Posted tagged ‘ACS’

Differentiating HRO – Use What You Know

February 16, 2011

How many ways can a HRO vendor differentiate?  The lowest total cost, the latest and greatest in technology, the broadest range of services in the most places, etc.?  When there are multiple reputable service providers, vendors have to reach further to create HRO differentiation.

In the early days of HRO, it was sufficient for a vendor to provide services that were as good as what had been provided in-house, becoming the base of most service levels (SLAs).  HRO vendors quickly found that meeting SLAs did not equate to overall client satisfaction, with clients stating that while they may have been getting what they contracted for, they were not getting what they wanted or needed.

Today, “as good as” is not good enough.  HRO service providers need to know more than the client in each service area.  Knowing more may be in the form of compliance and reporting expertise, local knowledge of covered geographies, advanced application use, or even change management expertise.  Client confidence that the selected vendor does indeed “know how” is important.  Confidence that the vendor will be a partner in what happens next is even rarer and is a key differentiator that top tier HR clients seek.

Times of uncertainty create opportunity to build client confidence with your ability to see around corners or at least keep up with the twists and turns.  Consulting capabilities are particularly important in HR.  But, even top consulting capabilities will not build the HRO practice if there is no flow-through of learning and innovation as well as improved process and performance.

Many HRO service providers with roots in consulting offer forward-looking research, publications, webinars, and even conferences to help clients keep up with best practices, new trends, and regulatory happenings, all while demonstrating thought leadership and subject matter expertise.  Many names come easily to mind including Accenture, ADP, Aon Hewitt, Ceridian, IBM, and Mercer.

For example, Towers Watson has published human capital research and recently released its latest HR services report.  Kenexa’s client conferences also offer sessions of broader related HR practitioner interest.  Finally, Infosys provides a good example of application expertise and consultative relationship management when it brings tailored ideas to clients on how they can improve their processes.

Vendors that offer multiple service lines or are an industry leader in a particular area can cross data streams.  Think of ADP’s weekly report on employment or Administaff who has PEO trends that show which U.S. regions are leading and lagging in returning to growth for the small business market.  Also, ACS, a Xerox Company and IBM support client interaction opportunities that can lead to innovation communities.

How can data from IT, F&A, or even Ceridian’s Pulse of Commerce Index be tapped for HRO?  Think about how you can go beyond the obvious and use everything in your kit bag to develop leverageable and differentiating HR and HRO insights.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

Is HRO at the Table – the Investment Table?

February 10, 2011

IT spend on consulting and infrastructure increased in the fourth quarter of 2010, especially in North America and Asia Pacific.  There were even bright spots in Europe like France and Italy.  Accenture saw its strongest quarter in consulting in 2 ½ years and IBM had its strongest quarter of the last decade.  Increases in outsourcing tend to follow.  For example, at Xerox, now including ACS, BPO was up 11.1%.

The bad news is that major HRO investments often trail at the end of the outsourcing pack.  The good news is that HR and its HRO vendors can see trends coming and prepare to present the strongest business case possible for investment.

ADP was up 7% to $1,663m for Employer Services.  Its bright spot was beyond payroll services, which were up 16% and include benefits administration, MPHRO, and various point solutions.  One-time activities, or smaller add-on services, helped hold up results throughout the recession for many HRO vendors as they were smaller, less risky, and easier to fund investments, but it is hard to have significant growth through small increases in incremental spend.

Aon Hewitt’s Q4 2010 numbers were way up with revenues of $1,151m, an increase of 229%.  Stripping away the impact of the merger, organically HRO was $580m, down 2%.  The same was true at Towers Watson.  For FY Q2 2011, it came in at $791m, but in a pro forma comparison it was down 5%.  Towers Watson completed a lot of integration work in the past year and managed operating margins well at 18.7% for the quarter, but underperformed organic growth expectations.  All of the HRO service providers caught up in last years acquisition frenzy need to ensure they do not miss the current and coming window of opportunity for major HRO decisions and investments.

The business development profile for every HRO client, or hot prospect that wants to do business with you should include the timing and approval process for business case decisions.  Also know what can be done through operating expenses and local discretion.  Even the most solid HRO solution will run into trouble if the funding window is missed and all that is left are the scraps on the table.

