’ to ‘high’ would give even faster performance with little to no compromise in quality, especially with ray tracing enabled.

We also gave the Radeon RX 6700 XT a good workout with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 in 4K with high settings and render scale set to 90%. Our benchmarking PC easily broke the 30fps barrier despite the demanding software, usually sitting in the 35–40fps range, which is really good performance overall. In comparison, the faster (and pricier) Radeon RX 6800 XT achieves a similar frame rate on ultra settings at 110% render scale, so RX 6700 XT owners can achieve comparable results with only a small compromise on quality. World of Warcraft also runs well, averaging 54fps with ray tracing enabled.

Source: IDC

So, the Radeon RX 6700 XT is a good 4K gaming card, suitable for high or ultra settings on traditional rasterized games using typical legacy HDMI 2.0x output with a refresh limit of 60Hz, as well as for those who don’t need the very highest quality in games such as Flight Simulator 2020.

IDC Opinion and Conclusion

Generational advancement in GPUs (and CPUs as well) has long been dependent on the manufacturing process and shrinking transistors to achieve faster performance with less power consumption and heat dissipation. But AMD is now adding design to the equation, with elements such as Infinity Cache and Ray Accelerators, which have made the Radeon RX 6700 XT competitive enough to exceed our expectations, even when using a 192-bit memory interface.

So, while the sweet spot for this card is mainly 1440p gaming, it’s pretty awesome for many at 4K —especially as most 4K monitors to date are limited to 60Hz refresh rates with the HDMI2.0 interface. The Radeon RX 6700 XT is listed for €502, while the Radeon RX 6800 is for €606 at AMD.com.

Both cards were out of stock at the time of writing this review. So hypothetically, there is an approximately €100 difference between the two cards, and gamers on budget can use this saving to upgrade other hardware components that will benefit their system’s performance, such as a Gen 4 NVMe drive. Those who do not wish to compromise, or are eyeing a 4K upgrade, can opt for an RX 6800 XT for €180 Euro more.

The good news for gamers is that the older Radeon RX 5700 achieves a hash rate of 54MHs in crypto mining while the RX 6700 XT manages 43MHs, according to our quick NiceHash tests. AMD says mining is especially sensitive to bus width, so with a smaller bus width and Infinity Cache, the RDNA 2 card is optimized for gaming first.

The sad news is that has not translated into wider availability. We recommend that AMD has a serious discussion with its board partners and distributors on how to ensure supply to the shelves and online. Issuing recommendations and guidance to the retailers/e-tailers would be a wonderful step if the cards were readily available on the market. But the problem is that those stores are not getting the cards in the first place.

Finally, a good alternative to a build-your-own PC, and a means of overcoming the shortage of various components, is to buy a prebuilt machine from a renowned vendor such as Dell, HP, or Lenovo, or a good systems integrator. Vendors such as these are now taking advantage of AMD’s advanced performance, and more than 40 vendors and system integrators are launching desktop PCs powered by the new graphics card, with examples including the HP OMEN 25L and 30L.

 

To learn more about our upcoming research, please contact Mohamed Hefny or Andrew Buss, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.


Blurred business people at a trade fair / hannover messe

Top 8 Trends from Hannover Messe 2021 around Digital Platforms and Ecosystems in Manufacturing

Stefanie Naujoks (Research Director, Manufacturing Insights Europe)

Hannover Messe 2021 was a fascinating experience for me because this year the world-leading industry trade show, the global hotspot of Industry 4.0 and industrial technology, took place (virtually) in Munich, so I could take part from the comfort of my home office. There was still the typical constant flow of information, thanks to the live streams and roundtable discussions, but this time my feet weren’t hurting at the end of the day!

Top 8 Trends from Hannover Messe 2021

  1. There is a shift from digitally transforming enterprise operations to collaborating more and exchanging data in digital ecosystems.

A key take-away from numerous roundtable discussions was that it will be vital for manufacturing organisations to engage with their ecosystem of customers, suppliers and partners much more than they did in the past. To borrow a nice phrase I heard in a panel discussion with SAP, Kuka, Microsoft and Siemens, there will be a shift from “egosystems to ecosystems”.

One of the conclusions from this session (and from others) was that data availability and usage across the entire ecosystem will be key to drive digitalisation and automation.

  1. Ensuring data sovereignty and trusted infrastructures and platforms will fuel business models and collaboration in ecosystems.

