Accenture CIO: Journey to Cloud Accelerates Tech Upgrades
Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson is 2 years into a 3-year journey to put 90% of the company's IT infrastructure into the cloud. Here's how that cloud commitment helped accelerate a recent IT project.
Enterprises got some advice a few years ago about how to evolve their technology operations for a modern age. Market research and consulting firm Gartner said that CIOs should consider something called bimodal IT, an approach that let traditional IT continue its core functions, but also enabled investment in new technologies with a more Agile approach.
But some CIOs are taking a different approach, including Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson, who spoke with InformationWeek in an interview recently about his company's digital transformation and aggressive moves to the cloud.
"I passionately believe that you don't have to have this bifurcation of old and new," Wilson said. "It's a quantum range. It's a continuum. Different services and capabilities will move along at different rates."
Wilson believes that new technologies have helped older technologies evolve at Accenture, and recent projects are a case in point.
To be fair, not everyone embraced Gartner's bimodal IT idea, even when it was introduced back in 2014. Gartner rival, Forrester Research, released a critique of the framework a few years ago, and analysts there said the practice set up IT organizations for unnecessary friction. Wilson joined Accenture four years ago to accelerate Accenture's move to the cloud, and he believes that separating IT into two is not the right way forward.
"You can't fundamentally operate two separate paradigms just because of the underlying technology of where you start," Wilson said.
Currently about 85% of Accenture's IT infrastructure is operating in the cloud, he said. But the move to the cloud initially was met with some resistance by those who had built the existing data center infrastructure. Wilson said they were concerned that the cloud would not be able to meet the savings or flexibility requirements that their data center was already delivering.
"I said it would, and let's try to break some rules and see," he said. "So that's what we did."
Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson
The move to the cloud was about more than just Accenture's own infrastructure. As a big IT consulting firm, Accenture was also offering its own operations as a proof of concept to clients and potential clients. If Accenture could successfully move to cloud, then it certainly could help its clients make similar moves.
But that doesn't mean throwing out all the legacy technology and investments of years past either. For instance, Accenture is in the process of an upgrade to SAP S/4HANA. SAP and other vendors' monolithic ERP systems have been a mainstay of enterprise IT systems for decades. But SAP has promoted S/4HANA as the platform's biggest advance in decades, and SAP itself transitioned to the platform a couple years ago. Accenture's Wilson called it "a brand new ERP."
"It happens to be replacing the prior version of SAP," he said. "But it is a big single global change," he said. In addition to the SAP upgrade there are about 300 other application services that are going live and changing all around the go live of S/4, he added.
That kind of an upgrade is made possible by cloud computing and modern infrastructures, according to Wilson.
"You could not test all of that in the old days, because you simply didn't have the environment, bandwidth, or ability to scale the different scenarios, permutations, and combinations. Now, with cloud, you can."
Wilson said that Accenture has been able to do 16 or 17 cut-overs and "a huge variety of testing…We couldn't do that without the power of cloud -- without the ability to spin up parallel environments."
This kind of project has helped Wilson get closer to the goal set out for Accenture -- to transition from 10% cloud-supported IT to over 90%. In early March, Wilson said he was at 85%. These cloud efforts have helped enable other initiatives.
"The power of cloud helps you do something which on the surface looks old-fashioned but is increasingly Agile and more flexible, even though it looks the same to the casual observer," Wilson said of the S/4 project. "You don't separate old and new, because old never becomes new in that model, and old must become new."
Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, ... View Full Bio
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