The role of chief information officer is evolving as companies put more focus on the individual customer. Andrew Wilson, CIO at Accenture, explains to CXOTalk how he’s becoming a “chief experience officer” with a focus on new IT platforms powered by AI and other new technologies.

“Experience is all around presenting information in a language and in a way which human beings recognize. We don’t need to create things that operate to serve the company. We need to think about how things are presented to an individual,” Wilson says. “How, with all of this information, knowledge, and creativity, can they stay current, relevant, learn, and be effective in this huge liquid state of new technologies?”

As chief information officer for Accenture, Wilson leads the global IT operations of a $28.6 billion company, including the infrastructure, services and applications for clients in more than 120 countries. Wilson ensures that Accenture is at the forefront of innovation as a digital business and is also responsible for end-to-end performance and service operations of Navitaire, which works together with Accenture to provide expertise and to deliver services for airlines in key operational and revenue generating areas.

This video was recorded at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018, as part of the SAP Select program for its largest customers. The focus of this event was Intelligent Enterprise.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: We are live from Sapphire Now 2018 in Orlando, Florida. I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. Right now, I have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Andrew Wilson, who is the chief information officer of Accenture. He's been a guest on CxOTalk before, so that makes it doubly fun. Andrew, how are you?

Andrew Wilson: Hello, Michael. It's really good to be back. Good to see you, my friend.

Michael Krigsman: Great to see you, too. Tell us about Accenture.

Andrew Wilson: Accenture is a global force in transformation and capability, helping our clients deal with all of the acceleration in the new technologies we see in the industry. Four hundred and fifty thousand digital workers globally, 5 businesses, 250 cities: it's a huge workforce that I have to keep productive, agile, liquid, and effective because their job is to help our clients transform with the new IT.

Michael Krigsman: Four hundred and fifty thousand digital workers. What are the things that you have on your mind?

Andrew Wilson: I think, since we last spoke, the role of the CIO and the job of delivering good IT has moved on significantly and it's still accelerating. My role really, I don't think, is just CIO anymore. I think I'm a chief experience officer. My focus is on delivering the right experience, both in work and out of it, for all of those workers, all of our clients, all of the business leaders, [and] all of the businesses, which I run. When it comes to technology, it sets a really high bar for me, and so that's really where we are right now.

Michael Krigsman: This focus on experience; would you elaborate on that for us?

Andrew Wilson: I think the experience theme really is the new digital for me. Experience is all around presenting information in a language and in a way which human beings recognize. We don't need to create things that operate to serve the company. We need to think about how things are presented to an individual. How does an individual see Accenture? How do they become attracted to the brand? How, with all of this information, knowledge, and creativity, can they stay current, relevant, learn, and be effective in this huge liquid state of new technologies?

Michael Krigsman: What are the components of this? You've described, so far, platform, data, technology services.

Andrew Wilson: I think the building blocks of effective new IT are different. Platforms, absolutely; software-as-a-service platforms; capabilities with strong roadmaps like SAP S4/HANA, which we're talking about this week: those are key to an IT strategy and a business strategy that can deliver at the speed of the new.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like your perspective is very clearly one through the outcomes, the expectations of your clients, stakeholders, and employees as opposed to looking at all of this through a technology or a systems view.

Andrew Wilson: Yes. I think the under the hood of the technology in the systems, it's important for capability, maturity, scale, and security. But, the agenda and the dialog cannot start there. We must speak in the language of the business.

The next part of the journey has to be preemptive because the enterprise needs to move at speed. We're talking about acceleration, agile, speed, and it's never going to be as slow as this again. You hear that a lot nowadays, but it's true. The CIO, the chief experience officer, or the chief digital officer, whatever the title is, that transformational leadership gene needs to be able to preempt the next stage.

Michael Krigsman: Your footprint and your view is so far broader than, historically, the traditional CIO role. How does this dovetail or intersection with keeping systems going?

Andrew Wilson: Keeping services going is still important, but I'm brokering and providing those services leveraging other platform providers and cloud. That part of the role still exists, so it doesn't replace that, but it augments

Michael Krigsman: We are live from Sapphire Now 2018 in Orlando, Florida. I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. Right now, I have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Andrew Wilson, who is the chief information officer of Accenture. He's been a guest on CxOTalk before, so that makes it doubly fun. Andrew, how are you?

Andrew Wilson: Hello, Michael. It's really good to be back. Good to see you, my friend.

Michael Krigsman: Great to see you, too. Tell us about Accenture.

Andrew Wilson: Accenture is a global force in transformation and capability, helping our clients deal with all of the acceleration in the new technologies we see in the industry. Four hundred and fifty thousand digital workers globally, 5 businesses, 250 cities: it's a huge workforce that I have to keep productive, agile, liquid, and effective because their job is to help our clients transform with the new IT.

Michael Krigsman: Four hundred and fifty thousand digital workers. What are the things that you have on your mind?