Even with investment dollars starting to fly, pie-in-the-sky projects will still be grounded.  I really liked a term I heard in relation to an increase in consumer spend, frugal splurges.  Pragmatic investments that are well supported with facts and figures and direct ties to key business initiatives and business results will have the edge.  Don’t forget to add just a little bite of pizzazz!  Add-on modules, basic features and functions, workflow and service center capabilities are important, but a bit boring.  How will new major HRO investments be riding the tech wave of virtualization, cloud, and mobility – adding to the capabilities of an adaptable workforce of the future, ready to compete, and win today?

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

Make Merry Across the Land of HRO

December 22, 2010

It is a time of major holidays for many of us around the world, and we in the HR outsourcing community should take time to make merry together in celebration, even as we prepare for a brighter New Year.

Yes, the recovery has been slow, but it is happening, and improved results are spreading good cheer across the land of HRO. Look at Accenture’s results for 1Q 2011 to see what is possible and happening right now for even the big players. Revenues for the quarter were up by 12 percent to $6.6 billion, with $2.5 billion coming from outsourcing, which was up 10 percent. And for the last quarter reported, both ADP and Mercer were up a healthy six percent in revenues. Each is showing it can add more volume without losing the effect of cost reduction initiatives made during the downturn.

The upturn in RPO has been dramatic, and there is plenty to stimulate the continued need to manage hiring in new and improved ways –and not just for managing turnover, but also for growth. A well integrated RPO platform of services with the people skills of real recruiters, sophisticated technology and robust back-office processing is a great way for buyers to access today’s needed staffing capabilities without bearing the full cost of investment, and still keeping costs variable with volumes. Wrap up a nice RPO present and put a bow on it!

The new business mix is changing, and Accenture is starting to see both consulting and service deals aimed at growth and new market entry. The merry point for savvy and prepared HRO vendors? This should be a lead-in to more demand for HRO beyond and in addition to cost control and operational efficiency. Bust out more than single point solutions – shine up and get ready those bundles of service for expansions in talent and workforce management.

Holidays are a time of gathering, and I have been impressed with the progress that HRO service providers have made in listening to their clients. ACS, a Xerox company, and IBM have been pioneers in gathering together customers, listening to them and letting them talk to one another, both physically and virtually. Aon Hewitt makes more the merrier, having just spent a full day with its HR BPO Client Council; and it also has councils for benefits and human capital leadership for CHROs from around the world.

My hope for the New Year is that HRO clients and service providers put the proof in the pudding to show that a strong HRO partnership is a viable and valuable path to strategic HR that improves business results for the enterprise, and in turn builds career opportunities and better lives for people around the world.

My colleague Gary and I are planning to take next week off from blogging (although we may sneak one in.) So I’d now like to thank our clients and our blog readers, and wish all merry holidays and a Happy and prosperous New Year.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

HRO is Never Static or Still

October 12, 2010

During every stage of the economic lifecycle, HRO service providers are doing something to either anticipate or react to changes in the marketplace and client needs while simultaneously striving to achieve strategic goals. This week I wrap-up NelsonHall’s review of 3Q 2010 HRO activity with a look at what’s new in offerings, partnerships and acquisitions.

One way to quickly expand a service line or fill-in gaps is to partner with a provider that is already offering the service or operating in the target geography. Last quarter was most active for RPO. Those announcing new RPO-related partnerships included Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS), Kelly Services, Kenexa, Pinstripe and The RightThing. Notably, two of the partnerships were to continue to expand RPO services internationally in the Asia Pacific region, with AMS adding reach into India and Kelly in Vietnam.

A more committed path to rounding out or adding new services is to buy it. Making small to large acquisitions is another constant in the world of HRO as players define and redefine their portfolios. In addition to the close of the three game changing major acquisitions in the benefits community (ADP/Workscape, ACS/ExcellerateHRO, and Aon/Hewitt), other folks were also making deals. For example, Mercer acquired IPA and ORC, and Xafinity bought PwC’s pension consulting and administration business in the U.K. Further, Randstad continued its acquisitive ways, this time outside of Europe, with its planned acquisition of FujiStaff in Japan.

Health and welfare (H&W) outsourcing used to be limited to the U.S., and that will remain the major market. But no matter how health insurance and care is funded, H&W concerns are growing globally. In the U.S., Fidelity is partnering with RedBrick Health to offer its clients wellness services, and in the U.K., Capita is acquiring FirstAssist Services to add to its health service offerings.

