Tag: IT transformation

Groundbreaking Rio Tinto and Accenture As-a-Service IT Deal | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Rio Tinto, a global diversified mining company, recently announced a groundbreaking initiative they are undertaking with Accenture. This can best be described as moving Rio Tinto’s enterprise IT function into an as-a-service model. Game-changing benefits permeate this deal, and it’s an eye-opener for enterprises in all industries.

Let’s look at what Rio Tinto gains by pulling the as-a-service lever to achieve greater value in its IT services.

First, it changes the relationship between the business and IT. It breaks down the functional silos of a traditional centralized IT organization and aligns each service. In doing so, it creates an end-to-end relationship in each service, whether it be SAP, collaboration or any other functional services.

Second, this initiative moves Rio Tinto’s entire IT supply chain to a consumption-based model. This is incredibly important for a cyclical commodity industry, where revenues are subject to the world commodity markets. Rio Tinto’s core product, iron ore, is a commodity that can result in revenues slashed in half in the course of a year, leading to the need for cost reduction initiatives. Correspondingly, in boom times, commodities can double and triple in price, resulting in frenetic energy to expand production. The as-a-service model ends this commodity whiplash impact. It gives Rio Tinto a powerful ability to match costs to their variable consumption patterns.

This move will change the pace of innovation within Rio Tinto, allowing it to future proof its investments in IT. As many enterprises discover, multi-year IT projects often end up being out of date by the time they are implemented. Rio Tinto sought to shorten the IT cycle time so it can take full advantage of innovations the market generates. In the as-a-service model, it can pull those innovations through to the business quickly – which is a struggle for traditional siloed centralized IT functions.

These are game-changing benefits. It’s important to recognize that the journey to capture these benefits required a complete rethinking of how Rio Tinto’s IT (applications and infrastructure) is conceived, planned, delivered, and maintained. Moving from a siloed take-or-pay model to an integrated consumption-based model required wide-ranging re-envisioning and reshaping the ecosystem for deploying its technology; it touched IT talent, philosophies, processes, policies, vendors, and partners.

Clearly this journey will be well worth the effort given the substantial game-changing benefits. Challenging times call for breakthrough answers. The cost benefits alone are significant; but even more important is the ability of this approach to accelerate the transformation of the company into a more digital business. Rio Tinto chose to partner with Accenture to move its organization to this fundamentally different action plan for delivering and consuming IT and meeting the rapidly evolving needs of the business.


Photo credit: Rio Tinto

Why Hasn’t Cloud Had a Bigger Disruption on the Services Industry? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

If you read the technology news in the press and social media sites, it’s apparent that we’re in the midst of a big sea of change in which the as-a-Service and public cloud models are transforming the services industry. HP and IBM’s travails and Oracle’s slowdown are laid at the feet of the SaaS providers. But when you pile all the current cloud activity together, it amounts to a hill of beans, not a mountain. Why aren’t we seeing evidence that disruption from these models is happening on a significant scale?

The buzz

In the famous words of an American hamburger TV commercial several years ago: “Where’s the beef?” Everyone is talking about big agendas to rework workload portfolios and making big efforts to to do that. Yes, Accenture has invested well over $1 billion around cloud and several Indian providers have invested $100+ million a year in mobility and cloud work. And the HCL-CSC alliance is predicated on the fact that there will be a huge cloud sandwich for which they want to position themselves.

If you give providers half a moment, they’ll wax with great eloquence and excitement about the prospects for the cloud model as a high-growth area in services. But if cloud disruption is coming to the services industry, it must be walking; it sure isn’t running.

Where are the billion-dollar practices that do cloud? Why don’t we see service providers launching entire new practices or start-ups reworking applications so they work in the cloud? Who is doing all the work?

The reality

The answer to the above questions is that disruption to service providers is happening occasionally but not en mass.

It reminds me of a conversation I overheard around the impending revolution about self-driving cars. Supposedly a Google executive was saying that it’s not likely that new self-driving car will come on the market and people will buy them when they arrive. Instead, he believes the more likely scenario is that we’ll find ourselves using cars that park themselves and then over time become incrementally more capable and eventually driving themselves. But we won’t have gone through that aha moment where we went out to buy a self-driving car.

I think the same thing is happening with cloud disruption. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence that companies are driving huge transformations to the cloud right now. Maybe it’s a timing issue in which CIOs and large enterprises will become comfortable enough with the technology that they’ll move en mass to rework their ecosystems to embrace this model. But maybe they won’t embrace it like this and, instead, the industry will wake up one day and find that we’ve incrementally adopted SaaS, public cloud and private cloud.

Perhaps the tide bringing cloud disruption is coming in slowly rather than in as a tsunami. What do you think?

Changing Influence in Tech Spend | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Recently I had a conversation with an executive at a large software house known for its ERP. One of many things that struck me in our conversation was the change in whom the sales team targets. Their primary target is no longer the CIO; now it’s the CFO.

Apparently, in today’s business outcomes-driven world, CIOs are no longer authorized to drive tech spend decisions of this type, nor do they have the ability to write the check.

As I reflect on this change in decision rights and executive focus, I don’t find it at all surprising; after all, it is consistent with what I’ve blogged about several times. As she put it, the reasons for buying technology today are driven much more by business need and the impact that the technology can drive; it’s increasingly less about the technology itself. In this shift in mindset, the CFO and senior business stakeholders have become more influential because they have the best understanding of the business impact needed from the technology.

The lesson for a global services business

If the technology players are shifting their focus to the CFO as the influencer of tech spend, I think this underlines the changing dynamics or decision rights for the global services industry and the imperative to engage with and serve others outside of the CIO.

