CIO interview: Frank Modruson, Accenture

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CIO interview: Frank Modruson, Accenture

Karl Flinders

Frank Modruson joined Accenture in 1987. He worked initially as an analyst on complex IT projects at customers. For the last ten years, he has been Accenture’s CIO responsible for the outsourcing giant’s own IT operation.

Modruson says as an outsourcing service provider, the company eats what it sells.

“We outsource IT to Accenture and use the same capabilities as our customers,” he says. All internal IT is completed by the different customer-facing parts of Accenture’s outsourcing business

“We aggressively apply the best practices we recommend to customers to ourselves.

“Where Accenture has the capability, we outsource to it. If we don’t have the capability, we outsource to a third-party,” Modruson says.

Like its customers, Accenture outsources the operations of IT to different delivery units, but the internal IT team retain control of things like strategy and planning. Accenture’s internal IT team is about 450 people.

Getting the most out of this team, by ensuring that IT staff are used and developed in the best way to benefit the company along with helping the business do more, is a key challenge for his role, he says. But Modruson says his main technology focus is video.

“A big area for me today is driving video adoption to help us reduce travel and how we use locations. The next two to four years will be all about video,” he says. This is part of the company’s plan to become a virtual corporation in terms of the use of video.

Video is a genuine business tool

He says plummeting connectivity prices has made video a genuine business tool.

“The cost of video is dropping and it is becoming so inexpensive to communicate via video."

Accenture now uses video in both its internal operation and its services business. Through video, it can deploy consultants to clients in a more cost-effective way. 

“Our clients love being able to meet experts without them having to fly out for a one hour meeting,” says Modruson.

He says businesses should take a look at how consumers are using video: “We have it at home, but we have not yet brought it into the workplace. But it’s coming.”

“Ten years ago, doing what you do on Skype would have cost thousands of dollars. Now it is on everyone’s desktop and is almost free.”

Modruson says video is a more effective way to communicate than telephone. “We have had the phone for years, but what is missing is the visual cues.”

Accenture has been using video for internal meetings for years. “We have an IT steering committee that we used to get together twice a year for one day sessions. That group has not met in person since 2007

“We save a lot of money. We have one project where the savings in travel was 20 times the investment in video. It paid for itself in less than a month.”

Accenture has over 100,000 video end-accounts in its internal business.

Video is the current drive for Accenture's IT department because industry buzzwords like server virtualisation, flexible working, desktop virtualisation, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the cloud are already in hand.

Accenture has 98% of its servers virtualised and has been doing BYOD since the iPhone 2 and has 115,000 devices registered in its programme.

On flexible working, Modruson says: “We have been doing it so long, we forget it’s cool.”

When it comes to desktop virtualisation, Modruson says, Accenture does not do it simply because it does not need it. 

"I do not need virtual desktops because, in 2001, my predecessor decided to move to browser-based applications," he said. He added if he bumped into that person today he would give him/her a big hug.

With desktop virtualisation “you end up with two computers versus one,” says Modruson.

But he adds that if an organisation has not got the functionality required to enable applications to be accessed anywhere, desktop virtualisation is a very effective and fast way of doing so.

"It is a way to get to the same situation quickly, " he says.

On cloud computing, Modruson says, about 80 of 500 applications are in the cloud as a service but the company will move more and more to the cloud when appropriate.

Back seat drivers

Modruson supports IT for a company that has 257,000 people that are potential CIOs.  “The most common background of CIOs I meet are ex-Accenture consultants,” says Modruson.

Although this means that his job will be heavily scrutinised, he says it is a great benefit.

“I get a lot of free advice.

“It is great because we have an organisation and individuals that are excited about technology which challenges and pushes us. A demanding customer is the best you can have because they tell you what they need and what works.

“Telling me nice stuff is great, but the complaints are very valuable.”

In his role, Modruson also supports Accenture’s delivery business with advice and also communicates with its CIO customers. 

“Customers are curious about how we solve problems and we share that information with them.”


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