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Q&A: Avanade's CEO weighs in on Microsoft, open-source, ODF

Mitch Hill also doesn't see software-as-a-service as a threat

By Eric Lai
July 17, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Avanade Inc., the Seattle-based systems integrator formed in 2000 by Accenture Inc. and Microsoft Corp. -- which still own a majority of the company -- has 3,000 consultants that work exclusively in Microsoft technologies. Nearly three quarters of Avanade's revenue is derived from enterprise IT work done on behalf of Accenture or Microsoft, and that revenue has grown steadily over the past six years. Privately held Avanade, which files SEC reports because of its large number of employee shareholders, is on track this year to report about a half-billion dollars in revenue and its third profitable year. With that backdrop, Computerworld recently spoke with Avanade co-founder and CEO Mitch Hill on a variety of IT topics. Excerpts from that interview follow:

What's on the minds of the CIOs you talk to today? A lot of the discussions I have [are] around predictability of delivery. Our industry has evolved from the late 1990s so that providers like Avanade are really expected to deliver on projects. From a Microsoft point of view, there's a lot coming. We help them sort out what they should really think about this year, what they should push out until 2007, what they should push out 'til 2008.

So, when do you think companies should be moving to Windows Vista or Office 2007? I think Vista is immensely impressive, regardless of how the scope has changed over the years. There hasn't been a platform like this introduced since the AS/400 minicomputer from IBM 20 years ago. I'm most impressed by the Windows Workflow Foundation framework. People used to spend a lot of money on things like Tibco. Look at what it means to have this functionality built into the server. It will allow us to do workflow very pervasively. It's a big deal. I also like the SharePoint part of Office. Things like wikis will be embedded into the platform. You'll have tools to manage what is on the Internet and unmanaged today.

But my view is, don't get too excited about them. In other words, should you rush to get some mission-critical app onto Vista by the middle of next year? No, I don't think so.

Gartner says that CIOs need to think like biz-dev folks and generate ideas that make money for the company. Agree? Every company ultimately wants to be more profitable, whether it be from raising productivity, driving costs out or offering new services. For anyone in technology, it's more fun to talk about raising top-line revenue. Southwest Airline's Ding [a Web-based service built by Avanade that notifies customers of last-minute deals] is a great example of that. Southwest expects to make $30 million in revenue this year from it. If I'm a CIO who comes up with those kinds of ideas, the business is going to value me more.

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