As the IT services industry grows more competitive by the day, top players have managed to differentiate themselves and rise above the rest through a combination of their capability to innovate with their products and business approaches, keeping a focus on business value and doing their best to retain and improve their talent.
Forrester Research’s latest Modern Application Development (MAD) Services report identified these and other qualities as the key differentiators between the top IT vendors and the rest of the players in the market.
“The true success of MAD services comes from business value delivered and client teams’ ability to maintain and improve the solution on their own, long after providers’ guidance ends”, the firm pointed out in its report. “Leaders in this Forrester Wave distinguish themselves by balancing these elements in the most optimal way.”
The report evaluated 14 midsize providers of MAD services with revenue of less than US$1 billion. Product quality, a focus on outcomes and client transformation were the major points considered.
“The true success of MAD services comes from business value delivered and client teams’ ability to maintain and improve the solution on their own, long after providers’ guidance ends”— Forrester Research
Depending of the score for each vendor, Forrester listed them under one of four categories: Leaders (Thoughtworks, Brillio, Softtek, CI&T), Strong Performers (Quinnox, Wizeline, Grid Dynamics, Kin + Carta, Perficient), Contenders (Eleks, 3 Pillar Global, Maveric Systems, Infostretch) and Challengers (CSS Corp).
Forrester made it clear that leading IT vendors should be on top of things when it comes to the cutting edge of technological development and best practices for IT services delivery. A strong command on DevOps and agile methodologies is mentioned as a positive in the evaluation cards for most of the firms listed, as well as cloud services, AI and low code.
“Modern products are built on the latest and greatest technologies that enable scale, high quality, and resilience and quickly and easily adapt and evolve,” reads the report. “Providers differentiate themselves by being very fluent in agile, DevOps, cloud-native, microservices, automation, AI/ML, value stream management, and more.”
Nearshore operators have been hard at work on the innovation game for years. CI&T, for example, launched its bet on smart computing over five years ago. Lately, the Brazilian behemoth finds itself in a tech-oriented acquisition binge, pocketing tech consultants, digital agencies and software developers.
Being on the edge of technology is not enough, though. Top vendors must plan ahead. A vision that includes technological innovation, a push for research and development (R&D) and the building of intellectual property were also considered as key differentiators in the strategy of outstanding players.
Most of the firms evaluated scored average or below-average numbers in this respect. Only Thoughtworks, Softtek and Brillio managed to obtain top marks (5.00 out of 5.00) in some of the innovation categories.
“The most important metric that MAD service providers use to measure client outcomes is business value”, Forrester pointed out in its report, underlining the relevance of having proper metrics in place to become a top player in IT.
In spite of the importance of this factor, not many of the firms listed were pointed out for their outstanding performance in the measurement of business value. Only Brillio and Softtek had explicit, positive mentions in their respective report cards.
Transparency was identified as a major component for business value. One of Brillio’s reference clients mentioned that the company “helps us align forecasts and have completely transparent pricing”, underscoring the “focus on business value rather than the completeness of features”.
“The most important metric that MAD service providers use to measure client outcomes is business value”— Forrester Research
A more modern approach to contracting was also included in the package for better outcomes for business value. Such contracts, according to the report, “factor in flexible scope, aligned incentives and transparency to enable agile and DevOps co-creation and true partnerships with clients.”
Talent remains a crucial resource for the success of IT service providers. In Forrester’s eyes, being able to properly manage and improve its availability, quality and drive is a defining attribute among top players.
The report highlighted some of the best talent and staffing practices among the listed firms. Wizeline was singled out for its “performances accelerator for developing, measuring and promoting employees”; Perficient’s talent management program got a mention for its focus on female inclusion in tech; CI&T’s talent management strategy was highlighted for its 92% leadership retention; and Softtek’s approach to employee identity and development was applauded.
A shortage of engineers keeps a stranglehold on the industry, making companies aware of the need to keep talent not only satisfied, but happy and motivated. The fact was pointed out by Wizeline a couple years ago. Even then, Wizeline executives knew that “it’s not just the salary; it’s the salary plus how they’re treated.” In an interview with NSAM, Thoughtworks’ CTO talked openly about the effects of company culture on female talent.
In spite of their efforts, most of the firms evaluated scored average or lower-than-average numbers in the talent-related categories. The only two exceptions were Thoughtworks (4.00) and CI&T (4.50), underlining the challenges that the IT industry still faces when it comes to talent and staffing in a context of virtually ever-growing demand for its services.
“It’s a fact that this industry is in need of more talent and services than the world can offer. This pushes you to invest in R&D to, through different and more innovative ways, keep increasing the kind of value delivered,” pointed out Softtek’s Gabriel Fuentes.
Forrester recognizes that technological transformation goes only half-way when there’s no guidance from vendors to clients.
“Providers differentiate by leveraging their work with other clients and relationships with product vendors and delivering innovative development services like coaching on the job, cocreation, and immersive training”, the firm wrote in its MAD report. “They also guide you through the modernization of your development and delivery workforce”.
CI&T and Grid Dynamics were highlighted in the report for their strong approach for client shepherding in their transformation processes. In contrast, Eleks was singled out by clients consulted by Forrester due to a transformation approach that is too hands-on.
“[IT vendors] also guide you through the modernization of your development and delivery workforce”— Forrester Research
“[Eleks’] vision is limited because it has an ‘I’ll do it for you’ approach rather than a ‘Let’s co-develop with transformation services for self-sufficiency’ one”, according to Forrester.
In the Nearshore
Out of the 14 companies listed in the report, 10 have Nearshore presence. All four Leaders work from the Nearshore territories, with two of them (CI&T and Softtek) being of Latin American origin.
With the exception of Softtek, Forrester makes no mention of Nearshore presence as a factor for success among top players. Nevertheless, it’s clear that a majority of the firms listed see value in operating from the region, with some of them having a strong presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Wizeline, for example, delivers from Mexico and Colombia; Perficient has offices in Colombia too, plus Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Even challenger CSS Corp recognizes the relevance of Nearshore pressence, with offices in Costa Rica and Colombia.
The fact gives credit to the growing relevance of the Nearshore for the IT industry, especially in a context of increasing demand and climbing capital expenses.
“I see the confirmation of the very high necessities that our clients have for digital solutions for a variety of businesses and industries, and the fact that the demand outpaces global supply,” said Gabriel Fuentes. “That opens major opportunities for Latin America.