As the world of enterprise technology has changed, so too has the CIO role. CIOs must operate with a heavy dose of foresight, capable of establishing technology practices that will remain in use for the years to come.
The change is partly because the IT as a value proposition and posture has changed entirely, according to Andrew Wilson, chief information officer for Accenture. IT is "not an enabler anymore, it's a value differentiator and driver."
Business technology accomplishments are often realized after years of careful planning, forcing the new era of CIOs to understand how future technology will be used in practice. Such is the case for Juan Perez, chief information and engineering officer at UPS and CIO Dive's CIO of the Year, who is investing in advanced technologies from AI and robotics to autonomous vehicles, though they're not a yet a mainstay of the company's tech portfolio.
That level of foresight requires some introspection. Organizations big and small have to understand where portfolios are heading or face disruption.
"Five years ago I asked myself a question: If Accenture is to be operating in the new, what does it need to be there first? I wanted Accenture to have a technology posture, a relationship between technology services and its users and a relationship with the ecosystem in which we operate and consume, like Microsoft," said Wilson.
Wilson's expectations of what a CIO needs to be had to change.
"It's not going to be the classic data center, data center manager [and] internal IT function. It's going to be something more. Something else," he said.
Five years ago I asked myself a question: If Accenture is to be operating in the new, what does it need to be there first?
CIO of Accenture
The modern era of CIOs have become the brokers and negotiators for teams consuming systems and services.
CIOs integrate, consult, deliver, communicate and have political influence across departments, according to Wilson. "They're experts in the process [that] enables the business, and the business the business is in, so that they can then consult what is appropriate from a technology perspective, appropriate in terms of maturity, scale, relevance [and] cost."
Accenture: A test case for massive migration
Not only has the role of the CIO changed, the way technology is delivered has changed drastically. Everything from software to infrastructure is delivered 'as a Service,' which makes it easier to deliver upgrades and scale for increased data storage or the integration of advance tools.
As of this quarter, Accenture is 80% in public cloud and SaaS, all services that Wilson no longer has to run as CIO. By August of next year, Wilson plans on being 90-95% on public cloud and SaaS.
"My object is to kill data centers, end email and create new ways of collaborating and working in a cloud-first world and a mobile world," Wilson said. "That's a very exciting and rich proposition if I get to do it for 420,000 people who are, by the way, all role models and agents working for their clients."
Accenture has had to make technology migrations at a hyperscale because of the organization's unique demands. The company has more than 420,000 digital workers across 65 countries in 260 different cities. So when it looks to implement new technology, it has to do so across an enormous workforce.
My object is to kill data centers, end email and create new ways of collaborating and working in a cloud-first world and a mobile world.
CIO of Accenture
A heavy user of Microsoft products, Accenture relies on LinkedIn, Windows 10 and Microsoft 365. It also says it has the largest OneDrive in the world, which consumes more than two petabytes of data in the cloud and runs the largest Skype in the world, using more than 320 million minutes of audio a month on Skype for Business.
Even though Microsoft Teams is a relatively new product, Accenture is already its largest commercial user.
"We are bigger on Microsoft then Microsoft is itself because they're not as large an organization as us," Wilson said.
When Windows 10 rolled out, Accenture had to begin working to shift the product to its entire user based. But rather than the traditional upgrade cycle — where an employee takes their computer to IT, checks out a loaner from IT and waits while someone else installs the update — Accenture was able to have a large portion of its user base upgrade in place.
But because OneDrive allows users to store data in the cloud, rather than locally, it allows for a more fluid upgrade process. Accenture had about 90,000 users upgrade Windows 10 in place, which allowed the company to upgrade in a more agile and fluid manner.
Now, with more than 328,000 deployments of Windows 10, Accenture is the largest and fastest deployer of the operating system, according to Wilson.
Up next for tech? The big millennial ask
Millenials are now the largest portion of the the workforce and often demand a workplace that has a startup culture and feel.
At Accenture, millennials constitute 75% of its workforce and want technology that doesn't get in the way of delivering services to clients, according to Wilson.
Work, and the technology that supports it, has to become seamless, and moment-based, catering to experiences.
The need to facilitate collaboration has led Accenture to create new and different technology environments, which focus ideas, creativity and design thinking. The company has established innovation hubs that act as an immersive environment for employees and clients to collaborate.
The innovations hubs are important because, amidst a "tsunami of new" a business and technology team can collaborate to create and imagine what technology can do.
Such hubs allow leaders to explore the coming era of technology. For Wilson, future technology has the capacity for combining automation, intelligence and quantum.
"I think the next chapter is totally pervasive, highly intelligent and automated," Wilson said. "We still need all of the controls and rigor that really we've grown up with in data centers and servers. We won't have servers, we'll be serverless. We won't have data centers, it's all in the cloud."