Global management consulting, technology services, and out-sourcing company Accenture was at a crucial business juncture. When it separated from its parent company in 1999, Accenture had to create its own internal IT organization. Accenture inherited its parent company’s disparate technologies and hundreds of specialized global applications, but it quickly realized it needed to improve upon these systems and services to serve a rapidly growing global employee base. One of its primary goals was to standardize on a common technology platform. Accenture now runs 99 percent of its global applications on Microsoft® technologies and, next to Microsoft, is one of the largest companies to rely almost solely on Microsoft technology. Partnering closely with Avanade and Microsoft, Accenture created a simplified technology environment that is more flexible and cost-effective than ever before. Situation
Accenture, a worldwide management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company with 146,000 employees and annual revenues of U.S.$16.65 billion, is committed to helping its business and government clients become high-performance organizations based on a thorough understanding of their industries, business issues, and applicable technologies. Almost two-thirds of Accenture clients are included on the prestigious Fortune Global 500 list, and they span the full range of worldwide industries. By mobilizing the right people, skills, and technologies, Accenture delivers tailored solutions for its clients.
When Accenture separated from its former parent company in 1999, it inherited a disparate set of technologies and applications. The company found itself facing several challenges. As a new publicly traded company it needed a more integrated financial management structure. It foresaw a shift in the global business environment toward greater mobility and collaboration, and its diverse business model meant it had distinct workforces with different IT requirements. In addition, Accenture recognized the need to achieve greater efficiencies in IT.
"We inherited a technology architecture that was really a patchwork. We had a number of different technologies at every level in the organization in every country fulfilling similar functions. It didn’t meet our business needs, and it was inefficient to run," says Frank Modruson, Chief Information Officer, Accenture.
Accenture determined that it needed to transform not just its technology but its overall IT operations. The company's overall goals were to:
- Centralize, standardize, and consolidate its IT operations.
- Institute a strong governance model.
- Run IT as a business.
- Adopt an aggressive use of strategic sourcing.
Early on, Accenture focused on the goal of centralizing, standardizing, and consolidating its IT operations. Its objectives were to:
- Establish a network that a mobile Accenture workforce could use to work anytime, anywhere.
- Standardize on a common technology platform.
- Move toward a common, global solution for key enterprise functions such as finance, HR, and sales.
Accenture set out to turn its “centralize, standardize, and consolidate” formula into reality by deploying a single platform worldwide. Though simple in concept, a single platform had rarely been delivered worldwide, especially for a company as large as Accenture. The choice of technology provider was critical. Accenture sought technology that could be delivered throughout the enterprise, from the data center to the desktop. It decided that Microsoft was the logical strategic choice and would be able to address both Accenture’s current and future needs.
"We chose Microsoft® technology because we saw its potential for enterprise productivity and it would allow us to have a common technology from the desktop to the data center. The opportunity to run the entire company on one technology was attractive to us," Modruson says. New Messaging and Collaboration Technology
In the first phase of its transition to Microsoft technologies, Accenture focused on messaging and collaboration. The company addressed the e-mail transition first, rapidly migrating nearly 80,000 e-mail users from its former collaboration environment to a Microsoft Exchange Server messaging and collaboration platform using the Microsoft Outlook® messaging and collaboration client. It set up the mobility features of Exchange Server so that employees could use them to manage their e-mail through mobile devices.
Accenture partnered with Avanade, a joint venture company of Accenture and Microsoft and the leading global technology integrator in the Microsoft enterprise operating environment, to design and develop the new messaging and collaboration environment. Mick Slattery, Vice President, Strategy and Outsourcing at Avanade, notes, "In the migration to Exchange, Avanade played a key role, working with Accenture to design the new Microsoft Exchange Server messaging infrastructure, the e-mail routing infrastructure, and the perimeter security solution." New Knowledge Management Technology
After the successful migration to the new messaging and collaboration environment, Accenture turned its attention to its knowledge management system. This extensive virtual repository of the company’s expertise, experience, and best practices—called the “Knowledge Exchange” internally—is of paramount importance in providing real-world solutions and business value for its clients. Ensuring employees have 24 hours a day, seven days a week access to this critical application was one of the reasons Accenture began looking for a new technology solution.
||We chose Microsoft technology because we saw its potential for enterprise productivity, and it would allow us to have a common technology from the desktop to the data center.
