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Protocol | Enterprise
Your guide to the future of enterprise computing, every Monday and Thursday.
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Argano seeks to challenge consulting’s Big Four

​The Big Four consulting firms dominate downtown business districts. Argano hopes to challenge them.

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Monday: a new consulting agency is born, ServiceNow preps for war with Salesforce and Oracle's messy PR.

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The Big Story

Challenging the Big Four

Big consulting agencies like Accenture, Deloitte and PwC have long served as key partners to help customers deploy complicated enterprise software from the likes of Oracle and SAP.

But as the mandate to digitize operations expands well beyond just the world's biggest companies, some top names in the consulting and private equity worlds are gearing up to challenge that dominance and plug what they believe is a big hole in the market.

Enter Argano, a new consulting company led by former Sapient co-CEO Chip Register and backed by private equity group Trinity Hunt Partners. (Publicis bought Sapient in 2014 to create the giant advisory firm Publicis Sapient.)

  • In Register's view, those consulting giants have gotten too large and become "staffing agencies masquerading as true business partners."
  • Those companies also tend to go after the big corporations with annual revenues well into the billions of dollars. That's made their services largely unattainable for smaller companies, many that are also eager to go digital but don't have the expertise to do it alone.
  • "I'm tired of selling people X hours at X rates," Register told Protocol. "That doesn't create the right incentives, that doesn't create the right value."
  • And the focus for Argano will be on helping customers improve the tech foundation that supports all of the key operations across the enterprise, what Register refers to as the digital operating platform.
  • "This is the world's first purpose-built firm that's taking on the digital operating platform as an idea," said Register. "It's a very focused idea. But it's one where … it's hard to find people who are really good at it."

To build Argano, Trinity Hunt Partners purchased three service providers: InterRel Consulting, Keste and United Virtualities. It declined to disclose the price tag. And more acquisitions are on the way, said Register.

  • Each one serves a unique purpose: InterRel is a close Oracle partner, Keste is an enterprise software consulting firm and United Virtualities is a boutique advisor focused on Salesforce Commerce Cloud. The combination gives Argano the ability to assist in foundational operations like sales, analytics and order management.
  • Individually, it was harder for those firms to compete with Accenture or Deloitte because they didn't offer the same breadth of services.
  • Together, however, Register believes they can help address the most immediate areas that companies are struggling with in their digital overhauls.

Argano will focus on cloud migrations. Its consultants will look at an organization's expansive application suite, consisting of products like ERPs and human resource management systems, move them to the cloud and integrate them together to improve the most essential business processes, like supply chain and financial management.

  • Integration is a top priority for companies today, given the potential for efficiency gains and other benefits once applications are linked and data becomes easier to transfer between. It's why many SaaS providers are now investing in putting their own systems onto one operating platform.
  • But it can also be extremely difficult, particularly if the applications aren't built on modern infrastructure. And that's likely the case for many enterprises.
  • "There are certain things that are easier about integrating in the cloud, but there are certain things that are actually harder," said Register. "Where the magic comes is when you get all those different functions speaking together over that single source of data truth."
  • Enterprises have been spending time on tools that help generate demand and touch the consumer — which is great, but it means they've been neglecting their technological foundation.
  • "The issue has been that there is a gap where the digital experience platform shot off running and loads of investment went in it," he said. "There's a bunch of work that it takes to move the digital operating platform to the place where it's an actual enabler of innovation as opposed to an albatross."

The challenger certainly has some heavyweights behind it. And as more businesses look to improve their tech stacks, there will certainly be a need for more outside advisors beyond the large consulting giants. But the concept of creating a more robust digital operating platform isn't necessarily new.

And it's also a costly endeavor, a quandary that providers like SAP are struggling with as they look to convince some skeptical customers that it's worth the investment to upgrade to the latest software. Still, if Accenture's stock price is an indication, the demand for experts in this field is definitely robust.

— Joe Williams

A MESSAGE FROM LINODE

DevOps and the Alternative Cloud provides insight into the capabilities and priorities developers expect from cloud infrastructure providers. In a market where hyperscalers dominate, a small band of alternative cloud providers — which includes DigitalOcean, Hetzner, Linode, and OVHcloud — is having an outsized impact.

Learn more

This Week On Protocol

The great SaaS reordering: ServiceNow is expanding beyond IT and picking up new rivals along the way. One of the biggest is Salesforce, which is also making a push to become the platform that supports work across the enterprise. But ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott isn't worried and believes the company's approach of one platform with one data architecture will be the differentiator. Still, ServiceNow told employees it would stop using Slack after Salesforce acquired it.

Five Questions For...

Emil Eifrem, CEO, Neo4j

What was your first tech job?

I created an internet game at age 14 with a co-founder I met while playing MUD (multi-user dungeon) games in the early 1990s. It was actually one of the early online internet games, a text-based game in the MUD genre called "Prophecy MUD," based on a fantasy book series by David Eddings. The game had a couple of hundred players, which at the time was a big chunk of internet users. To this day, I encounter Neo4j customers who used to play the game.

What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting their first tech job?

I would advise anyone starting out in tech to surround themselves with the smartest and most well-intentioned people they can find. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and as we spend most of our lives at work, you should find a role where you can optimize how many amazing people you have around you.

What was the first computer that made you realize the power of computing and connectivity?

My first computer was my 386 with a monochrome screen that I used to connect via a USRobotics modem in the early '90s. I had Linux installed in 1993 and felt like I wasn't just surfing the internet, I was part of the internet.

What will be the biggest challenge for cloud computing over the coming decade?

The biggest challenge in cloud computing will be reaching the trifecta of (1) productive, low friction tooling that (2) maintains multi-cloud hybrid on and off-prem independence from the underlying substrate while (3) addressing privacy and regulatory concerns. All of this is possible in theory, but building modern apps seamlessly spanning (multiple) clouds in a productive way is still a lofty goal. Figuring out how to achieve it in a way that doesn't expose user data and complies with laws will be vital.

What is one book that changed your professional mindset?

"Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink provided me with a framework for understanding the role of mastery, autonomy and purpose in motivation. Rewards that are based solely on financial incentives actually lead to mediocrity and stifle creativity – and in our line of work, everything is creative.As a leader, this book helped me to build an organization that prioritizes giving people the ability to master their profession, set clear goals and get there autonomously.

Around the Enterprise

A MESSAGE FROM LINODE

DevOps and the Alternative Cloud provides insight into the capabilities and priorities developers expect from cloud infrastructure providers. In a market where hyperscalers dominate, a small band of alternative cloud providers — which includes DigitalOcean, Hetzner, Linode, and OVHcloud — is having an outsized impact.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Thursday.

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