Are Rival Partnerships the Future of IT Outsourcing?

HCL and CSC, companies that have often competed for customers, have teamed to focus on legacy application modernization and cloud hosting. Could partnerships formed by rivals prove more valuable than mega-acquisitions as IT outsourcing providers respond to changing market dynamics?

Last week, HCL Technologies and CSC announced a new partnership in the application modernization space, targeting corporate IT customers who want to move their legacy applications to the cloud.

The move was a surprise to some IT outsourcing industry watchers since $4.8 billion dollar HCL had long pitched itself as a cost-effective alternative to the likes of the $13.5 billion CSC. "These two companies have often gone head-to-head for major contracts," says Hansa Iyengar, sourcing and vendor management analyst with Forrester Research.

But changing market dynamics have brought the two together. Together, the companies will first focus on the financial services industry, building a joint banking center of excellence with delivery centers in Bangalore and Chennai, India.

HCL Joins Forces With CSC to Deliver Value-based Low-Cost Services

Noida, India-based HCL, which has focused on infrastructure services, gets access to a larger customer base, CSC's BizCloud private cloud offering, and a stronger foothold in the applications space. Falls Church, Va.-based CSC will get a new channel for its cloud platform and access to cheaper resources offshore, the lack of which has long been a competitive disadvantage for the largely onshore-focused provider. And both companies will seemingly increase their opportunities to cross-sell their products and services.

"The data center game is headed for the lowest common denominator of commoditization. With players like Amazon in the game, it's all about the lowest cost for the most grunt. It'll be as common as selecting a provider of electricity soon," says Phil Fersht, president of outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research. "The only feasible way to find new thresholds of growth and value for providers in this space is to deliver value-based services combined with low-cost, reliable, and highly scalable computing availability."

CSC may have had little choice than to pursue this kind of partnership or risk going the way of other U.S.-centric providers like Unisys who have seen their revenues decline sharply in recent years. "While CSC has survived well on its annuity relationships in the healthcare, federal, and banking sectors, its management clearly realizes the writing will soon be on the wall if it can't diversify its business out of this predicament," says Fersht.

"All the asset-heavy players are hedging their bets and creating multiple options for clients as this disruption continues to work itself out across the landscape," says Eric Simonson, managing partner of research for Everest Group. "Some are using acquisitions, and all are using some form of partnership in the ecosystem because the breadth of capabilities is so extreme."

Combined Focus on Legacy Application Modernization and Cloud Hosting Should Appeal to Enterprise IT

The combined focus on legacy application modernization and cloud hosting should, theoretically, appeal to corporate IT clients. "Our research on cloud services shows that buyers place a high value on application modernization," Simonson wrote in blog post about the HCL-CSC deal. "While clients acknowledge the value of cloud adoption in order to transform their operating models and save costs, cloud-incompatible legacy applications limit the ability to harness this value. But oftentimes they are reluctant to make significant monetary investments for this pursuit and are looking for self-funding mechanisms." HCL and CSC say that their complementary strengths will lower risks and costs for clients transitioning to the cloud.

Despite the importance of CSC's proprietary cloud offering to the arrangement, HCL says it will remain vendor-agnostic with regard to platforms. "We will continue to leverage CSC BizCloud, AWS, Azure, Force.com, and ServiceNow among others as part of our cloud ecosystem," says Steve Cardell, HCL's president of enterprise services and diversified industries. "We work closely with our customers to develop use cases based on application characteristics and [on that basis] we make decisions on the type of cloud to be leveraged. As we move forward, the use cases will evolve and so will the [cloud] offerings."

Time will tell how enterprise buyers respond to this alliance and whether the two rivals will be successful in scaling up their collective services. "The next year or so will say how well this partnership will work," Iyengar says.

"This partnership could serve as a highly effective model for providers seeking to address the new emerging marketplace defined by deep industry knowledge coupled with vertically-focused technology platform solutions," adds Fersht. "Mega-mergers and acquisitions in IT services have become far, far too costly and unrealistic in today's environment. Partnerships like this could signal the way forward for many ambitious service providers."

Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to CIO.com's IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

The move was a surprise to some IT outsourcing industry watchers since $4.8 billion dollar HCL had long pitched itself as a cost-effective alternative to the likes of the $13.5 billion CSC. "These two companies have often gone head-to-head for major contracts," says Hansa Iyengar, sourcing and vendor management analyst with Forrester Research.

But changing market dynamics have brought the two together. Together, the companies will first focus on the financial services industry, building a joint banking center of excellence with delivery centers in Bangalore and Chennai, India.

HCL Joins Forces With CSC to Deliver Value-based Low-Cost Services

Noida, India-based HCL, which has focused on infrastructure services, gets access to a larger customer base, CSC's BizCloud private cloud offering, and a stronger foothold in the applications space. Falls Church, Va.-based CSC will get a new channel for its cloud platform and access to cheaper resources offshore, the lack of which has long been a competitive disadvantage for the largely onshore-focused provider. And both companies will seemingly increase their opportunities to cross-sell their products and services.

"The data center game is headed for the lowest common denominator of commoditization. With players like Amazon in the game, it's all about the lowest cost for the most grunt. It'll be as common as selecting a provider of electricity soon," says Phil Fersht, president of outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research. "The only feasible way to find new thresholds of growth and value for providers in this space is to deliver value-based services combined with low-cost, reliable, and highly scalable computing availability."

CSC may have had little choice than to pursue this kind of partnership or risk going the way of other U.S.-centric providers like Unisys who have seen their revenues decline sharply in recent years. "While CSC has survived well on its annuity relationships in the healthcare, federal, and banking sectors, its management clearly realizes the writing will soon be on the wall if it can't diversify its business out of this predicament," says Fersht.

"All the asset-heavy players are hedging their bets and creating multiple options for clients as this disruption continues to work itself out across the landscape," says Eric Simonson, managing partner of research for Everest Group. "Some are using acquisitions, and all are using some form of partnership in the ecosystem because the breadth of capabilities is so extreme."

Combined Focus on Legacy Application Modernization and Cloud Hosting Should Appeal to Enterprise IT

The combined focus on legacy application modernization and cloud hosting should, theoretically, appeal to corporate IT clients. "Our research on cloud services shows that buyers place a high value on application modernization," Simonson wrote in blog post about the HCL-CSC deal. "While clients acknowledge the value of cloud adoption in order to transform their operating models and save costs, cloud-incompatible legacy applications limit the ability to harness this value. But oftentimes they are reluctant to make significant monetary investments for this pursuit and are looking for self-funding mechanisms." HCL and CSC say that their complementary strengths will lower risks and costs for clients transitioning to the cloud.

Despite the importance of CSC's proprietary cloud offering to the arrangement, HCL says it will remain vendor-agnostic with regard to platforms. "We will continue to leverage CSC BizCloud, AWS, Azure, Force.com, and ServiceNow among others as part of our cloud ecosystem," says Steve Cardell, HCL's president of enterprise services and diversified industries. "We work closely with our customers to develop use cases based on application characteristics and [on that basis] we make decisions on the type of cloud to be leveraged. As we move forward, the use cases will evolve and so will the [cloud] offerings."

Time will tell how enterprise buyers respond to this alliance and whether the two rivals will be successful in scaling up their collective services. "The next year or so will say how well this partnership will work," Iyengar says.

"This partnership could serve as a highly effective model for providers seeking to address the new emerging marketplace defined by deep industry knowledge coupled with vertically-focused technology platform solutions," adds Fersht. "Mega-mergers and acquisitions in IT services have become far, far too costly and unrealistic in today's environment. Partnerships like this could signal the way forward for many ambitious service providers."

Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to CIO.com's IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

Read more about outsourcing in CIO's Outsourcing Drilldown.

This story, "Are Rival Partnerships the Future of IT Outsourcing?" was originally published by CIO.

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