Chief Iinformation Officer, Accenture
"We wanted to find a solution that would make it easier for our people to contribute data to Knowledge Exchange, to find information and to share it, as well as to find people with expertise throughout the company," says Jill Smart, Senior Managing Director of Human Resources at Accenture and the overall business sponsor of the Knowledge Exchange.
Accenture used Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2003 to replace its outdated legacy knowledge management repository and architect a more efficient system that could support a global workforce. Avanade, again, was a key partner.
Vid Byanna, Accenture's Executive Director of Global Infrastructure, says, "As part of our knowledge management transition, we leveraged the Avanade Connected Architecture to help us jump-start our implementation. It was a proven asset in the marketplace and it helped us save time and effort because we didn’t have to build it ourselves."
Accenture also took advantage of the inherent compatibility in Microsoft technologies to migrate content away from its legacy collaboration infrastructure. The company defined a metadata structure based on Microsoft SQL Server™ that it could use to map 87,000 legacy files to the new Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server technology. This way, Accenture could easily convert knowledge assets and integrate them with more robust enterprise search capabilities.
By eliminating duplicate software maintenance costs, consolidating servers, requiring fewer support personnel, this transition has yielded on-going operations cost reductions of 35 percent.Transition to SAP on Microsoft Technologies
Accenture's next step was to replace more than 200 global financial applications with one instance of SAP running on Microsoft technologies. It implemented key integrated SAP modules such as Financial Accounting, Controlling, Enterprise Controlling Sales and Distribution, Sales and Distribution, Project System, and Business Warehouse. Accenture converted operations in all 49 countries to the new solution at one time.
Tony Coughlan, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer at Accenture, says, "The implementation of the new SAP financial system in a single day—that impacted more than 100,000 people in 49 countries—was an enormous success. We completed the conversion in one day and were able to meet our business needs and public reporting requirements without a hiccup."
Accenture also transitioned its HR systems to SAP running on Microsoft technologies, to integrate its financial and human resources systems and data. The new environment, which integrates 450 disparate and legacy business applications into a single instance of SAP, is designed to improve decision making and offer higher-value analysis. Accenture also uses SAP for its opportunity management business processes.Ability to Easily Build New Applications
After its mission-critical applications were deployed in the new environment, Accenture focused on other custom business components. It used Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET development system to quickly develop new applications.
An example is myScheduling, an internal application at the core of the company's daily business operations. The company uses the application to significantly reduce the time needed to staff assignments, for better cost- effectiveness.
Modruson explains: “We architected on Microsoft .NET technology to provide a new scheduling application ‘better,’ ‘faster,’ and ‘cheaper.’ We provided a better user interface so our people had an easier time using the application. We are able to schedule our people to meet clients’ needs 68 percent faster. And we were able to cut in half the cost of maintaining the application, thus: much cheaper.” Benefits
The adoption of Microsoft technologies has helped Accenture achieve its goals for IT operations, realize quantifiable benefits and, ultimately, better serve client needs.Knowledge Management and Collaboration Were Improved
By migrating to a more robust Knowledge Exchange based on Microsoft technologies, Accenture streamlined data and created a single repository that eliminated more than 66 percent of the existing Web pages. The more robust Knowledge Exchange features improved search capabilities and enhanced dynamic content capabilities, so employees can find content more efficiently and spend more time serving clients.
||A huge benefit to the new knowledge management system is the 'speed to information.' Whereas previously it would take weeks or months to set up a collaboration repository for a specific client engagement, it can now be done in hours.
Senior Manager of Business & Systems Integration Consulting, Accenture
Michael Casey, Senior Manager of Business & Systems Integration Consulting at Accenture says, "A huge benefit to the new knowledge management system is the 'speed to information.’ Whereas previously it would take weeks or months to set up a collaboration repository for a specific client engagement, it can now be done in hours."
"Other key advantages of the migration are availability and accessibility. Being Web-enabled and having our knowledge management system up 24/7 offers the ability to have people from Europe, the Americas, and Asia all working in the same virtual space--and all working collaboratively," Casey continues.
Furthermore, during the migration of its Knowledge Exchange, Accenture not only removed old and obsolete content, but it is now able to ensure new content posted remains current and relevant. Plus, posting content in duplicate locations has been eliminated.
