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June 10, 2010

Avanade’s CIO: No reason to go outside the Microsoft catalogue

No room for Google, open source or even Oracle

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Couldn’t help it. Faced with the prospect of talking to a CIO who swears his global business is top to bottom, soup to nuts Microsoft-only technology, your correspondent could not resist cheekily asking, "So – no place for GoogleMail?"

We’re glad to be able to report that the CIO in question – Chris Miller, internal IT leader at Avanade, the Accenture-Microsoft JV – has a sense of humour and laughed like a gale. "Nope, nor will we be looking at anything from Oracle, either," he joked back.

Being in charge of IT at an IT company is, of course, a post that probably demands a bit of a sense of the absurd: "I have ten thousand guys here who all think they can do my job better than me," as he points out.

Indeed, cheerfulness abounds at Avanade all round. The firm says business is very strong, with its 10,000 consultants all busily engaged with helping clients worldwide. "Business has really picked up for us in the last six months, as our clients are starting to reinvest in IT to capitalise on an economic recovery," he told CBR. Indeed, Miller is convinced that the general CIO agenda of the day is very positive, too – of which more anon.

How do you get to be the CIO of Avanade? Work for Accenture for a most of your career, basically. Miller took the head of IT spot at the firm in January after a long stint in one of its parents, moving in the course of his time with the consulting giant from custom system development for clients all the way to a senior position in its own internal technology function.

Part of CBR’s interest in talking to Miller was to get his view on the limits, if any, of Microsoft in the enterprise. Lots of firms are Microsoft shops, of course – but it was still interesting to probe claims that there are no gaps in ‘Big Green”s tech stack. Miller says the firm is keen on everything its co-parent does, with recent moves to look at Azure (MSFT’s Cloud), Business Productivity Online Suite (its online collaboration product set) and widespread use of SharePoint.

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Miller claims his users want even more, in fact – something we got the impression his team sometimes struggles to cope with: "We are always being asked to push us right to the forefront of Microsoft’s product releases, which is great if you have a willingness to sometimes cope with a little adversity," as he puts it.

A case in point is the latest version of Office, Office 2010, which Microsoft has been positioning as not so much a Google/Open Office killer but as ‘collaboration-in-a-box’. Miller, roundly, agrees. "It’s very impressive to see social networking and collaboration functionality going mainstream so easily with that product and I have no problem calling it less a product suite and more of a platform," he told us.

But what to do with all that collaboration if you are not a global IT services firm? Miller is convinced that the onus for the CIO in any and all organisations is to use collaboration as a way to get out of the box marked ‘all I do is cut costs’.

"Coming out of the Tech Bubble, we spent two or three years as CIOs only cutting costs and a lot of CIOs still seem to be thinking that is their major task. I think that’s wrong," he says. "This is in fact an ideal time to be a CIO and get out of that, as the rest of the business – certainly in the clients we work for – are coming to the CIO and asking for ways to gear up the operation to take advantage of the recovery. That is also, genuinely, what my peers are telling me they are being asked to do, too."

It’s a powerfully optimistic message – and we do of course hope that he’s right. What is certain is that Avanade, like its parent firms (Accenture is also very committed to the Microsoft way of doing things), is convinced there is no need for anything like open source or Google products in its operation.

It may indeed be up to the non-MSFT camp to argue why that is in any way a questionable position, we have to note.

 

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