Given there is a need for trusted data sharing environments while ensuring data sovereignty, Gaia-X was all over the place at Hannover. But, while this really looks like a promising European initiative — because it aims to support data sharing in ecosystems in a trusted and secure environment — there is a still a lot of work to be done. Catena-X — the automotive initiative based on Gaia-X — is interesting, aimed at enabling secure and trusted data exchange in the automotive sector. It will be interesting to see how this initiative develops.

  1. Global value and production networks also require data standards on a global scale.

In global value networks, data sovereignty and data governance need to be ensured across all stakeholders in all countries and regions. An interesting example at Hannover was presented by China’s Haier Group, a manufacturer of large household appliances, which has adopted the data sovereignty standards of the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) and integrated the IDS standards architecture into its COSMOplat platform.

  1. The reignition of equipment-as-a-service business models.

There hasn’t been too much noise recently around equipment-as-a-service business models, but it looks like this is now changing. While the notion of turning capex into opex is nothing new, it seems there is new demand from customers driven by the need to reduce the capital investments in their books.

What’s needed to make equipment as a service work — beyond technologies that enable reliable and secure data access and transmission — was highlighted in a session by machine builder Trumpf. To reduce the risks in those business models, dedicated contracts are needed among all relevant stakeholders such as customers and OEM and finance/insurance partners because equipment as a service is not only an alternative way of procurement but also a lot about setting up SLAs, guarantees, and risk management and optimisation services.

  1. Ensuring supply chain resilience is about utilising analytics, AI, intelligent workflows and automation.

Given the lessons learned from COVID-19 and the impact on global supply chains, as well as the recent incident in the Suez Canal and the shortage of microchips, ensuring supply chain resilience is a top priority for manufacturers. An interesting panel session with IBM, ServiceNow and Toyota Material Handling concluded that supply chain resilience is about utilising data and AI (to enable decision making based on insights), intelligent workflows (to optimise workflows depending on situations and incidents) and automation (to automate decision making and thereby reduce dependency on manual tasks).

  1. Manufacturers are now beyond moving to the cloud and now need to set up hybrid-cloud concepts and multicloud management.

Manufacturing companies will continue to store and process data at the edge and in the cloud. Digital transformation therefore will increasingly require hybrid cloud concepts as a lot of data will stay on the shop floor or in enterprise IT.

The key challenge is to ensure that both processes work: the traditional way of storing data and new ways of managing data in the cloud. In this context, Bernd Gross, CTO of Software AG, said in a joint session with Google Cloud and Siemens that when moving to the cloud, companies should ensure they avoid vendor lock-in and be able to move workloads from one cloud environment to another.

  1. Better utilisation of data is the key to success, but requires silo busting and data-centric architectures.

I joined a lot of sessions at Hannover on how to manage data across the enterprise and across ecosystems, and two stand out:

  • The first was with Cedrik Neike, from Siemens Industries, who used the phrase “silo busting” — overcoming data silos and really ensuring that you get access to all relevant data.
  • The second was with Matthias Roese, from HPE, who highlighted the importance of data-centric architectures in closed-loop manufacturing.

The importance of data and the availability of data was also emphasised in another session by HPE, and which I mention here because it’s worth repeating that the hardest part of predictive maintenance is getting the data. Only when there is enough data can you start predicting. And, to ensure you have enough data, you need to have the right IT infrastructures and data-centric architectures.

  1. Technology is a major enabler of digital platforms in the future ecosystem economy — but in the end it’s all about the people.

A lot was presented at Hannover about how technologies such as cloud, AI and IoT enable digital platforms to thrive in future ecosystems. An interesting panel session about how data platforms enable the ecosystem economy was hosted by HCL, with panellists from Electrolux, ABB and Welbilt. What emerged from this, and what nicely sums up Hannover Messe 2021, is that enabling the ecosystem economy is very much about data, data platforms and data governance but also — to a very large extent — about a change in culture and people’s mindset.

Final Thoughts on This Digital Edition of Hannover Messe 2021

Given my research focus on digital platforms and ecosystem strategies in the manufacturing industry, it was of course interesting to see that there is a clear shift from digitally transforming enterprise operations to a greater focus on much closer collaboration with customers, suppliers and partners. But what will be key are trusted data sharing infrastructures that ensure data sovereignty in industry ecosystems.

Despite the interesting format this year, I’m definitely looking forward to meeting my clients and colleagues next year in person again.

For a more detailed view on my personal top trends from Hannover Messe 2021, please also see our IDC Market Perspective: Highlights from Hannover Messe 2021 around Digital Platforms and Ecosystems in Manufacturing (subscription-clients only).

 

To learn more about our upcoming research, please contact Stefanie Naujoks, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.