Tech, transformation and the art of orchestration

When it was announced in the summer of 2023 that our firm had added a new role to our Country Leadership Team—Technology and Transformation (T&T) Leader—we at the blog were a little bit…um…well, we wondered, “What exactly is a Tech & Transfo Leader? If we are being honest, we know what technology is and we know what transformation is, but we didn’t precisely understand the importance when you put the two together. 

In this blog, we are going to take you on the same journey we travelled ourselves to discover as much as we could about T&T in our organisation and what is driving organisations to transform in general. 

We also tried to grasp why, when transforming successfully in our “modern times”, organisations need to combine brilliant ideas and human understanding with powerful technologies to be successful and sustainable. 

In their journey, organisations need to establish their T&T ambitions and priorities, ensure that the transformation is well governed and then develop standard building blocks for the service and operating model following defined guiding principles to achieve efficiency gains and reduce operational risks. 

Think of it as writing a symphony, one that is very complex, but can only be perfected in its final and beautiful form when all the talented people of the orchestra using the right instruments at the right time are properly conducted. 

That is where the T&T Leader comes in. And to help us with this blog, we spoke with our own T&T Leader Olivier Carré for some guidance. 

Where did it all begin? 

Where is ground zero for all this talk about transformation? It’s hard to put an exact finger on an exact year or date because organisations have had to adapt to changing times and technologies since, well, forever. 

These are the disruptive forces that changed the course of an organisation’s, country’s or the planet’s history (and let’s face it, we are already planning on changing the universe’s history). We can name a fascinating few disruptions (if you want to go down a really great rabbit hole, we recommend The 85 Most Disruptive Ideas in Our History):

  • 1937: Robert Mayall patents an erasable “white blackboard” (we are still using this, but now often in a digital format); 
  • 1976: JVC introduces the HR-3300 video-cassette recorder (those of us old enough to know what happened there!);
  • 1998: Electronic trading venues become rivals to traditional stock exchanges (eliminating the need for exchanges to be physical places);
  • 2007: Apple releases the first iPhone (ask a Gen Z what life is like without one);
  • The dawn of digitalisation. (This is a really tough one. Some specialists say it started as far back as 1679 when Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed the first-ever binary system. Forbes puts it around 1950 in their Very Short History of Digitisation. Definitely a polarising enough topic for another blog.) 

For the purposes of this blog, however, we are mainly focussing on the post-COVID period and how the world emerged vastly different coming out of the pandemic than it looked going in. The digital transformation had already begun, but now organisations have to deal with new ways of working, ever more complex compliance, client, customer and employee transformation, and the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) revolution. 

The point is, there is no stopping progress. Organisations in the past either adapted (transformed) to new ideas, technologies and ways of working or they died. What is new is the pace and scale of change, and it all started with digitalisation. 

Now organisations have to keep up with clients’ expectations and technologies at an accelerated pace, and that means embracing new tools, continuously upskilling employees and exploiting data to understand markets and trends. 

Well, to quote Mark Twain, “The secret to making progress is to get started”. And now is the time to get started if you haven’t already. 

But remember, if you don’t want this particular and all-important symphony to become a cacophony, you need all the things necessary to make sweet music—that main conductor, a mastery of structure and orchestration, harmony, a talented orchestra (good people) with the best instruments at hand and sheet music (a strategy) to follow, and a rich expertise in developing ideas.

Physician, heal thyself

As is normally the case with our firm, to guide other organisations through a process, we have to first undergo it ourselves and that is what Olivier’s role is all about. As he says, “My role is really twofold and I’m currently prioritising the following objectives:

  • Understanding clients’ business needs and ensuring that operational set-ups and solutions are available to support them across all lines of services;
  • Operationalising technological changes within PwC Luxembourg and ensuring that the usage of the digital technologies and innovations drives efficiency and quality of service.” 

