Shift podcast | Season 1

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City of Vancouver: Enabling citizens with digital

Enabling citizens with digital, featuring Jessie Adcock, Chief Technology Officer of the City of Vancouver.

Jon: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada’s podcast series, and we’re digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I’m also the Creative Director of PwC Canada. Welcome to another episode of Shift. We are on the road, we are in Vancouver and today we at Vancouver’s City Hall. It’s a very cool building by the way, it’s very art deco. But what’s interesting is we’re in old world but we’re talking about the new world. We are talking about smart cities and cities of the future. And I have the great pleasure of being with the Chief Technology Officer Jessie Adcock City of Vancouver, welcome to Shift.

Jessie Adcock: Thanks for having me this is super exciting.

Jon: We’re on your home turf.

Jessie Adcock: No kidding in this fantastic old building.

Jon: I’m super excited to talk to you because what our listeners might not actually know is the City of Vancouver is actually one of the lead smart cities in the world, in the world!

Jessie Adcock: Yeah, I’ve been hearing that lately.

Jon: Is that right? That’s right.

Jessie Adcock: I think ’m hearing that, yeah. We weren’t before but we have kind of caught up and we’re doing some really cool things around here. And I guess lately people are starting to notice that.

Jon: So before we get into all the really cool stuff that’s going on in this city, I love to sort of give you the moment to tell the listeners kind of what you’re up to here as Chief Technology Officer for City of Vancouver.

Jessie Adcock: The stuff that we’re up to might not seem so exciting in the grand scheme of all the great things that are happening in the world and in technology, but I think when you start to layer in the fact that we’re doing this in government it does get a little bit exciting. And the fact is that we’re sort of just changing the way we operate. We’re changing the way we look at opportunities. We’re changing the way we create solutions, how we make decisions. And so, I guess it's a sort of a turning point an evolution where technology is becoming part of our DNA whereas I think before it was sort of this peripheral component that helped enable the things we did, but now it’s being integrated into all aspects of what we do. And so, along with that comes all of the glorious change management things we get to do, like the process, and the culture, and people, and projects, and portfolio management, and all sort of things.

Jon: So tell me, as CTO. Tell us a little bit about what’s your job? What’s your purview? What are you being asked to do?

Jessie Adcock: Yeah so I have a pretty broad remit. I’m guided by our digital strategy, which kind of provides me with sort of the goal post of what it is that I operate within. One of the things I do is I lead up the team, the fantastic team that runs our digital channel, so our website, our VanConnect mobile app, and our 311 contact center, I lead that team. I also lead the team that is responsible for our digital infrastructure and asset strategies, so looking at our fiber optics, public wifi, and the stuff that we need in terms of infrastructure for the future. The third area is I dabble a little bit in terms of trying to be a participant in the local tech economy. Another piece that I work on is the digital maturity of our organization, how is it that we as staff can change the way we work? And then I'm responsible for all of our core infrastructure, so application development, hardware, data centers, phones. And then I also oversee our enterprise data and analytic strategy.

Jon: That is a really big remit.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah, it’s huge.

Jon: Yeah. Congrats.

Jessie Adcock: Thank you.

Jon: A lot of people might go, wow that’s a lot of stuff and that’s scary, but actually when you think about it there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity impact that you can have when you’re talking about everything from as an organization how do we embrace digital, as a city how do we embrace digital, what is the IT implications of that? And that’s really good because the buck kind of stop with you, because all these things are inextricably linked.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah. You know the city of Vancouver is sort of like the perfect size for digital transformation to be overseen by sort of the technology part to be overseen by an individual. In my career I’ve done digital strategy, on the business side I’ve done digital channel development on the IT side, but I did it in large organizations where you’re right all of these pieces were sort of distributed. Digital transformation could sometimes be hung up by the fact that you might not have the data you need or you might not be able to achieve the creative that you want to achieve because you’re backend infrastructure wasn’t conducive to your design, or some of your transactional stuff was dictated by compliance in my case in banking. Whereas here I started as the Chief Digital Officer, I kicked off the process of transforming our digital service delivery. And then you can only do so much until you hit a wall because then you hit basically a wall that has been put up by our technology back office, and until you transform your back office you basically pause on transformation the front end to the end user. And so, I got the opportunity to then lead the back office transformation, in the process build this highly integrated digital IT data team, the results are amazing to be able to orchestrate that change across what is typically an organizational boundary.

Jon: Yeah it’s amazing how ... I mean we’ve talked about this in various podcasts and even just in my own sort of day-to-day working with clients, it’s amazing how you have sort of a CX or a citizen vision, which makes total sense. It’s like, "Why are we doing that? And why ’t we doing that? And this other thing makes a lot of sense." And then you start to do it, and then a lot of organizations realize that you can’t do it because your IT or your infrastructure doesn’t support it, or your back office doesn’t support it, and then it can die.

Jessie Adcock: That’s right.

Jon: And go, "We tried really hard but yeah we just couldn't. We just couldn't make it happen." And then people are left disappointed across the board, citizens and people. And so, I love the fact that you get to figure out both ends of it, because I think for anybody listening it's so important to be able to marry those two things.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah I agree. I think oftentimes too ... And this is where the government context is really interesting, is that people don't realize that these government bodies have kind of predated a lot of brands and a lot of industry players, so a lot of private sector. And so you've got years and years of compounding purchases, acquisitions, policies, decisions, that haven't all necessarily been master planned to an end vision or a common goal. And so, technology acquisition in a lot of the public sector organizations that I've talked to has been much like very cyclical and you don't necessarily buy inline with an end state.

Public sector bodies have amalgamated their technology stacks not necessarily by kind of master planning and design, it's just been organic growth of, "I've got this problem, I need a technology to help me solve it." And so you go and you go acquire usually a single purpose technology to solve a single purpose problem.

And so, now what we have is we have this like clash between what people have come to expect from the interaction they have with private brands like Amazon, or Google, or Facebook, or whatever, and so they expect, "Well why isn't the city doing x, y, and z? It's a no brainer." Well we get it, it's not that we don't know it's a no brainer. It's that sometimes it's not like technically feasible or sometimes it requires a little bit more complexity to overcome. So it's not as straight forward as just it seems.

Jon: You raised an interesting point for me, which is governments are monopolies.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah.

Jon: Governments are monopolies and so I guess I'm really wondering why do cities feel the need to do any of this smart city digital services at all? Why do it? What's the point?

Jessie Adcock: It's become a situation where you don't have a choice. So it went from being a discretionary decision, we can take our time, we can just fix that gap, we can address that problem, we can do these things in silos and in an isolated context. But two things happened, one is that citizen behavior and citizen expectations has changed, so they require us to deliver more services with the same pot of tax payer money. So we gotta get smarter about how we deliver the services to them in a way that we are enabling them to feel satisfied, but also how we run our business, so we have to be smart about that.

And the other shift is that technology has gone through the roof. Technology is now all IP connected, so like IOT plays a big role in what we're doing. So smart city went from being this I think label applied by industry to a vertical. Let's sell our technology into the vertical, the smart city vertical. And it's now just kind of gone into this phase where I'm like, "It's gotta be a you." Everything being thrown at us is smart city so it's not like you have a choice. You want to get data you have to deploy sensors or you have to collect that data. And then to consume it you have to visualize it. And then once you have it you want to make it open. It's like a whole body of work. Yeah, so now you don't have a choice anymore.

Jon: So how would you describe for the uninitiated? How do you describe smart city?

Jessie Adcock: Okay. Cities are there for a purpose. We deliver certain key services. And we enable people to have thriving personal lives. And in order to make sure that we enable them to have sort of the most healthiest environment possible, we have the ability to improve how we deliver services through data and technology. We can use data to use predictive analytics to prevent things like crime or overdoses before they happen. We can help people, guide them through transportation systems. We can improve the quality of water. We can do all sorts of things now that contributes to sort of increased wellness amongst communities. And a lot of that ability to do that and have a positive outcome for your community is amplified if you add a little bit of data and technology to it, as opposed to just trying to do it on your own in an unintegrated sort of way.

Jon: When I've always thought of smart cities, I've always thought about them as the technology and the data but not as much about what it means for people. It's like, we have smart street lights.

As much about what it means for people. It's like we have smart street lights and there are sensors then that can provide predictive whatever so that buildings are having an issue, they don't ... they don't fall down.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah, I mean it's quite ... it's quite different now. I think that you'll have a spectrum of people who will define that smart city thing a little bit differently. If you ask a software sales guy he's gonna say it's the vertical probably, right? Or his technology and how it fits and is gonna make city management better. But if you talk to some people and the recent smart cities challenge in Canada was really outcome focused. They were like, "This isn't about the data and the technology. This is about how are you using the data and technology to improve the outcomes for your community and the society?"

Jon: You mentioned, "Hey, let's not focus on gadgets per se," but I did ... I think read somewhere that you guys lead the way in wifi.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah. We're the largest public wifi hotspot in Canada.

Jon: How'd that happen?

Jessie Adcock: The smartphone has revolutionized society and it has completely changed how people behave, think, act, decide, travel, whatever they wanna do. And so, we knew that public wifi was going to be an important component of our future. Our challenge was is that we could not fund it out of public coffers, but it's an important component. And so, we just set out, looked around the world to see who had done the best deals, we found a lot that failed at first . And we just tried to learn from all these lessons we tried to build our program and we're really lucky that we had a couple of partners like Telus and Shaw step up and help us out and we ended up building out this fantastic network.

Now, probably not a week goes by where another city doesn't call us to say, "Could you help coach us or share your documents with us or tell us how you did stuff?"

Jon: Was there any  backlash or concern about privacy, about cybersecurity? 'Cause that's certainly one of the themes we ... we've been talking about.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah, yeah. I took a few questions around that, but what I always maintain is that people need to be vigilant with their own information. You cannot delegate personal responsibility to an authority, to an organization, to your mom and dad, to your spouse, to your parent. You cannot do that. People need to realize that every time they push Accept on a tease and seize, every time they enable their geolocation information, every time they use ... fire up Apple Maps or Google Maps or MapQuest, every time they play Candy Crush, every time ... like that data is being repurposed and sold and that is not the city's fault, right?

Jon: So, you've laid the foundation for, basically, smart city, integrated services, digital, all this stuff in the city of Vancouver. Where is it gonna go? Where is your future vision? I'm sure you get asked this all the time.

Jessie Adcock: Right now if I was forced to answer it, I would say I'm trying to design agility, scalability, flexibility to go with the flow because the arc of technological advancement is like moving to vertical. I've ... I ... I'm struggling to see how we can keep pace with the change, like the technology that today is cutting edge, can kind of be replaced in like a one year period now. It's not even like, "Oh, this technology has a horizon of 20 years." So, you have to and this is where coming back to outcomes and the community is really important, because that's kind of our north star. It's our ... we are here to serve the community and let's keep our eyes, not on the tech, but let's keep our eyes on the outcomes that we want.

Jon: So, you've been very successful in your post and being able to actually go from strategy documents to actually delivery. People are probably wondering how did you do it? What made it successful? And what were some of the biggest barriers that you overcome? In other words, if I’m listening and I’m in an organization that’s similarly bureaucratic, as one might think a government or city might be, how do I move the ... how do I move the dial? How do I move this thing?

Jessie Adcock: I think whoever is in the position like mine has to have flown a few planes in their life, right? They have to have run a few large multi-stakeholder projects. You have to make sure that it ... that it resonates with people and they can see themselves in that. I focus a lot on culture and people more ... less than I do on technology and process. So, making sure that I prioritize people and how they’re feeling and making sure that people are being communicated to, they know where the change is happening, then also having ... making sure that your senior management is really bought in so that when you do need to make those tie break decisions, that they’re there and they’re willing to make those tie break decisions, and then knowing where you’re trying to get to. So, having some milestones about where you’re trying to get to.

And then, my big ... my big thing was then bringing a little bit of help from industry in to kind of compliment the skillsets we already had. There was just a few skillsets that we hadn’t incorporated over the years and it’s normal for government not to incorporate those.

Jon: Example?

Jessie Adcock: UX, for example, web analytics, product management, just different types of architecture domains, those types of things. Stuff that wouldn’t have normally just transpired through the type of procurement cycles that were happening.

Jon: When you think about developing your city for ... or, when you think about developing your strategy for citizens, citizens need to be central to what it is you’re designing for. How did you use citizens and how did you iterate based on their needs?

Jessie Adcock: I’ll talk a little bit about our smart cities challenge submission 'cause that was ... I’m really proud of what we did there and I’m ... I’m really excited to tell that story, actually. So ... so the smart city challenge for your listeners that don’t know is a competition that the federal government’s been running. This year it’s got three categories, three prize categories: a 50 million dollar prize category, a 10 million dollar prize category, and a five million dollar prize category. We put an application forward in the 50 million dollar prize category and we were just, a week and a half ago, named as one of the short lists. So, we’re into the five finalists. We’re super excited-

Jon: Congrats. That’s amazing.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah, it’s ... it’s awesome, actually and when I answer your question about citizen involvement, it’s gonna get even more awesome because we put forward a bid that was guided by citizens. You know, we talk a lot about digital transformation and stuff, but the other piece of wanting to transform government is this sort of like parallel philosophy that’s been emerging and like a more of a philosophical topic around open government, transparent government, and participatory government. So… What we wanted to do with our Smart City challenge was go for more of a grass roots approach then this top down approach of we’ll just pick what we’re going to put forward as our project proposal. We really wanted to try to create a use case or an example where you can audit your submission from like high-level you know, 9000 word paper down to the… the citizens that provide an idea.

What we did was we started our engagement process really early, and we activated a whole bunch of channels. So we had the usual social channels and online channels and surveys, but we also created a portal for both citizens and businesses. And so at this portal it was basically an ideation portal, and it’s still live today actually, if you go to you can have a look. But, at the ideation portal what we were able to do is moderate a conversation. We achieved a reach of, you know I think we had over 150 thousand interactions with different people, like it was a fairly, fairly robust experience and 40% of the ideas that came back were related to mobility, and 50% of the vendor proposals that came back were related to mobility.

And we were able to take that, take the narrative and the dialogue that we received through the public process, and actually build a lot of that into the rational of why we went with the proposal that we went with and so we talk about that in our proposal, of how we kind of used all this data and it, like even some of the quotes that you can find on the ideation portal have found their way into our submission itself.

Jon: I love it.

Jessie Adcock: It’s so cool, because it is an example of that thing that we want to showcase, which is like this open government process right, where we did end up being the basically the curators of the proposal, but it was like this massive crowdsourced idea. We had the data to kind of back it up and show traceability. To me, that’s an indication of how far we’ve come, in that that type of engagement would have seemed absolutely impossible and insurmountable and just not doable at all a year or two years ago. But now, we’ve kind of made it a lot less daunting, and a lot more conceivable to have this massive conversation with this massive audience.    

Jon: I love technology, I love kind of gadgets and emerging tech. Is there anything that you’re seeing around the world from a sort of connected city, smart city tech piece that you go, "Wow, that is really, really cool, I would love to see that in Vancouver someday."

Jessie Adcock: I think the AR, VR stuff is going to be really interesting. From digital twinning, to be able to like ... it’s almost like Second Life-ish, right, like you can almost design outcomes that are going to be in like a near reality state before they happen. So, you can like picture the future before it happens in real life. I think that’s going to be interesting. I think the idea of overlaying some of these... these AR, VR use cases into city planning.

Jon: I look forward to an environment where tech is really improving our lives and where it’s meeting the needs of what we need as opposed to not, you know.

Jessie Adcock: I think ’re there. I think we’re getting there. I think where we probably need to pay a little bit of attention is probably like social media channels, because I think social media channels we've kind of turning a corner now where they’re probably taking more from us than we’re getting in return.

Jon: I agree.

Jessie Adcock: I think that’s the turning point that maybe us as society ... we always have these things that we just drive by? I think social media is something people are driving by right now in terms of I wonder if, you know, I think we need to pay a little bit of attention of where does something become unhealthy.

Jon: Sad but true.

Jessie Adcock: Yeah.

Jon: Well, that wraps up another addition of Shift. Jessie, thank you so much for joining me and sharing all the amazing stuff that City of Vancouver is doing to become one of the worlds leading smart cities. The impact that you’ve had, the approach that you’ve taken, it’s fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. By the time this thing airs though we'll know whether or not you won your city challenge, so I’m got, I don’t know if it’s bad luck to cross one or two fingers.

Jessie Adcock: It’s okay, cross them.

Jon: I’m going to cross my fingers and toes that you guys win, because that would be not only an incredibly coop but I mean financially amazing, so good luck on that.

Jessie Adcock: Thank you.

Jon: Thank you. Good luck and thanks again.

Jessie Adcock: If you are listening to the Shift podcast series make sure you share it with your friends, make sure you leave a comment because Jon is reading them, and share the link out on social media.

Jon: And subscribe.

Jessie Adcock: And subscribe.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, an Ontario Limited liability partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

Canada Drives: Keeping the customer at the center of your growth strategy

In this episode of the Shift podcast, host Jon Finkelstein is joined by Cody Green, Founder of Canada Drives, who is transforming the way Canadians get car loans. The two discuss the growing pains and lessons learned of a start-up, creating a culture of customer centricity from the ground up, and remaining agile in the ever-evolving world of emerging technologies.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada’s podcast series, and we’re digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I’m also the Creative Director of PwC Canada. All right. Welcome to another episode of Shift. It's a good one today. We're here with Cody Green, who is the CEO and founder of Canada Drives. You are a V2R finalist. That's huge.

Cody Green: Super exciting.

Jon Finkelstein: Congratulations on that, by the way.

Cody Green: Thank you very much.

Jon Finkelstein: For our listeners who don't know, that's PwC's Vision to Reality Awards, where we award top innovation. Are you amazed? Are you blown away?

Cody Green: Yeah, it's pretty exciting to get that outside validation.

Jon Finkelstein: For people who may be unfamiliar with Canada Drives, why don't you just give us the elevator pitch on what it's about, so people know.

Cody Green: For sure. If you're a consumer, and you're coming to Canada Drives, you're coming to us to get a vehicle and financing. You look to us, and we make the process easy. We get you your finance options, you understand what vehicles you can afford to buy, and then, hopefully, go out and buy one of those vehicles. The real change is from how people are typically used to buying a vehicle.

Jon Finkelstein: Innovation for a digital world. 

Cody Green: Yeah.

Jon Finkelstein: You can use that tagline if you want.

Cody Green: Yeah, that's going under the logo now.

Jon Finkelstein: How did you get into this?

Cody Green: I was working in the auto industry as a car salesman. I was kind of on the front lines of seeing how people were buying cars. It was a great place to start from, because you got a level of empathy for both the customer, as well as for the dealership, and identifying how people bought cars showed me how people were getting frustrated with how they buy cars.

The typical process, you go to the dealership. "Hey, welcome to ABC motors. Let's go test drive some cars. You like this one? Perfect. Let's do the paperwork." You go to the finance office, and then the big reveal. "Did I get approved? What was the payment? What was the rate? Can I afford this car?" For some people, that worked. But for a lot of people, I was seeing a lot of apprehension. That was the kind of big Aha moment, is, "Hey, we can kind of switch these things up and pair it with what people are getting more and more comfortable doing, which is that e-commerce piece. And I think I'm on to something here."

That was 2010, and that was really the time where people are starting to say, "Yeah, I can buy things online. I'm comfortable with this process."

Jon Finkelstein: You go to the website, enter in a bunch of stuff. Tell us a little bit about what happens. 

Cody Green: For a consumer, we try to make it as easy as possible. For anyone trying to get people to adopt a new way of doing things, you want it to be simple. You don't want there to be a large learning curve, so the UI/UX of the website's important. It's just the most basic information we require in order to get you your options. What happens in the background is we're then going to work with the dealership network across the country, so if you're applying in Vancouver, we're going to work with a dealership in Vancouver. They're going to be working with the financial institutions, along with us, to get you the best rate available, and then what's going to be spit back to you, the consumer, is, "Hey. You said you wanted a car. You said your payments wanted to be in this range. Here are the options that are available." You feel empowered when you go down to that dealership knowing, "I'm looking at cars that I can afford to buy.”

Jon Finkelstein: I love that. You're basically taking, what we like to call, a consumer pain point: “I'm frustrated with how it works!” Because, you know, people have been buying cars basically almost the same way...well, I'm not going to say since the Model T, but you know.

Cody Green: Pretty much.

Jon Finkelstein: Right? You go to a dealer and you kick some tires, and you probably feel a little bit uncomfortable, because that's just how it is.

Cody Green: You're pretty apprehensive. That disconnect of who has more knowledge, who has more power, consumers feel that. They walk into...and they're in somebody else's house, right? Coming packed with that information, and understanding your buying power as a consumer, really flips that on its head.

Jon Finkelstein: How was the dealership's attitude towards you coming into the market? Was there acceptance? Was there enthusiasm? Was there reticence?

Cody Green: I think all of those things. It really just depended on the dealership. What we tried to do is make it easy to partner with us. Kind of like the consumer, we don't want to make it difficult to use our service. There's always going to be those people that come down and want to touch the paint, kick the tires and be like, "Yes. This is the one. I fell in love with this car." They're always going to have a place in the automotive retail environment. For dealership, it's like, "Hey, how do you guys sell cars right now, and how can we be a supplement to that? How can we be that technology, that customer acquisition bridge, so you don't have to?" Really, just finding a way to work with them, that they don't have to change the way they're doing business.

Jon Finkelstein: That's really interesting. Because we talk a lot about … change management. How to get people to do something that's better and more efficient, or whatever, and everyone's always reticent, right? But when you show them, it's like, "You know what? This isn't actually that hard. Maybe it's fun. Maybe it's going to free up my time." Whatever the deal is, making it easy and understandable, I think, is really key for people to understand. Because at the end of the day, we're dealing with human to human. Right?

Cody Green: You want to be doing the heavy lifting for the customer, for the dealership, for the financial institution, so it becomes easy for them.

Jon Finkelstein: How is the thing scaling up? How is the scaling for you? 

Cody Green: It was probably slower than it should have been, to start, because there was such a positive reaction from customers. I rewind three and a half years, and we only had a handful of staff. Now, we're at 400 staff at our office in Vancouver, and this is going into our ninth year now.

As far as scale is concerned, over a million Canadians will come to us to get their options for financing this year. Another half a million will come to us for personal loan financing options, and we've recently expanded to the UK and the US.

Jon Finkelstein: How will you keep consumer-centricity, or really being an advocate for Canadians, or for consumers, top of mind as you continue to scale? Do you worry that, as you get larger, it becomes more impersonal? Do you worry about that? How do you keep that in check?

Cody Green: That's a huge worry. You kind of compare where we were to where we are. Starting out, I'm the guy on the other end of the phone. I understand exactly the experience the consumers are having. I can fix their problems. I can hear the challenges. Same, I'm the person reaching out to those dealership partners and those financial institutions, so I have a really good pulse check on what's happening.

I think one key to our success was, the early employees became leaders within the company, and so those values and cultures have really been instilled, and been passed along as we've grown up. Those were the advantages when you're smaller.

The advantages when you're bigger is you get feedback, just amplified. If there's something they're not happy about, and maybe you're hearing about it anecdotally every few weeks when you were really small, now you're just getting bombarded immediately. You have that feedback loop, it's a lot quicker, and assuming you can stay agile, you can act on it a lot quicker too.

I think, as a consumer-facing company, we don't get the luxury of not focusing on it. They get to vote every time they come to our website, or not come to our website, so we have to keep delivering on our promise to them.

Jon Finkelstein: How do you stay agile?

Cody Green: It's a work in progress. You sort of look at your strengths, your weaknesses, and you try to augment your strengths, and you try to improve on the weaknesses. I think the biggest thing for us is, we never look at any part of our business as being, "Okay, that's done. We don't have to think about it anymore." Everything's in a constant state of testing and improvement. That sort of lack of complacency, I think, has been key to keeping the innovation going. 

Jon Finkelstein: I think that's a really important nugget for people to be thinking about, is that...I heard you say, "Hey, we have to empower our people to be able to make decisions, to be innovative, to challenge the status quo and probably not be worried about that." Obviously, you probably have some...

Cody Green: There's checks and balances, of course.

Jon Finkelstein: Checks and balances. But I mean, it's like...I hate this word...operationalizing innovation, or a culture of freedom, I guess.

Cody Green: 100%. Yeah. When you're small, communication's easy and there's not as many moving pieces, so I can have my hand in a lot of different things. Now, my job more is sort of empowering those managers to ensure that they understand where we're trying to go, and have the tools to innovate and get us there.

Jon Finkelstein: I'm just curious, as someone who's really interested in retargeting/communicating with people, especially when they come in, and they don't convert. What kind of stuff are you doing to really kind of close the conversion loop?

Cody Green: I guess there's two types of people. There's the people that come to our website and don't fill out the information, and then there's the people that fill out the information and ultimately choose not to go ahead with the service at this time, whether they didn't find a vehicle they wanted, or they were just kind of curious. You sort of treat those two differently. Again, you look at that mountain of data, and say, "What do I know about this customer? What do I know about their experience? And how can I deliver a powerful message to them, to get them back to re-engage with our company, regardless of where in the journey they ended up stopping."

And even for those customers that did buy a vehicle using Canada Drives, it's not going to be the last vehicle they buy. How do you keep engaging genuine conversation with that customer over the next one, two, three, four years, until you're front of mind again, so they use you next time around?

Jon Finkelstein: How are people hearing about you?

Cody Green: I think one of our strengths has always been telling our story, and we really embraced online before a lot of people were. In 2010, '11, '12, people were like, "Oh, Facebook, it's great. You can share cat photos, but it's not going to be a place where you can ever find customers." I was like, "Nope. People are spending that much time on a platform, if we can tell our story in a way, and it's a place where we can communicate with our customers beyond displaying an advertisement, as well, then I think that's going to be a huge growth driver for us." Really just finding where people are, and how you tell your story unique to that medium. 

The story on Instagram's a little bit different than Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter, or whether it's a TV commercial, so you have to really nuance your messaging to make it work for that audience and that medium.

Jon Finkelstein: Is there a grand vision for this thing? Where does it go from here?

Cody Green: We have the benefit of letting the customer tell us what they want. We started in auto, and we basically had our first way that the customer would use our platform, and the customer kept telling us, "Hey, I want to do more. I want to be able to do it by text message. I don't want to do this. I don't necessarily want to go down." That feedback loop coming in, sort of drove innovation through that product line. Those same customers were saying to us, "Hey, thanks for helping me get a car, but I also just want cash to...I have a wedding coming up" or something like that. It was like, "Okay, this is a product that our customers want, so we know demand's going to be there." That's checking one of the boxes. And then, how do you want this product delivered to you?

And again, it was the same things that made us successful with auto. It was like, "Hey, I want it to be online. I want it to be fast. I want it to be easy. I don't want to have to learn something new, in order to use it." That feedback loop, assuming we can keep it, should be telling us what products to launch in the future. From there, it's just looking at markets where we're not operating and saying, "Hey, is this enough alike the Canadian market, in order for us to be successful with what we're doing, or if it's different, what's different? And how do we nuance our product to be successful there?"

Jon Finkelstein: What advice would you have for someone who needs to undergo something innovative, transformation or otherwise, within an existing business? What advice would you give to them, to make this thing really stick?

Cody Green: I think there's a couple of things. I would be looking at where your customers are telling you there's pain points right now. And I would also not treat it so binary of, "Hey, we're going to do this huge change, and this is going to be the only way we do things in the future." I think you can really look at different steps and how you're delivering your service and say, "Okay, this is something we've identified. Let's try something new there. Let's maybe not roll it out to 100% of our customers and risk imploding, but let's roll it out to a small subset, get some feedback, and do a new iteration, do a new version. And then, when we do roll it out to everyone else, we already know what the feedback's going to be." Don't make it as daunting and scary as it might seem from the outset.

Jon Finkelstein: I think that's really good advice, because I think a lot of people are really still stuck on having this waterfall mentality, which is, "We're going to spend a lot of time making something and doing something, and we're going to put it out there, and there you go. And hopefully it'll work." But I think the more agile mentality, which is kind of what you're talking about, which is very much about small bites, iteration, testing, improvements. Because by the time you roll it out, you have a very good idea that it's going to work, because you've tested it. You've learned. You've iterated.

Cody Green: And I hear about companies and they're like, "Oh, we've been developing this product for two years." And we're like, "Oh, what are customers saying?" It's, "Oh no, we're not ready to launch." And I'm like, "Man, you're toast."

Jon Finkelstein: Totally toast. One of my favourite quotes is, "Latency is a killer." Right? Because you cannot spend two years making something, and expecting it to be relevant. It's impossible. 

Cody Green: The world's changing way too fast.

Jon Finkelstein: When a customer comes to your website, and I've done it myself, you need to provide a fair amount of data, in order to really begin the process. I'm really curious, how do you overcome any barriers of trust? There's been a lot of stuff in the news about cybersecurity and data breaches and this kind of stuff. I'd love to get your thoughts on how do you encourage or engender trust, and how do you keep on that promise?

Cody Green: It's definitely a consideration. When we were starting out, it maybe wasn't as front of mind for people. There hadn't been the big breaches, the big cyber security, so they weren't asking those questions. But people are asking those questions now. "What are you doing with the data that you're receiving from me?" You see new legislations that have come out every year, every month, and say, "Hey, you need to be doing this, you need to be doing that now." The thing that we've taken comfort in is, a lot of the things that they're requiring businesses to do, is just good business anyways.

A new data security law comes out, GDPR is the one that everyone's in a huff about right now. Well yeah, there's maybe 10% net new that we have to make some adjustments for, but 90% of the stuff are the things you're already doing. I think transparency's important, so telling a consumer what you're doing with that information, why you need that information. If you've gone through our application, each step says, "Hey, I'm asking this because...I need this because..." We're not asking information for information's sake. It's to deliver our service to you. But as a company, you need to sort of be aware of your responsibilities and how that ties into delivering your product.

Jon Finkelstein: Have you seen any anybody trying to copy what you're doing?

Cody Green: 100%. There's probably 100 in Canada alone, trying to do a variation of what we're doing. One advantage we have, at this point, is we've been doing it for a long time now. We were doing it before it was cool, so we get those insights from the customers, and we've sort of...I don't want to say master, because it's a work in progress, but the UI/UX, the experience for the customer, we're on iteration 1,000. Someone coming in, and trying to copy what we're doing, they don't actually know what we're doing that makes us successful. There's what they can see, but there's also all the things they can't see.

Jon Finkelstein: Right. I love that as a competitive advantage. The lessons learned that you've had, but also the genuine desire to continue to iterate and to deliver on what people want, that's the kind of stuff that really brings loyalty.

Cody Green: 100%. The job's not done. And I think, as long as you keep that mentality, it's not like you're a stagnant target for people to catch up to, you're a moving target that's hopefully getting farther away, and not closer. 

Jon Finkelstein: There's so many new and emerging technologies—blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, there's lots of acronyms. How do you assess what's good, and what's useful for your business?

Cody Green: There's a new one every day, and you have to filter through and say, "Hey, can this deliver real value to our company, to our customers?" We've always tried to be technology agnostic, so when we're looking for a solution, sometimes the answer's technology, and sometimes it's like, "Okay, well we need to develop this platform to communicate with our customers more effectively." Sometimes the answer's hiring 300 people on the phone, because that's the best way to deliver our service right now.

As long as you don't go in saying, "I can't wait to solve this problem with X." And saying, "Hey, I have a problem, what are the different ways that I can solve it, looking at technology, people, etc.," I think you're going to be in a stronger position.

Jon Finkelstein: I think that's really important for people to understand, that there's a lot of shiny objects out there, and it's very easy to get distracted by them and go, "Oh, we should do blockchain, or we should do artificial intelligence."

Cody Green: We need a blockchain strategy.

Jon Finkelstein: That's right. What's our blockchain strategy? Don't get me started on the different types of strategies. It's very easy to get blinded by shiny objects, and I would certainly encourage people who are listening, to really fundamentally understand the why they're doing things, and what it would deliver for people, as opposed to going in with, "I need this thing."

Cody Green: You catch yourself. Because you're like, "That sounds super cool. I would love to play around with that." But you can't. If it doesn't make sense, if it's not actually helping, you're just doing it because it's that shiny object.

Jon Finkelstein: It's easy.

Cody Green: Super easy. 

Jon Finkelstein: Knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time to when you started, is there anything you'd do differently?

Cody Green: I think hindsight would be beautiful, the crystal ball we would all love to have. We've obviously gone left when we needed to go right. Hopefully, most of the time, we've realized left was wrong quick enough, and then sort of iterated the right direction. I think I could give myself some advice to make the last nine years a little bit more enjoyable. I think the one thing I say now is, things are never as good or as bad as they seem. That kind of keeps you in the middle, and lets you ride the highs and lows as they come through. But yeah, if you've got that crystal ball, I'll take it.

Jon Finkelstein: Right. I think we're working on one upstairs in our experience centre. In our lab.

Cody Green: What's your crystal ball strategy?

Jon Finkelstein: Yes, what is your crystal ball strategy?

That's it for another episode of Shift. Cody, thanks so much for being here. Good luck with everything that Canada Drives has in the future. You guys are on an amazing trajectory, so congratulations on all the success you've had.

Cody Green: Thanks a lot for having me, Jon. It's been a lot of fun.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

PwC US: Building an agile cybersecurity strategy

Data breaches and cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been all over the news, elevating these issues in the mind of organizations and consumers. When it comes to cyber threats and attacks it’s not a question of “if” but “when” they’ll happen. Being prepared for evolving threats is a must to stay in business and establish customer trust. In this episode of Shift Sean Joyce, PwC US Cybersecurity and Privacy leader offers insights into how organizations can better prepare outlining steps they can take today to improve their cybersecurity readiness and response capabilities.

Jon Finkelstein: Alright, welcome to another episode. We're on the road again. For listeners, we are in a large boardroom. There are crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. And we just finished off what was an amazing PwC conference day.

I am with Sean Joyce, who is from PwC in the US. He's head of cybersecurity. And he's the privacy leader. And this is an amazing thing for me because he used to work for the FBI. 

Sean, thank you so much for being here. We're here primarily to talk about a topic that's on everybody's mind right now. It's always been in the news, but I think even more so now, especially with the Facebook security breach, Equifax, all the stuff that's been happening. Cybersecurity, cybercrime, all this stuff is on everybody's mind. So, really appreciate you being here and taking some time to talk about it with us. 

Sean Joyce: Absolutely. And let me just level set, because some people listening might be saying, "What is an FBI guy doing talking to us about cybersecurity and privacy?" So, way back when, I was a computer science undergrad major. And then I was a programmer analyst for Raytheon Data Systems. Then I was in IT consulting for Arthur Anderson. And then I went back to business school and took a right turn in the FBI for a little bit of time.

But one of the last things I did with Bob Mueller, and continued with Jim Comey, was an initiative called Next Generation Cyber. Which was really positioning that organization to be the leader in the world in law enforcement and domestic intelligence, when it came to cyber. So, I kind of went back to my roots, and my four years with PwC have been extremely rewarding. I've worked with a lot of companies and it's truly been fascinating in this field.

Jon Finkelstein: So, before we dive into some of the hot topics, what kind of stuff are you seeing? What kind of stuff are you advising on?

Sean Joyce: So a lot of it is, I do a lot of work with boards. So, helping them understand cyber risk, how that fits in with the overall business strategy and risk appetite of the organization. Most of the companies I deal with now, at the C-suite and board level, are talking about digital transformation.

So my question to them is, how is digital security part of your digital transformation?

Jon Finkelstein: When you ask that question of some of the boards or C-level, had that occurred to them before? And I'm wondering whether or not that's on top of their mind, to think of, if I do a digital transformation, in tandem, I need to be thinking cybersecurity.

Sean Joyce: I don't think that is the first thing that comes to mind. I just think people tend to get busy with what is going to be the next revenue-generation vehicle. But looking at how this security part of the transformation can actually be brand defining. When you actually have the discussion, though, I think there is a light bulb moment where it is beneficial to the company as a whole. And as they try to make that experience with the customer seamless, it's something that I think you want to ensure that you do right.

Jon Finkelstein: One of the things that our listeners are probably wondering, and I certainly know that I am, when we talk about privacy and security—what are some of the vulnerabilities that companies are facing today about privacy and cybersecurity? What should they be looking at? What should they be thinking about?

Sean Joyce: When I look at vulnerabilities, I really characterize it into two distinct areas. One is the human element, and the other is hygiene.

In the human element, I'm really looking at phishing, spear phishing, those types of emails that you get where you click on the attachment. You're not really looking at the URL of where it came from. And maybe it’s very small, like instead of .com, it’s .net, or something like that. Which many of us are a victim of. And it happens each and every day. I think we get better at that type of issue, with training and awareness. A lot of chief information security officers out there actually have incredibly good training programs, where they do these phishing exercises, some on a monthly basis, some on a quarterly, that really keep their employees aware of the threat out there from phishing and spear phishing.

When you look at the hygiene element, it is not easy when you have several hundred or several thousand applications, and you're trying to keep them all up to date at the current software revision that they should be at. It's a lot easier said than done. 

It comes down to humans, and then hygiene.

Jon Finkelstein: You know you talked about phishing and that kind of stuff. Are those the most common forms of cyber attacks?

Sean Joyce: It's really, I would say, phishing, malware. I mean really, when you're looking at the common SQL injection, and some of the other common forms of malware that you’ve seen out there, I think people don't realize how...I mean the malware can be very sophisticated. But the mode of entry is typically—I forget what the percentage is, but it's very high—through an attachment that you click on.

I would just say, the most common vector is really through phishing and social engineering. That’s how most hackers get in.

Jon Finkelstein: Hey, I'm curious. So hackers go through, someone opens up an attachment, malware happens. What's the end game? What are they looking to do? What do they want?

Sean Joyce: It depends. So when I look at the five threat vectors, which I will break down for you as nation states, terrorists, organized crime and criminals, hacktivists and insiders.

So typically the motivation for the nation states out there is to really gather intelligence. And what we're seeing is a lot of nation states that I think did not have the traditional intelligence collection capability, whether that's through satellites, human beings and other types of things, that this thing called cyber is really giving them a level playing field.

So you see the likes of Iran, North Korea, Vietnam, and many countries that are actually utilizing this as an intelligence platform. 

So we talked about the nation states a little bit. Let's...terrorists, I really think their ability is increasing. Terrorism has really proliferated around the world, unfortunately. I think to most of our listeners, that's probably not a threat vector that we need to talk about. They're really looking at…they’re focusing on government targets mainly. But as they mature, I think they'll be looking at economic targets.

When you look to the next group though, when I talk about organized crime and criminals, I think there is a lack of understanding out there that there aren't these thousands and thousands of hackers spread throughout the world, that are geniuses, that do this each and every day. There are certainly hackers all around the world. But the best hackers in the world are really focused in the Ukraine, Romania and Russia. And they really leverage the tool sets that they develop and sell them.

Then when you look at the hacktivists, I think that's an overlooked threat vector. A lot of times, companies will have board members who may be involved in other organizations, foundations—it could be bio, pharm, life science-type causes, companies—issues in other areas where they come under attack, and the company [comes under attack] by default. 

When you look at the last one, and we're talking about insiders, I think that is a frequently overlooked threat factor. Thirty plus percent of breaches are the result of insiders. And so I think it really behooves most companies to make sure that they have an insider threat program and understand the vulnerabilities that that presents. And I will define, for this conversation, an insider is anyone with authorized access. So that could be consultants, that could be employees, that could be some third-party vendors, whatever. But it's just, I think that's a threat vector that is overlooked.

Jon Finkelstein: Thirty percent is insider?

Sean Joyce: That's right.

Jon Finkelstein: And so, if someone was to do that, are they allowing people from outside or are they sharing secrets, or data, or files?

Sean Joyce: So a lot of times, it's authorized access.

Which means, during the course of your normal duties, you have access to this. A lot of, as we know, right? When you look at a company's ecosystem, and I describe ecosystem as our connectivity to other business partners, that we need to have to do business. So a third party is going to have connectivity to, say PwC, because they need certain information. 

But then there's also the malicious insider, right? That employee who's purposely stealing information and intellectual property. Those type of things that can do great damage to a company.

Jon Finkelstein: So out of that 30%, just for my own edification, it's not all malicious. Sometimes it's just unwitting, unknown.

Sean Joyce: I wouldn't say that I would characterize most of it as not malicious. Probably most of the insider is [malicious], but there are some insider issues that come up that are not malicious, right? But I think most of it is probably…there's a lot of disgruntled employees. That's why with a successful insider program, there are a lot of stakeholders within the organization, that come together. Right? If you typically come to work nine to five, and then all of a sudden you start working noon to midnight, is that a red flag that we should be concerned about or are you just working on a special project? So there's a lot of different indicators that I think companies should be looking at, that are going to keep them safer.

Jon Finkelstein: Do you think that companies are taking these threats seriously?

Sean Joyce: I think they do take it seriously. 

I think most CEOs certainly list cyber risk as one of the top risks in the US. It is the top risk in Canada, or I think it's one of the top three, if I remember my stats correctly. So I don't think there's a question of taking it seriously. The question is, do they truly understand the investment and steps necessary?

Jon Finkelstein: I love this quote. I don't know who said it. It may have been an ad. "Difficult is worth doing."

Sean Joyce: No, it's a great quote. And it's something where, this is a journey and an investment. And I think companies need to understand that. But it’s a defining moment. I think the ones that are actually willing to take that leap of faith, those are going to be the winners of the world.

You know, we were talking about a strategy. But when we talked about strategy, it was what's your three-to-five-year strategy? I was like, throw that out the window. The world that we're living in right now is about an agile strategy. How do you have the agility and nimbleness as an organization, to be flexible and adjust to market trends?

I'm actually looking at my strategy every six months. That's how quick I think the market is I'm actually looking at my strategy every six months. That's how quick I think the market is changing. That doesn't mean I don't have some foundational elements to my strategy, especially on the people side. But I'm talking about, when you're looking at market trends, and what the customer wants, and what consumers are looking for, that's changing very quickly. And you need to know, have that agility that I'm talking about.

Jon Finkelstein: I think that's a key for people who are listening: making sure your strategy is agile. Because you're right, three to five years? Meh. That's not going to work. You know. At all, at all.

Sean Joyce: At all, at all.

Jon Finkelstein: At all, at all.

So, what do you think are the top three things companies should be doing to prepare themselves for today's sort of, I mean, “connected world” yeah, in inverted quotations, but I think it's even beyond that.

Sean Joyce: Without question, a third-party annual cybersecurity assessment. Bring someone in. Have them do a top-to-bottom assessment. I'm not talking about an interview, document-based cybersecurity assessment. One where you're actually looking at the controls. Are they functioning? Are they functioning effectively? Are they being followed? Are there business processes? Is there a feedback loop? 

Then from a threat and vulnerability management, are you doing the pen testing? Looking at whether you have addressed the vulnerabilities. Whether you have a third party that's actually looking at that, and saying, hey, looking at it from the attacker's perspective and spending some time [thinking about] if I'm going to look at this company, what am I going to target? How am I going to target that? And actually doing that.

The third thing is, actually practising. So, when we talked about having an incident response plan/crisis management plan—and this goes for, not just cybersecurity, but I would say just basic business continuity. You have to make sure that you have a plan and you practise it.

want to make sure that you have a crisis management team set up.

Jon Finkelstein: Hey, I'm curious. We hear about some of these breaches. But I’ve got to think there's way more going on there than we ever hear about. 

Sean Joyce: There are a lot of things that are never disclosed. Not that all things have to be disclosed, I'm not saying that. But I do think there are some areas where it would be helpful to consumers at large to understand if the companies are not practising good hygiene and they don't have resiliency.

Jon Finkelstein: What kind of innovations are there for companies that want to up their cybersecurity game?

Sean Joyce: I think it's's just a race. Unfortunately, I feel like the hackers always have a leg up because they're looking one step ahead of us. And they're also willing to make mistakes and fail. And they're very technology inquisitive and want to find a lot of these things.

A lot of organizations are typically late adopters of technology. So we see a lot of that.

It is truly a revolution in technology. I tell my kids that all the time, and they just kind of look at me funny and say, "Yeah right, Dad."

But it really is. We're going to continue to see these changes. And it comes back to that adoption, and agility, and kind of following on.

Jon Finkelstein: I hope that people don't think that because there' know, with the uptake and innovations in technology, and how fast this is going. And then on the other side, worrying about the potential threat of Internet of Things, of all these different devices and technologies, to give them a reason not to move forward, and to digitize, and to be thinking about that. Because it's very easy to go, "Well you know what, I'm worried about that. We're just going to stick to the old thing. It's safe."

I don't think companies have that option, because I think consumers expect it. If you look at…how many people can exist without their iPhone or Android, right? Not many.

So what advice do you have for listeners, when they're thinking about balancing innovation and risk?

Sean Joyce: To make sure that that team is a complete team. What I mean by that is, are the cybersecurity professionals part of that team? Are the risk professionals part of that team? And I really think this is where you get into, in that fast-paced environment...I think to be successful, you have to be a leader in innovation.

Jon Finkelstein: That makes perfect sense to me. To solve a problem, you have to make sure you have the right team, at the right time, throughout the process. It makes sense. And I think a lot of people kind of forget. Say we're going to do this thing. I describe it as, you don't want to do the relay race anymore, where I'm going to do my thing, then hand you the baton, and you're going to do your thing. We need to do it together.

Sean Joyce: No, that's a great point, Jon. And together that team, is more powerful. And I think brings greater creativity to what the enterprise is trying to make happen.

Jon Finkelstein: Sean, thanks so much for spending more time hearing yourself talk. I know you said you're sick of it.

Sean Joyce: No. No. No. No.

Jon Finkelstein: And I could see why you're in demand, because this is fascinating stuff.

Sean Joyce: No, just I really, I thank the listeners out there. And really, I thank the folks here today, so thank you, Jon, for having me. The folks in Canada have been terrific. They're so kind and professional, and it's really been a pleasure being here.

Jon Finkelstein: Thank you. And if there is an executable attachment at the end of this podcast, please do not click on it.

Sean Joyce: Please click on it.

Jon Finkelstein: Thank you.

LCBO: Retail evolution & customer experience

How does a crown corporation remain agile through change? In this episode of Shift, LCBO’s President & CEO George Soleas shares how the LCBO is driving innovation in the way it operates and delivers its products and services. From digital adoption and creating narratives for the customer, to leveraging data to transform the customer experience and improve operations across the supply chain, we examine the LCBO’s evolution into an ambidextrous, digitally enabled, organization.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift. It's PwC Canada's podcast series. And we're digging into key digital trends  and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host John Finkelstein and I'm also the Creative Director of PwC Canada. Welcome to another episode of Shift. This is a great one today. We have George Soleas with us. He is the CEO of the LCBO. All of our listeners will definitely be familiar with the LCBO. But there's a lot of stuff going on with the LCBO which we're gonna get into, digital transformation, we've got blurred lines between retail, supply chain, product wholesale and of course what's on everybody's mind right now, cannabis. So welcome. Welcome to the podcast.

George Soleas: Great to be here.

Jon Finkelstein: Why don't you tell us what you're up to. What's happening at the LCBO for you?

George Soleas: A lot of things are happening. But as you know, the retail industry, the retail environment is changing. The entire market in terms of the beverage alcohol is changing. Customer loyalty's changing. Competition is here for the LCBO. Technology is changing rapidly. So we're taking advantage of opportunities to evolve into more of a customer centric organization, so I'm really excited to be here and to share some, of the things that we're doing to evolve the organization into the new LCBO. So I've taken over as the CEO two years ago. And we are going through some very significant strategic transformation for the LCBO. Some of it outward facing, some of it inward facing. But I can tell you the singular focus is how do we serve the customer better?

Jon Finkelstein: What kinds of things have you overcome as you've evolved the business from just being basically a retailer, to a distributor, you have competition, you know, E-commerce? Let's talk a little, bit about that.

George Soleas: One of the first things that I did is look at the leadership team. As a new CEO I needed to make sure that I had a leadership team that can get together, they can debate, they can challenge, and they can walk out of the door speaking from the same page, united, sending the same message. And cascading that message down to all of, the troops. So these were my ambassadors, I needed to have a very strong core team, and that's exactly what I did. The next thing that we needed to do was look at our own strategy, our long term strategy. So once we had the strategy and the visioning then we looked at how do we now align the structure with the function and the talent that we have? Meaning we need to go through an organization design restructuring. We need to go through a significant transformation.

Jon Finkelstein: Well how'd you do that?

George Soleas: Well you energize people. You introduce change management immediately, because as you know, human beings are resistant to change. But they also know that if you don't change, you will be changed. There's always a plan B.

Jon Finkelstein: Yep.

George Soleas: We created what I call the Chief Customer Office, that has an individual, who is responsible for the retail customer. I wanted to have someone who goes to sleep at night and worries about the customer. I also created the Supply Chain and Wholesale Division, a new division that looked at the wholesale customer, wholesale meaning, the grocers and the licensees and they looked at them as a customer, not as a competitor. But I'd like the retail people to look at them as a competitor. Its healthy friction, right. So we needed to become a more ambidextrous organization.

Jon Finkelstein: Change really has to kind of come from the top. And without sort of executive buy in or leadership, this stuff can die on the vine really quickly.

George Soleas: Absolutely. Communication is key. If, your people feel like they are left out they will not engage. Continuously sending out your ambassadors to cascade the message is extremely important. What I said to the Board of Directors when I presented this to them, is that this is going to be a seismic change. If we were to measure it on the Richter scale, it would probably be a nine, but we're gonna try to make it for like a three. And that's exactly what we've done.

Jon Finkelstein: So we have the LCBO and I mean you guys are still, you have the retail operation where we can go. And then you talked a little, bit about, I'm gonna put "competition" inverted quotation here for people who are listening. Because there's an interesting dynamic in a way for grocery. So you're still a wholesaler for them, so describe to me the competitive nature of that.

George Soleas: So as I said before, we needed to become a more ambidextrous organization where we can wholesale to these new customers but at the same time, we wanted to be able to compete with them. So, and we would like these people to be very successful. And we're doing everything we can to ensure that they're successful. And I can tell you why, because they're selling our product for a lower margin. So, although we may be losing traffic and transactions at the stores, our retail stores. We're still getting the revenue from these sales. So there are a lot of organizations in the world that have this ambidextrous ability which I think is fantastic because it keeps you on your toes. Competition is great for any organization, or any individual in my opinion because it helps you to continue to innovate. It helps you to continue to think of the customer. And you know what, in my business, the customer is king. If you don't satisfy the customer, you're out of business.

Jon Finkelstein: How are you using the data? How do you see data and technology enhancing the customer experience within LCBO retail?

George Soleas: So data is only good if you're able to mine it the right way. If you're able to clean it up and make some meaning out of it. We have and amazing supply chain that generates a lot of data. So that helps us to understand, not only the customer, but how can we become more efficient in what we do and gain operational efficiencies. Also, that data helps me to see how I can serve my wholesale customer better.

George Soleas: In terms of the retail, we get data from the loyalty programs, but we have data from our own sales as well. So by asking your personal code at the register, it tells us more or less where you live so we use those statistics when we do store development. There's a lot of science behind the location of a store, the size of the store, what the store is going to look like, the mix of the store. Is it a vintages store, is it a spirit store, is it a beer store? So a lot of that is factored into the predictive model that we have when we develop these stores.

George Soleas: Now moving forward with these new customers and the competition and the rest of the stuff that is happening in our marketplace, that predictive model is now going to change. Those variables are now very different. So we're in the process right now of looking at, not only our network distribution, our distribution network, but also our store development network. Are we in the right locations? Do we have the right sizes of the stores? All of that will come out of the data that we have as we clean it up and as we start to segregate it and mine it in the right way.

Jon Finkelstein: It's very complex. Yeah?

George Soleas: Yeah. If you wanna be agile or nibble. If you want to be able to compete with the rest of the business in Ontario, you need to have the right systems. And you need to be able to have the right data, and the right talent.

Jon Finkelstein: I think peoples expectations about what they're gonna experience in the physical world, I mean, we've all been so spoiled by other online retailers, other apps that happen in real time that make recommendations. And are you seeing more interplay with mobile phones and technology in the store?

George Soleas: Absolutely there are a lot of exciting things that we're doing in the store to attract these, customers. The new customer is looking for a more seamless environment, a more seamless service. They want you to be anywhere, anytime on any device. We have our mobile commerce as well. We're trying to create theater in the stores. We were the first one, the first government Crown organization to team up with an organization out in Waterloo called Communitech. We, hired four co-op students and an IT Manager whose got a PhD in Industrial Engineering. And we dream of things we want, and we send it to them and they brainstorm and they develop apps. One of the apps that we're looking right now is Way Finding. We want you to be able to come in the store, subscribe to the app, and the Way Finding will tell you the location of the product that you're looking for. Another using technology, we want you to be able to locate the Product Consultant as soon as you come into the store by using this.

George Soleas: We want the customer to come into the store and feel that we are meeting their expectations. That we are creating a remarkable experience for them. We want the people that come in our stores to love us. One of the things that we're doing right now in retail, is we're taking over all, of the tastings in the stores. Up until now, suppliers, they had their own people who would come in and do tastings. I'm going to own customer centricity. And I'm going to make sure that when the customer comes in the store they feel like they got a remarkable experience.

George Soleas: We're introducing a lot of mixology now. We are working with our spirits suppliers to bring in these unique new products to introduce mixology that you can only see at the high end bars. And create that theater and that excitement so that people that come into the store they feel like they can buy that product and that they can go home and they can online and they can Google or they can go on the and they find out exactly how that cocktail is made.

George Soleas: So the other thing that the customer is looking for today, is a story. You know why, is because the products that we sell in most cases are products that you share. And that you put it on the table and you pour it and you start talking about it, about the wine maker or where it came from or the variety or how many years you aged it in your cellar. And then you compare it to the vintage before. I mean there's so much that you do with the products that you buy from our stores is incredible. And we can help you tell the story.

George Soleas: And one of the things that we're considering, especially online, is we want you to be able to look at the product, click on it and you get a virtual tour of the winery that the product was made in or the distillery. We can take you to one of the Ontario wineries and then we can also help the Ontario Agritours. We love working with our local producers. The Ontario wineries, the craft brewers, the craft distilleries and they're doing so many unique and exciting things today that a lot of the Millennials, they love taking those home and experimenting with.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah and you want them to come into the store because they're going to get something different then, they would, let's talk about E-commerce for a second.

George Soleas: That's right.

Jon Finkelstein: So there must have been some pretty tremendous challenges I would think, in terms of being able to sell alcohol online.

George Soleas: You know, social responsibility for us is one of our pillars. And we wanted to get it right from the beginning. We wanted to make sure that once we rolled-out, online, that we would get social responsibility and the delivery to the home. And ensuring that an adult was there to receive the product from the first time. We partner with Canada Post. We work together to make sure that their staff is trained properly. That they receive the same training as our own customer sales representatives that they understand why we're careful about social responsibility. We created a site, we started with a selection with 4,200 products and we're now up to 8,500 products. 3,000 of those products are actually unique products to the site, meaning they're products that you cannot buy on the LCBO shelves. You can get them on the LCBO online.

Jon Finkelstein: See that's interesting being able to not replicate the channels per se. But say "Look, we have certain things, certain sku's, certain products whatever, that are available online". And I'm assuming with delivery, how long does it take?

George Soleas: So we have a number of different options. We can deliver it to a store of your choice and it's going to take about a week. Free of charge. Or we can deliver next day and you pay a small fee. By the way, we just rolled out next day deliver last November, just before Christmas, it's going really well. In fact, more than 50% of the sales are now next day delivery. So there is a huge appetite by our customer to get their product as soon as possible. We're also working on Click and Collect, or what is called Click and Collect, and you come and pick up your product from the store that you chose in a couple of hours.

Jon Finkelstein: The Amazon model said if I need a cable, a USB cable or I want that camera lens or whatever, that I can go anywhere for, I kinda want it right away. But if it's something special that maybe I can't get at the LCBO, I can't go after work, do you think the consumer expectation's different? Are we willing to wait a little, bit longer for something special? Or are our expectations kind of predetermined by how fast the slowest thing was?

George Soleas: You know it really depends what you're buying the product for. In the case of rare and expensive wines for example, we have customer that buy the Bordeaux Futures, where they pay 50% of the cost today and we deliver them to them in a year. So they're prepared to wait. But if you're having a dinner tomorrow night and you don't have the wine, and in fact you're probably looking for a recommendation as well. You probably go on social media and you can access my Product Consultant at the Queens ski store who is on social media and Victor will give you an idea of what to buy. What are you trying to pair it with? And then ship it to you as well. So people would like to have options. We're very proud of the product knowledge that we have at the LCBO. It's actually a differentiator for the LCBO.

Jon Finkelstein: Have you been paying much attention to artificial intelligence and what's going on in the whole AI assistance space?

George Soleas: This may not be totally artificial intelligence, but as you know we have our own distribution centers. One of which is at Durham is the largest and most automated distribution center we have. So the front end of the warehouse is automated. The back end of the distribution center was manual. We had manual pallatization stations.

George Soleas: So we looked at that and we said "You know what, we can write our own algorithm". And we were able to build that to build the most stable, the most dense pallet. We've eliminated our lost time injuries by 82% in that facility. We gained a lot of efficiencies with the cube utilization in the truck because now, that pallet went from say 65 to 70 cases to 105. There's so many gains and we were able to eliminate 75,000 hours and we did not lay off one single person, because we're now doing more with what we had. We just received the first patent ever in the history of the LCBO. And that algorithm learns on its own. So it's not totally artificial intelligence, but that's where the world is going.

Jon Finkelstein: But how do operationalize innovation and how do you make this part of your DNA?

George Soleas: Yeah that's a good question. And that's one of the things that we were not really good at. There's a lot of innovation happening across the organization at every level. But how do you choose the best practices? Or how do you communicate the best practices? So we've created the VP of Strategy and Innovation, so that this person in that office will be able to go around the organization and make sure that A, it's communicated, that B, we know who's innovating what, and we can also control it so that we're not wasting time and money doing things that maybe we shouldn't be doing.

George Soleas: The culture that I'm trying to create is one where people are customer centric, they're collaborative, they're accountable, but they also are not afraid of making mistakes. If you don't create a culture where people are not afraid to make mistakes, they will not make mistakes but they are not gonna give you innovation. They're not gonna be as passionate and as motivated to engage in this type of exercise.

Jon Finkelstein: Cool. Switching gears now from alcohol to cannabis. This is a super interesting topic. You guys are right at the forefront of this. Obviously with OCS, setting up that as an organization.

George Soleas: It's very exciting times. Very exciting times for someone like myself and my team. I mean how many people get the opportunity to start up a business like cannabis? A product that we don't know a lot about it. It wasn't legally selling in the retail market. I said legally.

Jon Finkelstein: Not in Canada.

George Soleas: Not in Canada. It's one of the biggest challenges is, how do you project your sales? The customer and demand? It's very, very challenging. But anyway the Ontario government has taken a decision to adopt a similar model to the LCBO. They've taken a very cautious and a very sensible approach here which I like. And I'm also very proud that they looked at the LCBO as the model, because the LCBO not only has what is required in terms of the social responsibility to sell this product. But it also has the know-how on how to develop the system. Store development and real estate for example. Our Information Technology systems, our supply chain, our research protection, our communications. All of that has been used to set up this new organization, to stand it up.

Jon Finkelstein: Did you guys look beyond Canada to see how other countries have been doing it? Or net new?

George Soleas: Of course, we've visited dispensary's in Colorado, in California, in Oregon, in Washington. We've talked to a lot of people, we've attended a lot of conferences, cannabis conferences. And we've learned a lot from them. We've also spoken to the various jurisdictions across Canada, the various provinces, what they're planning to do, what we plan to do. There's a lot of sharing of information. But a lot of it is new information. A lot of it we had to use the expertise of the LCBO to bring it to where it is today.

Jon Finkelstein: Do you think that the sale of cannabis is gonna cannibalize alcohol sales.

George Soleas: You know that's a very good question. If you look at some, of the jurisdictions that have embarked on the sale of cannabis such as Colorado, Washington and California, et cetera. They'll tell you that there was some anecdotal evidence that there was some cannibalization of alcohol. But in the case of Ontario, because we have a controlled system in alcohol, and a controlled system in cannabis, we will be able to measure the effect more accurately than anyone else in the world. So I can't tell you right now what the answer is, but two to three years down the road, once this product is selling through the Ontario cannabis store, I think we'll be able to tell you.

