The Names Behind the Numbers
SSON: Frances, you’ve been with Gartner for nine years now. What attracted you to research?
Frances Karamouzis: I started my career in consulting, and I think that gave me a greater understanding of the buyer/seller side of the equation. I also realized, though, that there are a lot of myths as to how the industry adds value to buyers. If you consider that IT services spend by far overshadows the spend on hardware and software combined— it can be double that—what stands out is how little focus there is on the competencies relating to buying or managing those services. On the contrary, corporations spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on SAP/server spend. There is still too little information on how services are impacting the businesses. That void in the market really sparked my interest in the analyst’s role.
SSON: Your main focus is on sourcing and IT services. In terms of sourcing, what do you think the greatest impact of current market shifts will be, in five years time?
Frances Karamouzis: I think buyer behaviour will move away from customized solutions and finally become amenable to what are called industrialized, or utility-based, services, i.e., configurable, or shared, solutions. This requires compromise, of course, as well as clients spending a lot more time analyzing their business processes to determine how to make a preconfigured solution work. I also think we’ll see a lot more focus on the difference between competitive parity and competitive advantage. Competitive parity refers to common foundational processes, such as F&A or HR, which don’t, in themselves, necessarily differentiate a company. It’s a given that those processes should work well. So parity, in itself, it is not considered a source of competitive advantage.
Competitive advantage, on the other hand, derives from elements that make your product or service distinct or different. So we can expect the functions relating to competitive parity to become industrialized, over time— clients will aim for the lowest cost for the best scenario, while premium spend will most likely go into what sets you apart, i.e., provides competitive advantage.
In the past enterprises have struggled with this, confusing spending in the two areas. The current financial crisis is forcing companies to become leaner, so many are revisiting their assumptions, and making some tough changes. The combination of economic crisis and simultaneous availability of different tried and true technologies is opening the door to combinations of software as a service, utility models… basically, solutions that work on a subscription- or pay-for-use basis—all founded on shared infrastructure. Companies will want to make sure they are spending money in the right areas—those which support competitive advantage as opposed to parity.
SSON: AS an analyst, what is your greatest day-to-day challenge?
Frances Karamouzis: When you are covering global markets, as I do, the greatest challenge is finding and authenticating information. This relates to emerging markets in particular. Sourcing and authenticating information on China and the developing world, as they enter into this space, can be a real challenge—as you’d expect from this job.
SSON: What is your greatest achievement over the past few years? What are you most proud of?
Frances Karamouzis: I am really proud of the fact that we managed to pull together the first ever BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) country conference on global sourcing, in China, last year. The chairmen of each country organization joined us to discuss their role in the sourcing space, going forward. It was testament to the reputation Gartner has in the marketplace that we were able to bring to one table the leading country players for this industry. This had never been done before, and validates our position as thought-leader in this space.
SSON: what was your impression of this group of country-leaders? What struck you most about their roles?
Frances Karamouzis: I was struck by how, separately, they recognized the global shifts going on in the markets, and were encouraging their respective governments to use technology as a catalyst to create more knowledge workers. Also, how they understood the necessity of embracing sourcing jobs in their countries in order to garner their fair share of this new and important industry.
More about Frances Karamouzis
Years of Experience Gartner - 9 years
IT Industry - 15 years
Roles and Responsibilities
Frances Karamouzis is a research vice president in Gartner Research and Advisory Services. Ms. Karamouzis focuses on the IT services and outsourcing market and is also the lead analyst for global sourcing research in North America.
Ms. Karamouzis has approximately 13 years of experience in strategy, business process and information technology management across a wide range of service delivery areas and industries. Prior to joining Gartner, she spent 11 years with a large multinational consulting firm, where she was involved in several service delivery areas including strategy, process design, systems integration, change management and knowledge management. In addition, Ms. Karamouzis was a practice director for the strategy consulting practice of a smaller niche consulting firm.
Andersen Consulting, Senior Manager, 11 years SC Consulting, Practice Director, 2 years
Beyond her own published research for Gartner, she has appeared in or contributed to reports by "60 Minutes," CNN, CNBC, PBS, Business Week, Forbes and the Council on Foreign Relations, and she provided research for Thomas Friedman’s "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty- First Century."
B.A., international business and accounting, New York University M.B.A., with a concentration in finance, New York University, February 11, 2009: