Category Archives: BRICS

UK technology firms spurn BRICS deals in favour of home investment says Grant Thornton report

By David Bicknell

Medium-sized UK technology companies are forgoing demonstrable investment opportunities in the BRICS economies in favour of domestic deals, according to new research from audit specialist Grant Thornton. 

The research shows that three-quarters (75%) of medium sized UK technology companies have no plans to invest in new markets in the next 12 months.

The study reflects trends over the last five years for mergers and acquisitions in the technology market, which show that domestic investment continues to be the number one priority for ICT businesses. 141 UK to UK deals were completed in 2011,  a higher volume than with any other market.

In terms of outbound investment from the UK technology sector, mature markets such as the USA, Australia and Germany have consistently remained at the top of the league in comparison to other emerging markets. 

Wendy Hart, Head of Technology at Grant Thornton UK, is calling on investors in the UK’s technology mid-market to think beyond traditional investment regions and seize opportunities. She says: “Over the last five years the volatility of the global market has inevitably had an impact on the volume of cross-border deals taking place.

“Traditional, mature markets such as those in the G7 remain attractive to UK firms because of a familiar business environment, language commonalities and greater access to highly skilled employees. In contrast, outbound investment into fast-growing, tech-friendly economies such as India, China, Brazil and Israel is still relatively low.”

To help highlight the opportunities available, Grant Thornton has produced an ‘expansion index’ guide, which compares existing UK investment markets such as the UK, the USA, Germany, France and the Netherlands with emerging economies. The data demonstrates that the markets with the biggest opportunities are also the markets that present the biggest challenge for investors.

Wendy Hart continued: “The sheer volume of information that a business has to get to grips with before making an investment into an unfamiliar market can be daunting. There are three key stages that are vital foundations for a market entry strategy: full assessment of the opportunity available; thorough preparation so that a business is ready for execution; and management of the actual execution itself.”

In the report, Grant Thornton has also called on technology investment experts from around the world to provide detailed insight about key technology markets, both traditional and emerging.

Nick Farr, Head of China Britain Business Services at Grant Thornton UK, said: “One of the reasons that UK technology businesses are reluctant to enter China is a fear of copying or reverse-engineering of their products. Whilst this is still a risk, as China’s patent system evolves there are increasing opportunities for businesses to protect their intellectual property (IP). These opportunities are being noticed. Recent research by the China-Britain Business Council showed that 59% of UK businesses with a presence in China want to increase their R&D activity there.”

Some snapshots from the report:

China

“Grant Thornton’s Technology Expansion Index ranks China second for economic growth and third for infrastructure and technology. On the flip side, China is one of the lowest ranked markets for political and legal landscape and has one of the most complex systems in the world for business start-ups. It is this dichotomy, paired with the complexities of Chinese culture, that best explains the lack of UK businesses looking to enter the Chinese market.

“However, great returns are never easily achieved. The opportunity in China is huge, not just in terms of salary arbitrage and tax incentives. Despite the recent slowdown in China, growth is still upwards of 8% and this high growth potential means that those companies able to access the Chinese market will be better at meeting consumer needs and faster to market, leaving those who shied away from early investment trailing in their wake.”

Brazil

“At 8.5 million square kilometres, Brazil is the size of a continent, and currently accounts for 40% of Latin America’s economy. IMF GDP growth forecasts through 2013 are strong at 4%, potentially underpinned by the impact of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, which will drive technology investment. The domestic market for IT in Brazil is now the seventh largest in the world. $165.7bn was spent on ICT in 2010 with only $2.4bn of services exported.

“Brazil is a potential technology investment hotspot because of its large, stable, growing economy; a modern financial system that has largely escaped the global financial crisis; a strong base of local investors; and robust capital markets and a middle class of almost 100 million people aspotential technology consumers.”

India

“The Indian Government’s new ICT policy aims at speeding up development, including plans for fibre optic cable installation and aggressive broadband implementation.

“A strong driver for IT investment is India’s own Generation Y who are primed to become hungry consumers, particularly of IT, consumer technology and social media. India’s consumermarket, currently the world’s thirteenth largest, is expected to become the fifth largest by 2025. Its telecommunication industry, the world’s fastest-growing, added 227 million subscribers duringthe period 2010–11.” 

