The discovery map that brought Cloud Sherpas to Accenture

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright September 20, 2015
A discovery process to find the best path for enterprise cloud projects was the secret sauce that made Cloud Sherpas an attractive buy for Accenture

David Northington CEO Cloud Sherpas
David Northington, Cloud Sherpas

One of the reasons Cloud Sherpas made an attractive acquisition target for Accenture was its methodology for building a roadmap that guides clients through a cloud implementation. Its CEO David Northington had explained to me earlier this year that these one-to-two month advisory projects are a strong driver of its business with larger enterprises. Accounting for around three quarters of its revenue, those large enterprise contracts often run into the million to multi-million dollar range.

I had a chance to find out more about how the methodology works when I caught up with Northington last week, following the Accenture news. Perhaps inevitably, the focus is not so much on the technology as on the human element. A large part is concerned with researching and identifying the best way to introduce change to an organization, he told me.

The technology's actually relatively straightforward. It's more about the readiness of the client organization, the competing priorities of the people who need to effect that change, who may have been working with it at the present time.

They may have tried to do something in that same area in the past and not had it work out very well, so there's not really an openness to doing that particular thing. Some early successes in other areas would help change that point of view.

That may mean postponing the most significant goals until later in the project in order to focus on delivering some quick 'wins' early on that will motivate adoption, he said:

It might be that the biggest benefits are available by doing 'x' but that's the hardest thing to do and to get people comfortable doing.

So it might be better to do that later and get some early benefits where people get used to the technology, become comfortable with what's there, and then they're more prepared to do the harder thing later.

Appetite for change

The core exercise therefore is a discovery process that looks not only at the business objectives that the technology can deliver, but also at the organization's capacity and appetite for absorbing change.

The technology itself, from Salesforce, ServiceNow and Google, is all there, it's ready, it's good to go, and we can help them work through the process of implementing it. In large organisations, it's really about getting the technology aligned with the people in such a way that the people are willing to, interested in, and open to adopting and using it in the way that it's designed.

What our discovery does is take all that into account, both the business benefit that they're seeking and the returns they're seeking, and marries it with the readiness of the organization and the capabilities of the organization. It provides the CIO and the leadership with a very sane feedback of what is a good way to perhaps consider going about this.

The roadmap will also show ROI calculations for each part of the project, he said, and helps make the business case for going ahead. Having the roadmap in place helps to ensure clients are generally happy with the outcomes, even though the nature of cloud projects is to shake things up, he added.

What clients are actually seeking as they bring their problems or challenges or opportunities to the table and look to deploy cloud technologies is that they're really seeking true innovation, true ability to transform — whether on a small scale in a series of connected business processes, or in a broad scale across how they go to market or how they provide service to customers, how they collaborate across their teams and countries globally.

Either one, they're looking for real innovation, not just for transactions, not just for solutions that replicate the way business gets done today. They're looking for a little innovation.

They actually don't mind if, when we get finished, the business process has been turned upside down and made easier, made better, made more friendly for the users, for the customers, created a real difference.

My take

As Northington's remarks illustrate, going cloud is more than simply a technology makeover. Real returns come from seizing the opportunity to remake business processes to take advantage of new digital ways of achieving better, faster and more effective results. But such transformative change is bound to be disruptive and therefore careful planning for change management is crucial to delivering the desired outcomes.

Disclosure: Salesforce is a diginomica premier partner. My travel to attend Dreamforce has been funded as part of a paid consulting engagement with Vlocity, a Salesforce ISV partner.

Image credits: Businessman looking at 3d road that goes up in the sky © ra2 studio –; headshot by Cloud Sherpas.