Jon Finkelstein: You might be one of the busiest guys I think I know.

George Soleas: I love that.

Jon Finkelstein: You know, I mean you hopefully have time to sleep, because you're busy. You have these organizational transformations, you're getting into E-commerce, you have Ontario cannabis store.

George Soleas: And John we just started.

Jon Finkelstein: We just started and we've run out of time. So George thank you so much for spending the time.

George Soleas: My pleasure. [crosstalk 00:24:25] Thank you for having me.

Jon Finkelstein: Such an interesting company. So important to Ontarian's, so important to the Province. You're committed to innovation, you're committed to change across the board. And I think that's a really great model for people who are listening who think that "I have a big organization, we have a lot, of legacy, we can't possibly change". Difficult is worth doing. And it's worth it for everybody.

George Soleas: Thank you for saying that and you know we are building the LCBO of the future and it's very exciting. So thank you for having me.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode, and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or your preferred podcast platform, just so you know this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership. For general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until, next time.

Alectra Utilities: Driving customer centricity in complex organizations

Being one of the largest municipal utility providers in Canada can prove to be a challenge. Jon Finkelstein sits down with Eileen Campbell, VP of Customer Service for Alectra Utilities, which is using new technology to better equip energy producers and consumers in making informed energy decisions. They talk about balancing emerging technology with quality customer care, and what the future of utilities looks like.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada’s podcast series, and we’re digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I’m also the Creative Director of PwC Canada. All right. Welcome to another edition of Shift. I’m really excited, this is the first time we’ve taken Shift on the road. For our listeners, we’re in Hamilton and we are at the head office of Alectra Utilities, and I’m here with Eileen Campbell, VP, Customer Service at Alectra. Welcome to the podcast.

Eileen Campbell: Well, welcome to Hamilton, and thank you for having me on Shift.

Jon Finkelstein: Today we’re talking about customer experience. It’s a really hot topic these days as everybody can imagine, our expectations about what brands and what companies are going to do for us is ever changing and it’s always getting better. We’ve been spoiled by some of the great brands like Apple and Amazon, and we’re judging every other brand’s customer service by the best we’ve ever had by other brands. That puts you in an interesting position as a monopoly because as a consumer, I don’t really have a choice about where I’m going to get my power from. Yet you take customer service extremely seriously.

That’s what we’re going to talk about today. All the different things you’re doing, how you’re doing it, why it’s important and I think that’s a really cool place to start. Maybe you can just take two seconds and just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do here and how you got here and what you last took for dinner.

Eileen Campbell: Love to. I am the leader, or the lead of the customer service group here at Alectra. I joined the organization in February when we formed our new company. Previously, I was the vice president of customer service with Horizon Utilities, located here at this office in Hamilton. I started in the utility industry with Hamilton Hydro, which is a predecessor of Horizon, back in 1980. And so, I’ve been around for a number of years. I actually started in the organization as a customer service rep, so I very proudly wore the headset and served our customers in the front line.

My new role at Alectra is very focused on customer experience and leading the customer service team. Our focus today is around integration and bringing together our four legacy utilities.

Jon Finkelstein: That must be an uphill climb, I’m guessing.

Eileen Campbell: The interesting thing with this merger, the four utilities, we, in each one of the utilities that have come together in this merger were leaders in their own areas, so very much four like-minded companies coming together with a common objective and putting customers first and being customer-centric organizations. The uphill climb is not quite as... There’s a lot to do and there’s a lot of work that has to be done in the integration, and it’s very complex in some of the projects that we have going on. But the vision of the organization, all four companies coming together had the customer vision.

Jon Finkelstein: You talked a lot about your customer experience vision. Maybe you could talk a little bit about what is that vision.

Eileen Campbell: Sure. The vision for Alectra is to provide all of our customers across our service territory, which goes from Penetanguishene down to Niagara, a consistent experience with every touchpoint and every communication channel we have. So, regardless of where you are in our service territory, we’re looking to provide you with that consistent experience. We’re looking to have a connection with our customers, a relationship with our customers. And we’re looking to tailor that relationship into more personalized experiences as well.

As an example, a customer has a preferred method on how they want to communicate with us. So, we want to have a consistent experience across all the channels of communication. However, if somebody wants to use a digital experience with us, if somebody wants to talk to us on the phone, if somebody wants to come in person, we want to be able to provide those different methods of communication based on the customer choice, but in a consistent manner.

Jon Finkelstein: So, part of it is, “Hey, let’s stick to the channel of choice.” Awesome. I’m assuming as part of your vision, maybe it’s a leading question but, you want to set some kind of standard about what it means to be Alectra, how we want to communicate people. I’m sure there’s some shared values around what that means, and how we treat people, how we present ourselves.

Eileen Campbell: Exactly. We’re looking at the customer experiences beyond the transaction. So, we’re looking at really that development of the relationship with our customers so that we understand what their needs are. You spoke earlier about, our expectations have continued to evolve and...doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a travel agency or you’re dealing with a bank or you’re dealing with a utility, customers have a perception or a view in their mind of what they expect that experience to look like. And when you think about it, why wouldn’t you? You’ probably do the same thing.

You want it to look like how you want it to be so that it meets your needs.

Jon Finkelstein: Certainly one of the themes I think in any kind of customer experience is personalization. That’s kind of one of the themes that we’re seeing in a lot of businesses. It’s like it’s all great for me as a brand or as a company to think about, “This is how I want to talk to you,” but it may not be how as a customer I want you to talk to me. I think that’s really important. It’s like, there’s so many great memes going on about how you react when someone calls you instead of texts you.

I don’t actually want to pick up the phone, I just want to text.

Eileen Campbell: Yes, exactly. Exactly. We want to be able to provide the information and communication in the preferred method from the customer, but also to be able to give them the information that they’re looking for, to be able to have information at their fingertips, so if they want to self-serve, it’s a very simple transaction and they want to just take care of that, that’s great. Something a little more complex, we want to be able to take the time to spend with them to have a people interaction so that there’s a good understanding.

Jon Finkelstein: I’m curious what customers want from you because my mind goes immediately to complaints, right? “My power is not working. My bill is too expensive. What is this charge?” It’s got to be more than that.

Eileen Campbell: What customers want from us is when they get home or in their business and they turn that switch on, that the lights come on. So, they’re looking for consistent, reliable delivery of power, whether you’re a residential customer or a business customer. And for a business customer, it’s probably a little more important because it affects their bottom line. So they’re looking for the power to be on, they’re looking for the lights to be on. They want timely, accurate bills—they want to know when they open up that bill, that it’s accurate, it’s right. They don’t have to spend a lot of time on it.

And they also want those bills to be affordable. And they’re also looking for information. You talk about complaints, if they have an issue with their bill or a question on their bill, they want us to be accessible, they want us to give them quick, accurate information.

And if their power is out, they want to know when it’s coming back on.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah. You almost want to be told you’re on it before I even have a chance to tell you that it’s off.

Eileen Campbell: Absolutely.

Jon Finkelstein: It’s like the second hotline, they call you before you call them. I have to imagine that there’s probably some emerging tech that’s happening in the background to help with that.

Eileen Campbell: Yes.

Jon Finkelstein: So tell me, because I love technology. I love, whether we’re talking about machine learning or predictive analytics and all those kind of stuff, I’m a bit of a nerd. It’s not just people on phones. What’s behind, what kind of tech is behind this stuff?

Eileen Campbell: We’re making investments in our systems now to ensure that we’re providing customers with the best value from the services that we provide them. One of the big projects that we have underway right now is we’re bringing together all of our customer information onto an industry-leading platform. All of our customer information will be on a single platform, and that’s really the launching pad for our customer experience, building out from there. There’s a lot of investments in self-serve technologies so that customers can self serve. You talked about automation. We need our systems to do simple transactions for us. We need to build in automations in our processes so that it gives our people the time that they need to spend with customers on more complex issues.

So, you take away sort of all those... The old reality is manual processes, the new reality is these need to be automated processes. We need the pop-up information for our staff so that they have what they need to know about this customer right when they’re talking to them, and then they can serve them and give them that full 360 view of their experience with us.

Jon Finkelstein: So things like robotic process automation, RPA. There’s been a lot of talk about that. And what’s really interesting when we work in public sector, the notion of automation freaks a lot of people out, right?

Eileen Campbell: Yeah.

Jon Finkelstein: Are you finding that?

Eileen Campbell: Yeah.

Jon Finkelstein: What I mean by that, for people who are listening, it’s like, “Well, if the computers and the robots are doing my job or at least the job that I used to do, what will I do now?” And you talked a little bit about it a second ago in terms of, how do we redeploy the resources that we have, the people resources we have, against stuff that really matters.

Eileen Campbell: That’s where it gets really exciting because nobody wants to do those manual processes anyway. The same transactions blah, blah, blah, blah. You don’t really want to do those. So, we’re investing in our people to build their skills, so upskilling our people. Somebody asked me, “Well, when you go into all these automated processes, or you’re bringing in the robotic automation, are going to have less people?” I’m going to say we’re probably going to have more people, because we’re going to need... It’s going to be a different skill, but we’re going to need the technology, we’re going to have to support the technology, so our IT infrastructure and how right now we’re staffed for IT resources, the face of that is going to change.

Jon Finkelstein: Let me ask you a question. We talked a little bit about your platform and some automation that’s happening. What other emerging techs or technologies are you using to provide data, to provide a better experience? Smart metering, for example.

Eileen Campbell: Smart metering is probably a really good example. Across Ontario, we have deployed smart meters to all of our end-use customers. The information flow, the two-way communication flow with the meters and accessibility to the grid is definitely emerging. We at one point in time we used to go out and manually read those meters, so a meter reader would walk down the street and read each one of those meters. We now pull those meters on an hourly basis and bring that information into the back office.

The value of that is, first of all, we have hour-by-hour rich data to be able to help customers with their energy profiles. We have tools then that assist them to help manage their own energy cost because they can view their consumption data in our online portals, they can track when they’re using their consumption. We have time-of-use rates that are in Ontario as well, so they can look to shift the usage off from the on-peak, which is the higher rate, to the off-peak and save money through how they use their electricity.

The other value from the technology and having the meters on an electronic platform is we also know when that meter’s off. If there’s a power outage in the area and we know we’ve fixed the transformer in the neighbourhood, we can now go to check to see that all 10 of those houses that are connected to the transformer are back on by pinging that meter, and we know that the power has been restored without having to have a truck go out to check that.

Jon Finkelstein: What do you think the utility of the future looks like or, what does Alectra of the future look like? Where do you see customer experience going in the next 10 years?

Eileen Campbell: In the next 10 years is not that far away, right?

Jon Finkelstein: Okay, I’ll make it 20.

Eileen Campbell: No, exactly.

Jon Finkelstein: It’s not that far away, but it’s kind of doable.

Eileen Campbell: Yes, so when you look at that 5, 10, 15, 20-year mark, where the customer experience is going is, customers are looking for flexibility, choice, and accessibility to the grid. They’re looking to connect to the grid, they’re looking for that, not just to be takers of the power, they’re looking to be generators of the power. But they’re also looking for accessibility to information. I see us in the 5-year future mark out, the 10-year future mark out, having very robust systems in place that it will allow the customers to gather that information, get whatever they need to be able to satisfy whatever objectives they have, whether that’ll be generation, whether it’ll be conservation, whether it’ll be they just don’t want to have to worry about their bill and they want to know when they go over a certain value or they need to know if during the day when they’re at work, their children have every light on, and the furnace up to 90 degrees and...

Jon Finkelstein: Have you been to my house?

Eileen Campbell: Exactly. And their consumption is going through the roof. I’m expecting and what we’re building towards is, that through artificial intelligence, robotics processing, that we will be able to instantaneously deliver this information, either into the fingertips of a rep who’s dealing with a customer, and/or to an end-user customer if they want to deal with it themselves.

Jon Finkelstein: What advice would you have for large organizations who are really trying to ramp up excellence in consumer experience?

Eileen Campbell: Process, process, process.

Jon Finkelstein: Well, tell me more about that.

Eileen Campbell: Well, you mentioned earlier about the back office needs to support what’s out in the front office, and in order for the back office to support that, we need and large businesses need, or any business needs very robust processes that are followed from beginning to end.To manage that customer experience and have that consistent customer experience, you really need to have those solid processes in place to make that happen.

Jon Finkelstein: I’m interested in the dynamic, or the relationship between providing excellent customer experience and regulation. Because I’m imagining that to a certain degree or maybe to a lot of degree, you are a master or servant to two constituents. On the one hand, we’ve got government and we’ve got regulations and policy that dictate price and all this kind of stuff, and that might fly in the face of consumer experience and what people want, lower rates this kind of stuff. How do you manage that?

Eileen Campbell: It is interesting being in a regulated environment, and the regulation that dictates on how we bill, or rates and how rates are set, we have very little control over. Though, we are an advocate on behalf of our customers and we are involved in every consultation regardless if it’s a consultation about changing rates or it’s about bringing in a new program, a conservation program. So we’re advocates for our customers, the voice to send back into the government.

Jon Finkelstein: Eileen, thank you so much for spending time with us.

Eileen Campbell: Thanks.

Jon Finkelstein: Sharing some insights about what you guys are doing and from the customer experience side of things, how you’re merging the companies, what kind of tech you’re using, and really giving some thoughts to people who are listening about what they need to do to provide excellence in their customer experience. So thanks very much, I’m an Alectra customer, I’m glad my lights are pretty much always on.

Eileen Campbell: Fantastic.

Jon Finkelstein: I don’t mean that we leave them on, I mean that when I go to use them they work.

Eileen Campbell: They’re on. Well, I’m very glad to hear that and thanks for the opportunity to talk with you today.

Jon Finkelstein: Thank you.

That’s right. Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, an Ontario Limited liability partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

Government of Canada: Change and Innovation in the public sector

Equipping the largest Canadian enterprise to thrive in a digitally disrupted world is complex and challenging. In this episode, Jon Finkelstein and Alex Benay CIO of the Government of Canada talk about the steps to create a digital government and fundamentally change how the government operates balancing technology, policy, and legislation, with the need to be more collaborative and more open to the innovation ecosystem.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi, welcome to Shift, PwC Canada's Podcast series, and we're digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host Jon Finklestein, and I’m also the creative director of PwC Canada.   

Welcome to another edition of Shift. Oh man, I'm excited today. Today, we're talking about enabling change in digital innovation in the public sector. I'm here with Alex Benay, who is the CIO, that's Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada, that's huge. Welcome to Shift.

Alex: Thanks.

Jon Finkelstein: I feel like I'm in the presence of royalty. Tell us a little bit about what's going on with you.

Alex: So personally I've ... I'm in the role for about seven months, it's an interesting job because we have quite a few public failures in our execution in the paper these days, and there's ... You may as well talk about that early on in this interview, this discussion that's resulted in people not getting paid, or not deploying email systems, or ... So on the one hand we've got these terrible things going on, and on the other hand, there's an entire wind of change thing goin' on where we could look at executing differently where there's an appetite to do procurement differently that we've done, hire people differently and there's a realization I think unfortunately through Winston Churchill, "Never waste a good crisis," that maybe it's time to do something a little bit different, so yeah, it's bit of a world of polar extremes a little bit if you will for us. For me personally, the last seven months, but there's a huge, huge appetite to do things differently in the public sector in Ottawa and the federal government, that I could certainly attest to.

Jon Finkelstein: Maybe I'm speaking on behalf of all citizens, but how do you do it? How do you drive a change agenda? How do you look for innovation in a context of government where it's slow to adopt or there's reticence?

Alex: Yeah, so a couple diametrically oppo ... Or when some people can think as diametrically opposed concepts, we need our plan for us is to add way more discipline. That doesn't mean bureaucracy, it doesn't mean layers, it just means we have 400 case management systems for example, in the government of Canada, that's about an average of nine per department. If we think we have consistent service standard by having nine different cases per department, that's probably a falsehood that we're creating for ourselves.

World's way more collaborative, more open innovation ecosystem, and we still do very linear and closed. That's the fundamental shift that has to happen. So there's the discipline side of it that will permit us to be a little bit more agile in how we execute, and it means fundamentally changing how we do government. The reason I took the job is because of that.

We try to promote working in the open for all of our staff, which means talk about what you're working on, don't spend three years developing a policy behind closed doors and then ta-da, because you've probably missed the market, the pace at which things are moving right now.

So it also means that traditional areas that have never had to deal with tech in the government, who still see technology as a back office enabling function, haven't quite realized that there has not been a new business in the world in the last few years that's not digital by design and nature. So our policies are not just about just policies, the whole world is digital now, and if we don't adjust our thinking, we are gonna get things done to us. So that means changing the tool set, changing how we engage, changing how we develop programs and services, doing it out in the open with more people, not just ourselves. We're no longer experts in anything.

I think the days where we thought the government was the voice of authority on things are probably gone now because things are just moving too quickly and we're having a hard time keeping up with it, so we have to be a player in a much bigger pawn game-

Jon Finkelstein: Do you find that you guys are spending time ... One of the things we love to focus on here at PwC is really being human centered, yeah?

Alex: Yeah.

Jon Finkelstein: And making sure that the consumers, the citizens, the people are at the heart of what it is we're trying to innovate, or what it is we're trying to transform. Can you talk a little bit about ... 'Cause you mentioned, 'Oh we're gonna be in a more open environment, developing policy behind closed doors for three years and then coming out to the other side doesn't make sense.'

Alex: Even what we see as a consultation period with a beginning and an end, and then we do right into an age where you can engage with politicians, movie stars, people online. People are accessible all the time, like we have a beginning and an end to our consultation period, but no ... So there's definitely for us a need to move to I think a more collaborative space overall, I think it's an exciting time. I think we get to a place where we're able to do more with less, and I wanna make the distinction between a digital government is a different way of working versus digitizing government and the way it exists as well is important delineation to make.

Jon Finkelstein: That's really cool. Talk to me a little bit more about the difference between digitizing government and being a digital government.

Alex: Yeah, so governments around the world, I had the pleasure of being an OpenText for about five years where I was runnin' ... Lucky enough to run through a whole bunch of different eGoverment projects around the world, and at that time we were trying to ... It was all about let's digitize the process.

So a lot of processing technology, a lot of infrastructure technology, which was linear, A to B to C to D move this thing and turn it into bits and a bite and then move it quickly. That doesn't change the process, that just makes the process faster, which in itself is a noble cause, but in today's interconnected society where internet of things is becoming a reality, we're talking about billions upon billions of devices where the voices of the crowd are astronomically more powerful than trying to sit at your desk to write a research thesis paper. The model has shifted, right?

A digital government is one where your contents available by default, so unless it's personal, or private, or national security that it's released to the public so everybody can see you're working out in the open. The reason for that is if you're a researcher, for example, you have no idea in other countries what people are working on, the internet is a very powerful and vast place, so what if somebody can augment your research in India, and in Australia, and in Botswana, and all of a sudden you're leveraging the power of tens of thousands of people for your one research piece.

The other facet of that is I would say in a government wastes 99% of its capital, which is content and information and data that never gets released, you never know one person's trash is another person's treasure. Like who would've thought that Ancestry. com or Flight Tracker would be close to a billion dollar entities today with content that people thought was irrelevant?

So the fuel, the chip that we have in this digital economy, digital world of us as public sector is our content. So a digital government is one that puts it out there by default, by design that enables way more third parties to interact with it.

So in Canada, we have The Weather Network, we have Turbo Tax Intuit, and other taxation's software tools. What if we took that and we amplified that? What if we let more third parties to lower services on behalf of the government of Canada because maybe they can do it more quickly and more efficiently. It doesn't mean that we don't offer the service, the CRA still offers the tax service, they always will, but they've created an ecosystem for themselves.

So a digital government is a service that's anywhere on any device, on any platform, why can't renew your passport for you. When you book your trip it tells you your passports expired, I'm sure doesn't like losing a sale, 'cause you gotta go spend a month renewing your passport, and then you may not go back there. So if you're booking your trip off and it tells you your passports about to expire, we have the technologies to authenticate now, why couldn't it renew your passport for you?

Jon Finkelstein: It's a wicked idea.

Alex: Right, then why can't you do it from your car, or your watch or anywhere else. We have to become ubiquitous as government. We have to make sure people don't even know we're there in a lot of cases because it's a little bit presumptuous of us to think that in a digital world, where you're used to getting things on your phone and your watch, that we are going to make you come to us is actually very pompous in a way. We have to find a way to get to where people are and that is increasingly online, so very different way of developing policies out in the open with people, and engaging. Very different way of developing services with others.

We've just launched an agile procurement for the first time federally, where we bought a tech thing in two months, but we didn't put out all our requirements and prescribed the solution, we just said here's the challenge, you guys are expert, help us. So you get to co-create with people way more and you get to be taken to places that are way more innovative as opposed to you spending three years talking to vendors that will tell you your solution is based on their product, you're actually telling the world here's my problem. Xprize has shown that they can do some really cool stuff. We've launched that for the first time. So it's just changing how you do government, it's not digitizing an old process for a paper environment that was designed pre-car, it's literally doing things different based on how things are done today.

Jon Finkelstein: I think that's a total beacon ... I wish more people were thinking the way you're thinking about how to change the environment, or the model that you're working on because I think we deal with a lot of big organizations, right? Obviously not as large in a scale as government, but you get into ... It's so easy to say, 'We can't do that, that's not possible, that'll take too long, we don't have the resources or the whatever,' these turn the whole thing on it's end and I go, 'I love that.' It's like ... This is our problem, and go out to experts whether its co-creation, or collaboration, and go, 'What's the best way to do this?'

Alex: If you look at artificial intelligence, the federal governments invested hundreds of millions in the last budget in AI, if we do things the traditional way that we've done, pre-digital, we will spend three, four ... 'Cause we wanna do AI stuff in government, we have to. I think it's part of ensuring our survival as a service provider, as a policy center for the country, as a whole bunch of things. If we were to do it the traditional way, we'd spend three years trying to define requirements.

Whereas in me going out to the market and saying here is the things that we're considering that are issues, I may get a university responding to me, I may get the province of Ontario responding. Why am I limiting it to vendors? If you really think about it, right?

A story I like to tell is NASA spent 20-30 years trying to predict solar flares, right? Spend millions of dollars, best scientists all the time, trying to predict solar flares. We all agree that if we're on a plane ride and a solar flare happens, it's not a fun day for you. So couldn't do it, couldn't predict it to a level of accuracy that they were looking for, they released all the content a couple of weeks later, a retired professor ... A retired radio operator from Massachusetts predicted, was able to use the data, developed a model that predicted solar flares up to 85% accuracy. So it's not that they wasted tens of millions of dollars trying to do it, it's that they were able to leverage that body of knowledge and that data and somebody somewhere that they didn't pay was able to figure it out.

That's the value government needs to bring I think moving forward. I don't think there's a piece of public science that should be done behind closed doors or firewalls moving forward. Other countries are moving towards that, the EU is looking to make it law.

Estonia is a model that ... Is a country that has transcended the physical realm so you can be an eCitizen of Estonia and never set foot in the country. You can launch your business in Estonia and never set foot in the country. They're looking at cryptocurrency as their new national currency. They have elevated themselves from the physical and the funny part of that is because we're the government of Canada, we use to think that small couldn't deal with the government of Canada, we're too big, we need big companies to deal with us, right? But it's all the small folks that are actually setting the pace now. Singapore, UAE, Catalonia hasn't even officially removed themselves from Spain and the day after the vote, they were looking at a cryptocurrency for the country.

Small is better, so we have to stop thinking bigger is better and linear is better. Small exponential can do way more, and we're seeing it with these small countries that are now leading the digital agenda for the world. It's not the States, it's not China, it's not us, it's these other small countries, so I think there's a lot to be learned there that we need to change our culture from a public sector perspective and actually the mandate of government is actually way more fun now than it's ever been. We just haven't been really able to shift the thinking I think.

Jon Finkelstein: That's wicked. As a CIO, I'm really curious, how do you protect the government and citizens from cyber risk? This is all over the news right now, there's hacks everywhere, there's all kinds of Mr. Robot out there. I'm really curious, that's gotta be top of mind.

Alex: It is, we spent the last, I don't know, half hour talking about digital services and transformation, and one of the things we have to keep in mind is if you're spending a dollar on a digital service, you should spend a dollar on cyber security. I had a chance to meet a lot of the COs of the banks at Waterloo at an event, and asked them what some of their top priorities were and to a tee, they all responded cyber security. One breach and the business is dead, right? Essentially, and the ... this is gonna sound bad, but the one luxury that the government has is the business wouldn't die, but it would be another nail in the coffin towards trust of citizens in its government, if something happened at that scale.

Luckily we've been putting a lot of investments in our cyber security, we're globally ... Like shared service Canada is a big beast that we created to manage infrastructure, but it's not just a series of things that you read in the newspapers that are horrible. We've got some of the best cyber defenses in the world now because of it, so that's great because that's where a lot of our data resides.

I think you ... To get to your question, you address that through legislation and policy, and then you address it through technology. The challenge on legislation and policy front 'cause there's one on each front, on the policy and legislation front, is we did an assessment of 11 departments not to get to a digital service platform for [inaudible 00:14:20]. We had to ... We would've had to of changed 189 pieces of legislation to share data. That means it's also 189 different ways of getting to the data, and that could be good or bad depending on your risks, or do you like having it all in one place super secure, or spread out and distributed.

These are all conversations, and with the cyber thing on the policy front is that it's ever changing. It takes us a year, year and a half to do a policy for government of Canada just because of the scale of the consultations and the dialogue. While cyber changes on a dime, right? So now what? So how do you create the right policy environment within the right standards underneath them, and the right controls, which could be more easily changed than a policy.

So we gotta figure out how we operate really quickly, really nimbly, and the other key challenge legislatively and policy wise is that a cyber-attack on a bank could easily turn into an infection at CRA, could easily hit every single citizen in the country, right? So we ... The world has problems, and often government, not just Ottawa has departments. So we look at things vertically but cyber one of those things that it doesn't care, right? Who you are, what sector you're in, so we again have to shift the thinking away from vertical silos of government to oh crap, now what if for energy infrastructure ... There's a lot of bright people that are thinking about that at C-Sec, so policy and legislation an issue, technology an issue.

To be honest with you, a lot of the cyber-attacks are so sophisticated and they sit in your environment for six to 12 months could be dormant ... There will always be a risk of cyber, and that's a constant risk that we have to figure out, so a dollar in digital services in modernization, you gotta put a dollar in cyber. I'm not quite sure we're there yet, public sector went large around the world in understanding that.

If you look at our new defense policy, cyber's a big part of it. Our national defense strategy and policy for what we use to be tanks and airplanes and boats and other things has cyber in there at the core. So things have really shifted, right? So this is something in the next two to five years are just going to continue taking a boat load of importance.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah, kinda has to, especially as things become more digital-

Alex: 100%.

Jon Finkelstein: More ubiquitous in IOT, and all those things, it's just yeah. It's probably a dollar for services, two dollars for-

Alex: Perhaps.

Jon Finkelstein: Cyber security.

Jon Finkelstein: Alex thank you so much for taking time to talk about this stuff. It's super interesting and I think it's on everybody's mind, not only how is a government gonna evolve, how is it gonna modernize, how are we gonna be secure, how do we deliver services, more ... Not only more transparently, but more ... I'll use the word Omni-channel, that's not really the right word, but to be ubiquitous. I think that's-

Alex: I want the world to forget that we are there, and some people will take that very negatively, but from a services' perspective, we need to disappear. How do we disappear, right? That'll be cool.

Jon: Frictionless? Well that's what they say, it's the best experience is one that you never even really notice.

Alex: It's a pretty crappy job to aspire to disappear to as your ultimate goal, but if you wanted to look at it that way, but that would mean we have gotten to a state where we are having maximum impact on Canadians lives for minimal ... With minimal friction as you say-

Jon Finkelstein: One inch punch.

Alex: Yup.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoy this episode, and wanna hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You could find us on iTunes, Google Play, or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, and Ontario limited liability partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice, until next time.

#movethedial: Gender diversity in tech - from awareness to action

People generally know that gender parity makes sense. Research even shows that greater gender diversity enables organizations to have better financial performance. So why is there still such a strong gender disparity in the tech sector, and so many other industries? Jodi Kovitz, CEO of #movethedial, talks about the necessity of bringing more gender diversity to technology and actions organizations (large and small) can take to increase female leadership and representation in the workforce.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada’s podcast series. We’re digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I’m also the creative director of PwC Canada.   

I’m here with royalty today! We’re back in the studio here at PwC, and I’m with Jodi Kovitz from #movethedial. Welcome.

Jodi Kovitz: Thank you so much for having me.

Jon Finkelstein: I’m so glad you’re here. You are doing some incredibly important work, it’s blowing me away.

Jodi Kovitz: Thank you, thank you so much.

Jon Finkelstein: It’s such an important thing that you’re doing. So, for listeners who may not be familiar with #movethedial, maybe you could just take a second and tell us what you’re up to and what #movethedial is.

Jodi Kovitz: Absolutely. So I am working really hard with a huge, incredible group of people, partners, advisors, volunteers to change the face of tech leadership. So #movethedial is a global movement to advance the participation and leadership of women in technology.

Jon Finkelstein: It’s an important thing for women, and it’s an important thing for technology and for tech, because technology is not going away. It’s only becoming more pervasive, more important in our lives, and when I watched one of your videos online you talked a lot about the diversity of perspective. How can we have something that’s so pervasive in our lives and not have it represented by the population?

Jodi Kovitz: Absolutely. I really think deeply about this. So people often ask me why. Why do we need to move the dial? And there’s a lot of very important dialogue going on right now in the world around the moral imperative, around gender equity, around better business results, but in addition to those very important reasons, we really won’t be designing solutions that reflect the population, unless we include a representative leadership at the table designing those solutions. I was reading a really interesting article in Forbes today about blockchain, and when you think about…in fact, the data we have is that only 5% to 7% of the users of crypto currency are women, and it’s really interesting. So you think about…the user base is not even engaged in the new technology, never mind the talent pool creating, and building, and having the vision for however to use blockchain in the future, and it’s so integral to how our future society is going to function, it really struck me as to why there’s such an urgency to move the dial for the full talent pool right now.

Jon Finkelstein: How did this come to be? How did you get involved? I know you’ve probably told your story a million times.

Jodi Kovitz: It’s okay, I love telling this story.

Jon Finkelstein: So pretend it’s like the first time.

Jodi Kovitz: I love sharing the story of how #movethedial was born. It happened very organically, and I never set out to build a global movement. I had been a lawyer, and then I worked in strategic business development at a law firm, and then a very interesting opportunity came across my desk to become the CEO of a nonprofit in the tech space. That nonprofit is a group of leaders of technology companies in Ontario. So at my first quarterly dinner when I was there sharing my big vision for the organization, I got up and I looked around the room and there was 130 leaders, and I respected them so much, many of them have built very successful companies, and three of them out of the 130 looked like me. I was shocked, because I had spent many years in the legal profession, both practising and then doing strategic business development, I worked with many powerful women that were leaders, and never really saw a difference in gender at the leadership table.

So I was actually quite surprised, and I immediately, right in that moment when I was sharing my vision for the organization, said, “And diversity’s going to be on the agenda.” So, that was seed one. Seed two was that a very good friend of mine who works at a venture capital firm said, “Jodi, the mayor is going to Israel on a trade mission, and you really should be on that trip.” And I said, “But I’ve been in tech for five minutes. I haven’t really earned my stripes as a CEO in the tech space.” He said, “Well, I’m going to call and see if I can get you on the trip.” And he did, and that’s what I call a move the dial moment. When people take away “What can I do? How can I contribute?” Sometimes taking two minutes and using a little relationship capital, actually can change the entire course of someone’s life.

So for me, that phone call that he made, I went with Mayor Tory, and 59 other major tech leaders to Israel, and that trip changed my entire life.

Jon Finkelstein: Amazing.

Jodi Kovitz: It really was. And so I got back, and when I was on the trip, the last piece was that I met these incredible female entrepreneurs, they have a company called iAngels, they were articulate, Goldman Sachs trained, hugely inspiring, and they said they were coming shopping for $100 million for their fund when they came to North America. After they spoke I went up to them and said, “Hi, I’m Jodi,” as I do, “and if you stop in Toronto I’ll make a little event around you.” They said, “Why would you do this for us? You don’t even know us.” And I said, “I just want to move the dial for you. You’re just awesome.” And that really was the beginning.

I sent out invitations, got together a little event last January. I thought I’d get 30 people out to hear the story of these incredible female founders, and then what happened was 1000 people registered in a week.

Jon Finkelstein: 1000 people?

Jodi Kovitz: Yeah, so then #movethedial was born.

Jon Finkelstein: You know you’re onto something when you’re over capacity, when people show up and raise their hands and go, “I want to be part of this.”

Jodi Kovitz: Yeah, and the energy in the room was actually palpable, I’ll never forget it. It literally was an energy, it was inspiration, it was positive, people were just hungry to do more, or get involved, and it was the largest collection of women technologists, and women in leadership positions in the technology ecosystem that had ever happened in Canada.

Jon Finkelstein: Why do you think this movement needs to be? I’m sure you’ve been asked that question a lot. I’m curious because, is it a question of women aren’t given equal opportunity to lead in the tech space?

Jodi Kovitz: I spend a lot of my time thinking about the solutions. This is quite a moment in time, in history; what’s going on in the United States with #TimesUp, and I could go into many reasons as to why this happened, but I really choose to say, “Okay, time is up, so now what? We need to move the dial.” And for me it really is about taking proactive, positive, tactical steps. #movethedial is not about affirmative action for affirmative action’s sake, that is not what this is about. This is about, let’s advance the entire talent pool, and to me that happens in two ways.

First, is really inspiring a shift in mindset. There’s a huge awareness component to shift the mindset, and to encourage people, for every conference, to look harder until you find the capable women. For every hire, to think strategically beyond your network, to outreach, to find people from all different kinds of backgrounds, including gender. As well as, in addition to that mindset, taking some really big action together. And what I mean by that is getting together as an actual ecosystem—corporates, emerging technology, longstanding experts in D&I—and really come together and do some big thinking around what are the most important and most urgent steps that we can take as a collective, in order to make the dial move faster?

There are many outstanding leaders who are really modeling what it means to be a very inclusive culture and to take some bold action. An example: Adobe is very far along in their thinking, and really are recognized on a global basis for the work that they’re doing in D&I. Looking at Marc Benioff at Salesforce and the team, that they really put a stake in the ground and said, “We are going to change pay equity. There’s no reason that women should be making less than men. We’ll do an audit, we will right the ship, it doesn’t matter how much it will cost.” That’s fantastic, but imagine we could get 20, 40, 60 corporations to buy into that step as being so critical, to righting the ship, to advancing women from the perspective of feeling valued and their worth, and really understanding that the new economy doesn’t see gender.

So that is really what #movethedial is about. Trying to inspire individuals, as well as our collective community to take some big steps together that will move the dial faster.

Jon Finkelstein: Why does #movethedial focus on tech and innovation?

Jodi Kovitz: That’s a great question, and let me tell you a little bit about how I define tech. I really see tech not only as emerging tech companies, but also as the entire innovation economy. So when you look at any bank, for example, that once was only about financial services proper, there is no bank or financial institution in the world that is not disrupting the entire way they do business using technology and digital services. So every single bank, for example, that I’m talking to about what they can be doing and partnering with #movethedial right now, they are so focused on the gender imbalance in the new leadership of the bank, because all banks, for example, are transforming into tech companies?

Jon Finkelstein: That’s really interesting. You’re so bang on. It seems to be the most logical place to focus effort on because tech is everywhere.

Jodi Kovitz: Tech is everywhere, tech is everything. People ask me, “Why women? And why did you start with that?” I think it really was about that first moment that I told you about, when I looked around the room at a representation of Ontario’s greatest tech, and its most experienced tech leaders and there were so few women, and then I started to dig into the problem, and I didn’t understand how pervasive the challenge was. That there just was not equal representation of women at the leadership table, and creating companies, and getting funded. So it was really important to me to do some research, because I went on BNN, I remember the day of the first event, and I’m a data person, and there was no data in Canada that was meaningful. There was little pockets of data, there had been done some VC data, there’s lots of data around women in boardrooms, generally in corporate Canada, but I had not seen a comprehensive look at the state of the nation for women across the tech ecosystem.

“Where’s the Dial Now?” really shows why #movethedial exists: 5% of tech founders in Canada are women, 13% of tech companies have a woman on their executive team, and we have stats all the way from STEM, looking at boards… These stats really speak for themselves, and really call to action the awareness for why this is so important.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah, it’s amazing. So what challenges do you think the organizations are facing in order to actually move the dial in the first place? What’s stopping them?

Jodi Kovitz: There’s some new challenges in the new economy. That’s definitely one of the things that I think about. The way that the talent pool is structured, the needs of the individual people, the lack of diversity in the actual talent pool, these are really presenting difficult challenges for the recruiters that are trying to attract technology talent, for example.

Jon Finkelstein: You can’t look for women who are excelling if there aren’t any in the talent pool to begin with.

Jodi Kovitz: Or if you don’t know where to find them.

Jon Finkelstein: Oh, that’s interesting.

Jodi Kovitz: So that’s one of the things that’s very common in terms of the conversation I’ve been having with some of the corporations. So when we talk about what’s part of the value prop of #movethedial, it’s really about, for corporates in partnership, looking at, well, we can meet the great talent. There are incredible women, and that is a huge part of my point, there are incredible women, many brilliant scientists, and engineers, and mathematicians, and experts in deep machine learning that exist in the ecosystem, but one of the challenges is around network. It’s not necessarily been that there have been events or opportunities that have felt inclusive for the amazing rockstar women who do exist. So part of it is finding ways to engage, and nurture, and cultivate community, and really bring people in from the woodworks. Like, I am limited by my own network, so network effect is a huge opportunity, really, for us to work on, through #movethedial, where we’re really collecting everyone.

So I was so fortunate to meet some incredible people who cared deeply about advancing gender equity for underrepresented minorities, and we have created a whole committee that is working on it. It is co-led by two incredible women, and they are working really hard with an incredible team to think about special initiatives of #movethedial to address and speak to different voices in the community: women of colour, for example, women from different backgrounds and sexual orientation, different physical abilities. As well as, to bring into every piece of the work that #movethedial is doing globally a component that considers the thought and perspective of different people.

Jon Finkelstein: It’s amazing to me as just someone who, I guess my predisposition isn’t to think in gender anyway. We talk a lot at PwC about the notion of the power of perspective, and human-centred design, and when you don’t have the full representation of the humans at the table, you’re missing half of the show. People are listening, they’re totally digging what you’re saying, it’s an important thing that you’re doing.

Jodi Kovitz: Thank you.

Jon Finkelstein: They’re wanting to know how they can get involved. How do organizations get involved? How can they contribute? What are the steps? What’s the road map?

Jodi Kovitz: Definitely first of all, join us. Join the movement, is our website, if you sign up for our community, you actually are invited to all of the events that we’re doing, including a very exciting to-be-announced (you’re getting a sneak preview here for your listeners) global summit, which is happening on November 7th in Toronto. We are going to host 500 decision makers, CEOs, heads of people from global companies to learn from each other best practice. Very hardcore, tactical, “take this back to your company, this is what you can do to move the dial” in the morning, and then in the afternoon we’re inviting in 400 young people from all over the world in partnership with some amazing companies that are going to help us do that, to be announced soon, and the afternoon is all about aspiration. From some incredible speakers, who will hopefully really start to enable those young people from different disadvantaged backgrounds to dream that they can be just like Oprah. 

Jon Finkelstein: I’d like to be there. I’ll be there.

Jodi Kovitz: Okay, wow. There you go.

Jon Finkelstein: I’ll put it in my calendar right now. You were talking about a shift in mindset, in terms of what people can do to help move the dial. So, what can we do?

Jodi Kovitz: Great question Jonathan. So, to me, it really is about taking some very small steps. So number one: open some doors. Men should be doing this, women should be doing this, we can all be doing this. It really comes from a philosophy of generosity, and there has to be a shift into just all of us remembering that human connection is what matters, and taking the minute to open a door, or help someone, or take the coffee meeting, give a little advice. We’re all busy, but that act of kindness and generosity literally can change someone’s life, especially when network is so important. So that’s number one.

Number two: I really encourage people to think about taking on a real, what I call a sponsor relationship, and this is not my term, there’s been work done around this for many, many years, and this is more than a mentor relationship. Career sponsorship is about, “I’m going to get to know you.” There’s an implicit contract between us. If I say, “I’m going to take you on, I’m going to sponsor your career,” it has to be authentic. It’s not like a formal thing, where…if you don’t have chemistry there it’s really hard to build that kind of relationship, but let’s say you connect, you believe in the person that you meet, and you make a commitment to them in helping them champion their career, and they work closely enough with you that that makes sense. You’re then in a position to meet with them regularly, help answer any questions, or concerns, or challenges they might be facing, create and connect them to opportunities.

Last, but certainly not least: to really be advocates. There are some incredible men around this movement that get up and talk about this and walk the walk. Talk is talk, walk is walk.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah.

Jodi Kovitz: You say you’re a man who’s a founder of a tech company, or the CEO of a bank, and you care about diversity, what are you doing about it? What are you doing to actively ensure you have gender diversity, as well as all forms of diversity of thought on your team? If you’re saying that you care about diversity and you have one female developer, and you’re not doing something like joining a movement, or partnering with #movethedial, or working with other organizations, or hunting and hunting, I don’t really believe that you’re serious about bringing diversity to your table.

Jon Finkelstein: Do something.

Jodi Kovitz: Yeah, do something.

Jon Finkelstein: Don’t just listen to this, do something.

Jodi Kovitz: Yeah.

Jon Finkelstein: I mean what would be really interesting is if everybody who listens to this podcast at the end of it goes to your website, is it .ca or .com?

Jodi Kovitz: It’s .ca.

Jon Finkelstein: Okay, so—

Jodi Kovitz: Sign up.

Jon Finkelstein: Sign up, check it out, look at it, look at the stories.

Jodi Kovitz: Yeah, and do something and Tweet that you did it, and Instagram it, and say, “I did this today, #movethedial.” This really is a movement, and it’s as grassroots as that to do something, a small thing, a big thing, and if you’re an amazing woman watching this, tell your story. This is a movement and it will gain traction when we all do our part to showcase who we are as humans, all of our great parts, and all of our challenges that we’ve always had, because that’s a huge value of what we’re building, abundance and authenticity as well, and taking active steps to make change.

Jon Finkelstein: For me, I live by sort of a motto, I didn’t make this up, but if you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere. So that’s my call to action to people who are listening: if you don’t know where to start, start anywhere. Just start.

So that’s it for this episode of Shift, thanks for listening, and hopefully we’ll have you back and we can check in on where the dial has moved in the future.

Jodi Kovitz: Awesome.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks again.

Jodi Kovitz: Thanks so much for having me.

Jon Finkelstein: High five.

Jodi Kovitz: High five.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

City of Toronto: Building a city of innovation

Toronto has the opportunity to excel globally as a leader in nurturing and scaling innovation. In this episode of Shift, guest Councillor Michelle Holland, Chief Advocate for the Innovation Economy for the City of Toronto, talks about the importance of building a city of innovation and the journey to do so, from joining forces with small and large organizations, to attracting talent and diversity, to the efforts to become a smart city.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada’s podcast series, and we’re digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I’m also the Creative Director of PwC Canada. Today, we’re talking about building a city of innovation with our special guest today, Councillor Michelle Holland.

You’re the Chief Advocate for the Innovation Economy of the city. That’s an amazing title. Tell me more about that.

Michelle Holland: Thanks. Well, I’m excited to be here, and thank you so much for inviting me. The first thing I’d like to say is that we’re a city that’s leading. What we found was that instead of being reactive, which is what happens with many governments, we wanted to be proactive. So now I’m leading the charge on different multifaceted fronts of the city.

Primarily, one of the areas that I’m covering is to be collaborative within the different areas of the ecosystem. We have the public institutions, we have private institutions, we have corporations, we have educational systems—also in terms of gender diversity, so we’re hearing a lot about women in tech. A lot of people talk about… how do you actually move the dial with women in tech? I also happen to work with Jodi Kovitz and her Move The Dial initiative. But in terms of the city, what can we actually do? What I’ve been doing is making sure that within our most important corporations, that we’re actually placing women onto those corporate boards.

Another area that I’ve been primarily focusing on is talent—so the attraction and the retention of talent within the city. When I first took over the role in a formal way, I put together an advisory panel. It’s actually an advisory panel full of people across the ecosystem, which is quite amazing. They provide me feedback on what the city should do and the actions the city should take in terms of the innovation economy.

So in terms of that, we’ve been advancing and making sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to attract and retain talent within the city.

Jon Finkelstein: There’s a lot of really exciting stuff going on in Toronto. We’re ...

Michelle Holland: We’re blowing up.

Jon Finkelstein: It’s almost like every day you read something new, whether it’s that Amazon’s coming in... There’s all sorts of excitement, I would say, around our city. I’d love to get your thoughts on, “Why Toronto?” What do you think it is about Toronto that’s so attractive to the tech industry?

Michelle Holland: Well, that’s a loaded question, and there’s a thousand reasons why I could say that Toronto is the place to be. First and foremost, what I’ve noticed over the past few years is, it’s our time. We’re absolutely exploding in terms of our tech and innovation ecosystem. There are multiple rankings. As you know, we read all the time about Toronto being the most livable city. The economists placed us number four out of 140.

We’re diverse, we’re inclusive—which you’re not finding as much in the U.S., so that’s another angle that we’ve been working on. Just sort of having a reverse brain drain, bringing everybody back to Toronto, even from the valley. We have a deep well of knowledge. That’s one of the main pivotal points that I found off of the advisory group and when we did a deep dive into our own ecosystem. We have eight fabulous education institutions right in Toronto, between our universities and our colleges. We have a deep well of talent because of that. They’re producing amazing and highly qualified and highly talented and educated people within the ecosystem, to draw from.

Jon Finkelstein: You’re planning a campaign to promote Toronto. Can you share a little bit about the themes?

Michelle Holland: So, what we found was the fact that Toronto was punching above its weight, but how do we tell that in a concise way to the world? How do we have an elevator pitch, or how does the mayor go abroad or I go abroad, and when we’re in these other cities, how do we give that pitch? What is the pitch? So we’re in collaboration to work together with Toronto Global and a number of other organizations to make sure that we are able to provide that brand and tell that narrative in the story.

Jon Finkelstein: Are you going to tell me the narrative? Can I hear it? I’m curious now.

Michelle Holland: It’s these pieces of Toronto being a livable city. It’s being the fact that we’re one of the least expensive places to set up your business in terms of, if we’re going to do the top rankings from the top cities in North America, it’s most affordable for the talent. You have a deep well of knowledge here, with the institutions. You have your financial sector based here. If you go to the valley or you go to Boston, that’s not the case.

There isn’t another city in North America that has it all like Toronto does. In one year, we’ve added over 21,000 jobs to the tech sector. We have over 200,000 jobs alone within the tech sector. And we’ve been ranked three out of ten as the best tech hub in the world. We have all of these accolades and these rankings and the city that’s the most livable, so we have to make sure that when we get that narrative going, that we have the ecosystem working together to shout out that brand in a cohesive way.

Jon Finkelstein: I have a question. So I was interviewing someone else, and I don’t know whether this is a good question or not, so see how it goes. It was more on the start-up funding side of things, right? So this particular individual, I think he said he takes 500 meetings a year ...

Michelle Holland: Right.

Jon Finkelstein: ... on new tech, start-up, this kind of stuff, which is a ton. And not every meeting leads to something, but one of the things that he said was he’d love to be able to see Canada help companies scale. He thinks that there’s a scale problem. So it’s a great place to innovate, it’s a great place to start, but he’s worried that unlike the U.S. or other parts of the world, we just can’t achieve scale out of Canada. What do you think about that?

Michelle Holland: That’s really interesting because that’s a dialogue that I’ve had numerous times with people. It was a concern, I would say, a few years ago, but it seems to be changing. We were getting a huge amount of accolades being a start-up city—start-up nation. Toronto was the place to do a start-up and, it was, you had that funding and that backing to create that. The problem was the selling out before it was a scaling up.

Now I think that that’s what’s changed. I’m actually hearing from a lot of companies from Hubba, to Shopify to EcoBee… we’ve actually done the work of identifying those companies that are scaling up. Whether they will sell before unicorn … there’s a lot of talk about the fact, there’s a belief that Toronto needs a unicorn in order to make and place our stamp in the world. Whether that’s true or not true, I mean that’s for the ecosystem to really provide and to generate, but in terms of scaling up, I think that Toronto has now become that city to scale up. So I think that was a good point a few years ago, but I do see that changing. And I think that moving forward, we’re going to see that more and more.

Jon Finkelstein: What are the top three things you’re most excited about in relation to innovation and disruption happening in our city?

Michelle Holland: There’s so many. There’s so many. I think what differentiates Toronto from the pack, the number one is obviously our diversity and inclusion, and I would put women in tech as part of that as well, or at least women in technology and innovation and scientists as well. We have a unique identifier with the city in terms of our ability to include and accept people from over 300 nations around the world. We have over 200 languages here in Toronto, so no matter where you come from in the world, you can make your place and space at home here in Toronto. So that would be one.

Number two, I would say the collaboration. Again, even a short few years ago it seemed that we were not as cohesive as what we are today. You see the ecosystem really coming together. There’s a number of key events that have happened, that are happening, that are in the works, to happen here in Toronto.

We’ve got major events from Elevate, we’ve got Collision coming to Toronto, and that’s a way for the ecosystem to come together. And I would just say that Toronto is where it’s at. This is our time. Where else can you go in the world, really, to be in a city that is exploding on the tech scene like Toronto?

The ability to come in here, into this city, and do things that you want to do and be able to start up or scale up your company, there’s nowhere else that you can do it where you have the financial access, that you have the financial sector here in Toronto and the VC backing that you can do it.

Jon Finkelstein: Absolutely. Yeah. Inclusion, collaboration and Toronto is where it’s at.

Michelle Holland: You got it.

Jon Finkelstein: TM.

Michelle Holland: You got it. You got it.

Jon Finkelstein: Amazing, yeah. So I’m wondering, this may be tangential, I don’t know, but I’m reading a lot about various cities across the world, smart cities, all that kind of stuff and I don’t know whether this is in your purview or not (so forgive me if it’s not), but do you see a lot of innovation that’s happening in our city translating to smart city and infrastructure and helping citizens get access and that kind of good stuff?

Michelle Holland: Absolutely. I just came back from Barcelona from the Smart Cities Summit and the Expo, so it was fabulous to be there and seeing what ways we’re advancing and also ways that we could be. We had recent Bloomberg funding and we set up a civic innovation office. And one of the areas that they’re looking at is 311. Obviously with 311, you’re going to eventually have AI and you’ll have disruption within that world, but how do we make sure that we’re upgrading our systems so residents can have access, and also that there’s a modernization within the system?

So there’s a few quick examples. Before you could not get your ferry tickets online and now, wow, you can get your ferry tickets online. I mean, these seem basic, but they’re ways in which the city is advancing.

With the civic innovation office, we’re also looking at procurement. Now that’s a major area that we’re looking at, not just the policy but how we can work with that policy framework in order to make sure that we’re working with companies that would not have had access prior. And they’re able to have that access into and apply to the city and we can work with them in a way that we’ve never done before.

So there’s a lot happening in the city, and that we’re doing, and that we’re evolving and growing. Smart cities is one aspect for sure.

Jon Finkelstein: I’m curious, do you find, within council, is there resistance on anybody’s part or is everybody super into it and they see it? Because we work with big organizations. We work both in private and public sector, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of how people look at innovation.

Michelle Holland: So historically, governments have been great at blocking innovation or at least tampering with it or slowing it down if need be. Now we’re in an era of the fourth Industrial Revolution. We’ve got an innovation economy where the velocity has changed. So governments can no longer be reactive. They have to be proactive in the sense of working and identifying what’s coming down the pipeline, and also be able to help that in a way that also helps citizens.

There’s been a lot of talk about disruption and the workforce. And we know there’s a large percentage that are going to be affected, so even 30%, 40% could be affected. Now we don’t know if that’s going to be deleted or if it’s just transformational, so governments have to prepare the workforce. I’m doing that, actually. I’ll give a shout out here to my Digital Literacy Day which will be happening in May.

That’s all about digital literacy and leaving nobody behind. The idea behind that was the fact that you have all this disruption coming. You have AI or you have all of these disruptors that are coming in. What can we do to make sure that we’re future-proofing or that we’re educating our residents and skilling up where we need to? And we’re providing a workforce for the future or, really, now. It’s a huge collaboration between our educational institutions with the corporate sector, with private sector, with our public workforce, in making sure that we’re preparing everybody for the future.

There’s so many areas that I could go into in terms of this disruption and making sure that we’re ready for it, but again, governments have to be leading the charge on that instead of trying to prevent it from happening.

Jon Finkelstein: Michelle, we’ve talked a lot about innovation in public and private on the small scale, but I’m curious, do you have any advice for large corporations who are in Toronto or in Canada that want to get on board this innovation-accelerated journey, if you will?

Michelle Holland: Well, I know that it’s harder for larger corporations as well. Just as we’re a large entity, these are slow-moving ships. We’re trying to right the Titanic here and turn things around. It’s hard to do, so I get that the agility and the ability for the large corporation, it’s not as fast. We know that from banks to even with PwC in the large corporations. They’re phenomenal and I think that they do phenomenal work within the ecosystem, but it’s harder for them to be as fluid and dynamic, I think.

But at the same time, I think that where they add value is even through CSR (corporate social responsibility) and other ways, they really do add to the ecosystem. I think they add a lot in terms of their innovation hubs and their innovation labs. Pretty much everybody has one, so I think that there’s opportunity there, and that that’s where they could go deeper into the ecosystem in that regard and play a larger role.

Jon Finkelstein: I think, if I may, a lot of the big companies are victims of their own success.

Michelle Holland: Right.

Jon Finkelstein: Because it’s like, why change it if it’s not broken. I think a lot of companies fall into this sort of fallacy that just because it’s good now means it will be good later. And I don’t think large organizations are doing a good enough of a job of using foresight or foreseeing different future possibilities where disruption can come to play and disrupt their own businesses. It’s tough because they’re successful, right?

So you bring in these innovation labs, you do these sort of side projects as potential ways to innovate or to come up with future things, but the core business isn’t at risk. And when it is, that’s when change happens, but quite often, it’s a little bit too late.

Michelle Holland: That’s right.

Jon Finkelstein: A lot of big organizations, if you use a highway analogy, they’re in the slow lane and the more agile businesses are in the fast lane. I’m not very good at math but I’m sure there’s some equation that says, “If Michelle is travelling 110 kilometers and so-and-so is travelling 50, what’s the difference?” Right?

Michelle Holland: Right.

Jon Finkelstein: It makes no sense, but you know what I mean.

Michelle Holland: I get it. There’s the feeling that they’re not ahead of the curve. They want to maintain status quo because that’s what’s worked historically. It’s worked and that’s what’s produced the big bucks, so why change that? I think it’s leadership at the top. You really need to… every entity has to make sure that leadership at the top is identifying what’s coming down the track. That’s why I was saying with government, it’s the same thing.

You cannot be reactive. You cannot live in this new economy and be reactive. You just cannot do that anymore. So for all of those that are not ahead of the curve or seeing what could be or being agile and dynamic, I think that they will suffer the repercussions.

Jon Finkelstein: Yup. I like to go on record as saying, “Difficult is worth doing.”

Michelle Holland: Right. I like that.

Jon Finkelstein: A lot of stuff is really hard. To do this stuff, it’s hard.

Michelle Holland: That’s right.

Jon Finkelstein: It takes resources, it takes effort, it takes commitment.

Michelle Holland: Well, it takes risk.

Jon Finkelstein: And it takes money.

Michelle Holland: True. Yeah. It has that, I’m going to say “fear factor,” because it’s all about risk, and most of these companies are about risk mitigation and how can we not, or how can we alleviate that or not do it, instead of really putting yourself out there. And governments are the worst for it.

Jon Finkelstein: Glad you said that.

Michelle Holland: I’m going to say it again: historically, we have been the worst at it. For example, we would start a pilot project, and no government wants to admit they were wrong, and so all those pilot projects, guess what happens? They become reality and they roll out and they may suffer long, but they stay there because no bureaucrat or politician wants to admit, “Oh, we used public funds, we used taxpayer money, we did a pilot and guess what? It didn’t work.”

So a bit of that is educating the public to say, we’re in a new economy and we need to be able to hive off money in order to say, “There is going to be some money spent, whether it be a pilot or whether it’s for this change, and guess what? It may not work, but that’s what we need to do because we need to be able to fail in certain areas, and we need to be able to cut off pilots that don’t work and able to admit that they didn’t work.”

That is a bit, again, “risky,” and there’s a lot of fear around that because historically there’s no politician that wants to go out and say, “It didn’t work.” But I’m the first to say that; I think we need to do that. We need to educate the public on that, so I’m leading the charge in that area as well, and saying we have to be able to fail. We have to be able to do things that may not work. We have to be able to roll out pilots that may or may not work because that’s the only way to innovate and change.

Jon Finkelstein: We talk a lot about it in terms of test and learn or we use failure as an opportunity to iterate.

Michelle Holland: That’s right.

Jon Finkelstein: Because you’re never going to get it right the first time.

This was super fun.

Michelle Holland: Okay, good.

Jon Finkelstein: I learned a lot. I hope our listeners learned a lot too. So thank you so much, Michelle, for spending time with us here, giving us your insights, telling us what’s going on, what’s exciting you about Toronto as a tech hub and what we’re doing.

Michelle Holland: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, Toronto is where it’s at. It’s absolutely… it’s exploding. This is the city. So if you’re out there, this is where you need to be. I’m so excited and happy to be part of it, really, and honoured to have this role in the city, especially at this time. This is really Toronto’s time and I’m excited to be here at PwC and be a part of this conversation. Because in a year from now, or a year and a half from now, you and I will get back together and we can look back and say, “Wow.”

Jon Finkelstein: We’ll be holograms by then.

Michelle Holland: We will be. We could be.

Jon Finkelstein: Cyborgs.

Michelle Holland: Yeah. Delivered by drones.

Jon Finkelstein: That’s right. Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at . If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

Globalive: Investing in innovation

Today’s innovation economy is fueled by the startup scene and new businesses looking to get their big break. On this episode of Shift, guest Brice Scheschuk, CEO at venture capital firm Globalive, offers his views on the opportunities and challenges of innovation in Canada, on spotting good investments in innovation and new funding mechanisms.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada’s podcast series. We’re digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I’m also the creative director of PwC Canada.

Welcome to another episode of Shift. Today we’re going to be talking about investing in innovation, and our guest today is Brice Scheschuk from Globalive. Brice, how are you doing?

Brice Scheschuk: I’m doing great today. Thanks for having me, guys.

Jon Finkelstein: So, tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what you’ve been up to.

Brice Scheschuk: Sure. So, again, my name is Brice Scheschuk. I actually started my career ... I’m a Toronto guy. I started my career at Coopers and Lybrand, a predecessor firm, obviously, to the fine PwC. I did a chartered accountancy in the financial services practice and when dotcom one hit, is about the time when I was finishing up that work, and myself and some business partners had the entrepreneurial bug really from day one. With all the opportunities that were kind of opened up at that time, we hopped out, we started our first company and really, I’ve never looked back. So, after starting that first company, we’ve done a succession of deals over the years, kind of scaling and building and growing. Our most famous deal was with my current business partner, a gentleman by the name of Tony Lacavera. Quite prominent in the ecosystem. He and I and a couple of other people built WIND Mobile, Canada’s answer to a T-Mobile, MetroPCS incumbent buster, from zero to a multi-thousand-person organization, that included, ultimately, a 10-figure exit.

Since then, we took liquidity at the end of that project and we’ve been focused on investing in the Canadian, primarily Canadian, but not solely, innovation ecosystem. So, we’ve worn an operating hat for about 20 years and we’ve taken a lot of the lessons from that and some of the liquidity that we’ve been able to garner and we’re putting that to work on the investment side.