Smart explains, "With Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, our content is kept up-to-date and relevant. In particular, the archiving function helps us to keep our content much fresher." SAP Running on Microsoft Technologies Lowers TCO
By Implementing SAP running on Microsoft technologies, Accenture has been able to consolidate and standardize its global business operations. As a result, Accenture can improve decision making capabilities and conduct higher-value analysis and planning. In addition, the company has seen a significant benefit through reduced IT costs. Decommissioning legacy financial applications alone has saved Accenture more than U.S.$12 million.
Dan Kirner, Director of the SAP Program at Accenture, says, “The major advantages of running SAP on the Microsoft platform are a much lower total cost of ownership and greater stability and performance--the system is up 99.9 percent of the time. Plus, we have exceptional support from Microsoft not only for our current needs but to help plan for the future growth of Accenture."
Coughlan adds, "Previously our general administrative costs were 11.2 percent of revenue. Since the implementation of SAP on Microsoft we’ve been able to drive that cost down to 8.7 percent. We will continue to drive initiatives to further improve that over the next several years. By implementing finance and human resources processes on a common platform, we’ve been able to eliminate a significant amount of redundant activity while improving employee satisfaction." Standardizing on Single Architecture Reduces IT Costs
By standardizing on a common architecture, Accenture has eliminated the company's disparate and often duplicate systems throughout its global operations, improved the effectiveness of its employees, and reduced overall operating costs.
"Now, over 99 percent of our global applications are based on Microsoft technology: from our core SAP enterprise application suite to our custom global .NET applications," Byanna says.
Plus, using the familiar Microsoft user interface worldwide has also helped ensure Accenture's global workforce is able to focus more on job and role-relevant concerns.
The results of Accenture’s overall IT transformation, of which the move to Microsoft technologies played a significant part, have been dramatic. During a time when the number of Accenture employees increased by 64 percent and revenue increased by 36 percent, IT expenditures as a percent of revenue fell by 50 percent, and IT expenditures in dollars decreased by 30 percent. Additionally, global applications were cut in half, and multiple technology platforms were reduced to one.
Modruson notes, "The overall migration journey has dramatically reduced the cost of technology at Accenture. Before the migration, we had 600 global systems and many more local systems in each geography. Today, we have 300 global systems, so we’ve significantly reduced the number of systems we need to maintain."
Byanna supports that conclusion: "From an internal IT standpoint, we don’t debate or spend time and money analyzing platform decisions. By moving from multiple, disparate architectures and platforms to one, we can channel that time and energy into delivering value to the business."The Power of Three: Accenture, Avanade, and Microsoft
For Accenture's complex migration, a major factor was the successful, cooperative partnership with Avanade and Microsoft.
||Previously our general administrative costs were 11.2 percent of revenue. Since implementation of SAP on Microsoft we’ve been able to drive that cost down to 8.7 percent.
Controller and Chief Accounting Officer, Accenture
"During Accenture’s IT transformation, the value that I found in having the three companies—Accenture, Avanade, and Microsoft—work together, was really the complementary skills and capabilities that each brought to the table,” Byanna said. “Within Accenture, we already had strong systems integration, project management, and design skills. Avanade brought deep expertise in implementation and integration of the Microsoft product set. And Microsoft provided individuals with deep expertise in each of their specific products.”
Modruson elaborated on the role Microsoft took in the project: "As Accenture has made the journey to a new architecture, we’ve been pleased to see that the feedback we’ve provided to Microsoft—about what’s important for their technology to work in a large global enterprise environment—has been taken to heart. Microsoft has made improvements to its product set that will benefit not just Accenture, but also other large global enterprise companies.”
Slattery says, "One of the most exciting things about working with Accenture and Microsoft on the Accenture IT transformation initiative has been the opportunity we’ve had to collaborate and learn from the initiative. We’ve been able to package that and offer it to other customers."
Modruson adds: "For Accenture, the highlight of the IT transformation journey is the dramatic improvement in our technology and ability to innovate. When I talk to people who have seen the before and after of our technology, they’ve been impressed by how flexible and efficient our technology is, how well it’s executed globally, the vast capabilities it offers, and at the price point at which we’re able to deliver it."
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