Andrew Wilson: I think, since we last spoke, the role of the CIO and the job of delivering good IT has moved on significantly and it's still accelerating. My role really, I don't think, is just CIO anymore. I think I'm a chief experience officer. My focus is on delivering the right experience, both in work and out of it, for all of those workers, all of our clients, all of the business leaders, [and] all of the businesses, which I run. When it comes to technology, it sets a really high bar for me, and so that's really where we are right now.

Michael Krigsman: This focus on experience; would you elaborate on that for us?

Andrew Wilson: I think the experience theme really is the new digital for me. Experience is all around presenting information in a language and in a way which human beings recognize. We don't need to create things that operate to serve the company. We need to think about how things are presented to an individual. How does an individual see Accenture? How do they become attracted to the brand? How, with all of this information, knowledge, and creativity, can they stay current, relevant, learn, and be effective in this huge liquid state of new technologies?

Michael Krigsman: What are the components of this? You've described, so far, platform, data, technology services.

Andrew Wilson: I think the building blocks of effective new IT are different. Platforms, absolutely; software-as-a-service platforms; capabilities with strong roadmaps like SAP S4/HANA, which we're talking about this week: those are key to an IT strategy and a business strategy that can deliver at the speed of the new.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like your perspective is very clearly one through the outcomes, the expectations of your clients, stakeholders, and employees as opposed to looking at all of this through a technology or a systems view.

Andrew Wilson: Yes. I think the under the hood of the technology in the systems, it's important for capability, maturity, scale, and security. But, the agenda and the dialog cannot start there. We must speak in the language of the business.

The next part of the journey has to be preemptive because the enterprise needs to move at speed. We're talking about acceleration, agile, speed, and it's never going to be as slow as this again. You hear that a lot nowadays, but it's true. The CIO, the chief experience officer, or the chief digital officer, whatever the title is, that transformational leadership gene needs to be able to preempt the next stage.

Michael Krigsman: Your footprint and your view is so far broader than, historically, the traditional CIO role. How does this dovetail or intersection with keeping systems going?

Andrew Wilson: Keeping services going is still important, but I'm brokering and providing those services leveraging other platform providers and cloud. That part of the role still exists, so it doesn't replace that, but it augments it heavily. Whereas before I would work for a business reporting team delivering technology, I now am the insight team, so I have to be able to orchestrate.

I have to be able to understand what AI is ready for primetime, how I raise AI, how I decommission the old; how I switch things off. Switching things off is as important as switching things on. If you want to stay lean and effective in a net new position rather than just having lots of shadow IT or shadow data, which is of a greater concern for me in the new enterprise.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds to me like you're a kind of harbinger of the future of the CIO role because I don't think that there are many CIOs who have embraced the breadth of what you have in terms of experience. But, in general, I think the CIO role is probably evolving, as you've described it.

Andrew Wilson: Well, thank you. I do think it is our role and duty, in the ecosystem, to actually provide that North Star, to provide that type of thinking. Accenture's role, in the industry, is to integrate platforms and to deliver transformational change. It's really important that we do that to ourselves.

Michael Krigsman: What are some of the challenges of covering such a broad area?

Andrew Wilson: When we move fast, and when things are so new, things that are a challenge are the scale, the speed. You can't wait to be even a fast follower. Who are you following? In the new, you need to be the group that is being followed. We also have to make some judgment calls and place some bets because there's a lot of choice out there.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew, I know that workforce diversity is very important to Accenture. In addition to all of the things that you've just been describing, you're very involved in that effort as well.

Andrew Wilson: Yes, thank you, and the global Pride at Accenture sponsor, which is the community which recognizes, celebrates, and looks after our LGBTQ community. That's quite a broad and diverse group in its own right. I'm a gay man as well, and so I believe passionately in wanting to support tolerance, inclusion, and diversity in our culture. It's absolutely vital and core to our talent strategy.

In our talent strategy, we need to attract and retain all forms of diverse talent. There isn't enough good talent in the world for everything we need to do.

Michael Krigsman: Happy employees ultimately means very satisfied customers.

Andrew Wilson: I believe so.

Michael Krigsman: Is a big part of your role actually asking questions?

Andrew Wilson: We ask a lot of questions, we listen a lot, and we encourage thinking about the future in a way that's different to what your functional requirements are, and I'm going to write them down. I think, as we look forward, what will happen next, we have several more chapters of the interface of man and machine. I think about augmentation in terms of the human, who will never be replaced, but the job continues to change; how we curate intelligence; how we surface insight alongside data, but where we do not obfuscate the data because that insight has to develop. We have to raise AI as if it were children because that's exactly what it is. We've moved a long way from building systems with waterfall, setting up functional requirements, and running things with SLAs.

Our relationship with SAP is mission critical and sits hand in glove with our relationship with Microsoft. The SAP platform running on Azure cloud powered by the integration and the experience of Accenture is our market proposition, and it powers Accenture already. We are one of the largest and newest in the world. Most CIOs cannot put their hand up and say, "I'm in production on S4/HANA at this scale and this degree of newness." I'm proud to say we can, and I'm proud to say it works. There's a richness in what's going to happen in the next two or three years, which I'm very excited about.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew Wilson, thank you so much.

Andrew Wilson: Thank you.