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August 16, 2016
Top lessons learned from Accenture’s journey to the public cloud
By: Merim Becirovic

Accenture Top lessons

Like all other businesses today, when Accenture took a look at its future and evaluated the best way to keep pace with evolving technology and customers, one answer emerged loud and clear:It was time to make a move to the cloud.

Since the start of our cloud journey, Accenture’s cloud footprint has increased from nine percent to 58 percent of all business applications as of May 2016 and we have strictly adhered to a cloud-first, cloud-only principle.

How Did We Get Here?

Although we started from complete greenspace, our Cloud team developed a methodology that we used to migrate all of our business applications out of a virtual on-premise data center and into a cloud data center within one year. To further accelerate our adoption, we decided to provision more than 90 percent of all new environments directly in the cloud.

To enable a pace of delivery that aligned with rapidly evolving cloud technologies and capabilities, our Cloud team applied an Agile delivery methodology in a traditionally non-Agile environment. Through a strong commitment to learning, adopting and adjusting to this delivery method, the team was able to deliver 3,500 hours of work after just 12 weeks, which made for a total of six sprints.

Where Are We Heading?

It’s important to note that initiatives like these need to be about far more than simply moving to a cloud platform. They need to be about optimizing processes for a completely digital world. For example, Accenture optimized non-production environments in the cloud with an aggressive uptime schedule that yielded an incremental $1 million in savings. We also improved cost ownership and accountability by giving teams proactive management capabilities to start and stop their cloud machines on their own. Similarly, teams have the ability to actively influence the actual server size of their cloud machines based on monthly recommendations from historical data. In the first seven months of the program, this optimization resulted in an expected annualized benefit of $2.6 million.

Additionally, our Cloud team successfully automated, consolidated and integrated the provisioning process to maintain the integrity of the enterprise image while also taking advantage of the speed of cloud technology. Reengineering the provisioning process in this way has reduced lead times for standard environment provisioning by up to 50 percent in 10 months. This accomplishment means that our development teams can test concepts faster, which in turn means they can innovate and deliver faster for their clients.

With adoption and optimization processes now in place, the real transformation begins as we continuously enable and adopt native cloud services. The more applications that are architected for the cloud at the platform level (versus just running on cloud hardware), the greater the benefit. To date, we have 19 cloud services in our production environments. To balance rapid cloud service adoption with enterprise standards, the Cloud team, in collaboration with impacted operations stakeholders, created a newly established “certification” process that teams must follow prior to introducing services in production environments.

Our Top 4 Lessons Learned Along the Way

As with any new endeavor, we had several lessons learned from which other organizations can benefit. These include:

1.  Enforce a “cloud-first, cloud-only” principle. Be firm with this. To reap the benefits of cloud, your organization needs to be building and operating applications in the cloud. Our organization achieved 50 percent public cloud adoption within a year by strictly enforcing this principle and requiring ALL business applications to move from the on-premise data center to public cloud data centers. We only granted exceptions for retiring applications and for applications that had environments running in other on premise data centers not yet scheduled for migration. In these cases, we simply deferred—not canceled—the migrations. And just as strict, if not even stricter, was our insistence that all newly provisioned instances be done in the cloud.

2.  Embrace new delivery models at all levels. You have to change how your teams operate if you want to keep up with and adapt to new technology. You will definitely face resistance and skepticism to this change at first, but you need to push through it. Don’t be afraid to change your team delivery structures to better serve your new environment. We recognized after a few months that our Cloud team couldn’t operate as a traditional infrastructure delivery team and needed to evolve to closer mimic that of an application or product team, which made all the difference in effective stakeholder representation and customer delivery.

Some of the critical changes we made included introducing dedicated teams to:

  • Conduct research, proof of concept, innovation and solution engineering activities
  • Focus on operational support once new solutions are adopted
  • Evaluate infrastructure requirements such as network, security and environment support
  • Develop and deploy cloud management tools according to the cloud tools roadmap

Whatever changes you make, you need to ensure that your team can easily collaborate so that they can continue to march toward a set of shared goals and regularly evolve as needed.

3.  Assume responsibility for cloud security. While cloud providers manage security of the cloud, security in the cloud is the responsibility of your organization. Accenture retains control over what security measures we choose to implement to protect our own content, platform, applications, systems and networks no differently than we do for applications in an on premise data center. Bring your information security experts in on your journey from the beginning. In our case, this meant having Accenture’s Information Security organization accept the challenge of changing traditional security mindsets and processes to adopt cloud security solutions for the enterprise. In some cases, this change involved implementing native cloud solutions, but in others it was a matter of integrating with third party tools or extending and adapting existing solutions for use in the cloud. Start your cloud security journey now to put the right solutions in place and remain flexible to new ones.

4.  Manage data privacy expectations. Engage your data privacy officers early on to educate them on what is and is NOT changing with public cloud hosting. There are a lot of rumors out there that can lead to unnecessary anxiety and timeline delays. Since Accenture’s internal IT organization was already highly virtualized (just not in the public cloud), we were able to carry forward the data privacy approvals that were already in place. Some use of platform services may change how data is managed within those services, and we anticipate that continuous discussion and potentially new approvals will be required.  

It’s Only the Beginning

Our cloud journey has been one of continuous learning, and we don’t see that changing any time soon. Our Cloud team has done an impressive job at developing entirely new approaches and solutions that are paving the way to delivering Accenture’s enterprise IT infrastructure in the public cloud and ultimately supporting Accenture’s journey to becoming a digital business.

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