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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Frank Modruson, CIO of Accenture (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Jun 29th 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest authors Siddharth Garg and Rahul Nagpal

Sramana: And turn it all into products?

Frank: Well, not so much turn it into anything in particular. I have a feeling that there is a lot of stuff that is either very old and not in sync with business, or of very limited use, and there is a real opportunity to take out a lot of old capabilities that are underutilized, but this hasn’t been dealt with. For example, when we migrated to [Lotus] Notes, when we did that back in like 2004, 2005, we had 30 some-odd thousand Notes databases. As we went through them, we found out a lot of them are underutilized or not used at all.

It was like moving house. The fact that we are going to move from one house to the other, we had to go through that moving dilemma. “Hey, you know those boxes in the attic that are there from the last move,” or “Hey, we put that stuff up there, did we actually need that anymore?” Throwing out a lot of that stuff is really a good exercise to go through; however, it’s painful. It takes some effort.

I think a lot of companies have a lot of old application data, systems, and so on that are sitting out there that they haven’t dealt with, because in their minds it’s cheaper to keep it running. In reality, I believe that a lot of that capability ends up being cement boots, if you will, cement shoes around IT in companies. I think that by getting rid of a lot of that stuff, you actually can be more responsive to business. So, for example in Accenture’s case, our oldest production application now is actually from 1999. We are in the midst of retiring that application and replacing it.

Sramana: What is the application?

Frank: The structure is only a few years old, and that gives us a lot of flexibility to move and evolve our technology in the business, and I would argue that our business apps are more in tuned with Accenture 2011 because they were written in the last few years as opposed to running production apps in the 1990s, 1980s and the 1970s.

In reality, it’s hard work.  This happens in housing a lot. It can be a bit of an emotional thing for people, but if you can tear down your house and build a new one from scratch, you know what? It’s sometimes better, faster, and cheaper. You get up-to-date wiring, up to date plumbing, up-to-date floors, appliances, everything. We know that in the case of housing, building new construction rather than rehabilitating existing construction is about a third of the cost. In other words, rehab is about three extra [dollars per] square foot as building new. Technology is something like that, right? The old stuff you have to work with is problematic. You have to integrate. It doesn’t work. There are no more releases. It’s not going to integrate with this. Whatever the issue is, got old data structures, right? It didn’t have area codes; it doesn’t have ZIP plus 4, whatever the issue is.

Sramana: I think we’re saying the same thing. What is happening is I think a lot of old stuff is getting yanked.

Frank: That is a big encumbrance on people who work for organizations.

Sramana: And they are being rearchitected or whatever percentage of that portfolio that needs to be saved and that needs to be available as the functionality in the enterprise is being rearchitected and rewritten on different platforms. And platform as a service is finding adoption in that transition.

Frank: Well, I am suggesting that companies should be more aggressive about that. I am not sure that everyone really is being that aggressive.

Sramana: I think that point is fair. Now switching topics a bit, what have you seen in terms of the movements in crowd sourcing? The buzzword I guess, is social CRM in crowdsourcing has a lot of effect of the social media revolution filtering into the enterprise and in the form of social CRM, in the form of crowdsourcing. What are your perspectives and your thoughts?

Frank: Well, there are a couple. I think that these are natural evolutions. People are doing this at home, and they expect to be able to do it at work.

We have rolled out our own capabilities internal to Accenture. We feel it is important for people to be able to share but share within Accenture, within the four walls of Accenture, not necessarily across Accenture. There’s confidential information you don’t want in out in your business life shared out in the Internet. But we have gotten very strong feedback from the various capabilities that we have rolled out, whether it’s our people pages where you can look up information about people and their pictures, where they fit in the organization and see their blogs and things of that nature to our media exchange, where you can see all the various videos of people share inside Accenture to microblogging, and so on. We have seen these capabilities, and our employees come to expect them as they come in to the organization. They expect to see that capability and have that experience because they are used to it outside of Accenture.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Frank Modruson, CIO of Accenture
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