Finally, if you cannot find what you want in the marketplace, you can build or expand it yourself. Ceridian wants to truly offer a new line of BPO services and has announced it is ready to consult, build and manage the health insurance exchanges that some states will need in a couple of years as part of the U.S. health care reform program. 

Most announcements of “new offerings” are incremental additions. For example, Hewitt is adding Micromedex medical reference information to its advocacy service offering. You can also simply package what you have and call it new. Aditro has done that with a standardized set of payroll services that include preset services levels and implementation process to make a lower cost bundled option.

Yet another variation blends supply chain partnerships with building it yourself to make a new service offering. Take a SaaS HR service from Oracle or Sap and wrap in value added enhancements and services additions and, voila, you have a new HRO service platform. Mercer introduced its Human Capital Direct that uses PeopleClick Authoria’s talent management suite as the core, surrounded by Mercer’s consulting, tools and methodologies such as decision support, competency models and analytics.

In HRO, somebody is always doing something. What have you done lately?

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

Recapping the Not-so-Dog-Days of HRO’s 2010 Summer

October 5, 2010

One of the biggest HRO stories of 2010 will be the flurry of big and small acquisitions in the benefits administration space. The three big acquisitions – ACS and ExcellerateHRO, ADP and Workscape, and Aon and Hewitt – have recently closed.

As acquisition mania played out, many HRO deals were getting done, and this week, as the weather has finally, thankfully, started to cool, I’m taking a look at some of the deal activity over the long hot summer.

There were not a lot of announced deals in benefits administration, but a Hewitt summary indicates plenty of activity was still quietly going on. Hewitt won new awards across the span of benefits administration in the large and mid-market, including several in defined benefits and defined contributions. But the greatest activity was in health and welfare, and for point solutions like dependant audits and flex spend accounts.

While not necessarily matching North America in total contract value, the U.K. and Europe were also quite active in HRO. Logica was awarded a £10m payroll and pensions HRO contract extention by U.K’s Metropolitan Police, with new scope this time around including increases in employee and manager self services and electronic pay slips. And Midland HR won a deal for its iTrent HR platform including HR administration, employee and manager self-service, payroll, talent management and workforce planning.

In RPO, CPH won a contract with Opal Telephone, and Alexander Mann was awarded  a contract for recruitment and contingent labor by Cobhan. On the continent, HRO activity included HR administration and payroll deals by Reat and HR Access in the mid-market.

ADP parlayed existing payroll services for KAO, a Japan-based consumer products manafacturer, into extended HR administration and payroll services across Asia Pacific including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. In addition, ADP won a global managed payroll services contract with BT that will cover more than 40 countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific when fully implemented.

It was refreshing to see a spate of learning contract awards won by Expertus, General Physics, Intrepid and The Learning Associates. However, as most of the learning outsourcing activity was in the public sector, we still need to see more of an uptick in the private sector before we can say learning is fully on the road to recovery.

RPO maintained its lead position as the most active single service area, with the greatest increase in revenues and new contracts. RPO activity was highest in the U.S., followed by the U.K., and was spread nicely across providers including Alexander Mann, CPH, Kelly Services, Manpower, PeopleScout and SourceRight. Several of the awards were for contingent labor or combined RPO, with the contingent labor focuses indicating that employers are still cautious about a full return to permanent hires.

There were no announcements of the HRO mega-deals of yore, but it was very nice to see the increased activity levels across many HRO service lines and service providers. Now that the cooler weather of fall is here, we’ll  hopefully see an even more serious return to getting business done before the end of the year!

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

HRO Providers’ Quality Programs – Where’s the Beef?

June 22, 2010

Just last week a NelsonHall client asked me about HRO service providers’ quality programs. A bit surprisingly, my mini-research found a scattershot representation of available information. While I know more complete details would have been available had I done a full research analysis, and that vendors can present their capabilities for RFP responses, I was little taken aback at the limited data available on the providers’ web sites and in many marketing and briefing packages.

There was quite a bit of information on certifications such as SAS70, CMMI levels and various ISO certifications. Some providers, including ACS, Ceridian, IBM, Logica and Wipro, specifically mentioned use of Six Sigma and Lean programs. One vendor listed the vague, “other quality assurance programs and tools.” Yes, technical certifications are valuable, and use of named quality programs like Six Sigma is good, but these may or may not indicate that quality is integrated across the business and reaches well beyond the IT and data centers.

