WPP reimagines IT to foster agility and creativity

Situation

Transforming IT to be more human-centered and agile

WPP, a creative transformation company, is one of the world’s largest marketing services businesses. It uses the power of creativity to build better futures for its people, planet, clients and communities. WPP has a global network of over 100,000 people operating in more than 110 countries, and its award-winning agencies work with many of the world’s biggest companies and organizations.

PwC and WPP have a long-standing relationship. When Rachel Higham became WPP’s global CIO, PwC helped WPP define its IT strategy and transformation agenda.

To support its aspirations and increasing expectations from clients and colleagues, WPP needed to reimagine its IT organization. Its transformation focused on four key areas: creating new products for its clients and employees, transforming its IT platform capabilities by shifting to the cloud, securing and protecting WPP services, and transforming its ways of working.

Cloud transformation was a key component of the agenda, which helped deliver fresh insights and digitized the company’s colleague and client journeys. It also gave the business a better understanding of operations, clients and performance, all while reducing risk.

But it took more than technology for WPP to achieve its vision. The company also set out to improve its enterprise agility and shift its ways of working. This helped IT become a better partner by investing in how it engages with the business and understands its strategic needs today and in the future.

According to Rachel Higham, “WPP is a people business and so our transformation had to be in service to our colleagues.” Adopting a more human-centered way of working was a critical part of the first phase of the transformation.

WPP’s ambition and PwC’s ethos of a multidisciplinary way of working — centered around business, experience and technology (BXT) — seamlessly matched, bringing their parallel passions to the same table. WPP’s IT function began using PwC’s BXT Ways of Working program to modernize the way people work, think and engage to help achieve sustainable transformation outcomes. It provided the proper training for WPP to upskill and coach colleagues on critical capabilities for success, shifting their mindsets and behaviors to drive agility and deliver more impactful work.

Solution

Upskilling IT employees to lead the transformation

In designing the Ways of Working program, the team intentionally selected an initial group of 75 IT colleagues across the newly centralized organization. This diverse group of influencers across operating committees, disciplines, grades and functions participated in an eight-week immersive and iterative skills building program, which was brought to life through experiential learning. To encourage application of the learnings to their daily work, the team members were supported with small-group and one-to-one coaching. The final element was to build a community to reinforce the ways of working as a peer group and to drive awareness and adoption throughout the rest of the organization.

Graduates of the program became the Game Changers, a network of change agents who bring different perspectives to each problem and opportunity. They stretch their thinking to create bold ideas and exploit their new growth mindsets to successfully iterate and deliver solutions.

“The combination of experiential learning, coaching and community has had a multiplier effect, allowing WPP to see benefits beyond the individuals who directly participated in the program,” said Jennifer Richards, PwC UK’s Chief Strategy Officer for Digital Cloud & Transformation.

Business

A chain reaction for change

After the program’s first phase, the Ways of Working Game Changers returned to their teams, where they relayed their experiences and became leaders of change. Their positive influence was critical for building momentum and inspiring others.

It was then time to get senior IT leaders to experience and embrace the new ways of working. The second phase included a three-day boot camp for the newly formed IT senior leadership community, focused on collective problem solving and teamwork. It quickly demonstrated the program’s measurable benefits to more than 60 WPP executives, leading them to share these practices and influence colleagues in other areas of the business.

With more than 100 IT individuals upskilled and ready to teach what they learned, program leaders began to scale the program in the third and final incubator phase, delivering the training to over 1,000 of their IT colleagues and creating real momentum for change.

Technology

Turning momentum into
a movement

Overall, the Ways of Working program improved the organization’s ability to quickly adapt, compete and drive growth. WPP was able to strengthen its IT department by upskilling, coaching and helping shift employees’ mindsets and behaviors in order to deliver more impactful work.

WPP’s IT team is now more agile, working together across functions and with vendors to deliver smarter solutions. Many colleagues have been inspired to engage with technology in new ways, to great advantage, for tasks like rapid prototyping and developing out-of-the-box solutions.

Results

Repositioning the role of IT

PwC’s work with WPP enforces a growing ethos in business. For any companywide initiative to be successful, it has to be driven by its people.

Since incorporating these new ways of working, WPP’s IT function has seen not only an uplift in confidence but a significant culture change. “I'm seeing our people just show up differently with a new boldness, a new level of ambition, a new level of confidence,” said Higham, “not only in their own abilities, but also their confidence and trust in their colleagues’ skills and experience.”

This change has helped unify WPP’s IT function as a global team and freed it to take risks. The team is excited for the journey ahead, confident and eager to drive the transformation forward, fearlessly bringing bright ideas to the table.

WPP is bringing more fun and creativity to IT, breaking down silos and working together to be more successful.

1,000+

IT colleagues were upskilled on core behaviors over 9 months, which increased employee confidence by 74%.

22%

improvement in IT department employee satisfaction.

80%

growth in organizational trust — doubling the number of participants willing to share new ideas and adopt new ways of working.

The Ways of Working program gave employees permission to experiment, be creative and, most notably, view pitfalls as learning experiences. The shift in mindset underpins the radical improvement in confidence and commitment to driving our transformation agenda forward.

Rachel Higham
CIO, WPP

Becoming human-led changed the way WPP’s IT team does business. The attitudes and energy of the people were entirely different once they were at the heart of it all and could see and feel their impact.

Shirin Toor
Managing Director, PwC

Learn how PwC helps companies enable effective agile operating models across their enterprises.

Learn more

Contact us

Emmanuelle Rivet

Vice Chair, US TMT & Global Technology Leader, PwC US

Shirin Toor

PwC Global & US BXT Program Leader, PwC US

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