Penelope Prett joined Accenture in 1992 and have become CIO in 2019. Alongside the best way, she has developed eager perception into find out how to ship IT worth to a $43.2 billion international firm with 500,000 staff, who’re answerable for delivering IT worth to their purchasers.
I spoke with Prett about her method to management, probably the most impactful applied sciences of the day, how she types and empowers her groups, and her recommendation for tomorrow’s CIOs.
What follows is a transcript of our dialog.
Martha Heller: How do you outline your function as CIO of Accenture?
Penelope Prett: My stakeholders count on me to maintain the holistic know-how panorama at Accenture up and operating, and to ensure our staff have what they should execute our enterprise. That’s my job, nevertheless it’s simply the ante to the poker recreation. As I sit on this chair, my most essential duty is to be the primary and greatest residing credential of what we discuss to our purchasers about: making use of know-how to rework their companies. My job is to try this so properly for Accenture that we improve the model and our credibility.
What are the know-how areas that Accenture is specializing in in these consumer conversations?
Cloudification is certainly the most popular matter in the marketplace proper now. Accenture has already made the cloud journey — we function 95 p.c within the public cloud — so I’m ready discuss to different CIOs in regards to the ache factors, getting began, and managing danger. Lots of people got here to grasp, by COVID, what they misplaced by being tied to knowledge facilities and on-prem programs. It was a tough awakening, and that’s a part of the explanation we’re discussing the cloud so typically proper now.
What is a few recommendation you possibly can supply on transferring to the cloud?
Don’t discuss to your online business sponsors or board of administrators in regards to the cloud in the identical method as you’ll an ERP spine or a brand new manufacturing system. The cloud is essentially completely different. It’s an enabler for all that can come. You can not tie your self up in knots over enterprise circumstances, danger administration, or issues that your prospects don’t need their knowledge within the cloud. If you may make your companies companions perceive that cloud is the cornerstone of the whole lot else that can occur within the know-how panorama for the subsequent decade, not a enterprise proposal with an ROI in 10 minutes, then you possibly can actually begin to make issues occur.
What expertise do you depend on most as Accenture’s CIO?
There are two expertise which can be completely important to my being profitable on this job. The primary is storytelling. To speak successfully with individuals, you can not simply discuss to them. You must share your imaginative and prescient in a method that’s so compelling that they see that the trail you’re laying out is the fitting one. Storytelling is on the coronary heart of driving change, particularly with concepts which can be unproven, as a result of there isn’t any market analog.
The second ability comes from the truth that, at this time, know-how is quicker, extra agile, and smaller. You ship it and transfer on to the subsequent innovation. So, you’ll want to type groups, in a short time that excel at no matter you want completed. However you even have to present these groups authority, even when it means taking some danger.
In my job, I’ve 500,000 individuals to serve, 1,200 functions, and 10,000 individuals who march out and in of my store on an annual foundation. If I felt like I needed to contact the whole lot, I’d fail on the primary day. Constructing and empowering small groups of leaders, and main with storytelling, is the way you get velocity and movement.
What recommendation do you may have for empowering groups?
Take into consideration your breakage threshold. What sort of drawback are you unwilling to tolerate? What occurs if we carry down electronic mail and might’t talk with purchasers for a day? I reserve the fitting to take part actively in resolving that drawback due to the danger degree concerned. But when an issue is beneath my breakage threshold, then I let my individuals, who’re all very good, determine it out. My recommendation is to tolerate failure, however set that tolerance at a degree that does not put your online business in danger.
What are the competencies that you just search for in your senior crew?
The one sure factor about know-how is that what we use at this time shouldn’t be what we are going to use tomorrow. In my senior crew, I search for a mindset of flexibility, which not everybody has. In my interviews I assess the candidate’s willingness to rotate to the brand new and untried, whereas on the identical time defending our core programs.
The second competency stems from the truth that we dwell in a world of publicity and social media, the place individuals are at all times watching what you’re doing. Whenever you dwell on this world, and characterize your organization, you want an identifiable private model. I’m not speaking a couple of being an enormous shiny icon and writing loads of white papers. It’s about having the boldness in who you’re and speaking, in just a few easy phrases, your distinctive worth. My duty is to assist individuals acknowledge their private model and to make use of it as the inspiration of their confidence to steer.
What has your crew delivered lately that has had a big effect on Accenture’s staff and purchasers?
We put out a functionality referred to as ALICE (Accenture Authorized Clever Contract Exploration), which makes use of utilized intelligence and machine studying for pure language processing throughout all of our contracts. That is critically essential as a result of at Accenture contracts are the core of the whole lot we do. When you may have a software that enables your complete company — authorized, finance, or anyone else — to hunt out commonalities and parallel behaviors in contracts, throughout geographic markets and business segments, you set energy within the hand of your organization to learn to work extra successfully with purchasers. It sounds so mundane, nevertheless it’s actually transformational for us. We at the moment are ready to have a look at one in every of our Most worthy knowledge domains in a totally completely different mild.
[Editor’s be aware: Accenture received a 2020 CIO 100 award for its ALICE undertaking.]
What would you name out as key to your capability to ship ALICE?
ALICE was born as a result of our enterprise and IT leaders in any respect ranges, prime to backside, received in a room and requested, “How can we essentially change how our firm experiences this knowledge area?” We began with a clean sheet and ideated ALICE collectively. I didn’t must struggle upstream for any of it; we have been all dedicated to getting it completed. Christina Demetriades, normal counsel for Europe and our key sponsor, was superb in her storytelling about why we would have liked this answer. That partnership made all of the distinction in having the ability to get it to market quickly.
Along with crafting a private model, what’s your recommendation to future CIOs?
First, at all times practice your self to be relentlessly intellectually curious. Know-how modifications so quick that you just can’t be an professional in the whole lot, however you need to have an knowledgeable opinion about rising applied sciences. Nobody will inform you the reply. You must discover it by fixed curiosity. Construct that behavior now.
Second, enable the expertise of COVID to alter the way you relate to your colleagues. COVID has taught us to be actually human. When you may have a name with a enterprise accomplice and a child in a diaper runs by the room, it’s exhausting to take care of the formal facade of our pre-COVID days. Up-and-comers want to consider find out how to embrace that actually human interface. It has made a world of distinction to the standard of relationships that I’ve been capable of construct with my very own crew and enterprise sponsors.
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