Taming Your IT Transformation Terror | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Originally posted on Fierce CIO


Transformation is a journey that, done correctly, requires a significant amount of change in an organization to achieve success.

IT transformation is the overhaul of an organization’s IT operations, where the goal is more than just cost savings. Instead, IT transformation is about increased capacity to use technology to drive new competitive advantages. IT transformation is about unlocking value through improved business agility, faster speed to market and using big data to inform smarter decisions that can lead to improved margins, sales growth and happier customers.

Transformation is always disruptive on some level. It requires changes in people, skill sets, training, headcount, career management and more.

“Big T” transformation demands that an organization attack both technology and process changes simultaneously, two variables that can add enough complexity and risk to sabotage the effort before it gets beyond the planning stage.

“Big T” transformation demands that an organization’s senior leadership be ready to make it a strategic priority, assign champions and hold people accountable for specific metrics along agreed-upon timeframes. Time must be invested to create a clear vision for what success looks like at the end of the transformation process. That includes a clear articulation of the business value desired, one that your bankers and shareholders would easily understand.

Read more on Fierce CIO

Changing the Rules | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

In Assessing the Cloud’s Clout to Disrupt the Outsourcing World, Peter Bendor-Samuel suggests that cloud-based IT services will be highly disruptive to the IT infrastructure space. I agree – and assert that the impact will occur faster and be more game-changing than we might imagine at this time when its $10-20 billion of projected annual revenue seems quite modest compared to estimates of “traditional” IT services of $200+ billion.

To support my point, I would encourage you to consider an analogous industry-changer – the “invention” of the low-cost airline by Freddy Laker in the late 1970s. Laker Airlines pioneered low-cost airfares, offering pricing at one-third to one-half of the cost of traditional carriers flying across the Atlantic. With only a handful or two of long-range aircraft, Laker broke the industry’s rules, securing permission to compete head-to-head with the likes of British Caledonian, TWA, and Pan Am, among others. Applying innovative operating practices, implementing sacrilegious pricing models, adopting unique sales, and marketing techniques, Laker opened new markets and changed customer buying habits forever. While the early 1980s recession across the U.S. and Europe forced Laker into bankruptcy, the airline industry was changed forever.

The parallels in today’s IT services market to Laker’s world are quite striking:

  • Upstarts coming from outside the traditional industry drive innovation
  • Standardized offerings providing different kinds of value to customers both open new market segments and change buying behavior and decision centers for traditional market segments
  • Different operating practices and business models deliver fundamentally different value to customers
  • Traditional players struggle to respond, pulling levers that put their long-term health at risk (note how many of the traditional transatlantic airlines Laker went after are still flying!)
  • Very small market share shifts can change the playing field for the entire industry (remember, Laker deployed relatively few planes filled to near capacity – low single-digit market share from an industry perspective – but was able to force the leaders to play by his rules)

Some will challenge whether the Laker analogy is a fair comparison, but can today’s large IT services firms afford to risk not taking heed of lessons from Freddy Laker?

Why the Avon – SAP News is Important for Your Business | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Did you see the news earlier this week about the Avon – SAP relationship in Canada? The eye-grabbing headline, “Avon halts work on big SAP implementation, cites lack of ROI,” thrusts the deal to the attention of both service providers and enterprises planning or in the midst of business transformation deals. The services industry has decades of piercingly clear evidence that large-scale implementations can be problematic and disruptive, and Avon stated that its decision to halt the further roll-out was to stop further disruption to its business.  But I believe we can conclude much more than that from this news. In short, this action by Avon suggests that a good deal of change is happening in the services market.

In uncovering what is behind the headlines in the Avon – SAP relationship, let’s start with the fact that both Avon and SAP affirmed that the products company will continue using the SAP system in Canada, the system is working as designed, and their relationship “remains solid.” And they had experienced an earlier successful pilot of the project. So what sparked this recent decision to end the full-scale implementation?

As the saying goes, often what you don’t know will cost you. Here’s what you need to know about this deal.

We see this as a shining example of a phenomenon we are observing in the marketplace. The SAP implementation was part of a broad-based business transformation Avon was trying to drive. But in today’s market companies now are skewing away from the $100 million-plus or large-scale ERP implementations and instead look to buy outcomes and functionality or capability on as as-needed basis.

Fundamentally companies don’t want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on transformative IT implementations because it’s too expensive, takes too long, and usually the return isn’t there. However, they still need new functionality or capability for competitive advantage so they can drive their businesses forward. This is where the as-a-service models come in; these models allow them to get the new capability without replacing their entire ERP system.

We see a significant movement in this direction. It manifests itself sometimes by companies asking for outcomes. (“We need these results.” “Just give us the insight from the analytics.” “Give us this new market access.” “Allow our retail business to deal with stock-outs.”) They are willing to pay good money for these capabilities, but they want to pay for it in this manner:

  • On a consumption basis, paying for it as they use it
  • In a phased adoption or in incremental phases where they experiment with it and then drive more into it in subsequent phases
  • As a way to avoid buying huge server farms and signing up for licenses, many of which they don’t use
  • As a tactic for loosely coupling the solution with their existing ERP or IT systems.

We find that the as-a-service models open opportunities for a different kind of sale. It allows a new breed of vendor or new breed of offering to get the customer out of the complexity of buying the component parts of a solution and focuses purely on the outcome of what the company is trying to accomplish.

Avon is happy with its existing ERP vendor, SAP; but it no longer wants the cost and time of the large-scale transformation project and replacement of its ERP system. We see the Avon decision as important.

Buyer and providers, take note: Avon’s action heralds a new set of industry offers that allow organizations to buy parts of ERP as a service and layer it on top of existing ERP implementations. How will the as-a-service models impact your business?


Photo credit: Marlon Malabanan

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