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Accenture cloud computing paves way for integration plan

Penelope Prett, CIO at Accenture, aims to provide employees a holistic user experience, taking advantage of cloud computing to integrate various technology tools.

Accenture is in the midst of an integration initiative as it seeks to unify the multiple platforms the $43.2 billion professional services the company uses to conduct business.

Penelope Prett, who became Accenture's CIO in December 2019, described the current task as mapping out a three-year journey to an "integrated experience." It's a job that seeks to break new ground while building upon previous investments in the Accenture cloud computing strategy. Accenture in 2015 embarked on a cloud computing plan that sought to migrate most of its business and IT operations to the public cloud. Accenture worked toward a multi-cloud environment, starting with AWS and Microsoft Azure and later adding Google Cloud Platform to the mix. In 2019, Accenture implemented what's considered to be among the world's largest Microsoft Teams deployments. The Teams adoption turned out to be fortuitous in light of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Accenture now aims to pull those earlier cloud threads together.

"It's really all about integration and interoperability," Prett said. "This started with our move to the cloud, and, today, 95% of apps are in a public cloud and part of the platform economy."

Taking the core to the cloud

Indeed, Accenture has moved nearly all its core operations into the cloud, across a variety of vendors. A few years ago, about 10% of the company's apps were cloud-supported. But now most are "backboned on the cloud as cloud-native or have been rearchitected to be cloud-native," Prett noted.

Penelope PrettPenelope Prett

A proliferation of technologies, cloud-based and otherwise, can potentially overwhelm users. Prett said her objective is to avoid a fracturing of the user experience. "I am very interested in knitting those experiences together with a common interface and feeling of unity."

The plan is to do this across a broad set of technologies. "Accenture's goal is to create familiar user experiences for our workers, while also embracing change and innovation," Prett said. She noted Jason Warnke, global digital experiences lead at Accenture, will help her with the effort to optimize the user experience across every platform.

Accenture cloud computing approach eases integration

The company's cloud migration will make its unification challenge less arduous.

"In a cloud setting, we've found that platforms are more ubiquitous, which simplifies integration," Prett said.

She cited the example of Teams as a central point for integration and pointed to ServiceNow as providing a backbone of interoperability.

"Microsoft Teams has been an essential collaboration tool for Accenture," Prett said. "Our use of ServiceNow is aimed at transforming service and operation management."

But the key is having a flexible model that will support a range of platforms and let Accenture add in other capabilities as needed, Prett explained. The approach will enable the company to "provision solutions and make adjustments more quickly based on user feedback," she said.

"Our long-term vision is for our IT organization … to lead by quickly deploying as-a-service capabilities for our workers," Prett added.

Accenture's Teams deployment supports remote work

Accenture's 2019 deployment of Microsoft Teams put the company in a position to mass-enable remote work technology amid COVID-19.

The company has more than 500,000 Teams users. Prior to the lockdown, Accenture employees were using about 350 million minutes a month of Teams audio and 14 million minutes a month of video. In the first three months since the March 2020 lockdown, audio use expanded to nearly a billion minutes a month, while video approached 100 million minutes a month, according to the company.

"We are very fortunate we did the Teams rollout in 2019," Prett said.

Change management is an important part of such large-scale deployments of collaboration tools. Prett said this aspect is often overlooked among organizations that view a rollout as primarily a technology deployment play. "No technology is good if people don't know how to use it properly," she said.

With Teams now a key Accenture platform, the next frontier is "corporate interoperability," Prett noted. This stage will let Accenture and its customers and business partners collaborate across different unified communications and remote work platforms. Corporate interoperability "also includes a culture shift, by enabling a more interactive, interesting, engaging and collaborative way of communicating and showing the value of these tools," she added.

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