Accenture and the scale of digital ambition

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan December 26, 2013
Summary:
Over the past 8 months we’ve picked up on Accenture’s ambitions in the digital business space. While to most of us perhaps Accenture remains the ‘big ticket outsourcing’ behemoth of old, the firm has been transitioning itself into new markets with its digital push front and centre.

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Pierre Nanterme

Over the past 8 months we’ve picked up on Accenture’s ambitions in the digital business space. While to most of us perhaps Accenture remains the ‘big ticket outsourcing’ behemoth of old, the firm has been transitioning itself into new markets with its digital push front and centre.

There was a powerful reminder of this earlier this month when the firm launched Accenture Digital, a new platform that aims to integrate the company’s digital assets, software and services across digital marketing, mobility and analytics.

According to the pitch from the company, Accenture Digital will provide clients with:

a comprehensive portfolio of business and technology services, from developing digital strategies to implementing digital technologies and running digital processes on behalf of clients.

Through the combination of Accenture’s analytics, mobility and digital marketing capabilities, Accenture Digital will help clients leverage connected and mobile devices, extract insights from data using analytics, and enrich customer experiences and interactions.

Michael Sutcliff has been named group chief executive of Accenture Digital. Sutcliff will join Accenture's Global Management Committee. He most recently led Accenture's Financial Services operating group in North America.

Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and CEO, was quoted in the accompanying announcement as saying:

“Digital has fundamentally changed the way our clients operate – from how they interact with customers, citizens and suppliers, to how they manage their employees. To achieve long-term success, every business must become digitally enabled.”

It was a theme he returned to when talking with analysts following the announcement of the company’s quarterly results shortly afterwards when he said:

“Over the last few years, we have made significant investments in building our digital capabilities through Accenture Interactive, Accenture Analytics and Accenture Mobility.

"With Accenture Digital, we are bringing all of these together to create what we believe is the world's largest end-to-end digital capability.”

So what is in the Accenture Digital offering? Nanterme explained:

“You would find Accenture Interactive, which is the organization dedicated to end-to-end digital marketing capabilities.

“We are adding Accenture Mobility, which is all about developing, implementing and potentially running mobile solutions.

“And three, it's Accenture Analytics, which is all about mining and doing all the analytic information, including the most advanced analytic and predictive analytics.”

It’s also all about leveraging the digital skills network in which Accenture has been investing over the years:

“Accenture Digital includes 23,000 professionals working across the entire digital landscape, including developing, implementing and running digital solutions.

"It leverages the breadth and scale of Accenture's cloud, systems integration and enterprise application capabilities, as well as our Global Delivery Network.

"Combined with our industry expertise and broad local footprint, we are very well positioned to help clients transform their businesses to compete in a digital world.”

In practice, what does this mean for customers? There are use cases to which Nanterme can point:

“For Unilever, we built a digital social platform in 12 weeks to connect its marketers, brand managers and partners in 190 countries.

“We helped BT Sport reach millions of broadband customers by delivering their end-to-end video solution that spans live streaming video-on-demand mobile apps and cloud services.

“And for a leading European automaker, we are leveraging our mobility capabilities and our connected vehicle business service to bring customers new innovations inside their cars from real-time traffic information to voice-controlled entertainment.”

Accenture is well placed to make further inroads into the digital economy, according to Gartner in a new report - Leverage Digital Transformation Consultants to Adapt to the Digital Age.

Gartner evaluated 13 digital consulting services providers in the report based on a framework that assessed each vendor on 11 categories.

The framework highlights the life cycle of services offerings in digital transformation consulting and includes categories such as: ideation, business strategy, organization design and change management, design and rapid prototyping, market research and competitive analysis, user experience design, emerging technology, and governance program design and execution.

Accenture was cited as being "very strong" in nine capability categories: research, design, analytics, strategy, justification, organization, process, technology, and program and change management.It was rated strong or moderate in the remaining two.

Getting strategic

Alongside Accenture Digital sits Accenture Strategy - a new push that the firms sees sitting at the intersection of business, technology and operations:

“This new growth platform is all about helping C-suite executives shape and execute their transformation agendas, focusing on issues relative to growth and innovation, industry convergence, geographic expansion and enterprise transformation.

“In short, we helped them define and implement industry-specific strategies that are enabled by technology. This is our sweet spot, and we truly believe Accenture Strategy will be highly differentiated capability in the marketplace.

“For example, we are helping a global consumer products company increase its competitiveness and reestablish its leadership position across key product categories. Leveraging our strategy, technology and industry-specific operations expertise, we are helping the company deliver more than $1 billion in bottom line impact.”

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All this said, there are still the traditional sweet spots in the Accenture mix, such as outsourcing and ERP-related services. Nanterme said:

"ERP remains an important part of our business. We are still selling, implementing ERP. And by ERP, I mean mainly finance and accounting application solution, human resources application solution and supply chain application solution.

"These last couple of years, there have been a cycle of lower growth in ERP, but it's still a good business for Accenture."

But again, things are changing:

“That being said, the vast majority of what we do at Accenture is not falling in that category of application packages, if you will, around finance and accounting, HR and supply chain. We have a much more diverse portfolio of business.

“So ERP, important at Accenture but not at all the vast majority of what we do. So we are not that dependent on ERP as you might imagine.”

Verdict

All the major systems integrators and services houses are in transition.

Over the past few years we’ve seen all of the big ticket providers build up their cloud services capabilties; now it’s the big push into establishing their digital credentials.

Accenture has been putting the pieces in place to ensure it’s at the head of the pack in this respect. It’s a subject to which we’ll be returning with increasing regularity in 2014 I suspect.