Biting the Bullet on IT Investment
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Most of Accenture's applications are Web-accessible. Why is that important?
Our philosophy around applications is anytime, anywhere access. Our people can work at our clients' sites, at a hotel, at an office, at home, so we architected all our applications to be Web-accessible. There are some workstation-based applications that aren't technically Web-based, although many of those will be up for replacement over time. One of them, our time and expense application, is in the crosshairs. We're starting a project on that. That's probably the largest used, non-Web app. I'd be hard-pressed to name a second because they've all been replaced and moved to the Web.
Does making your apps Web-accessible suggest a move toward more use of Software as a Service?
SaaS is a great opportunity in the right circumstance. It's like anything: Just because you have a hammer doesn't mean everything is a nail. But SaaS is a very important hammer.
Look at recruiting as one example. Recruiting is a very encapsulated business process. Somebody applies, they're evaluated and a decision is made on whether to hire or not. It's a serial process with a discrete beginning and end, and then there's only really one interface to be done. When we looked at alternatives to consolidate our 40 recruiting systems, SaaS met our functional needs. Though there was some configuration, we could deploy the app faster because we didn't have to acquire the hardware, install the software.
Still, don't circumstances exist when you need to customize such applications?
With packaged software and SaaS, you generally want to take what they offer. You want to leverage the intellectual investment and capital of the greater organizations using the technology. You don't want to fall victim to getting off that track by having too many customizations. The vendors provide some level of configuration and you want to take advantage of that.
You might go back to them and say, "Your software does these five functions but doesn't do this sixth one. I might invest in you to write that functionality, or I might be the seed user, if you will include it in the base product." That gets attractive; there's a synergistic relationship. What you don't want to do is say, "Hey, I like your system, but modify these three places." They respond, "Well, no one else wants it that way." Now you're on this fork of code, which is really very negative.