I’ve written before about why I think it’s imperative to be cloud first and about what it takes to make cloud a success—a dose of “shift left” culture change as it happens.

But, as you probably already know, cloud is not a one-and-done kind of technology. In fact, Accenture research has shown that up to 15% of our survey respondents are seeing substantial gains from their continued cloud engagement. They understand that the cloud is a continuum of capabilities that span from public to edge—and everything in between.

Blurred people walking in a city

We’ve been running our operations in the cloud now for several years. But recently, Accenture decided to take a fresh look at how we structure our cloud services. We wanted to tap into the power of cloud further to make smarter choices and run the Accenture business in a more responsible way—the research also found that organizations who use the cloud as a future operating model, rather than using the cloud as a single, static destination, are up to three times more likely to use the cloud for at least two sustainability goals.

Of course, we still needed to be fast and cost effective. But with the accent on sustainability across our enterprise, we wanted to address the longer-term impact of reducing IT emissions while enabling our business to grow.

Get more from cloud

Having re-examined our cloud environment using cloud analytics and reporting, data-driven insights, knowledge of vendor offerings and an understanding of our compute environment, we identified six levers that we thought could help us get more from the cloud.

We began by modernizing our applications to increase operational efficiencies. We looked at how much compute power we needed, when we needed it—and when we didn’t. We assessed efficient pay structures to help us decide how we pay for cloud services. We ran instance upgrades regularly that enable us to stay current, run faster and more efficiently at a lower cost.

We rationalized our IT environments to prevent waste, under-utilization and redundancy—including setting up stricter standards and governance structures and partnering with those who are transitioning to renewable energy to power their data centers.

And we established automated, flexible shutdown schedules based on usage patterns that turn off servers in environments that are not in use, reducing costs and idle resource consumption.

These were all moves that have helped us to operate in a smart, greener way. But two standout innovations have also added some extra secret sauce.

  • We developed an innovative CO2 calculator prototype that produces detailed, data-driven measures of the environmental impact of our cloud environment to drive better business and environmental decisions. Using algorithms, the CO2 calculator analyzes billing and consumption data and estimates energy and emissions, based on how frequently our server inventory remains powered on for use, as well as what size servers we run within the environment.
  • We incentivized a new, data-driven way of working. Instead of basing cloud consumption on risk mitigation, we focused on fine-tuning consumption related to actual need. We showed our teams how they are contributing to our goal of net-zero carbon emissions and demonstrated that their decisions are made based on intelligent data, not simply a cost savings discussion. The more our program progressed and indicated that the guidance was not adversely impacting any of the business, the more people came on board with this new way of managing cloud consumption.

More cloud, better outcomes

As our 2022 Technology Vision identifies, success as a digital business hinges on putting your technical foundation in place. At a minimum, cloud will be essential, as will rebuilding applications to be easily shareable with others.

Today, we’ve already experienced powerful results across our three areas of focus—speed, sustainability and spend. Not only is Accenture operating at a faster pace, with more efficiency and increased ability to meet business demands, but we’ve significantly reduced our environmental impact. We also anticipate a 25% increase in planned savings over three years as we continue to make smarter operating decisions.

What’s more, Accenture was recently listed as a 2022 CIO 100 honoree as a result of our work in cloud sustainability. The CIO 100 Awards celebrate organizations and the teams that are using IT in innovative ways to deliver business value.

So, if you’re looking to get the most out of your cloud investments, my advice would be it’s no longer enough to simply “operate in the cloud”—you should examine how you operate in the cloud. Take a look at our case study to find out more about our sustainable cloud value realization journey.

Don Galzarano

Managing Director – Global IT, Enterprise Technology, Intelligent Cloud & Networks

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