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GSA's Predictions for 2021 and Beyond


The year that was

I don’t think the well-worn phrases about 2020 and the challenges it brought need repeating here – indeed this blog is about looking forward to 2021 and beyond. But if I do take a moment to look back, one of the standout achievements here at the GSA was the output of the work we did to ensure the industry’s superb response to COVID-19 was fully recognised and applauded.

  • We were the idea and the driving force behind creating a Global Council to promote the vison for the future of the industry
  • In an unprecedented move, in July we launched the Global Technology & Business Services Council alongside 11 other industry associations from around the world
  • We collectively published a global response document sharing experiences from across the world
  • We worked with the Global Council and Everest Group to publish fresh research on the state of the industry – which demonstrated growth in 2020 and predicted greater growth in the years ahead
  • We held a Global Summit and launched a series of events to showcase the vital work of the industry globally
  • In the UK, we published research detailing the response of the industry
  • We maintained our prestigious award program, taking events online and creating new award categories to showcase positive COVID responses
  • We launched a revised manifesto: Rethinking Sourcing: Restarting UK to underpin our work
  • We ran dozens of online events, seminars and workshops sharing best practice and thought leadership
  • We made the Global Strategic Sourcing Standard freely available to everyone to support working to best practice during the crisis

But we have so much more work to do – that was the very clear take out from the GSA Predictions webinar held on Thursday 17 December – where the consensus across both the 6 GSA Council members who joined a panel to share their thoughts, and those who participated in the discussion, was that now was our opportunity as an industry to truly shine. Changes that had previously taken years to progress suddenly sprinted over the line as we all responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic, but there were stark warnings that we need to continue with the transformations at this accelerated speed. The industry had passed the litmus test, but needs now to prove the real value it is capable of delivering. The “new normal” should not be maintaining our current state, but rather should be the continuation of our newfound ability to adapt and adopt, to respond to unpredictable events, manage fluctuating demand, maintain and reinforce our collaborations and manage our partnerships with integrity and flexibility.

2021 Predictions

Based on the themes of December’s webinar, as well as feedback and input from across our member ecosystem,  the GSA’s top predictions for 2021 are:

Outcome-based value comes to the fore – we will witness a retained and measurable focus on value creation delivered through technology enabled business services. As a focus on outcome rather than effort finally comes to the fore, we need to work on developing new, yet sensible commercial frameworks which work for both sides. Flexibility and agility must reign without a constant reach for the contract.

Techceleration must continue – deployment of new technologies have transformed both businesses and customer and citizen experiences. The ongoing adoption of new technology must continue at this rate, regardless of there being a burning platform or not. Cloud, automation, AI, data analytics, IoT and cybersecurity should – must - all remain on board room agendas.

Wellness remains key –one clear positive emerging from the  COVID pandemic is the new-found focus on employee well-being. This is another change that must be here to stay. Wellbeing, engagement and inclusion and diversity programmes have transformed people’s relationships with their employers, especially as so many have grappled with working from home and other anguishes brought on by COVID.  Of course we need the focus on process and tools, but we mustn’t forget people in all of this.

The role of the office has changed forever – working from home (WFH) is here to stay in some guise, but it’s not a panacea. So much work still needs to be done on security, wellness and flexible resourcing. Use of real estate has certainly changed forever, but don’t expect the call centre or office to disappear, nor for there to be a reduction in cost of services overnight – as many providers are tied in to long term leases and won’t immediately reap the benefits of lowered overheads. Indeed, as spaces are repurposed to give more space and room for collaboration, accommodation needs will change but costs may not necessarily reduce.

Gig is the game-changer- the gig economy and increased flexibility in employee/employer and work arrangements will be arguably the single biggest impact in the history of the technology and business services industry, as both customers and their service providers look to flexibly harness open talent from all around the globe.  Resourcing gig to meet requirements while maintaining security, service quality and auditability will pose a huge challenge, but offer a step change in access to human and technical resource to those who crack it. Competition based gig platforms will change the pricing models forever.

Global delivery will increase – through flexible gig-based engagements, as well as more fixed profile business services arrangements, companies will expand rather than decrease their global delivery centres in their quest to mitigate risks, increase resilience and access much needed talent. The increased maturity and acceptance of remote working practices will underpin a greater acceptance of diverse global resource pools operating across geographies and time zones.

The UK regains its crown – in conjunction with global delivery growing, the work delivered from the UK is exemplary. We are a world-leading service economy, and a nation of innovators with a passion for customer service. BREXIT and the looming recession is the perfect storm for the Government to invest in our industry; to drive skills development, education, training and refresh. The UK will rise again to be recognised as a truly world-class delivery destination and home for technology innovation.

The rise and rise of the strategic sourcing profession – those who create, develop, contract and manage flexible business and technology service partnerships – the strategic sourcing professionals -will rise up the value chain for Executive boards as it becomes ever clearer that strong collaborations are essential for delivering business success. As such, the experienced professional will be in ever greater demand –  expect pay increases and director-level movements. Upskilling middle management will be key

Collaborations and SMEs are the future – one thing this virus has shown us, is that we are all in this together and we are strongest together. The vaccine being one prime example. The industry collaborated superbly to get through the pandemic. We expect to see much more in the way of collaborations – be that between previously perceived competitors, or service providers bringing dynamic, agile emerging technology players firmly into their eco-systems.

Automation will prove itself  - as must many of the other emerging technologies. Automation can and has delivered huge value, but it was overhyped, poorly adopted, and treated tactically and now it’s struggling to break away from this perception to prove it delivers lasting strategic value. A change in model from selling licenses to selling value across all technologies will be key to rebuilding trust, and businesses committing to strategic adoption and the changes required to deliver that value – including top-down sponsorship – are key.

Empathy not technology is the future of CX – the customer service industry is one industry that has most notably been impacted by the pandemic. Customers were tolerant of reduced service levels when the crisis hit but today, with almost every engagement being digital, they are more discerning than ever. CX has to step up to focus on delivering exceptional responsiveness, high quality service and multi-channel engagement but all underpinned by empathy. New technologies, remote and gig working will continue to disrupt this space, but getting the basics right is key. 

Our plans for 2021

The GSA will support and promote the technology and business services industry, as well as the strategic sourcing profession, to drive and adopt these changes. Our schedule of work for 2021 includes:

  • Research and publication of a white paper detailing the make-up of the strategic sourcing function, how to transition from a siloed approach and research that evidences that the best performing companies have a strategic sourcing function 
  • A body of work that provides recommendations and best practice of how to make automation strategic to deliver ultimate value to clients/ the business
  • An update to our strategic sourcing qualifications to include virtual delivery,  and a new qualification focused on collaboration.
  • A series of briefings and guides on the future of CX and best practice case studies
  • Launch of our Entrepreneurs Club and industry code of conduct for working with SMEs
  • A working group looking at and reporting on the potential of gig and how to resource for it, contract for it and manage and mitigate security and service quality risks
  • Continued leadership of the work of the Global Technology & Business Services Council – promoting key global themes, such as impact sourcing, micro sourcing and supplier diversity
  • A think tank researching new commercial frameworks and publishing tools and templates to deploy
  • Continuation of our Sourcing Tech series-which looks at all the new technologies, how to assess, adopt and deliver value from them, as well as  how to contract for them and bring them into sourcing arrangements at any point of the contract
  • We will promote UK successes both nationally and globally and work with the Government to ensure it does so too


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