Cisco, Accenture Launch Joint Services Play

The pair of companies has formed the Accenture & Cisco Business Group, which will design, build and run a portfolio of solutions that integrate unified communications (UC) and collaboration tools into multiple applications across customers' network infrastructure. The group is a cross-company initiative for supporting sales, marketing, customer engagement and solution development. The group comprises staff and resources from both companies as a virtual organization.

"Network-embedded business processes can further improve enterprise performance," said Andre Hughes, Accenture's managing director, adding that the Cisco/Accenture partnership aims to help customers reduce operations costs, manage complex consolidations and strengthen global competition while wrapping business processes into the network.

According to Hughes, the pairing will give customers access to New York-based Accenture's understanding of how technology affects people and business processes and Cisco's expertise in advanced and emerging technologies, like collaboration and data center virtualizations. The initiative is designed to help large enterprises improve how their dispersed workforces communicate and collaborate with co-workers, employees, partners and suppliers across a wide range of industries, regardless of whether the customer has contracts with Cisco or Accenture for services.

"There's a huge opportunity to improve productivity and reduce costs," Hughes said. "You really have the opportunity to change the paradigm."

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The Accenture/Cisco mash-up aims to help companies eliminate technology and process barriers by offering strategy and architecture design and implementation services that integrate Accenture's and Cisco's collaboration services and technologies, such as UC, Cisco WebEx collaboration and Cisco TelePresence with customers' core business processes and technology platforms.

Hughes said both Accenture and San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco bring unique but complementary skills to the table. Cisco delivers its vast technological knowledge, while Accenture brings the ability to integrate business processes and people. Forming one team, which will work as a virtual organization, will accelerate the speed to value for customers, Hughes said.

"We're able to bring solutions that neither of us could bring alone," Hughes said.

Hans Hwang, Cisco's vice president of advanced services, added that the true goal is to "tie companies' infrastructure goals to their business goals."

The first three solutions to come out of the Accenture & Cisco Business Group are customer contact transformation solutions, UC and collaboration solutions, and infrastructure transformation solutions.

The customer contact transformation solutions will help companies win and retain customers by offering a customer service experience that sets them apart from other organizations. The solutions tie together expertise in CRM, analytics, workflow performance and hiring software applications with intelligent customer-contact collaboration solutions that can improve agent agility and streamline processes. The customer contact solutions blend Accenture's CRM insights and capabilities with Cisco's communications technologies, enabling agents to leverage e-mail, instant messaging and video to give customers more ways to interact with a company while optimizing contact queuing, minimizing hold times and maximizing agent effectiveness.

The UC and collaboration solutions include services tailored to a company's unique environment to create new ways of doing business and leverage a sustainable competitive advantage. The solutions combine an understanding of a client's business processes, IT architecture and how users adapt to technology. The goal is to help customers collaborate and accelerate decision-making and improve operational performance. The solutions integrate collaborative technologies like Cisco TelePresence, Cisco WebEx, Grapevine, Expert Locator and Whitespace.

Last, infrastructure transformation solutions combine Accenture's business-process experts' capabilities and Cisco's networking prowess to help companies optimize their network and data center infrastructures to boost the performance of mission-critical applications and reduce risks. The solutions are the foundation to building productivity-enhancing applications such as secure virtual conferencing and collaboration as companies move to a virtualized enterprise. The solutions involve establishing a strategy, mapping network initiatives to business value, creating a network blueprint, including sourcing options, identifying key performance indicators and configuring the infrastructure for optimal performance.

"These solutions are about increasing operational efficiency and achieving business objectives," Hwang said.

And according to Hughes, the first three solutions to stem from the Accenture & Cisco Business Group are just a start. More will come throughout the year.

"You will hear about an ongoing line of solutions we will bring together to the marketplace," he said.