Beyond Corporate Services: PwC’s Managed Services

In the ever-evolving landscape of today's business world, executives are actively seeking to reinvent their organizations.

Discover PwC's Beyond Corporate Managed Services limited audio series with David Shebay, where PwC leaders engage in conversations that discuss the business environment and how it influences operating, talent and technology models to build efficiency, manage costs and accelerate outcomes.

Featured PwC leaders

Tim Ryan, Senior Partner, PwC US

Be part of an engaging conversation as Tim Ryan sheds light on the significance for leaders and employees to shift from a “me” to “we” mindset as their organizations adapt to address opportunities and risks. Listen to invaluable insights on how executives can foster collaboration and strengthen their relationships across their organizations from employees to board members.

Yolanda Seals-Coffield, Chief People Officer, PwC US

Join the conversation on how PwC approaches recruiting and retaining talent. Learn about talent that comes from many non-traditional sources, how “quiet hiring” is impacting in-house talent models and new ways to source tech talent. Yolanda Seals-Coffield shares invaluable insights and explores a range of strategies that executives can adopt to create an environment where individuals feel challenged and valued.

Joe Atkinson, Vice Chair - Chief Products and Technology Officer, PwC US

Join us for an enlightening conversation with Joe Atkinson, as he dives into the crucial factors technology executives need to consider when it comes to Generative AI. Discover how to empower your teams to use AI more effectively to increase insights and drive value out of your AI investment.

Tyson Cornell, Cloud and Digital Leader, PwC US

Dive into the growing trend of using the cloud to enable and empower your business with Tyson Cornell. Discover how to build an ecosystem of providers and technology to unlock unique value in your ERP systems and set yourself apart from the competition.

Episode transcripts

Find episode transcripts below.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:00:00:00 Welcome to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC’s Managed Service’s Audio Series. I'm your host, David Shebay. Today, we're speaking with Tim Ryan, US Senior Partner at PwC and we're going to be discussing his insights on what and how other senior executives are doing.

00:00:22.14 Tim, as our leader for the last eight years, you've had the opportunity to talk to a wide range of CEOs, boards and c-suites over that time, in addition to guiding PwC through our course, I'd like to hear your thoughts and some conversations that stood out to you. And first, what changes have you seen leaders have to make over the last decade, especially with all of the significant external challenges we've had?

TIM RYAN: 00:00:45:23 Yeah, David, thank you. It's great to be with you today and the listeners. Thank you. It has been an amazing decade. We've seen technological revolution, we've seen geopolitical shifts, we've seen inflation, we've lived through a pandemic.

00:00:58.16 And many CEOs have often said to me and boards, the number of things at an uncontrollable are only increasing. And what they're really focused on is trying to do risk planning, risk scenario, but also then keenly focus on what they can control.

00:01:13:08 And that's really hard as a leader because your people, whether it be your most important direct reports or whether it be every person at every level in the organization get distracted by those external events they can't control. And also, it has the ability to, in some cases, personally affect them, and that makes it really hard.

00:01:31.14 What I've seen leadership do is really focus in pivot to an environment where they're saying, let's focus on what we can control and most importantly, a very human element.

00:01:43:03 Knowing that where CEOs want people focus on work, they understand that if you don't look after the whole human being and the whole individual, it's really hard to get the best out of somebody and help them realize your full potential. So, I have seen this tremendous shift to humanization, this tremendous shift towards empathy and as leaders, doing everything you can to help your people, given the number of uncontrollable things that are happening in the world today.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:02:07:10 All of that, I'm going to ask you one question off topic, off script. So, I'm going to apologize for early on that, but I know you can handle it. When you think back on your last eight years that you've been doing and you think about those external challenges that we face. What's one that you're most proud of? How, we and you as a leader kind of handled, what are you can look back with pride on.

TIM RYAN: 00:02:26:08 One of these that makes me a bit sad is the world has thrown us so many curveballs out there, whether it be issues across any number of wide range of events that we've had. To me, the common theme, what I'm proud of is that, number one, our people rally around each other. I attribute that to the fact that we have good people with good values in important culture.

00:02:46:08 That culture does start with me, but by no means is only related to me. That relates to our partners, people like you and our leaders that set the tone that we are empathetic, we care about each other. And when one of us is hurting, that we're all hurting. And I'm proud of how we rally around each other in times of need.

00:03:00:15 What makes me very sad is there seems to be more times in need than ever before today, given the challenge of World that we live in.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:03:06:21 Yeah, it's definitely challenging and I agree it feels like it's increasing, that's a good lead into the second question, which is when you look at C-suite and board members and across a wide range, obviously there's some people that are in those positions now and there's a lot of people listening that would aspire to be in those positions. What are some skills and traits that you have found to be most poignant for successful people there?

TIM RYAN: 00:03:28:12 Yeah, David, thank you. I'm smiling just for our listeners here; it is such an important question. I do believe personally from the hundreds and hundreds of companies that I meet with across many industries across the globe, we are seeing a change in terms of what is needed in the C-suite and what is needed in the C-suite now, more than ever, is what I broadly call human capital talent and the ability to bring people along.

00:03:51:21 And let me explain why. Almost every company, regardless of industry, needs to transform and reinvent themselves. They need to move from a world where lots of things are done manually and they need do reinvent through technology. They need to reinvent and deal with climate, and they also need to reinvent as we look at new geopolitical world order, as the world is changing, as the relationships change across the globe.

00:04:13.15 How you bring people along in that journey will be the single biggest factor in terms of what makes a company successful or failure. It won't be the technology that they choose. It'll be how they teach people to use the technology.

00:04:26.19 It will be how they teach their people how to move forward in challenging times and become better and better at change. And that to me is very much a human capital change and perhaps most importantly, how you inspire people to go in that change.

00:04:40:21 By the way, the bigger the organization, the more global the organization, the harder it is to do. That skill set is incredibly important which brings me now to advice for our listeners here. The sooner any of us move from a mentality of me to we, the better off we are.

00:04:59.18 When I think about a younger myself, starting out early in my career, I could get it done. It was I could do it. And what I learned quickly over time and even now as the firm’s Senior Partner. It's very much we, how do we do this? How do we bring people along?

00:05:13.17 By the way, that's in many cases a lot harder to do. It's always easy if “I” could just do it, I'm using air quotes, right? for us to think that. I think for listeners, if you aspire to continue to progress in your career, whether it's PwC or anywhere else, what is absolutely critical is moving from a me to a we mindset.

00:05:30.19 Secondly, it's about how do you inspire people? One of the things I've advised hundreds of people over the years of, is it is very easy in life to point out what the problem is? The problem can be in connection with a technology transformation. It could be in connection with entering a new market. It could be in connection with adopting a new way of working.

00:05:51.13 It could be in connection with a new operating model. It is very easy to point out the problems. Where it is a lot harder to do is point out a problem and find a solution, being part of the solution. That leadership skill doesn't start with you get in the C-suite that starts today for everybody and people want to follow people who can be optimistic and find a way.

00:06:10.19 So, the quicker people adopt from pointing out problems to being part of the solution and putting ideas and pulling teams along, that's a huge skill. The last skill that I would say, David, his humility, like admitting when you make a mistake, admitting when something didn't go quite the way you planned, admitting when you didn't execute well.

00:06:28.18 You tried something new and it didn’t work and having the courage to stop it. That humility is massively important. When you look at the complexity of what most companies are trying to do, does anybody really believe it'll all be perfect? The most trusted organizations, the one that say, we tried something, we get 80% right? We got 70% right.

00:06:47.17 It is how we're learning from the 20% to 30% we didn't get right. So that humility, if you don't adopt that skill early in your career, it's really hard to get it when you're in the C-suite.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:06:59:04 And you know, Tim, I feel like those are actually going to become even more important as we continue to roll forward because the pace of change and even if you just look at it from a technology lens, all of the new things that are happening, it's really, really hard, maybe impossible now for any eye to know enough about all the different parts, and you've got to be able to have that group with a multidisciplinary approach to solve problems.

TIM RYAN: 00:07:23:09 So David, it's so funny you mention that. So, as you know, and hopefully our listeners know, I'm a passionate advocate for diversity equity, and inclusion, but that goes well beyond just gender, ethnicity or any other element. It goes to skill sets. And to your point, organizations have to reinvent themselves. By the way, I don't care if you're in banking or insurance or logistics or energy or entertainment or media, it doesn't matter.

00:07:47:07 Every industry has to remake themselves. Does anyone person know that answer? No. But if you put the right business, people with the right technologies, with the right change manager, the right culture, the right human capital people, the right tax experts, if you can bring that team together and be inclusive, and truly listen to everybody's point of view, amazing things are going to happen.

00:08:07:22 But if we're not willing to open ourselves up to somebody who may know Generative AI better than me or who may know the benefits of Web 3.0, better than you will never get there. So, inclusion in many respects, the work we've been doing in inclusion is just beginning because it takes on a whole another dimension of skill sets and experiences have become so critical in order to succeed.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:08:29:01 Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And whether it's a big problem or small problem and those do tend to be the people that get to more leadership roles and those seem to be the more successful leaders. I've got the next question for you, which is when I'm working with a lot of senior executives, one of the things that's always a little bit of angst in their minds is meeting with the board and how do we interact with the board.

00:08:50:14 And when we're doing training for new CFOs or CIOs or C-suite folks that we offer, that's almost always one of the topical areas that they pick. So, you deal a lot with the boards you've been. When how would a new executive look to best leverage their board?

TIM RYAN: 00:09:05:20 Again, I'm smiling for the listeners, that is such an important question. So, I do have the privilege of working with hundreds of boards. So, I have a wide body of evidence to share what I'm going to say. And I've learned first, you never say all, you never say none, because you'll be wrong. But virtually all boards, what they want, is a one open, honest, transparent conversation.

00:09:24:13 Keep in mind, most boards in the corporate world are made up of current or former business executives. There's some exceptions that we have amazing people from government, academia, research, also on boards. But what we all know is nothing is ever perfect. And what drives a board crazy is someone comes in and presents as if it's perfect. And boards don't want that.

00:09:44:08 They know things, aren't perfect because of their own experience, which is why they're on the board to bring their experience. So, my first piece of advice for executives who are beginning to get in front of the board is share openly. Like, I'm going to share with you what we're doing, but I don't want to mislead you. Of course, we've got room for improvement.

00:10:00:13 Let me share with you the big area I'm struggling with, but let me first go through the things I feel good about. Like I'm not suggesting we go in there and say everything's broken, but you go in there very open, honest, transparent, because nothing is ever perfect and they know that. So, the first thing they really value is candor and openness.

00:10:16:02 I think that's really important. And I think boards are, they want to offer their advice. They choose board service because of their experience. They get chosen to be on a board because they have a specific area or multiple areas of expertise. So, give them time to give input, give them time. So, if you've been allocated 20 minutes on the agenda or 30 minutes on the agenda, make sure you leverage your time so you can get input.

00:10:41:16 And what you don't want to do is when you get input, the worst thing you can do is tell them why they're wrong. They give an answer that explains why they're wrong. They're offering their experience. And if you don't agree, that's okay. Just say that's something I will think about. That's a really good point, as opposed to explaining why they're wrong because they have experience.

00:10:59:08 You can always follow up with that board member as well. That is critical. And then the last thing, David and every company has a slightly different culture, but get to know board members outside of the boardroom, go visit them, have a virtual meet group with them the morning over the night before, have a coffee with them or whatever it is.

00:11:15.14 But go have a conversation with them because the better they get to know you outside of that boardroom, where it's a bit time constraint is really important as well.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:11:24:10 I love that. And I think some of that goes back to your I versus a we at the beginning. And you know, the other point that I'll make to executives is, the boards are there to help you. They want to see you succeed. They're not there to throw darts. They're there to really help build up. I mean, that's why they're in those seats.

TIM RYAN: 00:11:41:04 Yeah. David, thank you. And I will. Just one more thing. You remind me of. One of the worst things, I think a member of management can do, CEO or anybody else is play the card. Well, let's watch the line of management to governance. That, to me, is a very defensive way of operating. Most boards, to your point, want to help and let them help.

00:12:00:19 By the way, there is no clear line of management for governance. Most board members are trying to do the right thing given the chance. That's how I work with my board. Again, I'm smiling at times. I'll make them uncomfortable because I might give me suggestions, give me ways to improve operations out of management because I want their input.

00:12:16:05 Ultimately, I'll make that type of decision as a senior partner, but I actually welcome that input. I would like to see more members of management not worry about that line, but actually welcome it because to your point, I think it comes from a place of good, wanting to help.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:12:28:20 I love it. Two last questions. The first one is a little bit of self-reflection for you. So, if a great experience, Tim Ryan today could go back to eight years ago or 12 or 15 years ago, you get to pick the time, what would you do faster or different, help to the rest of us look at ourselves as we're trying to become this.

TIM RYAN: 00:12:45:16 This is, I am a little cliche, but we should all appreciate just how fast time goes by and whether you're just starting your career and you realize you'll go from being an intern or a first year to you'll be five years in, or whether you're someone who's been there 20, you'll blink in the eye and it'll be 30 realized that time goes by fast and really, really enjoy to have fun along the way.

00:13:07:04 Without a doubt, I wish I tried even more. Like personally, I wish I tried more. I did a lot, by the way. It wasn't , I didn't try things, but life is like a buffet. You try as many things as you can and work. It'll be more rewarding. It'll give you even more choice or more opportunity. But what I would say is, I think as a leader, one of the things that I've come to realize is that human beings are way better at change in evolution that we give them credit for.

00:13:33:12 And what I've realized is I care deeply about our people and deeper about humans overall, but I've realized is that they're capable more. Don't underestimate them. I've found people are capable of just amazing things, we give them the opportunity. Lastly, I would say I am a massive optimist. When I look at the world today, I am not naive to the challenges out there.

00:13:52:17 When I look at things like climate, when I look at things like an aging population, when I look at geopolitical tension, I have to tell you, I wish I was 22 again, because when I look at those challenges, I see amazing talent that's going to solve those challenges and really help the planet the world become a better place. God, I wish I was 22 again and had the chance to be along for the complete ride because I think it's going to be amazing.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:14:14:14 That's awesome. One last thing, and I was at our annual D&I conference last week with all of our first year D&I associates, and they're always so inspiring. And some of them are also looking at a longer journey, in addition to our younger colleagues, whether they're with us in PwC or any of our listeners. If you were that 22-year-old, what would you tell them?

TIM RYAN: 00:14:36:19 So that's easy, given that I had some of those of my own at home. So, I'll give it to you straight from the heart. What I tell my children. My mother died at 72, eight years ago this week, and my mother worked to a grocery store her entire life and not college educated. And my mother taught me is three basic things.

00:14:54:00 And these things I pass on to my children who are now two, or who in the workplace of the six, who are in the workplace. And I would give to anybody who wants to have a great career and maybe more importantly, be a great human being. We can overcomplicate life. There's three basic things, number one work hard. Anything worth having is worth working hard.

00:15:10:09 Now, yes, balance is important, but work hard. Number two, treat other people with respect the way you would want to be treated. And that's easy to say. But in our busy lives it's actually really hard to do. We're rushing to a meeting, rushing to take care of something at home, rushing to get something done. But what we do and how we do it impacts people's lives in the smallest act to the biggest acts that we do and treat people with respect and constantly challenge yourselves.

00:15:38:23 Did I …(Unintel Phrase)… which none of us do? And what could I have done better? My mother taught me that as a young child. Today, we talk about that as inclusion. We talk about that under our values of caring. But it is a very basic, treat people, the way you would want to be treated. Again, very easy to say.

00:15:54:03 Very, very hard to do. And the third one is, to be honest, we're going to make mistakes. It is important to just own up to mistakes. My mother used to always say, and nobody calls me this besides my mother. But hey Timmy, like you hate being corrected. And she was right and she was right. As a young child, I hated it.

00:16:10:17 I've grown actually, to welcome it. It's become a strength now. But be honest, when something doesn't go well, be honest when you make a mistake. If any of us go through a day and we have made a mistake, we didn't stretch ourselves enough. It was treacherous. We didn't put ourselves in a tough situation. We didn't try something. We weren't as courageous in experimenting.

00:16:27:16 But then when it doesn't work out, just admit it. So, David, that's what I pass on anybody.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:16:32:14 I love it. I do that same run and tell people, if you're not making mistakes, you're not trying hard enough. Yeah. Tim, I first want to say I too, enjoyed working with you these last dozen years plus you've been inspiring to me and it's been absolute pleasure. I know we'll catch up more later, but thank you very much for your time today. And it was great to see you.

TIM RYAN: 00:16:49:02 David. Let me say thank you. You inspire me as well. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for how much you care and what a great person you are. Thank you.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:16:56:06 Thank you for listening to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC’s Managed Services Audio Series. I'm David Shebay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 00:17:07.07 Copyright 2024 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC Network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. This podcast is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:00:06:04 Welcome to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC Managed Services, Audio Series. I'm your host, David Shebay. Today, we're speaking with Yolanda Seals Coffield, the chief people officer at PwC, and we're going to be discussing talent.

00:00:19:03 Where do you source that talent from? How is it evolving and how do you retain that talent? Yolanda, can you explain to our listeners what a chief people officer is?

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:00:27:08 That's a really good question, David. So, first of all, thanks for having me. It's really good to be here and to talk about where we're sourcing our talent, which is something that most chief people officers or chief human resources officers are thinking about every day.

00:00:42:01 Our chief people officer is the person in-charge of our people agenda, and so I have the privilege of waking up every day thinking about how we attract, retain and develop the very best talent that will serve the needs of our clients today, and that will help support the growth of our firm in the future.

00:00:58:01 And a big part of that is not only attracting the talent, but creating the right environment where our people can thrive and grow at this firm, and so it is a great privilege to get to do that every day and to lead the team of professionals that's doing it.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:01:12:10 And I'm really enjoying what you're doing and providing for us, but tell me this when we think about attracting that talent and where that talent lies, and obviously there's a continuing talent war that's going on as people are being snatched up from every wedge corner. How are you seeing that evolution go for where we find and source talent?

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:01:30:17 It's an interesting topic because I think if you were to ask me this question a year ago, my answer might feel a little bit more different, at least in terms of its urgency, and so we are watching the pendulum swing back and forth from a talent acquisition perspective.

00:01:45:08 A year ago, there was this tremendous war for talent, one that we had not seen certainly in any recent history, and the market was incredibly active and we were going everywhere to source talent, and so we source experienced talent and that talent comes from everywhere.

00:02:04:05 As we think about the declining numbers with respect to college enrollment, where we source talent is requiring a little bit more creativity. So, there was a time where you could actively count on finding all the talent you need on college campuses across this country.

00:02:22:04 And there are such incredibly talented people enrolled in these universities today, that’s going to change, and one of the things we've seen in the pandemic is college enrollment continued to go down, and so we have to think more creatively around how we source talent.

00:02:36:08 So what is talent look like from the community college world where you have incredibly bright and talented people who are starting their learning careers on a different path? What does it mean to have talent that doesn't necessarily have college degrees, but rather has certifications and other credentials, particularly in the tech space that make them hugely valuable.

00:02:57:02 But they've taken a different route, a less traditional route to getting there. So, I believe what it means to source talent in the future, particularly when you think about the impact of technology on the way we work and how we work will be a really interesting conversation as we go forward.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:03:12:09 Obviously, as you know, we're setting up some of the managed service components and hyper charging. I mean, I've had to start looking for talent in different ways in terms of really looking for three major things from people, so agile learners, because the technology and the underlying seems to be changing faster and faster.

00:03:28:03 But number two is high amount of grit, people that will get it done and number three is communication, and I've had increasingly good luck pushing some of our DE&I candidates, and we're both diversity partners in the firm and so that's important to us personally. But that is also a place where I'm seeing some untapped talent pools kind of across the nation.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:03:49:06 I think that's right. I mean, one of the things that we've done really well from a talent acquisition perspective is broaden the aperture of the schools that we're going to, and so if you had looked at our organization, you know, five or six years ago, you might have seen that we went to a handful of HBCU Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a handful of HSI Hispanic Serving Institutions.

00:04:10:05 If you look at us today, that pool is much, much broader, and part of what we're trying to do is make sure that we are going to the places where we're going to find the talent, and we know that talent exist across this country in a variety of institutions, not just the small handful that we had historically recruited from.

00:04:29:10 So I do think you're broadening that aperture. The other thing, you know, you talked about learning agility and grit and communication. There's this interesting phenomenon in the talent pool called quiet hiring that we're seeing in talent trends.

00:04:42:01 And quiet hiring is really largely manifesting itself as organizations are looking within their own employee ranks and thinking about how they move people around internally and how they upskill their current populations.

00:04:56:01 I think we're going to see more and more of that. So, if you think about the talent that we need for the future and the ability to work in this ever-changing technological landscape, that talent isn't necessarily being groomed in any one place.

00:05:10:08 And so we're going to have to go out and build that talent, and who better to build it with than our internal people who we know are great communicators, who we know have grit, who we know have learning agility, and so this kind of quiet hiring concept, which I think is fantastic, and I have to tell you,

00:05:26:02 I like it a whole lot more than the quiet quitting that we've heard on the other side of it, is something that we're going to be incredibly focused on as we look at up-skilling our own employee population.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:05:36:01 So when I think about the people listening, they broadly speaking, everybody might follow both groups, but, you know, we've got people that are looking for talent themselves and trying to not only acquire and retain it, but we've also got people that are perhaps looking to be that talent, whether they're in college right now or pursuing an advanced degree and looking to reset their careers or even just within their own firms.

00:05:56:10 When you think about that second group and you think about what we're trying to do and what we see our clients trying to do, what are some words that you might share with people that are in that position about how to best position themselves? I'd love to hear your take and then I'll share mine.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:06:10:13 You know, I think that's an exciting group to be in right now because I'm going to come back to a word that you shared, which is agility. I don't believe that the perfect employee of the future comes from any particular major or discipline or subject matter expertise.

00:06:27:08 I think the employee of the future is one that is intellectually curious. One that is an agile learner and one that is excited to take on new opportunities. So, you give me an incredibly intellectually curious liberal arts major and we can turn that person into a managed services consultant who will do great work for our client.

00:06:50:02 And so that is where I think the future is and so if I'm in that market, I want to position myself as someone who's excited to learn different things. I want to demonstrate that I have the capacity to take on new challenges, to be a very quick and agile learner,

00:07:07:08 and that I'm open to career paths that perhaps were not something that I thought about when I entered college because what it means to be a profession of the future is changing and is changing faster than we can keep up with when you think about the impact of technology and the like.

00:07:23:02 And so I do think the future is in with a lot of these liberal arts students. We all spend a lot of time in the business schools where we recruit and of course we get incredible talent there, but we're starting to spend time in the school of engineering. We're starting to talk to engineers about their future and how they can have an incredibly bright future.

00:07:39:05 and an accounting and in a consulting firm like ours, a multidisciplinary firm like ours, where spending time with liberal arts students on campuses and talking to them about what it means to go into technology and what it means to look at a career as a CPA where perhaps they were not an accounting major on campus.

00:07:55:12 So the future is really bright, but it's going to be broader than those schools of businesses where we've traditionally spent a lot of our time.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:08:02:08 Yeah, I agree. I mean, I don't know if I've ever shared this with you, Yolanda, but a third generation account. So my grandparents were both CPAs and started firm at the same and took it over a little sister running it now.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:08:13:11 That's fantastic.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:08:14:23 Yeah, they're a special group. They name their dog debit just a little bit, and when I think about the evolution, that's going on from those three generations and then looking at the next generation to the technology is playing an increasingly large role, and you're absolutely right.

00:08:31:05 The spheres of knowledge that we need people to know is kind of continually expanding and so just knowing the accounting regs, there was always going to be a place for some people that know that and focus solely on that.