Jon Finkelstein: So, as a creative guy, I always say to folks, you know, ideas are really easy. Anybody can have an idea. They’re ripe for the picking. Execution is really hard. So, I’m curious, when you’re looking at new ventures, innovation, incubation, whatever the stuff that you look at, what are you looking for? How can you tell a good idea that you can execute versus one that you can’t?

Brice Scheschuk: It’s a great question. Look, the way we think about it is, we kind of split the world into, let’s call it, idea/product, and sales and marketing execution, and then all the operational stuff and so on kind of falls out around that and you can always kind of solve for that. So, we are a group that I would suggest lends on the side of the sales and marketing execution world. I think there are those who would say that product is everything, and kind of if you get that perfectly right, things fall into place. Maybe the Apples of the world. I think Y Combinator’s known a bit for that. And then, there are other schools that are very much around getting your execution in order. Thinking about sales and marketing skill aggressively. We are in that camp, if you will.

So, ideas: important. Product: important, but second in many ways to me, in terms of looking at the team and their ability to execute. I have, what I call, kind of a time allocation dimension. And I think about how does that team think about three things. Strategy, which again, is selling that product and so on, long-term business thinking, addressable market. People and culture: ultimately it is the “win,” in our experience, in 20 years of operating. It’s cliché: people and culture win the day. And third, and this is the one that we have found that is neglected—it’s neglected relative to the other two, but ultra-important—and that is, capital raising.

So, what we have found is that there are entrepreneurs that think about capital raising very systematically, stages ahead, moving pieces around the chess board, thinking about four moves ahead, and actually allocating real time, as painful as that might be, because it’s detracting from other areas, in thinking strategically about capital. We have found that to be a key attribute in the winners. So, that would be dimension one.

Dimension two is a Warren Buffet, if I can call it that. And, although, it’s often talked about in the context of larger companies, I think it also has a role everywhere, and that is: integrity, intellect and initiative. And he says it well when he says, “If you don’t have the first one, integrity, the other two mean nothing.” So that would be my second dimension.

Third, there’s a very, very well-regarded business book. It’s called The Outsiders. It’s not the Ponyboy Outsiders. The focus is on looking at CEO performance, company performance, in the public markets, over, I think it was, 25-year periods, and they had to meet two criteria. One is, they had to outperform Jack Welch’s tenure at General Electric. Number two is, they had to not be lucky—and lucky means, the sector that they were in kind of rose so fast because of the sector, so it had to have other attributes of outperformance. So, it had to have relative outperformance. They focus on two things. The operating capabilities of the CEO, and I would suggest that that’s table stakes. You have to be able to operate. But the second piece, and this is where the book really hit it, and they profiled about eight or ten companies, is how you think about capital allocation. And I come back to ... so capital raising is one aspect of capital allocation, M&A, dividends, share buybacks, you know, whatever the deployment of capital is. The guys who won long-term in terms of shareholder value understood that discipline, as well as the operating side.

And last but not least, we have our own little dimension, if I can call it that, and this is informed by a lot of the WIND and a lot of the other telecom scale-up that we’ve done. I categorize it as mercenary, if I can use that term, complete and utter resilience, and ultimately, that extreme sales and marketing execution.

Jon Finkelstein: That’s a lot more thorough than, “Hey, I have an idea”.

Brice Scheschuk: A lot more thorough.

Jon Finkelstein: You’ve been doing this a long time, Brice. I think people would be really interested to hear what are some of the recurring themes, challenges, opportunities, whatever, that you’re seeing around startups in innovation? I love the incubator side of things. What’re you seeing?

Brice Scheschuk: So, look, it is the golden era of the term “innovation.” In fact, it’s probably one of the more abused terms (that and “disruption”) of the last, let’s call it, 10 years. There’s the challenge side of innovation and there’s the opportunity side of innovation. On the challenge side, my business partner, Tony Lacavera ... please buy his book at Christmas. He just published a book with Penguin Random House called How We Can Win. And I’m going to take this in a Canadian context. We have a bunch of structural and kind of fundamental issues in Canada that are hindering the scale-up side of the innovation ecosystem. We are good at starting companies. I think we actually have more startups per capita than many other countries, including the U.S., which is an interesting one. We’ve done very well, and I give John Ruffolo at OMERS Ventures credit for this. He really focused in his early days at OMERS around building up the early stage ecosystem, the accelerators that we’ve been talking about and so on. We’ve actually got a bit of a groove there. We have good engineers. They do good product work and so on.

Where we fall off, is taking the ideas, the products, back to that discussion, and aggressively scaling them globally from a sales and marketing standpoint, in my opinion. And then all the things that have to then get added to global scale. And so, we have to ask ourselves questions. You know, we’re doing okay, but are we really getting to a place where we can be a leader? And I look at examples of questions. Do we have a branch plant mentality? Like, by that I mean, Google comes in, they set up an AI research lab, they hire the best and brightest from the academic institutions in Canada that are world leaders and basically created fields of AI, pay them well, but all of that shareholder value is accruing to Google. So, interesting question.

Are we preferencing foreign companies? We look at this Amazon HQ. That caused a bit of a stir in the press and so on and it turns out that we actually went, I think, with our bid and we did it in a pretty rational way. We said, “We’re not advantaging you, Amazon, at the expense of all of our local companies. In fact, here are why you should come here on its own merits.” That was interesting and, in fact, different than, sometimes I think, how we’ve operated. 

I think Canada has, actually, the greatest opportunity over the next decade as it relates to innovation. Why is that? Somehow we happen to be leaders in the stuff that’s really starting to matter going forward. Artificial intelligence and machine learning was basically invented in Toronto. Ethereum, which is a crypto blockchain kind of ledger system, was invented by a Canadian. We have great financial services. We got good robotics out of the Waterloo area and others. We’re leaders in IoT. We’re leaders in autonomous vehicles. It’s actually insane how well-positioned we are as an ecosystem.

So, the question becomes, how do we avoid not becoming that branch plant again, if we agree as a society that we want to lead more forward? And, I’ve thought about it a little bit, lots of people think about this. Super clusters. Do you put two hundred million into five initiatives and then try to see if you can get growth around themes? Do you, you know ... government driving an autonomous vehicle centre in Stratford, Ontario: is that the way to do it? I don’t really know, but I have a thought. So, I’m going to borrow from Dan. Though, I don’t know if he phrased it exactly this way, but he said, “What would happen if we built an outcome-based innovation system?” And the theory of that would be, let’s say that as a country we want 10 Shopifys to arise in 10 years. So, we want ten 10-billion-dollar equity value companies to be built in this country in the next 10 years. I would argue that criteria-setting is important. I don’t think the government’s job is to pick winners. I think that things will start as kernels and then once they get to a certain level of success, then you look at that and you think about how to then add fuel to that fire effectively.

Jon Finkelstein: So, as a huge believer in the country, I’m curious about your thoughts on ... man, I love Toronto. I’ve been here my whole life. Could move other places, the U.S., wherever. So, what are your views on Toronto becoming this kind of global technology hub?

Brice Scheschuk: Great question. I can’t believe what’s happened in the last 23 years in this city in terms of evolution of population, of, call it all the goodness around the academics, around the hospitals, around the financial sector, around all of the other things that we do so well as a city. Restaurants, quality of life, safety, ethnic diversity, immigration that’s been flowing here and kind of being able to integrate to the degree that they do in a very good society. So, I look at, and just to give a couple of examples: diversity, gender diversity. Recent reports have come out, something called Move The Dial, which is an initiative locally around trying to instill gender diversity. The fact that we have those, that people are really rallying behind and driving to, or be it racial diversity or whatever it is ... all just awesome. And that’s Canadians and that’s Torontonians and that’s how we sit in the world. I love all of that.

I also love about Toronto, as I mentioned, AI, UofT, Vector Institute, Jeff Hinton, you know, go to the next category, financial: fintech, crypto, blockchain, all of that. Toronto, right in the middle of it. And again, the list goes on and on and on.

Jon Finkelstein: I’m really interested in crowdfunding. I mean, it’s a pretty new phenomenon, I suppose, right? It’s only been around for however long?

Brice Scheschuk: Yep.

Jon Finkelstein: What is the interplay between crowdfunding and kind of what Globalive does?

Brice Scheschuk: Right. Crowdfunding is a very interesting concept and I think again, you come back to ... there are places where it’s been quite successful. Let’s use AngelList, if you want to use that as one of the poster childs of the venture side of crowdfunding. There’s real estate crowdfunding. There’s this crowdfunding. Like the U.S., as always, grabbed the ball, the regulators allowed certain things to happen effectively for this, you know, around the securities law concerns, and it went on fire.

To Canada, I think that I would echo a lot of past points that I’ve made. I think we’re more conservative. We don’t have as many people thinking about tech and innovation from an investment standpoint, even at the smaller level, you know, tens and twenties of thousands. I think that we are inherently more conservative and the tenure private company horizons and the this and the that and even just getting awareness at a most fundamental level, I think we’re a little behind on that and I think, look, we all know Wealthsimple. Okay, let’s take a brand that’s new, fresh and kind of happening. Let’s say that Wealthsimple said, okay, so, we’ve got our mainstream financial products. We’re clearly low fee. We’re a financial, you know, kind of robo-advisor and so on. We’re on a very nice roll there and we’ve spent money on advertising to build a brand.

Could a group like that think about a product set that would work in crowdfunding and be an extension of their brand that would allow more mass adoption? I don’t know. But, I think we do need some snowball or some pushes to raise awareness and then to understand kind of the whole life cycle and probably have to productize it a bit more to bring it out to the masses. But, a very interesting thing.

The other point that I want to make, since we’re talking about alternative ways of funding, we didn’t get into this in our earlier discussion but, there’s another rise of a type of funding and that’s called an ICO. I don’t know if that has hit your radar at all. Initial Coin Offerings. These fall into the crypto/blockchain world. What has happened is there’s been an ability, globally, to raise money in a really unregulated way and arguably what is a very loose kind of approach to raising money. They’ve been very successful, a number of companies, at issuing what they call a token, which sits on top of some economic construct and in theory, is supposed to ultimately provide value back to the buyer.

We are very, very, very skeptical of that funding mechanism. We think that we’re at the beginning of ... We’ve seen a lot of these up and down cycles over the years. We’re a little older than we used to be, so, dotcom 1.0, credit crisis, Linux, you know, you name it, you put dotcom on the end of your name, it goes. You put blockchain now on the end of your name, it seems to go. We view some of that kind of funding: a) sucking funding out of other alternatives and b) a very risky end.

Jon Finkelstein: But it’s funny. When I think about innovation and productizing and scale, I didn’t think about a lot of the things that you talked about. Maybe that’s my own naivete, if you will, but I bet there’s a lot of people listening who would feel the same in terms of the things they need to think about in order to be successful. So, thank you for that, because that’s unbelievable. We’ll talk outside, I have some ideas I want to pitch. No, okay, I’m kidding.

Brice Scheschuk: We’re always open for more ideas. Come on in. Yeah, that’s right. I love it.

Jon Finkelstein: The hundreds of thousands of ideas, as I say, ideas are easy, but the execution is hard, and execution, I think, is really multidimensional in terms of all the things you need to think about. So, Brice, thanks man, for coming out—

Brice Scheschuk: Great to meet you.

Jon Finkelstein: —and spending time with us. I’m sure you’re busy.

Brice Scheschuk: These kinds of things are great. They put awareness out there on all these innovation things that we’ve been talking about and pushing, so keep up the good work with this. I look forward to the end product.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

Salesforce: Three key factors for a successful digital transformation

Organizations often struggle to realize the benefits of their digital investments, in many cases due to limited technology adoption. Shift’s guests, Jimmy Bremner, Innovation and Transformation Executive at Salesforce, and Christine Robertson, Partner, Marketing, Communications & Sales Leader at PwC Canada, talk about lessons learned and insights from a complex and multi-territory digital transformation.

Jon: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada's podcast series, and we're digging into key digital trends and topics, that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I'm also the creative director of PwC Canada.

Today, we're going to talk about digital transformation, specifically as it pertains to sales force, and one of the things we thought would be really interesting for our viewers and listeners is to hear about how we ourselves, have undergone a digital transformation, what we've learned from it, and how we're applying that, not only to ourselves, but how we're taking that to our clients and making sure that they're successful, based on our own experience.

Today, we have some great guests for you. Maybe just take a second for people watching and listening, who you are and what you do.

Jimmy: Sure, my name is Jimmy, and I work for Salesforce, closely with Christine. We are both on the global sales force team, responsible for rolling out sales forces, sales Cloud, or CRM solution to PwC globally. My role in particular, I'm on the customer success side, in a team called Innovation and Transformation. My job is to help make sure that as we're doing this, we're not just trying to replace technology or look for similar ways to replicate what was already there, but that we're thinking about new ways of working, and truly transforming how we do business.

Obviously, in that capacity, I work closely with Christine, who has similar accountability.

Christine: Yes. So, Hi. Christine Robertson, and I have two roles. I'm director of marketing and sales, here in Canada. We've been going through transformation of our marketing and sales function, and a big part of that was digital transformation, and I'm also the engagement director on the global project, working with Jimmy, and that's where it's really, basically quarterback of the program, working closely with our work stream leads to deploy sales force internally, here at PwC.

Jon: Let's talk about what makes a successful transformation. Who wants to start?

Christine: There are a couple different factors that leads to a successful transformation. I think starting off, you need to have the vision of, what are we trying to accomplish? What's our business strategy? Then, following that, really looking at where are we trying to get the most value? Once you've got that, before we sort of roll out the digital platforms, it's my understanding, who are the different people that are going to be interacting with the platform, in order to get the value that you're looking for, to realize that business strategy.

Jon: Do people fight over who gets to do the vision?

Jimmy: A lot of times, it's because people forget to do the vision, that you fail, and I think that's ... There's definitely fighting about it sometimes, but the most important part is never forget it.

Jon: Not to forget the vision. Okay. In our own case with PwC, who set the vision for our own sales force transformation?

Christine: Well, it's part of a broader global leadership vision of being a technology enabled firm, and where are we looking to get to for 20/20. So, vision 20/20, the key part of that is changing how we engage in the market, which is both our clients experience, but also empowering our people to really bring the power of the firm to supporting our clients, and solving their problems. That's the pillar that Salesforce is supporting, but it's part of that broader strategy, that leadership defined.

Jon: So, when we decided to go with Salesforce, what gap did we see? What if we said, we want to go from here to here?

Christine: Well, I think one of the complexities here at PwC that we've got, we're 157 member firm, and we're really actually transforming from very different places all over, and having had a globally, sort of, visible place around our clients, and our opportunities, and being able to share and collaborate really easily. So, that was really the goal, is how do we better support an align across the different firms in the globe?

So, that was really the gap that was missing. Some territories had some things. Some didn't. We've all been doing things different ways, so that's why this is a really big transformation for us.

Jon: Okay, so starting with a vision?

Christine: Yes.

Jon: That's key, right?

Jimmy: It ties to not just having a vision, but approaching a project with a vision, and I think what I was, having joined partially mid-flight in this project, what I thought was very well done by the leadership of the team, and buy in from all the different territories was, let's not try to drive a ... There's a top down strategy, as it relates to the 20/20 vision, but as it relates to how we're going to use Salesforce, we need to follow principles that are just as hot and interesting as transformation around design thinking.  a lot of experiences on it. So, instead of pretending that we know all the answers, we spent time going around the globe meeting with leaders, in different territories, different organizations, many different times. Got insights for, how do you work today? What's going well? What's not going well? How do we elevate the game around client relationships? Around managing pipeline more intelligently, and all of that?

Once we had those insights, then we were able to craft a true kind of, valued proposition statement, that wasn't one that was driven from a silent organization, or from IT, or from the global leadership. It was from all of the people the needed, A. Want to be better at their jobs. Want to help grow the firm, and then also are responsible for delivering that. So, I think that was really a powerful way to recognize and lead with a vision that came from the people that need to use this.

Christine: That's why most, as Jimmy outlined before, we're implementing, what I call, sort of the classic customer relationship management capabilities around opportunities, contacts, clients, and driving that collaboration, and most implementations fail around those elements, because it's someone in an operations role or a leadership role, or someone that's looking to get certain insights and then they push that out to everybody, and then your people that you need to actually be contributing and providing that information and that value, don't see any value in it for themselves, so they don't adopt.

So, the key was really, engaging with people in those key roles across the globe, so we didn't just have one sort of, regional perspective, get their input, and our whole adoption search is really based on those priority roles. How are we going to help you be better in your job, and create those strong relationships? It's all role based, day in the life, focused to drive that value.  

Jon: Yeah, it's really important, actually, because I've seen a lot of that stuff, especially in digital, where you don't design for the people using it. As you say, it's human center design. It's amazing what happens when technology drives the experience, as opposed to the experience driving what the technology should do.

So, you talked a little bit about user adoption, and that if you don't design it for people, people first, understanding their needs, understanding what the goals are, what they're doing now, what would be better in their life, in their work, things fail. That's a huge problem for everybody. It's bad for the organization. It looks bad on the P&L. You spent all this money doing something, and nobody uses it. Somewhere in a corner, someone's going to go, "I told you so. It was a bad idea." But actually it wasn't. It was a good idea, just not executed properly. Maybe you guys can spend a moment talking about, how to increase adoption, and what you've seen  from our own internal transformation with Salesforce and PwC?

Christine: We've got a combined approach around it. One is focusing on listening to users, and creating all of the training, and prioritizing what we're doing based on what they've told us, and then it's so making sure that again, it's role based, day in the life, what's meaningful for them. It's not a one size fits all. It's great technology, but it's the way that we roll it out. It's the way we communicate, and what we're looking to get out of it.

Second part is, making sure that we're measuring that adoption, and looking for the insights as we go through the journey. That's been key for us. This is really a long journey, where we're looking for, who needs support? Where's it working well? Where isn't it? Where do we need to tailor things ongoing? Making sure that, that support and training is fun and interactive and different.

So, we had an idea around leveraging the escape room concept, because it's something that's fun, and we had used it in other projects with clients here in Canada, and had amazing feedback, so this really challenged us to say, "How can we use this for our internal roll out?"

Jimmy: We used the Escape Room concept, which if you don't know, is what?

Christine: So, Escape Room, for those who haven't ever had the opportunity to be locked in a room, and you have a series of clues to solve a puzzle, basically, and once you solve it, then you get the way to get out of the room, and you're done. We wanted to be able to leverage that, where you've got a series of clues. You perform certain tasks, using Salesforce, and give them, sort of the overview, whether using the platform they can see how they're working together differently.

Jimmy: They have to do things like, chatter is a social feed within Salesforce, where you communicate back and forth, just like you would on other social channels, like Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever, but now you're doing it inside your company. In the Escape Room, there's someone outside of the room who's facilitating your experience, and you have to talk back and forth with them, and get the next clue, or find the next thing. You're learning how to ... While you're having fun, and going through this, and obviously when we do it, we typically have more than one running, so people are feeling competitive and they want to win. So, they're going through this quickly, and then their communication externally with this third party, they're learning. All of a sudden, how do I navigate this tool? How do I find an opportunity? What are reports going to look like? What are dashboards going to look like?

I think one of the most successful aspects of the Escape  Room isn't that people walk out and say, "Hey, that's the best training I've ever had." Or "It was really interesting and different." But the outcome is, they did learn that. It was great training, but then they go tell everyone else, and now we get requests from around the globe again. "Hey, can we run the Escape Room in this territory and that territory?"

Christine: So, now our challenge is how do we scale it out?

Jon: As a creative director, I like to say, you just can't bore people into interacting, or you can't bore people into buying something. It's like you have to figure out ways either a game of five, or make it interesting, or make it relevant.

Christine: Exactly, and we're definitely looking at all those elements too, because people like to learn in different ways. So, making sure that we are building in the gamification is coming as well. It begins to help us with driving long term and making it fun, because it's a movement that we're creating here, but the Escape Room has been a really fun, really successful part of it.

Jon : What is the biggest surprise? I didn't expect that, or that's now how I thought it was going to work?

Christine: I think one of our surprises, here in Canada, has been that we've rolled it out but we still, as I said, good initial engagement, but we still have pockets of people that I don't think are really living within the platform to get the insights that they're looking for, ahead of meetings, and right away, I'm on the app, putting my notes back in and using the chatter.

