CIO of Deloitte Stays the Course While Navigating the COVID-19 Landscape

BrandPost By Dwight Davis
Nov 11, 2020
Cloud ComputingDatabase Administration

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Cloud migrations and other existing IT initiatives are helping organizations deal with the disruptions caused by the global pandemic, and some of those initiatives warrant acceleration.

Larry Quinlan is Global Chief Information Officer at Deloitte, which, with more than 286,000 people across more than 150 countries and territories, is one of the world’s largest professional services organizations. Quinlan joined Deloitte in 1988 and has held a number of senior IT management positions at the company during his tenure, including CIO of the Deloitte US Firms from 2003-2020.

No CIO could have anticipated the global COVID-19 pandemic—or the sweeping business and social disruptions that have followed in its wake. It turns out, however, that many IT initiatives long under way—from supporting mobile and remote workers to moving to the cloud—are helping some companies weather the COVID storm.

“While we had robust Business Continuity Programs (BCPs), the full scale of the pandemic was hard to anticipate, yet our pre-existing programs have allowed us to manage it,” says Quinlan. And despite current and future uncertainties, Deloitte’s IT priorities haven’t fundamentally changed.

“We believe that the strategy that we had to serve our clients was an incredibly sound one, and we’re not about to just throw all that out,” Quinlan explains.

As most CIOs are, Quinlan was already a key player helping Deloitte determine the most effective and efficient ways to use IT to support its operations and business goals. If anything, the CIO’s role has become even more critical in the age of COVID-19.

Quinlan is helping Deloitte navigate through the “bumps and twists in the road” of the pandemic-disrupted landscape, a process that will see some of its pre-existing IT initiatives accelerate, while others will continue but at a slower pace.

Forced work from home

One of the most impactful and widespread effects of the pandemic on both IT and business departments has been the shift to work from home. Still, as Quinlan notes, “Work from home isn’t a new phenomenon at Deloitte, and we didn’t do this overnight. We were able to transition to a ‘forced’ work from home model because of decisions we’ve made over a long period of time.”

Those earlier decisions were made to support an increasingly mobile and distributed workforce, as well as a worldwide ecosystem of partners, contractors, and others requiring access to parts of Deloitte’s IT ecosystem.

Well before the pandemic struck, “We had rearchitected our network and a number of company programs to treat people as consumers of our services regardless of where they’re located,” Quinlan says.

Even so, accommodating such a broad transition to work from home has put significant demands on Deloitte’s network capacities, cybersecurity defenses, and other IT infrastructure elements.

“There is strain on everything, but we have mechanisms in place to manage it,” Quinlan says.

Accelerating migration to the cloud

One of those mechanisms—and one that has grown even more important in today’s environment—is the migration of IT operations to the cloud.

“We’re continuing to accelerate the move of applications to the cloud, and reducing on-premise as much as is feasible and cost-effective,” Quinlan says.

 Incentives for moving to the cloud include practitioner productivity, the cloud’s scalability and cost-effectiveness, the ability to collaborate across time zones, and the option to base operations in different geographies to better support local users as well as comply with data-residency and other country-specific regulatory requirements.

Collaborating, and innovating, on budgets

With the timing and emphasis of various IT and business priorities in flux, it’s more important than ever for CIOs to work in close cooperation with their organizations’ executive teams and business unit leaders.

At Deloitte, as with most other organizations, the IT budget broadly falls into two buckets. “One bucket IT fully controls,” Quinlan explains. “The second budget bucket contains the things that IT does on behalf of others.

“It’s counterintuitive,” he continues, “but as CIOs deal with more strategic initiatives, the amount of budget controlled unilaterally by the CIO actually goes down.”

What’s behind this dynamic? In the past, when CIOs and their IT departments weren’t as tightly integrated with business units, they were able to make purchasing decisions largely on their own. Nowadays, with the boundary between IT and business blurred, CIOs are keenly focused on applications that have clear business impact, and that requires close collaboration with business stakeholders when making investment decisions.

Ultimately, those spend decisions revolve around which investments will deliver the most value to the organization.

“We track our spend closely at a core level and at a project level and work hard to ensure that we’re getting value out of our spend,” Quinlan says.

With the pandemic slowing business activities and revenues for many companies, the choices of how to spend already-tight IT budgets have taken on an increased urgency. Still, Quinlan notes, it remains important for CIOs to continue reducing operational “keeping the lights on” expenditures in order to free up money for more innovative and strategic initiatives. A variety of IT technologies, including both cloud migration and increased process automation, are helping Deloitte cut operational costs and repurpose more of its budget to innovation.

Like Quinlan, CIOs across the globe are adapting to the new realities imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the challenges, Quinlan sees at least one silver lining in the current situation.

“A global pandemic allows for a uniformity of mission, for a commonality of view,” he says. “You have some of the smartest people in the world coming together to tackle the same issues.”

Business Spend Management leader Coupa gives companies the visibility, control, and insights they need to better manage their spend, and in so doing, facilitates IT and business unit partnership. For further information about Coupa’s platform, go to


About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Click here to read this ongoing series of interviews about how the role of the CIO is evolving as digital transformation initiatives mature.