Olivier continues that, “For us, there is a clear link between technology, transformation and the organisation’s priorities. A lot of this coincides with the industry focus we have on—and specifically the way we want to transform towards—new ways of working and new technologies, as a firm but also from a service offering and client viewpoint.”  

What are the main priorities for transformation within our Firm?

Using ourselves as the case study, we first defined our vision as a firm as aiming to be the most impactful, dynamic and trusted professional services partnership in Luxembourg and beyond its borders. We have a very ambitious growth and transformation strategy that works alongside our sustainability strategy. This means first and foremost remaining a leader and role model in our key markets and continuing to attract and build the resources and expertise to support that ambition.

Put simply, we need to be sure we can get to where we aim to be, and our T&T approach will help us to succeed. This approach is built around the four main priorities that have been carefully defined for our firm. Lines of Service (LoS) transformation, Delivery Models, Managed Services and our Sustainability Services. 

In fact, we have been on a journey of transformation for some years, however, we are now seeing a clear acceleration. It accelerates because our core—and traditional—services, Assurance, Tax, and Advisory, are evolving. On top of that, we are also developing and bringing additional or new services that are very much technology-based—or at least system- and tool-based—like Managed Services.

What Olivier sees for the years ahead in his role starts with understanding the needs and making sure we efficiently bring these transformations to our clients. This means helping to operationalise these changes within our firm. 

This is the more sophisticated or difficult phase. Transitioning to a new “business as usual” requires an open dialogue between leaders and employees to communicate the necessity of these changes and adapt to them to be part of the normal day-to-day process or service level. Operationalising is still one of the core focus points we will have on some changes we have already started.

As we stated earlier, one driver for transformation is the innovative technologies that are emerging. To that purpose, we are pursuing in our firm what we call our Exponential initiative, which is our key focus area approach from a market perspective. This programme encourages  employees to think like entrepreneurs and develop client-centric products to drive innovation within the organisation.

We now exist in a world where things are constantly evolving. To evolve in tandem, our LoS are constantly looking at how to efficiently render the firm’s services. We continuously pool and assess new innovative technologies and/or business purposes of how we can use technologies. 

Again, we are—and will—set priorities and this is key. Priorities in the type of technologies and the transformations to conduct, but also in the timing of that transformation. Because, even as a leading firm, as we are, we can’t conduct all the changes simultaneously. Setting priorities, making a sound choice of “when to do what” is hopefully how we will manage our transformation in the coming years. 

Managed Services transformation involves the implementation and scaling of recurring (technology enhanced) service delivery models. For us, this is a key business focus, having developed an offer of over 50 services covering all needs at all levels of the alternatives structure, in all countries invested in and at each step of the life cycle. 

Another area is the asset management range of services, probably the most extensive in the industry, supported by our teams of highly-skilled and trained professionals, combined with the use of the latest advancements in technology and processes, allowing us to provide more effective and efficient outcomes.

And because we are committed to ongoing innovation, striving to enhance our clients’ experience by foreseeing their needs, we have developed a CRM (Client Relationship Manager) enabled by the latest technology. 

Our transformation priorities, in particular the transformation of our delivery models, focus on the leveraging of technology and other capacity to improve our day-to-day work efficiency and open up opportunities for new services. 

It isn’t surprising that AI would be one of our priorities since the pace of change in AI is such that the potential of this technology must be seized for innovation, efficiency, and competitive edge purposes.

It can’t happen without people though. You can’t ignore the human element. Such transformation can only succeed if everyone works as a team embracing a mindset of continuous innovation and development to thrive in the rapidly transforming landscape. And of course training, so as an example, our T&T team has recently launched a firm-wide initiative —GenAI training— which will  be mandatory in the firm as from January 2024.

In alignment with PwC network initiatives, our firm has decided to initiate a clear strategy for AI implementation and development. Consequently, we launched “AI transforming PwC” some time ago under the T&T’s governance, with representatives from all the LoS since AI will transformatively impact each one, albeit in different ways. The project focuses on the relationship between AI and our firm’s strategic objectives and services scope. 