UK

“According to our survey, 18% of UK technology companies plan domestic investment in the next 12–18 months. Despite the economic downturn, or perhaps because of it, many technology companies are still lookingto consolidate and strengthen theirpresence at home rather than seeking out riskier, but potentially more rewarding climates.

“There is a trend in the UK technology market where large corporates are increasingly looking to acquire companies that provide specialist services or offer some innovation that addresses a niche they want to reach. Importantly, the current state of the overall market means that these companies can be acquired more cheaply than might have been possible pre credit-crunch,” says Wendy Hart.

For more details or for a hard copy of the report, which also features case studies on a number of UK technology companies, including Galleon Holdings, Ideal Industries, Mobile Tornado, Kelkoo, and Tessella, contact Emma Ap-Thomas at Grant Thornton. Tel: 0207 728 2348 or emma.ap-thomas@uk.gt.com

Grant Thornton UK website

Fast-growing BRICS countries face IT challenges, says economic think tank

Much has been written about the economic potential offered by the BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

And yet, despite improvements in many drivers of competitiveness, the BRICS still face important challenges to more fully adopt and leverage IT, according to the latest  Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World, published by the World Economic Forum.

Despite efforts over the past decade to develop information and communications technologies (ICT) infrastructure in developing economies, a new digital divide in terms of ICT impacts persists,  the Forum says.

Even for the fast-growing BRICS, an insufficient skills base and institutional weaknesses, especially in the business environment, present a number of shortcomings that stifle entrepreneurship and innovation.

It’s not unreasonable to argue that they may have something to learn about delivering successful IT projects too, as developed countries have had to do. Alternatively, they may have some insight to pass on.

When it comes to leadership in IT adoption and usage, it is the usual suspects, Sweden (1st) and Singapore (2nd) that top the rankings in leveraging information and communications technologies to boost country competitiveness.

Switzerland (5th), the Netherlands (6th), the United States (8th), Canada (9th) and the UK (10th) also show strong performances in the top 10.

It is equally perhaps no great surprise to find that ICT readiness in sub-Saharan Africa is low, with many countries showing significant lags in connectivity due to insufficient development of ICT infrastructure, which remains too costly.

Even in those countries where ICT infrastructure has been improved, the Forum suggests, ICT-driven impacts on competitiveness and well-being trail behind, resulting in a new digital divide.

China

At 51st place in the rankings, China leads the BRICS countries. Yet, the report says, “this should offer little consolation in light of the important challenges ahead that must be met to more fully adopt and leverage ICT.

“China’s institutional framework (46th) and especially its business environment (105th) present a number of shortcomings that stifle entrepreneurship and innovation, including excessive red tape and long administrative procedures, lofty taxation amounting to 64 percent of profits (124th), uncertain intellectual property protection—it is estimated that almost 80 percent of installed software in China is pirated—and limited or delayed availability of new technologies (100th).”

In terms of readiness, the country ranks only 87th in terms of its infrastructure and digital content, mainly because of its underdeveloped Internet infrastructure.

In terms of actual ICT usage, although the figures remain low in absolute terms, they should perhaps be considered in light of the sheer size of the country.

ICT usage by businesses is significant (37th). China is becoming more and more innovative and this in turn encourages further and quicker adoption of technologies. The Chinese government is already placing significant hopes in IT as a catalyst for future growth, because more traditional sources of growth are likely to dry up.

The efforts of the government in promoting and using IT are reflected in China’s strong showing in terms of government usage (33rd). For the time being, though, the overall impact of IT on the economy remains limited (79th).

India

However, contrast China’s position with India and you find that India, ranks nearly 20 places behind in 69th position.  India delivers a very mixed picture, with encouraging results in some areas and a lot of room for improvement elsewhere, notably in the political and regulatory (71st) and business and innovation environments (91st).