So, we're now looking at those groups, and saying, "Some of this is broad across digital, where we need to give them some additional support on trying it out."  Like getting in there, and leveraging, and trying it out.  Whether that's through an Escape Room, or through direct support from someone who can help them in building the dashboards that they need, and getting the insights, so that they have value to go to do that, to change those daily habits, and really looking at collaboration, using mobile. These are some of the things that we need to get some pockets of our people more comfortable across multiple tools.

Jon : So, you think it's important for organizations, when they're considering transformations, to think about, and this is something you mentioned earlier, it's not a one shot ta-da, good luck. You need to be thinking about feeding the fire, right? The transformation, and getting the thing up and running, is just simply the sparks and the kindling, if you will, and you need to continually feed the fire, to motivate people to incentivize them, to make it fun, and to make it worth their while, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? Because the more people do it, the more they enjoy it, the more they talk about it, the more they get rewarded.

Jimmy: Yeah, no doubt.

Jon : So, in other words, I think, people ought not to fear transformation, which is probably the adoption thing. 80% die, right? Because no-one wants to use it. They go into it thinking, "Oh, my God, it's going to change." Fear. I don't like things to change, but when they realize how much better it is, and when you go into it, I guess with optimism in a way, or with a spirit, a spirit of fun, a spirit of this is going to be great, it really sets the tone for what it's going to be,  as opposed to going in there, and making people feel like, they're under a microscope, or they should fear it because it's kind of-

Christine: Yeah.

Jimmy: Yeah, we're kind of cramming something down their throats.

Christine: Absolutely. It's focused on, we're going to make an impact, right? So, it's that excitement, that positivity, helping us stay focused on what our goal is. It's okay to fail, if we're going to try some stuff out. We're going to learn from it. We're going to keep going. I think that's been really important, just overall.

Jon: I think that's a really important point. Inspiring or at least encouraging the culture, a fast fail, because it's not always going to be perfect the first time, and I think when you set up a culture that says, "Oh, if he fails, it's a failure." It doesn't allow you the room to optimize and to change, and to test to learn, which is something I think is really important.

Jimmy: We talk a lot about that at Salesforce, and it's not just the fast failure, it's the fast learning. How do you learn fast, take what you learned, and bring it back into the solution? I think the way that we at PwC have set up the solution, and our team, is we are constantly putting new features, new capabilities, with releases happening, right now, almost every two months. That gives us the ability to learn things, and get them back in there. If we did them wrong, change it, and we can change it relatively quickly, because of the type of technology, being a fast technology, it makes it a lot simpler to do, that more rapid style.

Jon: Software is a service.

Jimmy: Software is a service.

Jon: We like acronyms, but we also like...

Christine: That's great, and I think that's where our slogan that we use all the time, it's progress not perfection.

Jimmy: Exactly.

Jon: You mentioned earlier on, I'm just curious, you said, during a transformation, in this particular case when we're talking about our own sales force implementation or transformation, you said, "Hey look, it takes time." How long? I know it's how long is a piece of string? What are the timelines?

Jimmy: To the question specifically, duration is directly correlated to the definition of transformation. How long it takes is, what do we view as success? We've transformed ourselves. For what we're trying to do in this particular transformation with PwC is, if we have changed the way that we go to market, interact with our clients and build long term successful relationships, let alone all the other ancillary benefits. That's success. That doesn't take a whole lot of time. A hundred days to roll it out. Canada now has been live since the end of April, and we're already starting to see one of the greatest testimonials that we have, and we've already made a video, and shared around the globe, is about the Canadian tax practice. They've already changed the way that they're working, because they're using this technology, and thinking, and working differently.

Jon: If people are still listening, thank you. You're very kind. The three sort of takeaways for people are: When you're thinking about doing a transformation, you have to think differently.

You really need to consider user adoption, and make sure that, because 80% of transformation is basically die on the vine, after all that work, because people don't use it, and so, it's about human centered, and all that stuff that you talked about, and I think the last kind of theme thing that I heard was, leadership buy in. If the leaders aren't using it, if the top of the house, the presidents, the tops of the organization aren't leading by example, you're going to run into trouble, because basically what happens is it gives people permission not to use it, right? Well, you know, the CEO's not using it. Why should I use it?

Christine: It must not be important.

Jimmy: Transformation is a very ambitious goal, and If you don't have that goal set by the people that are bidding your organization, people are going to doubt it, and if they doubt it, then you're not going to achieve it. I think you're spot on. You have to be committed.

Jon: I think that is the end of our podcast. Thanks, Guys. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day.

Jimmy: Our pleasure.

Christine: Thank you.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoy this episode, and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or your preferred podcast platform.

Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership, for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice.

Until next time.

Lowe’s Canada: The journey to omni-channel

“Omni-channel” has become a buzzword, but what does it actually mean? Shift’s guest, Claire Bara, Vice President Strategy & Business Intelligence at Lowe’s Canada, talks about omni-channel as a journey and balancing performance with innovation to deliver differentiated experiences to consumers.

Jon: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada's podcast series, and we're digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I'm also the Creative Director of PwC Canada.

This is our inaugural podcast.

Today we're going to be talking about the journey to omni-channel, Claire, but thank you so much for joining us. Why don't you just take a second and tell us who you are and what you've been up to and why you're the person to be talking about omni-channel, because I absolutely believe you are.

Claire: Thank you for having me. First of all, I'm VP of Strategy and Business Insights for Lowe's Canada. I've been in that role since the acquisition, so, it's been 15 months now that Rona got acquired by Lowe's. Previously, I was working for Rona as a VP of Marketing, Digital, CRM and Business Insights.

So, obviously we have this new time for Lowe's Canada, comes a lot of questions, and a lot of opportunities. And omni-channel is one big opportunity in our journey.

Jon: So, that's a great segue, because omni-channel might be the biggest buzzword since transformation.

Claire: Yep.

Jon: Everybody, everywhere you go, everywhere you read, omni-channel this, omni-channel that. And it's almost like people are kind of ... Everyone seems to have their own definition. So, why do you think everybody's talking about omni-channel right now?

Claire: I think ... That's a good question. I think the reason why everybody's talking about it, and the reason why it's so important; it's because it's customers that are requesting it. It's part of a new set of expectations. Customers today, we're living in a world where everyone [wants] no friction, they want when we interact by brands, no matter what touchpoint, they wanna live a seamless and consistent experience.

So, this is the reason why it's so important.

Jon: Okay. How do you know that's what they want?

Claire: But I think you just have to observe consumers’ behaviours. And the way they interact today with retailers... There are multiple touchpoints, and it's gonna keep on increasing, so you can just observe the way customers, what type of research they're doing online, where they're talking to companies, or call centres, or emails, and when you go to stores in a retail case. So, all of this is screaming about their expectations, their needs and their wants.

So, this is how you can understand why is omni-channel important for customers, and how you can develop your plan to answer their expectations.

Jon: How would you define omni-channel for people in its most simplistic form?

Claire: I think from a consumer standpoint, the request or the expectation is: today I'm a consumer, I'm interacting with your brand, your stores, for different ways. I'm interacting through your website, I'm interacting when I go to your store, or when I am going on social media, and what customers expect is when they're interacting, they wanna leave an experience that's gonna be consistent, fluid, and seamless. So, I don't wanna be told, "Oh, no, this is something that you've seen in a website, it's not in a store." Or, "No, while you talked to somebody in our call centre, you know, I cannot help you with that, because that's a different department."

So, I think this is very concretely what omni-channel is about. How we can make sure as many more touchpoints have been created over the last years, how we can make sure each touchpoint, customer is being served, is being served in a way that really answers his expectations, and also being recognized. It's also a brand's responsibility to personalize, because now I know who you are. I know why you came to my store. I know what you did on my website previously. So I need to be able to provide you with a better answer on that specific request today.

Jon: It's interesting that you talk about the personalization part of it, because I think a lot of people think about multi-channel and omni-channel as being interchangeable.

Claire: No.

Jon: And they're not.

Claire: No.

Jon: So, how would you describe the difference?

Claire: Well, for me, multi-channel was in a world where yes, customers are going online, yes, customers are calling call centres. So, everybody's managing the customer in this specific sandbox, and answering to his request, but the minute you want to make a connection between ... And sometimes very simple things. You're going to a store, you want something, the store doesn't have it. Can you check another store and one other store if they have it? And many stores today still say, "No, I cannot have access to our inventory."

So, for me, that was the multi-channel, but now, I think the expectation is no matter where I'm interacting with you, I wanna be able to have an answer, and to be served in that way. So, that's the biggest difference for me.

And there are still many companies today that are organized in a multi-channel way, so you got a database of customers for your e-com or your digital order, database of customers that use specific services, and database of customers for even some specific stores. So, this is changing. This is really ... Has to change everything, and break silos and create a world where we can put all this information together in order to recognize and personalize to that specific customer.

Jon: That's right. People first.

Claire: Yeah.

Jon: How we gonna serve the people, however they wanna be served.

Claire: Yes.

Jon: So, what does it mean for Lowe's, then, in particular? So—

Claire: We have a big opportunity in front of us, because Lowe's Canada ... First of all, it has eight different brands and banners, so yes, we got the Rona brand, but most Canadian families wave the Lowe's banner. But in reality, we've got eight different banners across the country. Some are more regional, some are more national. We have B2B brands, specifically serving Pro customers.

So, for us, the complexity and the opportunities, how we deploy toward that omni-channel journey for all of our banners. So, this is—

Jon: That sounds really complex.

Claire: It is complex, and we have also a network of stores, multi-format. We've got corporate stores, we've got affiliate stores, so that adds to the complexity, but that also is a big opportunity, because we are touching lots of customers across the country with all of our banners. Actually 87 percent of Canadians today live 30 minutes or less from any of our stores.

Jon: 87 percent—

Claire: Yeah.

Jon: —live 30 minutes or less from a Rona store.

Claire: For whatever brand is … [Not] just Rona, it's Lowe's, it's Ace, it's ... All of the original banners I was referring to.

Jon: Wow.

Claire: So, this is a challenge for us.

Jon: Right. How do you guys wanna activate or create an omni-channel journey that's gonna be really powerful, differentiated, what does it really mean for you, 'cause it's—

Claire: And that's the journey we’re on, so for us, there's a big objective, is how we help all of those brands to deliver on that experience, that seamless experience across all of the touchpoints, how we’re enabling other brands to recognize, personalize. So, that's the vision. That's where I wanna go. But also, how we deploy our resources internally, because it's all those groups supporting the banners. If you think about marketing, digital, supply chain, CRM ... So, how all those groups align to support and deliver that omni-channel experience for those eight different banners.

So, for us, that's this puzzle we have to put in right places.

Jon: I'm really curious; how do you communicate that corporately, or organizationally? It's like you have a vision, and you have all these different banners, all these different employees, from management to people on the floor. How do you communicate? That's the challenge.

Claire: That's a very good question, and well, the first thing is, we have a team ... I have a team dedicated to strategy, and my role is to build the strategy, but communication is as important as is building the strategy. And I would even dare to say that if the strategy is not really good, but your communication's excellent, you may be in a better position than the other way. Which is not the case, our strategy is very good.

But, to communicate ... First, you need to have your plan, you need to have it aligned with all the leadership team, make sure we all are aligned, we all understand, because everybody will cross their own group. But me, personally, the way I approach it, and I guess it's part of my marketing background; I approach this as a really ... An important communication ... Almost approach it as a product launch.

So, to give you an example—

Jon: As a product launch?

Claire: There's a ton of materials; we've done videos, we've done visuals, we've got narratives. Because you need to adapt to all the groups you're interacting with. And currently I'm in the middle ... I'm almost completed, but in the middle of an important session. I've got 16 sessions across the country, going through all divisions, all banners, explaining the vision, what does it mean for their brands, how we gonna align the super group to help them achieve to that vision. So, it's ... And we are gonna have another session for store director, or store's employees, that will even bring it to a much simpler perspective, because you don't wanna overwhelm people. You don't wanna scare them with those big words. You wanna make sure they understand the benefits for all the customers, but also for them.

So, that's ... Yeah, communication is key. Tools are important, and engagement is important. I need to be spread across the whole company. Because omni-channel is not the responsibility of a strategy team, of a digital team, of a marketing team, of a supply chain team. It's the responsibility of all groups in the company.

Jon: You talked to people, and you talked to customers, and it's like, okay, I had a vision. And then did you allow yourself the opportunity to sorta shape it, and change it, depending on what you heard?

Claire: In our process, we spent lots of time, lots of energy on the customer piece.

Jon: Customer first.

Claire: Customer first, and then this helps you define what you wanna do when you talk about omni-channel. What are the behaviours? What are the expectations? And we've actually put what is our own priority based on that. So, even though we were saying yes, everybody's talking about it, and I think it's very good for a company to define what does it mean for their category of product, for their customer, and so make sure we align the action plan and the priorities towards those customer priorities.

Jon: I think that's a really important point, actually, for people who are listening. It's so easy to go, "Okay, well, we need omni-channel. And this is how you do it." And without really thinking about, what do you need to do from an omni-channel perspective that's specific to your brand, specific to your business. Right? Because you know, Lowe's is gonna be different than an electronic retailer, or a fashion retailer.

Claire: Yeah, there's no such thing as the best recipe in omni-channel. The best one is the one you're gonna build, coming from your customer expectations, and you're right, depending on your categories of product.

Jon: As you go down the journey of implementing the vision, how do you respond to competitive threats, as you see them in real time?

Claire: That's a good question, and you don't have a choice. You need to work on both levels. Yes, you need to have your master plan, your building blocks toward that vision of omni-channel, but you also need to be testing and innovating, and doing smaller-scale projects to help you be able to grab a new opportunity and react. And at Lowe's we’re fortunate, because we have an entity in the US, the Lowe's Innovation Lab, and they're doing this on a regular basis.

There I think it's part of any leader's responsibility, actually, to ... If you're not testing something new at this exact moment, if you don't have something going on, you're missing the boat, and you're not developing that ability to react quickly, be nimble, and bring on all that learning and all that benefit of doing those kinds of projects.

Jon: So, sounds to me like you guys have two streams.

Claire: Yeah.

Jon: A stream which is implementing the omni-channel vision as you've created it, and kinda sticking to that. And a similar stream is innovation; where can we find new opportunities to connect with people that are meaningful, help us differentiate our brand? So, whether it's AR, VR, home delivery in a new interesting way, with drones, whatever ... And then kind of coming together and integrating them as need be.

Claire: Yes, absolutely, and because omni-channel is a journey, it will keep on evolving. Customer expectations will not stay as we are today; they keep on changing, and changing faster and faster. So, as you're gonna test new technology, and you mentioned, yeah, in VR something I think is gonna be very, very disruptive is the home assistant device, like Google Home.

So, as you gonna be testing and doing things that are new, innovative things, one of those will influence the omni-channel journey, also could influence, and then you could integrate into your master plan. So, need definitely to work on both levels.

Jon: So, I'm really curious though, as you look in the world at leading brands who are leading these omni-channel experiences, who do you see out there that's doing it really well?

Claire: I think every company that is approaching the industry, or coming up with solutions that have never been brought before, for me, would be an example. And so it doesn't matter on the size, on the scale, it's that capacity of being the first to think of something. But I think lately of innovation that really is, for me, really, really interesting, and disruptive is the home device assistance, the Google Home, the Alexa, I think this is something that is gonna be as disruptive as the smartphone was a couple of years ago.

Jon: Yeah. For sure. You've talked about digital assistants, AI, 3D printing, augmented reality, virtual reality. Do you see these things changing the game for you at Lowe's?

Claire: Yes, yes, absolutely. In our industry, there's a perfect fit, and augmented reality, virtual reality, when you think about what is preventing people from actually performing projects in our category of product, usually we don't have the time, we don't have the skills. So, the augmented reality device is really answering one of our needs, and can picture in the future everybody at home will have the ability to put on a program and before you tile your shower, or before you change your toilets, you're gonna be able to perform it in a virtual world.

So, that's also a tool that is very useful for our employees when you need to train new employees, and you're one of those people when they interact with customers, they have the knowledge, and they went through a similar type of experience. So, for me, definitely, this is super applicable in our industry. And you talk about 3D printers; it's the same, it's something actually the Lowe's Innovation Lab tests in one of our stores in New York, so customer comes in, and wants a specific part, and you just give a model and you print it for them. So, all of those exciting innovations are very, very important to us, and this is why we are already investing, and testing those.

Jon: So bringing Lowe's vision of omni-channel to reality; is there anything getting in the way? What kind of challenges are you facing?

Claire: So, the complexity, it's the scale. Because, I was referring about number of banners, I was referring we've been ... All the groups that omni-channel is touching. So, there are two things. You need to align everybody, you need to have your master plan. And one element that is key is speed. Because as so many groups, so many elements that are embedded into that journey, you can think about technology by itself, could be a big one. And there could be a temptation to say, "Let's wait until we have this new system, let's wait until we have this platform."

So, think waiting is not an option. So, there's all different elements involved as ... You need to have your vision, but you need to have your ... Supporting your people, the structure you have, the tools you have. So, work to make sure that you're not static, and that you're moving toward that direction without waiting for any component of it. So, I think because it's a journey, sometimes people get excited at the beginning. But then they disengage, because they think it's gonna take too much time. So, I think it's important that you release, you make progress, you communicate, and you pursue, and you monitor, and you keep on going.

So, for me, that's the biggest challenge, because it's gonna be a journey. Need to make sure everybody's on it, and make sure everybody stays on it, and that we’re delivering on a regular basis.

But at the same time as you’re building capabilities ... I'm thinking supply chain, I'm thinking digital, I'm thinking CRM; you need to, right away, think about how we gonna be supporting those banners in that journey, because then we can deploy something that will be applicable right away to all of the banners. So it's a balance to work with vision.

Jon: We're gonna just shift now into the end here. And I'm just curious about what advice could you give to some of our listeners who are starting to create omni-channel visions and plans for their own companies, their own organizations?

Claire: I would say ... I would start by saying: do basic steps. Don't ... It could be overwhelming, especially if you start reading about omni-channel, and you may end up thinking, "My goodness, it's gonna take forever, it's gonna take a lot of money," and so I would say: understand what it means for your customer. Understand your customers’ expectations. How do they want to interact with their brand, how they're doing it, when are they doing it at each touchpoint? So make sure you understand that.

And have your own definition of what it means for you, would be the first steps. But also align everybody, not just your leadership team, but everybody in your organization, to understand what does this mean, why are you doing it. Because everybody's gonna be involved.

Also, try to work with people that have experience, that have went through this process, so that you not gonna be alone on that journey, 'cause it could be overwhelming. So, that would be another element.

And the other thing is referring to what I was saying earlier; yes, have your master plan. But also make sure you are releasing projects, make sure you're releasing pieces of it so that you’re keeping on moving, and having everybody engage in that journey.

Jon: Having a proper omni-channel vision or execution is really gonna be the difference between companies that we love and thrive, and the ones that just disappear.

Claire: Yeah, and something important you could do, have people connected directly with your customer. Something I've done recently is putting every leader in a leadership group going to a call centre and listening to customers. That is very basic. Or sharing email, or sharing ... We've done a survey on pinpoints, so this is another powerful tool that would help everybody engage toward that journey.

And you could do the same thing with your employees. Sometimes employees are very critical in this journey, but really put yourself in their shoes, and see what type of tools, what type of training they have to answer those customers that are coming to their store with those expectations. So that also could be something very powerful to do as part of the early stage.

Jon: Claire, thanks so much for spending time with us, sharing some of your successes and where Lowe's is going. I think it's really super interesting, and a very exciting thing to be watching for Canadians, and for everybody, to be quite frank. So, hopefully we can check back in with you in a year from now, see where it's going. What you're seeing.

Claire: Well, thank you, absolutely, we should do that.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at

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Until next time.

About the Shift podcast

Successful business transformation is taking on the demands of today while preparing for the challenges of tomorrow. In each episode of Shift, we amplify the voice of leading industry experts, to share their unique perspectives on what it takes to transform.

Join us to learn how these leaders are approaching and executing on their transformation journeys while ensuring they perform as they transform. Listen as they describe what they're doing to create sustained outcomes for their employees, customers and communities.

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