We have forged strong partnerships with leading technology firms (sometimes within the network)  but a priority is enhancing our existing alliances and developing new ones. These include cloud migration and modernisation, data and analytics, cybersecurity and risk, customer experience, Managed Services and climate reporting and transition to net zero. This allows us to combine our expertise with our alliance partners’ cutting-edge technologies to better serve our clients.

Finally, a key priority for transformation is our Sustainability Services, which is the continuous implementation and scaling of sustainability-related client service models. Our firm takes a holistic approach to sustainable development and change that produces hands-on and valuable results across the full ESG spectrum, from sustainable finance, sustainable undertaking for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS) and Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) set-up as well as European Union Taxonomy implementation.

So, where do we all go from here? To tomorrow!

To sum up, every business, just like ours, is under pressure to transform thanks to the demands of customers, employees, the economy and society—and our list above isn’t even exhaustive. It can be a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be. 

By using tech, we can all harness its potential to propel our organisations forward, to adapt and thrive amidst the challenges and disruptions that lie ahead. There’s no way around it: the path to success in this fast-paced world starts with embracing technology.

We also would like to point out that doing so isn’t just about survival—it’s about opportunities and sustainable success. Technology increasingly empowers organisations to surf the waves of change, allowing companies to remain aligned with ever-evolving markets, helping to better serve customers and revamp internal operations. T&T is really about making your (or our) organisation transform so that it can continue to transform. That is what we ourselves are strategically counting on. 

As we said at the beginning, to transform successfully, organisations want to combine brilliant ideas and human understanding with powerful technologies. In an article written by two of our specialists in 2021, entitled, Technology serving people for the good, they had this to say:

“Like most things in life, technological advances can be obnoxious in a way because they alter habits and methods that we are used to. That’s particularly relevant at work. Technology adoption in the digital transformation journey of any organisation can fail because of the lack of emotional attachment to it. In the personal sphere, however, this adoption tends to follow a smoother path.” 

And this goes for when trying to convince ourselves and our employees or our customers to transform. “The pivot of technology development is people’s needs and human experiences and that calls for true multidisciplinary collaboration. And the key to get there is enabling enough space for discussion where all stakeholders sit down, debate and learn from each other.” 

This is key and not just for us. It relates back to our earlier comments about what is driving transformation, how important it is to make sure your organisation embraces new ways of working, but always with the customer and a better delivery model in mind. This means finding the right combinations to design and deliver transformations people can believe in and will get behind. 

The starting point for an organisation is finding the answers to a series of questions, such as:

  • What is driving change? What are the priorities for our organisation? 
  • Have our key stakeholders been involved in the planning and do they have buy-in?
  • Do we have the talent and skills to successfully execute our digital transformation project? Do we need to outsource?
  • What is our tech strategy?
  • What technology do we already have?
  • What technology will we focus on?
  • Can we build alliances with technology partners?
  • How will we govern and qualify the work?
  • Who will deliver against the strategy?
  • How will we measure the value of our transformation?
Orchestrating transformation

T&T is about building a better company that can continue to transform. It has no loftier ambition than to orchestrate people, process and technology to work together in harmony for greater impact, delivery models and success.  

We like this quote from another PwC article, The art of conducting a digital transformation, “A digital transformation is like an orchestra. Stay with me here. It’s a metaphor that works surprisingly well to explain why some transformations get stuck in a cacophony of muddled goals and why others smoothly crescendo into a digitally-enabled, thriving business.”

We aren’t the first people to have come up with the orchestration metaphor, but that is because it’s so applicable to technology and transformation. And for both an orchestra and an organisation the end goal is the same – a winning performance. 

What we think
Olivier Carré

We are talking about technology, but the human factor remains central to any transformation and all professional judgement. There is a bright future that is human-led and technology-enabled. It is just this equation that will continue to make PwC distinctive and competitive.

Olivier Carré, Deputy Territory Senior Partner and Technology & Transformation Leader at PwC Luxembourg

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