Organizations need to aggressively look at technology transformation: Ramnath Venkataraman, Accenture

The COVID-19 pandemic has made organizations realize the power of systems’ resilience like never before. Systems should be able to scale on-demand, or even withstand drops as required under the current situation. Along the same lines, Ramnath Venkataraman, Senior Managing Director, Lead – Integrated Global Services, Accenture Technology talks about how the company has been helping organizations during the COVID era.

DQ: How is the enterprise tech landscape changing in light of COVID-19?

In the last few months, we have seen organizations go through an unprecedented exercise in stress testing of both applications and infrastructure to support critical business processes. It is now apparent that organizations will need to aggressively look at technology transformation to thrive as they emerge from this crisis. Systems need to be resilient to withstand significant disruption including accommodating sudden surges and drops. Transformation investment should largely be self-funded and in areas where immediate vulnerabilities are identified. Self-funding will come from optimizing operating expense spends through initiatives like hyper-automation and effective leverage of cloud.

DQ: How is Accenture helping organizations, who don’t always have modern infrastructure in place, assess their system vulnerabilities and adapt for the future in a post-COVID world?

Accenture has developed the Systems Resilience Diagnostic Toolkit to help prioritize an organization’s critical business processes and systems and identify potential vulnerabilities. It includes industry-specific heatmaps of business functions and processes that identify which business areas are vulnerable (high priority) and which are not (low priority). A systems view is then overlaid on the processes to help organizations prioritize critical systems to focus on in the near term. The toolkit leverages both in-built assets and a comprehensive questionnaire that measures and scores an organization’s critical processes and systems based on a resilience index. It also helps identify areas of low resilience and interdependencies between them and recommends immediate actions. The areas of low resilience are a starting point for applying the building blocks of systems resilience, namely — elastic digital workplace, hyper-automation, architecture performance engineering, cloud acceleration and optimization, service continuity and cybersecurity.

DQ: Could you elaborate on the six building blocks of systems’ resilience with an example?

According to Accenture’s research, conducted in late 2019 across 8,300 organizations, only a small minority—the top 10 percent—have cracked the code on systems resilience. It is crucial to understand the current state of IT systems and take swift and informed action, to enhance the stability of critical business operations and underlying systems.

The six building blocks of Accenture’s Systems Resilience solution enable a quick and reliable response to critical system vulnerabilities.

  • Elastic Digital Workplace enables to protect people and productivity, when organizations need to become fully remote overnight. For example, working together with Microsoft, Accenture was able to convert 25,000 employees of a major energy company in the United Arab Emirates to work remotely in 10 days.
  • Hyper Automation helps mitigate the impact of systems disruption, free up human resource capacity and streamline IT workforce management. For example, a large retailer resolved order fulfillment bottlenecks at their stores through automation and reduced ticket resolution time from 4-7 days to just 15 minutes by using Accenture myWizard.
  • Architecture & Performance Engineering enables to quickly resolve critical systems availability and performance issues. For example, a European bank was able to offload transactions from their near-capacity mainframe core banking system in just over four weeks by instead using microservices to handle the data load, preventing disruption to the customer experience.
  • Cloud Acceleration & Optimization helps manage risk, deploy instant innovation and optimize cloud performance and cost. For example, for a large energy company, close to $2.2million in monthly cloud spend was discovered through the Accenture Cloud Platform that led to greater cost optimization.
  • Service Continuity enables to flex to support critical in-flight services or deliver new IT projects. For example, when a leading retailer asked Accenture to add approximately 300 remote resources on short notice to support their digital channel, we used our touchless knowledge capture platform to virtually onboard team members quickly.
  • Cybersecurity helps to secure customers, people and systems wherever they are. For example, a large mining company implemented secure, scalable access across their network to shift to a remote workforce in just three days. Using Accenture’s Secure Emergency Remote Access solution, they applied automation for setup, configuration and monitoring, rapidly establishing a robust security architecture.

DQ: What are some of the gaps experienced by organizations in their service continuity? How did Accenture help organizations to handle increased demand during this time?

It is critical for organizations to ensure the availability of skilled resources with institutional knowledge of business processes and specific technology expertise to be able to execute both critical in-flight projects and maintain key applications and infrastructure. They need to be able to quickly source and onboard expertise as well as enable rapid knowledge transfer with the right governance and tools.

For example, Accenture helped a leading US hospital to accelerate service readiness by streamlining environment, security, data protection and tooling requirements for onboarded resources when they needed to quickly develop a video consultation application to manage COVID-19 patient load.

DQ: What are the learnings organizations should keep in mind from the COVID-19 pandemic that better prepares them for future disruptions?

Even before COVID-19, many organizations faced considerable challenges related to systems resilience. It is important for organizations to define medium to long-term transformation strategies that prioritize and address antiquated applications, architecture and infrastructure vulnerability, highly repeatable manual processes and underfunded cyber resilience. Given the current circumstances, self-funding transformation through small incremental programs is key to driving efficiency and freeing up capital. Lastly, connecting with ecosystem partners to shift to an asset-light model and mitigating vulnerable dependencies are all important to prepare organizations for the future.

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