5 Things Accenture's CIO Has Learned About Cloud Computing

Cloud has already taken Accenture IT beyond better, faster and cheaper, says CIO Frank Modruson. As he prepares to move further into IaaS plans, he shares 5 cloud computing lessons learned.

By Stephanie Overby
Tue, March 15, 2011

CIOFrank Modruson has a thing for better, faster, cheaper. As CIO of business and IT service provider Accenture, that's what he wants to deliver to his internal customers and what they in turn promise to their clients. "I'm a big believer in technology and a big believer that technology helps the business in a lot of ways," Modruson says. "But it needs to be better, faster or cheaper. If you hit all three, it starts to get very compelling."

In the last few years, cloud computing has gotten very compelling for Accenture.

Modruson's first foray into the cloud was a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) recruiting system five years ago. Today, Accenture has two dozen applications in the cloud. He's made moves to prepare the organization for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), introducing a single IP network for voice and data and aggressively pursuing server, database and storage virtualization in the corporate data center. And that's just a start, he says.

The outsourcing giant's CIO (named in 2010 to CIO Magazine's CIO Hall of Fame) shared his biggest lessons learned about cloud computing with CIO.com.

1. The cloud can take you places you couldn't go before.

Five years ago, Accenture had a different recruiting system in every country. In the U.S., there was a custom software system. In another country, recruiting was tracked by spreadsheet. At the time, Accenture had 90,000 employees. A total of 210,000 employees and millions of applications later, Modruson has decommissioned the IT systems in 40 countries. "We had the existing U.S. workflow and system, but going around the world and trying to implement that in 40 countries would have been kind of ludicrous," says Modruson.

2. Resistance is a given.

Accenture is in the people business; recruiting is a core competency. Thus, the tendency within the firm was to think the recruiting software has to be special. "One of the nice things about SaaS is you can really push the business to say, 'What do we really need to do here?' Recruiting may be one of our secret sauces but emailing back a candidate or letting them apply online—that just enables the process. The secret sauce is not the software," Modruson says.

Some business users balked. They wanted all the new capabilities but the look and feel of the way they used to do things. "At a certain point, it just becomes an excuse," says Modruson. "We went through the same thing with our [traditional ERP] system." Over time, with targeted training and open communication, people will understand the new system and its benefits.

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