Extensive red tape that stands in the way of businesses and corporate tax is among the highest of all the countries analysed by the Forum. For instance, it typically takes four years and 46 procedures to enforce a contract in India. Starting a business is longer and requires more paperwork than in most countries. Other variables fare better, such as the availability of new technologies (47th), the availability of venture capital (27th), the intensity of local competition (31st), and the quality of its management schools (30th).

One of the weakest aspects of India’s performance lies in its low penetration of ICT. The country ranks 117th in terms of individual usage, with 61 mobile subscriptions for every 100 population, a relatively low figure. Only 7.5 percent of the population uses the Internet; just 6 percent of households own a PC and broadband Internet remains the privilege of a few, with less than one subscription per 100 population.

“The big story is how India is falling behind in relative terms as far as its overall measure of technology and competitiveness is concerned,” says Soumitra Dutta, Roland Berger Professor of Business and Technology at INSEAD, a co-editor of the report. “A few years ago, India was ahead of China.”

Brazil

Another member of the BRICS, Brazil, positioned in 65th place, benefits from  strong levels of business ICT usage (33rd). These, combined  fairly advanced levels of technological capacity (31st) in particular segments of its industry, allows the country to achieve one of the strongest performances of ICT-enabled innovations in the Latin American region, both in terms of new products and services (29th) and more efficient processes (34th).

However, despite these strengths, its overall business environment with burdensome procedures to create new businesses (138th) and high tax rates (130th), in addition to its high mobile phone tariffs (133rd) and poor skills availability (86th), hinder the potential of the Brazilian economy to fully benefit from IT and shift toward more knowledge-based activities (76th) at a faster pace.

That said, Brazil is now the seventh largest ICT market in the world, with £106bn spent in 2010.

World Economic Forum Global IT Report

Will the BRICS learn the lessons from developed nations’ limp track record of IT project delivery?

By David Bicknell

There’s not much doubt of the hot spots for IT spending over the next few years:  the BRICS.

According to this piece on ZDNet, while Europe remains transfixed viewing a Greek tragedy, other countries, notably the BRICS, are pushing ahead in terms of IT spend. 

Research firm IDC suggests that total IT spending will grow 5 percent in 2012 with emerging markets, smartphones, storage and software at the head of the pack.
 
Although European IT spending is likely to remain weak for the foreseeable future, spending in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China – this seems to exclude ‘the S’ of South Africa) will see double-digit growth rates:
 
  • Brazil IT spending will rise 9 percent;
  • Russia will increase 11 percent;
  • India will  be up 16 percent;
  • And China’s tech spending will jump 15 percent

That spending means we can expect large increases in new IT projects – or perhaps I should say business projects delivered through IT.

Will the BRICS do a better job of the project management and delivery of these IT projects than we’ve managed in the developed world? Well, let’s just say there’s plenty of useful best and worst practice for them to take on board.

Links

Russia last in BRICS for faith in business

Can Brazil drive innovation?

Why effective project management should focus on people, not just processes

By David Bicknell

I recently read an interesting post in the Gallup Management Journal which argued that when it comes to project management, most organisations put their practices before their people.

In other words, they place more emphasis on ‘rational’ factors, such as the process itself, and rather less on emotional drivers that could actually deliver project excellence – actually, just a project success would do! – such as their employees’ engagement with the project and company.

The piece, by Benoit Hardy-Vallee, points out that, “Project management is integral to the business world. Milestones, kickoff meetings, deliverables, stakeholders, Gantt charts, and work plans constitute the everyday world of most managers, whether they are called “project managers” or not. Given the vast experience organisations have with project management, it’s reasonable to wonder why all projects aren’t completed on time, on scope, and under budget.”

It argues that cost and time overruns on IT projects have had a profound effect on national economies, and suggests that one estimate of the IT project failure rate is between 5% and 15%, which represents a loss of $50 billion to $150 billion per year in the United States. In Europe, although the figures look pretty dated, they are still staggering in size: IT project failures  cost the European Union €142 billion in 2004.

What’s more, the piece argues, this trend is here to stay. With an ever-growing need for accessible and integrated data, organisations require larger platforms to manage supply chains, customer relationships, and dozens of other crucial systems.

“Mega-software projects are now common in private and governmental organisations, and development is not slowing down, especially in emerging economies.”