00:08:43:02 But a lot of the practitioners are having to get deeper into technology, into operations and strategy reporting, and the knowledge base is so broad and varied that we just need people that can think and act in those ways and just be really good athletes across a wide range.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:08:59:03 I think that's right and I have to tell you, I wouldn't rule out anyone in the future. I would take someone with a master's degree in biology and think about how we leverage them in a different way, consulting in health services industries. I mean, I think there's a broad spectrum of the future employee in our industry and across various industries.

00:09:20:17 And what these universities are teaching kids to do is to think and to think critically and to think creatively, and that's what we need, right?

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:09:29:07 100%.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:09:30:05 So I think we're going to look very, very broadly for talent in the future and again, I wouldn't rule out future recruiting in high schools and getting people certified to do some of the great work we do and partnering with community colleges where so many of our bright and talented young people start their college careers.

00:09:47:06 There is a world of opportunity and forming good relationships with those types of institutions.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:09:52:20 Yeah, my understanding is the FBI is recruiting some of their cyber teams out of high school and kind of putting them through some programs in conjunction with college, which is an interesting trend of it continues.

00:10:01:03 But let's flip it to the other side before we close out, and so, you know, you're an employer now. You've now gone and sourced a couple of these bright, agile folks. How do you keep them?

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:10:13:14 That is where the rubber meets the road, right? We have to keep them and a part of how we keep them is by creating the people experience that's going to inspire them. We know that we can attract talent, that the number of applicants that we have every year is incredible and our ability to pick from the best and brightest has not changed.

00:10:33:21 Our ability to keep our people has everything to do with the experience that they have when they get here. So we have been incredibly focused on building a people experience that is going to inspire our people, that is going to continue to develop them. They are agile learners, they are intellectually curious and we want to develop the best and brightest people.

00:10:52:17 We also want to make sure that we're giving people more agency around how they grow and how they develop in the firm and how they connect their personal, why their personal passion to what we do every day, and we know that passion is a great motivator for people. We know that if you understand their why, you can connect with them in a better way.

00:11:12:04 And so we are committed to investing in our people, to helping grow their skills, but also creating the right environment, the right culture of care and belonging, the right development culture that will inspire people to want to stay with us for a really long time.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:11:28:04 Yeah, I think -- first of all, I think that why is absolutely critical, I 100% agree with you there, and I would say when you're getting a different type of person that can run across different spans and that can be agile, you've got to present a different experience to them and you've got to allow them to be agile and to grow, especially in some of their earlier years.

00:11:47:09 And then mid-year as they're start to really kind of add back some value in some interesting ways. I mean my plus that we're rolling out, I think it'll be interesting to see how that evolves and to try to meet some of those needs as the business continues on.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:11:59:20 I think that's right, that's right.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:12:02:00 Well, Yolanda I'm afraid we're out of time, but thank you so much for swinging through it, and as always, enjoyed it and look forward to seeing you sometime soon.

YOLANDA SEALS COFFIELD: 00:12:08:15 Thanks, David. Thanks for having me.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:12:10:20 Thank you for listening to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC Managed Services Audio Series. I'm David Shebay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 00:12:20:19 Copyright 2020 for PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC Network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. This podcast is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:00:05:07 Welcome everyone to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC’s Managed Services Audio Series. I'm your host, David Shebay. Today, we're speaking with Joe Atkinson, Vice Chair and Chief Products and technology officer at PwC.

00:00:17:04 Joe, I'm super excited to have you on today because what you do for us within the firm is some really interesting components that, frankly, a lot of our clients are interested in the technology; the innovation that you run is awesome.

00:00:30:21 And so I know we'll get into like, you know, which technologies are going well and which ones our clients should be considering, and what do you see coming down the pipe? But first, would you mind just shedding a little light on what it is that the group's doing and what you guys are looking at just across the board?

JOE ATKINSON: 00:00:45:13 Yeah, David happy to do it and happy to be with you today. So, I have the great privilege of serving as our chief products and technology officer in that role. I have responsibility for all of the firm's technology agenda. That's the tech that runs our offices and manages our back office and delivers great experiences in conference rooms and laptops and all the infrastructure everybody worries about.

