People before systems

A conversation with Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson

Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson
  • CIOs should start thinking in terms of outcomes, not technology
  • Culture and business problems should drive tech investments
  • Commercially available platforms can extend a company’s IT capabilities

Andrew Wilson has a vision for how IT can power a modern organization. Accessing information and services at work is as easy as it is at home. Technologists are able to anticipate employee needs. The CIO acts more like a chief experience officer.

In a recent conversation with Dave Schneider, ServiceNow’s chief revenue officer, Wilson talked about the ongoing revolution in corporate IT, the role of platforms in enterprise tech strategy, and how the right media strategy can drive buy‑in from your employee culture.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you approach your role at Accenture?

I think it starts when you wake up in the morning and realize that everything you did that made you successful as a CIO is no longer enough. The dramatic changes in the technology industry, in cloud, in automation, and analytics, means you have to completely redefine the skills that you need to be successful.

A digital transformation strategy is equal parts technology, talent, and change. From a technology perspective, we’re 90% in the cloud. But that [alone] will not get me to success.

The next thing I have to do is make the team that looks after that technology much more successful. They have to have a set of skills in things that a few years ago didn’t exist and an imagination that’s a long way away from coding and building things in the data center.

And then, probably the biggest change of all is, I’ve got to think in terms of outcomes. None of these services exist for the leaders or the deployers of that tech. They exist for the end user, for the customer, the employee.

A modern digital transformation strategy is all about the human. There’s an irony in that: In these days of ultra‑fast technology, the human is at the heart of everything. For my user base, it’s about [having] a great time at work. It’s about attracting and retaining [employees]. It’s about making the process of joining Accenture much more fluid.

We have over 100,000 people join us a year. You can’t be old‑fashioned. You can’t have them filling out forms. It’s got to be really sticky. They’ve just come up from talking to Alexa. They’ve just come from watching YouTube. If the services at work don’t feel like that, I’m not doing my job.

Tell me about how you work with the lines of business to build experiences for employees.

Don’t think in terms of the system you’re going to build. That’s really the last step. If your culture and your business transformation aren’t driving what you’re doing, then you’re only putting a patch on things.

How do you define platforms and why are they important?

Platforms run the IT ecosystem today and really give you a lot of investment that you couldn’t possibly make as an individual organization.

Accenture runs on a small number of big platforms like ServiceNow and Microsoft. My job is to make the platforms work together [so we achieve] cross‑platform integration in the cloud. It’s a bit techie, but really important, because now I’m brokering, I’m orchestrating, and I’m serving up change potential in the organization.

Are you reaching customers as well as employees?

Yes, we are federated with hundreds of organizations. And when we talk about workforce, by the way, I don’t just mean the humans any more. I’m talking about automation. We have tens of thousands of non‑human workers, and they exist alongside our human workforce, and they have to complement each other.

Can you explain some of the mechanisms that you’re using to reach your employees and partners?

Shut down websites. Shut down email. No one will look at them, and no one will go near them. Use television because YouTube and Netflix are the way our post‑millennial workforce communicates.

I want to be able to offer live television shows. I want to have security training be like the TV show “24,” where we dropped a season and people play it on replay. Use techniques like that, and have fun.