In coming months, PwC is moving to new locations in Melbourne and Sydney following the recent move in Brisbane. More than simply relocating staff to a bigger office, it means a fresh start. A new location, and a new direction.
As the company’s message to clients puts it: “It’s the beginning of a PwC that isn’t a business, but a destination. An ever-changing hub of collaboration and creativity, where solutions aren’t handed out, but created together.”
The new approach is being enabled behind the scenes by the professional services firm’s technology team, under the leadership of long-serving CIO Hilda Clune.
Over the last 12 months PwC has completed a significant cloud transformation program which has fundamentally changed the internal delivery of IT services and the way its employees work.
“The main imperative for the program was to recognise the changing role of technology and the rapidly growing needs of the firm and its clients by providing fit for purpose cloud services that can be deployed reliably, with scale and agility,” explains Clune.
“Our cloud strategy is to become a world class cloud broker adopting a cloud only approach.”
Cloud and new way of working
Since June, PwC’s internally run and owned data centre has been successfully migrated to a hybrid cloud environment. This involved the migration of all software services operating in the on-premise data centre to an infrastructure services model and the transfer of a significant proportion of workloads to the public cloud. Australia is the first PwC territory to do so.
“This was a massive effort of planning and coordination, triggering risk, commercial and technical challenges which had to be overcome,” says Clune. “This paradigm shift is at the very core of our IT foundations and has resulted in more robust and resilient IT services, while ensuring security remains front and centre. We have seen massive improvements in performance, service levels and our ability to be truly agile with the added benefits of greatly improved economics.”
The ability to spin up prototype environments, the timely delivery of technology services and the ability to quickly scale has led a reduction of lead-time and upfront capital investment.
“It has provided an accessible, agile and scalable foundation designed to support our firm’s strategy to embrace innovation, new ways of working and the convergence of front and back office, digitisation and technology strategies,” adds Clune.
The cloud transformation has also revolutionised the way PwC approaches collaboration allowing the company to reinvent the way it works and become more co-creative, and in real time. A major internal move from Lotus Notes to a deployment of Google Apps for Work has been a fundamental shift, Clune says, which “enables our workforce to be more mobile and collaborative than ever before”.
Business capabilities such as document management, travel, electronic signatures, events management, and business continuity systems have also switched towards SaaS-based applications.
“Our move to the cloud has proven that modern technology transformations such as cloud and SaaS can deliver contemporary, robust and scalable IT services with world class experience at a cost that is significantly more attractive than the legacy technology services,” Clune says.
“We’ve also taken the opportunity to re-invent IT from an organisational and people perspective, seeding capabilities like devops and cloud engineering and enabling the IT service brokerage model. The new organisation also has a deep focus on experience, change and adoption. It is a major enabler of re-imagining IT.”
Virtual a reality, machine learning and data
Innovation is front of mind for Clune and her team, and the business at large. Investments have been made in the virtual and augmented reality, as well as in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space.
“We’ve found that while relatively early for enterprise, spacial computing has the potential to change the way we work, live and play. Early experimentation has resulted in creating material interest in enterprise use cases that will be fundamental to the experience we deliver to our clients and people. VR and AR can today, be a major differentiator in the way we augment those experience. ”
Around machine learning, PwC has partnered with a startup organisation consisting of some of Europe’s leading experts to explore and prototype applications for document and content analysis.
“Different document repositories can be interfaced through APIs feeding into machine learning algorithms to identify patterns,” Clune explains. “This can be then used to auto tag or suggest similar documents. There is significant potential for this within a professional services context as we are dealing with thought leadership and knowledge as our bread and butter.”
These innovations are led by a dedicated small team, which Clune has seeded with new talent, mindsets and perspectives.
“Having a dedicated innovation team was necessary to provide a focus on innovation without prioritising over running core systems,” Clune says. “Having strong interfaces between our innovation team, our clients and the broader IT organisation was important to ensure consistent communications and expectations across the firm while continuing to inspire and focus on the future.”
“There are a lot of ideas popping up to make PwC more agile, innovative and to deliver more accessible solutions,” Clune adds. “We’ve uncovered huge amounts of talent we didn’t know was there and we’ve re-thought the role of IT in our organisation.”