Accenture's cloud journey: Running in the Cloud Continuum
February 12, 2020
Over three years, Accenture undertook and completed a migration of its IT infrastructure from on-premise to running the cloud.
Accenture is today undertaking the next stage of its Cloud Continuum journey, that of “running in the cloud.”
Running in the cloud I focused on four dimensions: 1) continuous optimization and transformation; 2) a multi-provider approach; 3) enabling DevSecOps; and 4) securing from the start.
To date, Accenture has exponentially increased its ability to develop and deploy new capabilities with agility and pace to drive innovation and value realization.
From on—premise to cloud—to running in the cloud
Several years ago, Accenture made the strategic decision to establish its enterprise IT infrastructure in the cloud to empower our digital enterprise. Over the course of three years, our global IT organization migrated to the cloud. Today, Accenture runs its IT infrastructure operating in the cloud.
When we embarked on our Cloud Continuum journey, no comprehensive cloud management solutions in the market existed and cloud technologies were continuously maturing. These conditions led us to invest in developing the Accenture Cloud Platform and to transform our global IT organization’s processes, responsibilities and capabilities as teams progressed with the work, ultimately enabling a successful move to the cloud. With our migration journey complete, Accenture is now undertaking the next stage of its cloud journey, that of “running in the cloud.”
For organizations to successfully exploit the value of today’s new and emerging technologies, migrating to the cloud is essential. Likewise, to be successful in consuming new technologies requires a shift by IT organizationally. Having achieved these important shifts, Accenture recognized that more opportunities with cloud exist as our organization settles into running in the cloud. Our global IT organization is focusing on several new dimensions, including the following:
Continuous optimization and transformation
Capitalizing on cloud is not just about being in the cloud. It’s about continuous optimization and transformation to achieve ongoing business value. We continue to optimize utilization of services put into the cloud, optimize services within applications and leverage cloud solutions based on business scenarios. We are also investing in bringing intelligence in monitoring and DevSecOps and helping to create insights around IT to achieve optimization objectives. This investment will also help us create a control pane to bring our IT into automated, intelligent-driven governance.
Multi-cloud provider approach
Accenture has a deliberate strategy to work with a small number of cloud services providers, which today includes Amazon, Microsoft and Google. This approach not only spreads risk concentration, but also gives Accenture flexibility to use the best of whichever provider meets a specific business objective. Given this, Accenture is focusing on using and building with only cloud-native services wherever possible so as to move away from infrastructure maintenance and management. Building cloud-native applications and directly consuming cloud platform services are the keys to less maintenance, more agility and keeping pace with platform advances.
The decision to expand beyond a single provider, however, brings complexity. The key is to ensure that a company’s ability to manage cloud usage, control costs, set policy and ensure compliance is universal, not provider-specific. Accenture addressed this complexity through the implementation of our cloud management platform. This platform enables us to manage our entire cloud estate from a consolidated viewpoint and to homogenize governance and control across cloud providers. Our global IT group also established a governance structure, applies agile delivery principles, revised our delivery model, and implemented a revised process for research, stakeholder collaboration and enterprise standardization.
Accenture is moving forward in its Development, Security and Operations (DevSecOps) journey, enabled by being in the cloud. Operating in the cloud means having microservices working in multiple clouds involved in complex interactions to provide unique experiences. To keep the speed of innovation going without compromising quality, our global IT organization is investing heavily in shifting left (testing automations, security code scanning, infrastructure-as-code pipelines) and shifting right (chaos engineering and canary and blue-green deployments) to handle unknowns and prepare for failure.
Secure from the start
A high level of security is a benefit of being in the cloud. However, cloud complexity stemming from operating multiple clouds and the rapid release of new services to market, requires enhanced cloud security. Accenture’s migration involved ensuring the infrastructure of our cloud environment was “secure from the start” in order to accommodate the thousands of new services cloud providers roll out each year with less risk.
On-demand self-service is also a key characteristic (and benefit) of cloud computing. To manage large-scale landscapes and to eliminate manual rules and processes, our global IT organization is adapting a multi-cloud setup. Such a setup enables seamless deployments to various cloud providers removing the application development reliance on single provider and monolithic, vendor locked-in solutions. This approach improves security due to better auditing, self-service and separation of responsibility. It also allows essential isolation in the case of a breach, greatly reducing the impact. And it helps make our IT organization more agile.
Continuous optimization and transformation
Capitalizing on cloud is not just about being in the cloud; it’s about continuous optimization and transformation.
Multi-cloud provider approach
A multi-cloud provider approach spreads risk concentration and gives flexibility to use the best of whichever provider meets a business objective.
To achieve many of the DevSecOps principles, being in the cloud is necessary; if not, an organization will fall short in getting to the desired state.
Secure from the start
Cloud complexity stemming from operating multiple clouds and the rapid release of new services to market requires enhanced cloud security.
Here are some of our lessons learned in our journey:
Define guiding principles to anchor your decisions and resolve questions that arise during your journey.
Do not build in a vacuum; use existing or new workloads with simple patterns that are representative of the majority of your use cases as your starting point.
Focus on patterns, use cases and requirements and not raw cloud services; choose the services that are the best and most flexible to meet your requirements. Let the business and application requirements drive the service selection, not the other way around.
Transforming to running in the cloud is about challenging and reimagining how things have traditionally been done and leveraging new services, capabilities and patterns to drive better quality, security and agility. Focus on getting the model correct, then focus on creating a migration path.
Avoid implementing edge cases; solve for the majority, gain experience and feedback, then iterate.
Align with partners and teams that understand this is a journey and let go of expectations that everything will be solved on day 1.
Build a diverse and cross-functional team, look beyond staffing for raw tech skills and staff with people who will challenge the status quo, think outside the box, and favor simple solutions over complex. Ensure there is representation from all areas including infrastructure, security, operations, application and database engineering.
If something is hard or taking too long, challenge it and look for different solutions. Timebox yourself.
Closely align with security and bring them along for the journey. Existing processes and policies are going to have to be challenged and revised and the outcome should be something that is more secure than what currently exists but look and feel very different.
Measure results and pull together success stories to share along the way.
Generate buzz within the organization and have fun.
Cloud holds potential for new opportunities and advantages
Accenture’s cloud journey delivered a more scalable, robust IT infrastructure that supports rapid development and deployment of capabilities to drive value for Accenture and our clients. As the cloud market has matured during that journey, so too have Accenture’s internal practices and capabilities, positioning Accenture to capitalize on cloud opportunities as they emerge. The future holds myriad possibilities for gaining significant business advantages.
"Our global IT organization’s ‘as-a-service’ capabilities vision will shift work from infrastructure management to capability development, leveraging cloud for automation, machine learning and AI. We focus on delivering more value back to the business."
— MERIM BECIROVIC, Managing Director – Global IT Cloud Computing, Accenture
MANAGING DIRECTOR – GLOBAL IT, ENTERPRISE TECHNOLOGY
Responsible for core infrastructure, enterprise architecture and business operations directly supporting the business.