How cloud platforms build the business of experience

Accenture Managing Director Maya Agaskar discusses how a platform-based approach and the business of experience can aid digital transformation journeys.

For enterprises aiming to build a better user experience, it goes without saying these days to look to the cloud.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s for customers, employees, or partners. Or whether your enterprise is just beginning its cloud journey or is looking to evolve a hybrid or multi-cloud environment.

A cloud platform that can support a layered approach, including a flexible end-user experience, is the key ingredient. With it, enterprises can architect their digital transformation goals.

For the final episode of the third season of the Network Disrupted podcast, Accenture Managing Director Maya Agaskar chatted with host and BlueCat Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Wertkin. Agaskar leads Accenture customers through the digital transformation and architecting experience.

Together, Agaskar and Wertkin discussed how customers vary in their digital journeys. They also explored why the platform-thinking model used by tech giants is so effective. Further, they delved into how Accenture helps its customers use platforms to build “the business of experience.”

From sophisticated digital pipelines to not yet in the cloud

Accenture’s customers are in various stages of maturity on their digital journey.

Some, Agaskar says, already have data centralized and sophisticated development platforms in place. They have innovation pipelines that run in parallel with multiple application development pipelines. Their workforce is reorganized into service-oriented teams. Further, they have specialized talent that they can bring together to drive innovation or development for short periods of time.

Meanwhile, other Accenture customers aren’t yet in the cloud.

Those customers, she says, have found that shifting to digital products and value-added services is challenging in a traditional infrastructure environment.

“They don’t have the skills. But beyond that, they don’t even have the technology capabilities to be able to support some of the work they want to do,” she says. “If you’re a utility company and you are still on a physical backend server in a data center, it makes it awfully hard to have a customer-facing portal where a customer can come in and see their bill and pay it online.”

Much like James Stanger is seeing high demand for IT training in areas like cloud and automation, organizations need the necessary technology, talent, and organizational structure to transform. Otherwise, the barriers to something as simple as online bill paying can be difficult to surmount.

“A portal requires the integration of all of that customer data and all of that internal data and all of that financial and billing data. Much of which, oftentimes, is in backend systems, which in many companies, historically, it’s been siloed,” she says.

“On the other end of the spectrum, again, we work with customers that have actually gotten to the point where they are able to rapidly evolve potential value-added services and test them in the market.”

The platform model

For enterprises seeking to advance their digital journey, looking to tech titans like Amazon or Google can offer some clues on how to get there. Certainly, they are effective largely because they operate with a platform-thinking approach and serve as a “connector,” Agaskar says.

These titans serve as the “glue” between potential customers and third-party companies who leverage the technology to expand their own products and services.

“You have this, almost, circular economy where you have customers coming to Google to consume something that they like,” she says. “And you are providing a ready market for other companies who are developing other innovations to be able to develop their products and services on that platform.”

The result? Breakneck growth.

“Think about it as your product scaling itself. You are allowing other people to build on top of the foundation that you have created,” Agaskar continues. “That allows you to, almost, again, be the glue, but also create a much larger market because you’re reselling products and services that you’re not having to create or invest in.”

Furthermore, Wertkin notes that internal IT teams largely take the same approach.

Traditionally, enterprise IT services were project-based. A business unit submitted its requirements to IT. Then, IT was responsible for selecting, purchasing, and deploying the solution and meeting any service-level agreements.

Today, he says, business units are largely on the hook to build the value themselves using a technology platform that IT provides for them to innovate on. As IT has moved from a project-focused organization to a platform-focused one, business units can become self-sufficient revenue generators.

“Success is people madly using this platform to build and build and build. Because now they’re connected to revenue versus contractual value,” Wertkin says.

Building ‘the business of experience’

A large part of what Agaskar does is to help Accenture’s customers use platforms to build an improved experience layer for their own employees or customers. Accenture calls it “the business of experience.”

You don’t always have to be in the business of platforms to be using a platform.

Building an effective experience layer requires seamless access to all sorts of backend data systems, she notes. For some enterprises, that may mean shifting their internal IT systems to a different platform to accommodate this layered approach.

DevSecOps, data, and experience layers

To better serve its customers, partners, and employees, an enterprise needs a DevSecOps layer, a data processing layer, and then an experience layer on top of it.

Certainly, some clients come to Accenture with very specific goals for their experience layer. For example, it might be to revamp their entire employee experience. Or to create a business-to-business sales channel.

On the other hand, sometimes they have a need but no idea where to begin.

For example, Agaskar recalls a power company that needed a single-page application for customers to pay their bills or resolve a payment default. The limitation, however, was that most of their customer data rested in SAP.

“You couldn’t build your experience directly on the SAP backend. Or, you could, but it would be extremely expensive. It would be extremely brittle. The testing of it added huge overhead,” she recalls. “They’re looking at decoupling those monolithic backend systems from this lighter experience layer, this lighter analytics layer. So that you have this flexible layer on top that can interface via APIs into your SAP or your Oracle backend. And you can customize your experience with much greater frequency than you touch the backend.”

The solution: APIs and microservices

Ultimately, Agaskar says, open APIs and microservices can serve as the plumbing between the old and the new.

“You have this massive ERP system, which is your slow pace. And then you have an experience layer, analytics layer, on top of it that can be much more nimble and flexible,” she says. “And you can change with much greater regularity to evolve or flex to your customers’ changing needs.”

To hear more from Maya Agaskar, listen to her full episode on the Network Disrupted podcast below.

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Rebekah Taylor is a former journalist turned freelance writer and editor who has been translating technical speak into prose for more than two decades. Her first job in the early 2000s was at a small start-up called VMware. She holds degrees from Cornell University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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