If this week's predictions of a tenfold increase in the number of Salesforce consultants by 2020 hold true, then the 8,100 currently employed by professional services giant Accenture will become an army of 81,000 within the next five years.
Saideep Raj, who heads up Accenture's Cloud First Applications group, is in the front line of managing that growth. I caught up with him this week at Dreamforce to ask how enterprises are adapting to cloud adoption and where all that fresh talent is going to come from.
Raj has led the cloud applications practice at Accenture since it was first formed in 2008. Its rebranding as Cloud First came after last year's acquisition of Cloud Sherpas, a leading Salesforce, Google and ServiceNow integrator. There have been several more acquisitions since then, including Netherlands-based CRMwaypoint and New Energy Group, which operates in Italy and Spain. It also significantly increased its Workday practice last week with the acquisition of Daynine.
The aim is to maintain a distinctive approach to cloud implementations that nevertheless benefits from the scale that Accenture can offer, says Raj.
Our clients are driving bigger, deeper solutions around Salesforce. But they're taking advantage of what we call a two-speed consumption model, around the way that they're consuming the cloud more broadly and Salesforce in particular.
They're constantly looking for simultaneously the more agile, iterative, delivery of capability, but in a much more strategic context. To deliver that capability simultaneously is not trivial.
Governance is an important part of making that two-speed model work:
You've got a governance model that embeds into a client's broader governance. It's a hybrid model, because they've got this often very cumbersome legacy. They're trying to figure out all the release patterns, and how do you make this fit in and deliver with all of that context?
Projects must often draw on the resources and expertise of other Accenture practices, because the cloud assets connect into other elements of the client's IT infrastructure.
Think about call center or doing a big retailer, and 60% of the scope is outside of Salesforce. It's telephony, it's integration, it's all the wiring that the client's doing. They wouldn't have done the engagement without Salesforce, but it's uncovering all these things that are downstream.
Careful mapping of the architecture is important to make sure these dependencies are exposed before the project starts rather than tripping over them unexpectedly later on, he explains.
Often what you find is, when the project's getting stuck sometimes with Salesforce, they haven't mapped out those dependencies. Suddenly the project is held up around some things that were a dependency that was really misunderstood.
If it's identified in advance, then the client can choose how they want to handle it.
Fundamentally, those decisions, in the past, some clients have been frustrated with it, they haven't been presented with them enough. You find these projects and they're going longer because, well why? 'Well, we thought you wanted to do this.' Well actually, they're more looking for us to bring this decision-making criteria to them early.
Accenture is using project management automation tools that help accelerate those decisions, he adds.
By having the cockpit around the data, around all these different dependencies, how much capacity is being consumed, you're really able to put the client in this mode of making decisions in near-real time. You're coming out of that conference room pilot workshop in the morning, and you can go back to them and say, 'Well, these are the implications.' Versus at the end of the design phase, two months later, and by then it's too late.
Projects are managed using a three-layer model. A value creation office defines the business case and change management strategy, providing a framework for driving iterative business enhancement. An architecture team maps the implementation journey. Then finally there's the delivery layer, which plugs into Accenture's broader resources, as part of the Cloud First team.
We think about a really highly engineered, factory model that's including automation, devops, to be able to deliver.
Cloud application skills
Salesforce skills are being spread around Accenture. The firm has a team of ten dedicated to training its people on Salesforce. New recruits automatically get exposed to Salesforce so that they can learn cloud application skills. That will be an important source of expansion in Accenture's Salesforce skill base, says Raj.
Accenture's core is very good at bringing in those new grads, getting them upskilled, and that engine will continue. We see that being really an important driving force.
Cross-skilling is being driven hard and Accenture is also recruiting strongly, adopting some social recruitment techniques that it acquired with Cloud Sherpas. Where all of these measures are still too slow to keep pace with market demand, Accenture is making acquisitions to fill the gaps, says Raj.
The firm also this week added to its portfolio of templated Fullforce solutions, introducing solutions that complement Salesforce's vertical offerings for healthcare and financial services.