Case Number: 5-110-002, Year Published: 2010
HBS Number: KEL471
Information Technology, IT Transformation, Designing IT Infrastructure, IT Platform, Enterprise Application, Organizational Culture, Managing IT Like a Business, Modruson, Kress, CIO
In 2001 Accenture took the bold step of separating from its parent, Arthur Andersen. The new firm that emerged had a bright future ahead, but it also faced the challenge of building a new IT infrastructure that could support a global organization that consults on leading-edge technology. Accenture’s CIO at the time, Ed Schreck, knew that becoming a master of your own trade was not an easy task. Frank Modruson, Schreck’s successor and the person responsible for carrying forward the IT transformation challenge from 2002 on, had ambitious plans for the new technology infrastructure that was to replace Arthur Andersen’s legacy systems. Difficult decisions had to be made. Should the firm continue with a decentralized approach to managing technology platforms, in which each country chooses its own IT platforms and has autonomy to run them? Or should the firm take a mixed approach, in which the same standard applications would run throughout the enterprise but would be managed independently by individual offices? Or should Accenture espouse a “one-firm” approach and boldly shoot for a centralized implementation of its most critical systems, with all its offices interconnected on the same “instance” of a software platform? Furthermore, should the firm retain its traditional conception of IT as cost center, or should it migrate to a scheme that recognizes IT as a service provision center that generates measurable value for the organization? These questions and many others drove Accenture’s CIO team to undertake one of the most remarkable IT transformations in a global organization in recent years.
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