In this interview we spoke with Frank B. Modruson, CIO of Accenture. He leads a high-performance global IT organization that directly supports the business goals of a $21.6 billion company. He oversees all business applications and technology infrastructure, helping to enable more than 223,000 employees in 52 countries worldwide to work anytime, anywhere. Modruson has transformed IT into a strategic asset for Accenture. Under his leadership, the IT organization has produced an ability to run IT as a business, implemented a comprehensive governance model, and streamlined the technology infrastructure, and more.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. It is the largest consulting firm in the world, as well as being a global player within the technology consulting industry. Accenture is a Fortune Global 500company. As of June 2011, the company had more than 223,000 employees and served clients in more than 120 countries. Accenture’s current clients include 96 of the Fortune Global 100 and more than three quarters of the Fortune Global 500. An early adopter of cloud technology, it provides cloud services in its technology portfolio, wherein it helps clients sort through complex choices in the game-changing cloud computing market.
Sramana Mitra: Hi, Frank. Thanks a lot for coming to our series. To begin, please give us a brief overview of what have been your perspective and philosophy on cloud computing and where you are placing your bets. What are you seeing, and where do you think you are going with cloud computing?
Frank Modruson: Before we get started, would you please give me your view or definition of cloud, because I have mine but it seems to be a term that gets used quite a bit and has been for a while.
Sramana: The initial wave of cloud computing came out of the software as a service world driven by Salesforce.com. There are a lot of different software applications that are getting on the cloud, so that was the first movement we saw. Very quickly, the infrastructure as a service movement arose. So, there is a lot of infrastructure that is now hosted in the public cloud environment.
We are seeing a lot of new developments on the private cloud side. I have had long conversations with the folks at IBM on this. IBM has a sharp focus on the private cloud side. We are starting to see platform as a service as another piece of cloud computing that is emerging where people are putting all the internal applications on the cloud as well and using platform as a service to do that. All that falls within the scope of our discussion.
Sramana: So, could you please define how you view it and what your thoughts are?
Frank: My thought is the following. First, cloud as a concept has been around for a long time. It’s taken a bit of its own life but like any technology, it gets a lot of hype early, probably about four, five, or six years ago. It goes away and then comes back in a storm as reality five or six years later. I think we are in that stage now. I think there was an awful lot of hype five or six years ago. Most people were like, wait and see. We were early adopters of cloud technology, particularly through software as a service.
Frank: I have been a big fan of software as a service. In fact, one of our first applications was software as a service. We also did it in one of our most important business process areas. That was recruiting. And when we did that, the company was less than half the size it is today. So, obviously the software played out. It’s funny when you look at things. When we looked at the business process around recruiting, for us, the secret sauce is who you attract and who you select. It isn’t actually the software. We were able to find the software as a service vendor that met our business process needs. We were able to stand it up and put it into production – because it was already running faster and deployed globally faster – and move to one recruiting system off a bunch of internal systems faster because of that software as a service solution.
We followed on the heels of that with quite a number of other business process areas. But it is a great arrow in the quiver of a CIO to be able to go out into the marketplace and find tools and technologies that you can implement quickly. If you look back, I think people have been hesitant at different point about the technology, but I see a lot faster adoption happening more and more as you move from software as a service into other areas that allow you to do more things in the cloud. In reality, running the technology, keeping it up is the entry-level criterion for being a good CIO. If you can, buy that from somebody else, and that done, you can focus on more important things. There are a lot of analogies you can use, but you know, we don’t swing telephone wires between buildings and across cities. We buy that capacity.
Sramana: Right, that’s good.