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Alumnus Mike Sutcliff, MSM 1987, the group chief executive of Accenture Digital.
Alumnus Mike Sutcliff, MSM 1987, the group chief executive of Accenture Digital.

Alumni Profile: Degrees in Science and Business Are Winning Combination for Accenture's Sutcliff

As digital technology links things together in useful ways, it often imparts a high level of systemic complexity. This means that developing answers to difficult problems requires a new way of thinking, according to Georgia Tech alumnus Mike Sutcliff, the group chief executive of Accenture Digital, who holds a master’s in management from Scheller College of Business.

"We hire men and women all over the world from many different educational and cultural backgrounds because solving really hard, complex problems requires people who approach problems through different lenses," says Sutcliff, who joined Accenture in 1987.

He became a partner of the Global Fortune 500 multinational management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company in 1999.

Sutcliff was recently promoted to his current role, overseeing a team of consultants that helps public- and private-sector clients integrate digital technology into all facets of their organizations through Accenture's cloud, systems integration, enterprise application capabilities and global delivery network. Previously, he was senior managing director of Accenture’s Financial Services business in North America.

"We've also found that people with a good mix of skills, like you get from the Scheller College's degree programs, are invaluable because they act as bridges among all of the different participants who are trying to implement solutions," he adds.

One of the most interesting aspects of Sutcliff's job is his front-row seat to the profound transformational change enabled by digital technologies.

"It's occurring all over the world," he explains. "It’s not concentrated in a particular industry or particular geography.

"For very little investment you can start a new company with a global reach. You can experiment with new business models and fail without having spent much money. If you succeed, you can scale up without spending money ahead of your revenue curve,” he says.

“This is tremendously powerful for entrepreneurs who are trying to bring disruptive ideas to the market. It's also tremendously powerful for the very large, existing players because they can see an idea and move quickly to establish a new product or service in the market for a lot less money than they could have done even five years ago. Every one of our clients, from small startups to governments to the largest corporations in the world, are embracing digital capabilities as an opportunity to move faster and to be more innovative,” he adds.

"Digital technology truly opens up innovation to people with the best minds."

Growing up in Columbus, Ga., where his father served in the military at Ft. Benning, Sutcliff's affinity for science and engineering made Georgia Tech a logical choice. He earned a degree in electrical and computer engineering in 1985, and two years later received a master of science in management (now called the MBA) from Scheller College of Business.

It was while enrolled in the management program that he met his future wife, Susan Shingleton, MS MGT '87. The couple has two daughters: Catherine, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California, and Jane, who recently completed her freshman year at the University of Georgia.

"My engineering education has been foundational to my consulting career because it taught me how to work through problems in a disciplined way," says Sutcliff, a 27-year Roll Call contributor. "I think that's why a lot of engineers are successful consultants. Plus, they like the challenge of solving different problems every day. In the consulting business, oftentimes you don't know what's coming next."

Sutcliff says that his graduate work, blending quantitative and financial study with management theory, has proven an ideal background for his career.

"If you have a healthy balance between understanding the strategies and objectives that an organization is trying to execute, and the science of how to actually do those things, you become very valuable in an organization."

 

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