By Guest Author Narayanan Raman
The ‘CIO Priorities’ series attempts to gain insights into one of the most serious, interesting, and challenging questions facing the technology industry, which, as you might have rightly guessed, is “What are the priorities of enterprise CIOs today?” This question is serious given the constrained nature of cash flows, thanks to the economic meltdown. It is interesting because the industry is seeing a whole new wave of technological focus in the form of virtualization, cloud computing, and the like. Finally, it is a challenging question as it has no one answer given the unique circumstances in CIOs today find themselves.
In this series, I shall be summarizing my conversations with the CIOs of leading enterprises and discussing their priorities through separate articles. I decided to start with technology-focused consulting companies, because it is through these companies that we can obtain insights into both the priorities of their internal IT as well as the priorities of their clients through each company’s consulting lens. In this article, I talk with Frank Modruson, the CIO of Accenture.
Frank categorizes his priorities into two camps: effectiveness and efficiency. According to Frank, effectiveness is about starting and doing something game-changing, while efficiency is about doing things efficiently in terms of cost and scale. Companies usually try to strive for efficiency at the start, and then get to effectiveness because the efficiency quest focuses directly on cost, and hence its impact on the bottom line is seen more quickly. Effectiveness requires initial spending into something game-changing, where one realizes gains later in time, but saves more on a net basis.
The main priority that Frank named was collaboration and telepresence, which fed into both the effectiveness and the efficiency camps, given its game-changing nature and its direct contribution to bottom line savings through reduced travel costs. Accenture rolled out ‘Accenture Collaboration 2.0,’ its internal collaboration platform, last year. It is also seriously investing in telepresence and has more than 50 telepresence rooms in the organization. In addition to building telepresence capacity internally, Accenture is also federating its telepresence capacity. Federation refers to the concept of extending collaboration networks beyond the organization. Accenture now has now federated 31 companies and has close to 600 federated telepresence rooms, touching close to 2 million executives worldwide. (It did not have any federated company in the beginning of the year!)
Other priorities on the effectiveness side have been ECDM (Engagement, Contract and Delivery Management Applications), and applications that help build strong pricing and forecasting capabilities. On the efficiency side, other priorities have been re-doing the entire communications network and focusing on the cloud. By integrating different voice and data networks into a single consolidated network, Accenture has been able to drive down the cost of phone calls. Focusing on the network, while contributing to “efficiency,” has also played on the “effectiveness” side by helping to build a robust network infrastructure to support the requirements of telepresence. On the cloud front, Frank believes that the focus on the cloud and SaaS applications is here to stay, because it is an efficiency play, enabling organizations and individuals to maintain a smaller infrastructure and fewer applications.
After discussing the nature of Accenture’s recent priorities, I asked Frank if these priorities were a result of a change in strategy due to the tough economy. Frank said that, fundamentally, they were not, and that they could still be attributed to the overall focus on effectiveness and efficiency that Accenture always maintained. He did say though, that Accenture concentrated more on “efficiency levers” from 2001-2002 through 2004-05. Beginning in 2003-2004, after really becoming the best in breed in terms of efficiency, Accenture started focusing more on “effectiveness levers,” and that journey continues. That explains the focus on collaboration, ECDM, and other similar projects.
Frank, being the CIO of a leading consulting organization, is also a great person to ask about the overall market pulse. When asked what the current priorities of clients are, he said that collaboration and high performance IT were two very big priorities for Accenture’s clients today given the direct impact that both of these areas have on their bottom lines.
Finally, I asked Frank what he felt was the next big technology wave. He replied that while virtualization and cloud are here to stay, the next big wave would be video. Telepresence is something that is big, but is still at the organizational level. He believes that the ever-increasing capacity and technological advances in the processing, storage, and communication space would facilitate video capabilities at an individual level that would transform the way people do business.
This segment is a part in the series : CIO Priorities