The blog argues that large projects, especially those in the IT sectors, already have a poor record. And forcing team members to adapt to project management processes and procedures only makes it more likely that the project will fail.

It goes on to suggest that a different, more powerful behaviour-based project management might be a better way of  enabling project groups to gain higher levels of emotional commitment and performance from their team members, as well as increased levels of emotional involvement from stakeholders to help improve both engagement and performance.

“A typical project management approach focuses on processes, policies, and procedures. Every task and step is described in detail by a set of rules.  Many companies implement rigid processes that dictate behaviour and use statistical methods to control quality (such as total quality management, kaizen, lean management, and Six Sigma). Process guides and rulebooks support work practices, while quality control systems assess and improve these practices.

“The problem with a single-minded focus on processes and methodologies is that once people are given procedures to follow, compliance replaces results. Everybody is concerned about how to do the job, not about the outcome if the job is done well.

“Companies that take this approach do so for valid reasons: They can’t manage what they don’t measure. More importantly, they can’t let projects run without any direction, hoping for the best. However, by relying on managing only these rational factors, organisations fail to harness the power of human nature by engaging employees’ emotions.”

The article concludes: “It’s time to update project management not with more methodologies, but with more emotional content. Employees’ and stakeholders’ disengagement can make a project fail, but behaviour-based management can make projects succeed.”

Gallup Management Journal

BRICS countries face identity card IT project delays

By David Bicknell

Two of the BRICS countries are wrestling with project management challenges as overambitious IT projects face an uncertain future.

India and Russia, which are two of the emerging so-called ‘BRICS’ – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – nations have implemented large identity card schemes which are now facing implementation hurdles.

In India, an ambitious biometric identification scheme for 1.2 billion people faces is likely to have to be redesigned if it is to survive.

The Asia Times says the Indian government has budgeted US$603 million to give a 12-digit number to each of 600 million residents by March 14, 2014, in the first two phases of the  project, dubbed “Aadhaar”, which means “foundation” or “support.”

The Asia Times says the Indian government had asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) project to enroll 200 million people by January 2012, in a first phase.

The UID number, which is set to prove identity, though not citizenship, would be supported by biometric devices such as facial recognition systems, eye and fingerprint scanners. However, a committee in the Indian Parliament has questioned its practicability and credibility.

The Standing Committee for Finance also challenged the legality, quality of technology and potential misuse of the UID information collected over the past two years.

The project had “no clarity of purpose,” observed the 48-page report from 53 parliamentarians, “and it is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”.

It concluded: “In view of the afore-mentioned concerns and apprehensions about the UID scheme, particularly considering the contradictions and ambiguities within the Government on its implementation as well as implications, the Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in its present form. The data already collected by the UIDAI may be transferred to the National Population Register (NPR), if the Government so chooses. The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme as also the proposals contained in the Bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament.”

Meanwhile in Russia, according to the Moscow Times, a universal electronic card is facing delays, with a rollout scheduled for this month now being pushed to January of 2013.

The card – a combination of an electronic ID, driver’s licence, car insurance certificate, ATM card and migration document, among other possible functions – is the result of a project the government estimates will cost as much as 150 billion rubles to 170 billion rubles ($5.2 billion to $5.6 billion) to put in the hands of every citizen.

Limited initial use of the card was scheduled to take place this year, but the law that set up the project was amended in December to allow for a one-year delay.

The Moscow Times reported that the program will begin to function next year and that this year will be spent organising sites that will receive applications for the card. Application sites are expected to be set up at post offices, banks, and other locations.

A ministry spokesman confirmed that infrastructure for the project is just beginning to be created, and only four out of 83 regions having begun work on it.

“The delay in starting the project is related to issues around interagency cooperation and underdeveloped infrastructure in some regions,” said Yulia Kuchkina, a spokeswoman for the Universal Electronic Cards company (UEC). “Pilot cards are being issued — with employees of government agencies and ministries becoming the first users. In Moscow test cards have been received by employees of the Moscow Department of Information Technology,” she added.

Mail Online India: Setback for Planning Commission as Prime Minister bats for UID

Standing Committee for Finance Report