Accenture markets itself as being a company with ‘one global team'. That's quite the pitch considering that the consulting giant employs 537,000 people, out of 200 cities across the world. To effectively achieve this, Accenture is aware that it needs to operate its technology in a way that ‘moves as one'.
Core to this is the company's deployment of ServiceNow, for both IT service management and operations management. Accenture is aggressively pursuing a cloud strategy, but is consolidating and aligning its processes, systems and data into the ServiceNow platform to create a ‘single pane of glass' for IT users and IT operations.
Accenture's rollout of ServiceNow began back in 2016, migrating the company's legacy ITSM tools to the Now platform, to create a "single system of action". This has since developed to include IT request and self-service, across all Accenture geographies.
Following on from this work, Accenture began adopting services from the ServiceNow IT Operations Management (ITOM) suite, with the aim of consolidating multiple, siloed CMDBs into one - to gain control and get insight into Accenture services, applications and infrastructure.
Bryan Locke, Infrastructure Manager for Accenture's IT organization, was brought in around this time as he has a vast knowledge of the company's infrastructure and the organization's journey to the cloud (where it has a multi-cloud strategy, making use of Azure, AWS and GCP). Locke explains:
Our ServiceNow journey started in 2016. We saw an opportunity to unify the business. Our CIO at the time, his exact words were: "This is not a cost saving operation, this is about enabling long-term value for the internal IT organization". That's kind of where it all started.
We unified, collapsing multiple ITSM platforms into one, and we were able to unify our service management processes and procedures. As time went on, we enabled more and more services across different pillars of the organization. Like most firms, we started with IT support primarily. But then it gradually expanded out into other areas of business, such as finance, HR, workspace. Over time that allowed us to create experiences within the platform.
So I was brought in to help get a lot of core data into the platform, make it easier and compliment ITSM as we go through it. Initially with discovery, event management, then embarking on service mapping and enabling other features within the platform.
It's about the data
The key message to take away from this is that Accenture has a laser focus on getting quality data into the ServiceNow platform from all areas of the business, in order to enable more automation of management down the line. The company is already 90% in the cloud when looking at IaaS, and is beginning to embrace PaaS more and more too.
We all know that the shift to cloud is necessary and brings with it a host of benefits, but the management of cloud environments can also bring challenges with it. Locke adds:
This sprawl of the cloud can become very hard to manage. The speed is great, but the speed and scale and lack of insight and visibility, that became a bit of a challenge. I'm talking about making sure all of the core data, whether it be how it relates to a business service, how we feed out to our information security organization, how it feeds into our service management - that for me is operational management
We've got this continuous ongoing control of what we have, what we own, when it hits the network, when it leaves the network - so ensuring all of that flows with minimal issues, with quality data, and how that feeds into event and incident management.
Locke doesn't deny that this hasn't been a challenge over the years, given that multiple areas of the Accenture business had their own disconnected processes or investments in different platforms. But this has been helped by strong buy-in from Accenture's leadership team, which is keen on investing in a single platform across the organization. Locke says:
We started with our core CIO, but we're branching out into our network operational management, we're doing our more regional offices at the minute - so we've got that single pane of glass view of everything.
We're limiting customization as we bring this in, because everybody wants their own little piece, we try to reshape and rethink some of why they think they need these things. We try to embrace out of the box as much as possible. I think we've been quite successful in rationalising CMDBs and rationalising event and incident management processes too.
Mapping the benefits
Locke explains that one of the key benefits to feeding Accenture's IT and business data into the ServiceNow platform is that it allows the technology function to overcome complex integration challenges in the cloud, as well as improve upon the general service availability and reliability. He says:
It eliminates a lot of the friction integration by having everything under one roof. That sounds very basic, but when you've got multi-tier integrations, and you're feeding into an XML gateway, which feeds into another system, which feeds into something else - friction is reduced when everything is under one roof.
Another way we are measuring quality is just basic KPIs around service availability, data accuracy, event to incident, correlation rules, how many incidents we've been avoiding. And then also gradually measuring the mean time to resolution. Those are some of the ways in which we are measuring success.
On the point above, the ServiceNow platform is also helping Accenture identify problems (or incidents) before they actually become a problem. In the past, using the legacy environment, much of this process was handled by agents, which were relied upon to trigger incidents as they occurred. Locke says:
When you're tapping into the virtual layer, it allows you to know if something's there when it was created, the second it was created. You can trigger an event that says: "Hey I just found a VM, let's discover the operating system, let's see what it has and let's ship that data out to InfoSec, so that at hour zero we've got this information and we are running security to those.
So the automation piece for us is leveraging the data, becoming more data driven within ServiceNow, it just gives us more control, more checks, which is something we've struggled with in the past.
And this is possible because of the single CMDB at the core. Every part of the Accenture business is feeding into this ‘single source of truth' and Locke and his team have been "adamant" about ensuring that this is a priority. He says:
We're not allowing others to create their own little silos, new islands, or fixed data elsewhere. It just means we are always investing in the same subset of data. You're no longer waiting on schedules and scans and batch operations, you're pushing more to data drive and just in time updates. And that's where a lot of the benefits are.
The common data model, which follows common rules, and being stored in one place is not being done because Accenture enjoys being dogmatic about such things. No, it's a deliberate attempt by Locke and his team to get the organization into a place where it can adopt more automation going forward. He explains:
I think prioritization and sequencing was important. Making sure you've got your sequencing right - you can't do X if you don't do Y. Making sure you sequence what you want and align it to business goals. If quality data is your first step, you know where to start. You can't do huge automation if you don't have quality data. I think that's definitely key.
Bringing all this into one common place, with common rules, it's an enabler for automation. No matter where you look, we can always look for reusable automation opportunities. When we receive events from infrastructure, we intercept the event, we're going to try to run automation first to see if it can resolve before incident creation. In the past everything went straight to incident from the source monitoring tool, and that's something we've moved away from.
In terms of advice for other organizations looking to adopt a similar approach, one thing that Accenture recommends is ensuring that the business is on-board and using the project to upskill parts of the workforce. Locke adds:
I think bringing the business to the table is also important. In the past, I think some people saw ServiceNow as the enemy. The reason why is they think they're going to be out of a job. So a lot of what we've been doing is we bring the teams on to the ServiceNow team, we use economies of scale with those teams, and then they eventually go off and become ServiceNow developers elsewhere within the platform.
So I think it's showing people the good, the benefit, the long-term goals within ServiceNow, and give them a career trajectory within the platform.