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From IBM To Avanade Canada


May 29, 2015  


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It turned out to be a career move Jeff Gilchrist simply could not turn down. IBM Canada Ltd. certainly would have remained a safe haven for this executive – he had been with the firm’s Global Business Services unit for 11+ years and responsible for its Communications Sector when he left – but a return to a more consulting role appealed to him.

“It was an interesting opportunity,” says Gilchrist of his decision to leave IBM and join Avanade in November 2014 as head of its Canadian operating unit.

Avanade was founded in 2000 as the joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft and currently has 22,000 professionals in 20+ countries. It is system integrator/consulting organization – Accenture is now the majority owner, but with an obvious Microsoft bent.

Apart from the fact he was familiar with the consulting firm, having worked there in a past life when it was known as Arthur Andersen and was impressed with the “pedigree” of both organizations, there was another reason.

“I have been in the IT professional services area for most of my career,” he says. “I always felt it was challenging to address large clients, but not enterprise-size (organizations with revenues in excess of $1 billion) in Canada. When you work for an IBM or Accenture, it can be tough to deal with them even though they are substantive-size companies.

“I have never really seen an example of how any of these organizations have figured out a way to deal with the $100 million-$1 billion-size companies very effectively. They are just not set up. IBM is really good with a Royal Bank, for example, or a Bell Canada, part of my previous client set.

“It is the middle space that is our sweet spot and where we focus.”

An example of that is Tridel, an industry leader in condominium development, which recently ripped out its “aging” enterprise resource planning system. According to Tridel CIO Ted Maulucci, the ERP system was not “tuned to how our company is set up. We needed to achieve compliance across our organization and find a system that would help us deal with the challenges of cross-company accounting.”

Avanade implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX on the ERP side as well as Microsoft Dymanics CRM, which contains social, mobile, analytic, reporting and advanced capabilities.

“The process of purchasing a condo unit that has not yet been built doesn’t happen overnight – it can take up to three years from the time a customer invests in a unit to the date they move in – and a lot of information is accumulated along the way,” Tridel stated in a case study. “Customer care workers did not have a 360-degree view of customers and communication tracking was inefficient.”

Gilchrist describes Avanade as a system integration consultancy that focuses in on three areas: large infrastructure upgrades, Microsoft Dynamic installations such as what took place at Tridel, and finally, collaboration. In other words, “making employees more effective in how they communicate with each other.”

He points to Avanade’s way of operating via tools such as SharePoint, One Notes and Skype for Business (formerly known as Microsoft Lync) as examples of this new reality.

“The family room and the living room are coming to the corporate boardroom in terms of communication. I would hypothesize that (Skype for Business) is an example of that. It is becoming more and more expected. The number of times I have used a handheld since arriving here might be five. I am not on a mobile either. I use a soft phone through my PC.

“My heritage is the telecommunications industry. I have spent a lot of time in that space. Those organizations are basically having to come to grips with the fact there is a sea change occurring here and they have to figure out how to play in this space.”

As for the cloud, he says there continues to be a lot of interest and discussion, which reflects results of a recent Avanade study that showed hybrid cloud adoption moving from “hype to reality and reaching a tipping point for adoption within three years.”

The study noted that hybrid cloud solutions represent an opportunity for “IT to align itself with C-suite priorities, delivering strategic value to the business in a secure and properly governed manner.”


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