Can Accenture learn to love SaaS?

Can Accenture learn to love SaaS?

Summary: What will it take to bring Accenture and similar consulting and outsourcing firms to love SaaS the way they currently love SAP, Siebel and the rest?

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Accenture and its competitors — both those based in US/Europe and the up-and-coming Indian IT services and outsourcing firms — are starting to take an interest in on-demand services. Even though they must be worried about the potential impact on their established business models, they can see on-demand revenues growing and more and more enterprises giving it a go. But what sort of engagements are they looking for? What will it take to bring them to love SaaS the way they currently love SAP, Siebel and the rest?

Accenture's Bob Suh speaking at AlwaysOnChief strategy officer Bob Suh was on stage at Dreamforce two weeks ago to give Accenture's blessing to and its AppExchange/Apex announcements (the picture of Bob is from his appearance earlier this year at AlwaysOn Stanford Summit). He delivered some interesting advice on how to be successful with business application projects in the enterprise. I don't have his exact words in my notes, but here's the gist of his four points:

  1. Execute swiftly
  2. Downplay permanence (people tend to overplan a project if they see it as something for the long-term)
  3. Take advantage of the medium (don't just automate existing processes, get some extra leverage)
  4. Think of the immediate need

I think on-demand vendors more or less take the first and last points for granted. The point about downplaying permanence is an interesting one, and I'm sure every systems integrator has plenty of stories about projects that ran off the rails because customers got so nervous about the scale and scope of what they were implementing. Point three recalls re-engineering guru Michael Hammer's catchphrase, "Don't automate, obliterate" although in retrospect it was his choice of the word 'obliterate' that gave re-engineering such a bad vibe. If the technology of the time had allowed him to say instead 'empower your users to reinvent', perhaps his message would still be revered today.

But I digress. What Suh was outlining is a new approach for Accenture, and I imagine a large part of his role is to proselytize that message within his own organization, because it feels different from the way Accenture has traditionally worked and still works in many engagements today.

Will his message prevail? I would have thought the economics of SaaS mitigate against Accenture becoming a major SaaS enthusiast anytime soon — it makes far more money in a conventional software engagement, so it has no incentive to encourage customers to switch. But where customers insist or where the business case simply cannot be made with conventional on-premises solutions, then Accenture will fall in line with the SaaS option.

To get another perspective, I asked RightNow's CEO Greg Gianforte about how his company is working with systems integrators and he pointed to two areas where they see a lot of interest:

  • Verticals. Most partners are working in verticals and to help support them RightNow has started introducing vertical templates in the latest release of its application stack, including the capability for partners to build and evolve their own templates.
  • BPO. Business process outsourcers see a lot of potential to use on-demand platforms as a means of collaborating more closely with their customers in delivering outsourced services.

I can certainly imagine that Accenture and others will like the idea of developing their own intellectual property on top of on-demand platforms, and thus differentiating themselves in specific verticals. Combining that with outsourcing propositions must also be appealing. Effectively what it enables them to do is to offer their consulting services as-a-service (ie within an on-demand framework, taking advantage of the real-time collaboration that's possible in the online environment). In that context, it makes a whole lot of sense to adopt Bob Suh's four points and so I think perhaps I can see what he's driving at.

Topic: Tech Industry

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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  • Method 1

    Accenture was born of Arthur Andersen (of Enron shredding fame). Method 1 was a business processes mechanism those of us at Arther Andersen used to spec out the development of systems back in the day when there were plenty of standard manual processes that might benefit from automation and the division and specialization of labor to operate a mainframe made mainframe systems cost effective (in comparison to manual systems).

    Today we have plenty of PC based spread sheets and word processing and powerpoint based processes and decision support gizmos that individual employees have created to help them be more effective.

    Unfortunately these items may not help others in the organization and to often when the employee who developed them leaves or is promoted, he or she takes that property with them. It is incombant on his/her replacement to re-invent those items.

    Bottom line is that the knowledge workers creations, the creations built on company time that belong to the company are lost. They become recurring expenses rather than the assets they should be.

    This article is misleading in that if you take Accenture back to its Arthur Andersen days and the days of Method 1, it is returning to its roots. I think there is great value in looking at Business Processes, identifying those PC based knowledge worker tools that are individual specific (IE personal) and reworking them so that the organization owns those tools.

    This is the rize of the american programmer. The New Age of Mainframes, the questioning of the notion that every employee needs a PC with Microsoft Office and training on that. Its just the kind of thing you want an outside consultant to be hired to do. Can you imagine the wrath against the IT department if they recommended removing Microsoft Office from over half the PCs in the organization. And yet from a productivity standpoint this is desirable.

    Frank L. Mighetto CCP
    Great Article! Go Accenture. Do good now that Ballmer is gone.
  • New Rules for SIs

    Hi Phil. I believe Accenture is getting religion. I recently discovered an Accenture relationship at a promising Enterprise 2.0 company, Atlassian.

    Like the market for 90s re-engineering (which set the stage for today's BPO market) the emphasis is not on the specific web 2.0 solution, but rather a deep understanding of of the client's business. I think Josh Greenbaum actually put it best in the article I recently wrote for the [i]Global IT Services Report[/i] about the possibility of disintermediation for consultants due to SaaS. He said to succeed in the new age, "Consultants are going to have to look more like a McKinsey than a body shop."

    In other words, large-scale SIs will need to apply their enterprise vertical expertise to reinvent old processes with "Next Net" solutions. This is a tremendous business opportunity for consultants such as Accenture. It's made-to-order, actually.

    By the way, I'm not sure some of the bigger guys (EDS, CSC, IBMGS) are getting (yet), but they will... or they'll start losing enterprise customer relationships to smart, web-savvy smallers SIs, just like they did in the client/server revolution.

    Susan Scrupski | ITSinsider