Earlier in my career I was in Quality for many years, doing everything from facilitating quality teams to developing and delivering training and helping design and implement quality programs. I had big fun during the early days of the U.S. Baldrige Awards system for business, becoming an internal examiner for my company’s (AT&T) internal awards program, as well for preparation before official Baldrige Award examiner visits. So I know what an integrated quality system can do for customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and the bottom line business results that please shareholders.

The days of high promoting of quality programs has passed, and while information on quality does not need to lead in marketing materials, it should be available and easy to find. Clients and prospective buyers want to know the provider has a current record of meeting its SLA obligations and cares about customer satisfaction. Since HRO vendor decisions tend to be longer term commitments with substantial barriers to changing, buyers also want assurance the vendor will be able to deliver in the future.

Clients do not pay for vendor quality programs, even when certified and award-winning. Clients pay for business performance achieved through quality programs. Excellence in quality is an indicator that a service provider can reliably deliver on service, operational and compliance promises.

A comprehensive quality program has competitive advantages for both clients and the service provider – ensuring performance for clients and achieving performance objectives for the business – and should be driven by the service provider’s strategy and business objectives.

Today, major HRO providers have distributed service delivery networks, many global and often including a complex array of suppliers. The more the services and workflow is segmented, the more important quality becomes. Quality should have an equal focus on the internal business efficiency needed to achieve profitability and the ability to fuel future growth.

HRO vendors, let’s see more complete, easy to find quality program information. And please support the information with more than a list of programs and certifications; “beef” it up with  at least some lean protein tidbits which provide evidence that your programs are widespread and effective. Even more importantly, make sure your quality system is robust and is serving both your clients and your business as the fight continues to maintain and increase your margins to sustainable levels while retaining and adding satisfied clients.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

Anatomy of the Deal – Managing the HRO Service Provider Portfolio

June 3, 2010

A sign of economic recovery is preparation for the future and a return to investing in growth and expansion over cost cutting and containment. A purchase may be the fastest way to growth for HRO service providers, if the price is right and the risks manageable. And the first half of 2010 has been busier with large and small mergers and acquisitions in the HRO universe than with major new client deals. 

Today let’s take a look at the similar strategic criteria I see that cross several recent HRO acquisitions: footprint, portfolio, profile, talent and technology.

Footprint – expand into new geographies by buying an established “local” player. NorthgateArinso just closed on its purchase of Convergys, greatly expanding its footprint in the U.S., the world’s largest HRO market. It also purchased Neller, an Australian-based payroll provider to increase its global payroll coverage in the Asia Pacific region.

Portfolio – what services should you offer? Acquisition for portfolio management is seen as part of the ACS purchase of ExcellerateHRO (EHRO) from Hewlett Packard. According to ACS Managing Director Rohail Kahn, ACS intends to be a top industry leader in each of its lines of businesses. ACS will add to its heft as a benefits administrative player with the addition of EHRO, which was a strong benefits admin provider going back to its start with Towers Perrin.

Rounding out a service line is also a reason cited in recent acquisitions. Hewitt’s purchase of HRAdvance adds strength to its growing dependant audit services as part of its point solution offerings within its larger benefits admin portfolio.

Profile –marquee “logos” and major clients adds scale and is a common reason for M&A activity, but it is one that requires a clear head and due diligence. Last year Empyrean Benefits announced it was going to acquire the benefits unit of ING. A few months later the deal fell apart when it became clear to Empyrean that several major clients were already on the way out the door. The closing of the Convergys deal is a sign that NorthgateArinso felt a good sense of security that enough of the major clients will stay and give NorthgateArinso a chance. ACS also mentioned a stable client base as one of the advantages of the EHRO deal.

Talent and Technology – both can be an important consideration in purchase decisions. Praise for the leadership and talent base of the acquired company is practically a requirement in the M&A communications handbook. It is another thing to determine if it is true in action as well as words. Another common reason for M&A’s is synergy, i.e., reducing operating expenses by eliminating duplication and overlaps.

Technology can be the point of, or a problem rather than a benefit, in some M&A’s. In the case of Hewitt, it will adopt HRAdvance’s technology platform, which was a criteria it was seeking in an acquisition. 

More often, that which cannot be profitably and practically integrated must be separately maintained or clients migrated. Either way, the time, cost and effort must be factored into the financials and risk management of the deal.

2010’s HRO service provider deals have good bones and clear intentions, may they all grow hale and hearty for themselves and their clients!

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall