Accenture to mix VoIP with social networking


8 May 2007

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Big-five consulting giant Accenture is planning to introduce a MySpace-style social networking system internally and merge this with a new voice and data network to speed up internal communication and drive down costs, the company’s chief information officer (CIO) told siliconrepublic.com.

“Our network transformation programme combines voice and data using MPLS as a backbone and we are leveraging this with the internet to drive down operational costs and give us a lot more flexibility and connectivity,” said Accenture CIO Frank Modrosun on a visit to Dublin last week.

The management consultancy firm employs 1,600 people in Dublin and recently announced plans to recruit an additional 100 professionals from a range of disciplines, including business and technology consulting, systems integration, project and programme management, IT and finance.

“We are upgrading the way we find people internally and one of the capabilities we are introducing is called People.accenture.com. Everybody in Accenture will have an updatable homepage through which they can be reached on the voice and data network. The system will employ presence technology so it will be clear on that page if the person is at their desk or unavailable. The system is in production and will be available in the next 12 months,” Modrosun said.

Looking at the key business challenges facing CIOs in the year ahead Modroson said: “It is still really about aligning IT with business processes. IT should be a tool to enable a business to run more effectively and efficiently. If the business environment changes then IT should enable the business to respond more quickly.

“The CIO is really there to make sure that IT is a service to the business and that it is fully aligned with its objectives. These objectives are usually ‘are we going to be profitable this year?’ or ‘what are the new emerging markets we should be looking at?'”

Asked his opinion on what has been the most profound technology of recent decades, Modroson said it was a no-brainer. “The internet. But what I’m amazed at is the ubiquity of the internet compared with 10 years ago. The internet has a long history going back to the Arpunet but it really blossomed in the last 10 years.

“Back in 1987 when I joined Accenture I put the first computer on the internet. It wasn’t a big deal back then but today what’s available is absolutely critical. We have adopted the internet as a core tenet of our networking strategy. Any new locations go straight onto the internet.

“When people plug in, whether in the office or at an airport, it’s all internet. Our philosophy is to focus on the architecture of the internet in our business and leverage our approach going forward.”

The advent of open source and phrases like “creative commons” are also exciting to Modrosun. “One of the things we are trying to foster is allowing our people to write and create utilities that can be shared across Accenture and our client companies. We want to create a clearing house for innovation.”

Asked how, as a CIO, he predicted and planned IT change in Accenture, Modroson said: “It’s usually crystal clear for the next 12 months. It’s no doubt hazier beyond that. We tend to generally plot a three-year strategy. Our most recent three year IT strategy, called Horizon 2010, was written last year.”

On his agenda for the year ahead is an operational scorecard that will be rolled out across Accenture. “All the metrics we use to run the business will be there and it will use integrated forecasting as well as content management and collaboration.

“We are aggressive takers of our own advice. Many of the core capabilities we deploy for clients we trial and test internally first.

“One of our latest creations is a single instance ERP (enterprise resource planning) system that keeps a single copy of all the data. It’s hard to build a single instance application but once you get there it’s beautiful. It makes managing the business easier, but it was a tough build and took time and money.

“We have also collapsed over 40 recruitment systems in to one so we have all the countries in the world running off one single instance system.

“IT needs vary by company and industry. Leaders are either quick adopters or fast followers. The companies most at risk are those who are slow to follow.”

By John Kennedy