00:01:06:10 But it also includes the tech that we build and deployed to deliver our services, and then a part of the portfolio I'm really excited about is technology that we build for clients very specific, purpose driven technology that help solve some of the niche problems that they've got that aren't solved by broad software that's available in the marketplace.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:01:23:12 Yeah, some of those bills have been really, really interesting. When I look back at what we've been able to do as a firm, I mean there's some that have been, I'd like to say, fairly publicized in terms of the amount of time we've been able to save on the tax components and some of the others.

00:01:36:03 I'd almost like to hear you give your view on some of the technology that's become more mainstream, but maybe not as mainstream as we'd like to have and also just some of the emerging stuff. So, when we think about our clients and we think about the people that are listening right now, they're getting the technology thrown at them left and right.

00:01:51:02 What are you seeing as the technologies that are the most impactful right now, both within the firm and with our clients?

JOE ATKINSON: 00:01:57:01 Yeah, it's a great question, and I'll start with some of the things that I think are becoming more mainstream and in many ways are actually enabling some of these emerging techs, but for years we've been talking about data and data analytics. I mean, that's been a topic that feels like it goes back every minute of the 30 years I've been with the firm.

00:02:12:01 And over that time, we've always said it's hard to get the data, it's difficult to get it collected, it's difficult to get it cleansed and ready for analysis, all the problems we've had. I feel like we've made enormous progress in that. Now nobody's going to stand around and claim that they've got perfect data sets and that they've got it all figured out.

00:02:28:09 But we are so much further than we used to be, and now, as you see some of these emerging tools, generative AI is the one that leads to mind so much unstructured data that many of us haven't really figured out how to crack is now going to be kind of in the pool, if you will, because generative AI can help us get to it much faster and get learnings and insight out of it.

00:02:47:02 So everybody's talking about AI, everybody's talking specifically about generative AI, but from my perspective, there's no way AI without data and all these investments so many of us have made over the years are now putting us in a position to have that payoff.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:03:00:13 Yeah, you know, when you speak of the especially the generative AI components and the unstructured data, the problems where we've all had issues in the past, I also think about one of the things we've got the main services for that predictive forecasting, but the secret is you have to have a lot of data.

JOE ATKINSON: 00:03:15:07 You have to have a lot of data.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:03:16:13 But you can't do this without a lot of data density. It's going to change the problem statement I think for us.

JOE ATKINSON: 00:03:20:12 You're so right and we have a lot of data. I think everybody now feels like we're drowning in data and the question is how do you sort through which data actually is relevant to the models, which actually is the parts of the model that you should be paying attention to? And how do you constantly upgrade your analysis, particularly those predictive analytics to use what's available to you?

00:03:40:18 And I think that challenge isn't going away anytime soon, but I do think the infrastructure, the capability, the speed, cloud infrastructure particularly has made access to that a lot more accessible. It's made a lot more achievable for people.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:03:53:19 I'd also like to hear your viewpoints on what this is going to do for some of our technology brethren that are heavily focused on it. Because when I look at some of the things that generative AI can do and it's almost like re empowering some of the users similar to like Microsoft Excel,

00:04:09:05 and the change in our technology colleagues, jobs to me almost seems like, hey, it's not only going to be about just can you manage the data and can you produce a report, but now also a little bit more insight in terms of, hey, so what does this mean for the company?

00:04:24:02 What other data are we not getting to be able to answer those other questions, but how are you seeing this evolve?

JOE ATKINSON: 00:04:29:13 We've been on a pathway for several years and this idea of citizen led innovation, right, really this very simple but I think enormously powerful concept that if you train people to use leading technology and you make that technology available to them, that combination of a well-trained individual with the right tools in their hands, there's no limit. I'm an optimist at heart.

00:04:47:20 There's no limit to what people can achieve. A few equip them with the right tech and the right tools and the right knowledge, and now you look at the advancement of these generative AI tools. You look at terms that we use all the time now that we didn't know what they meant three months ago, like prompt engineers and model mechanics and all of these things that we're all talking about.

00:05:06:06 I do think in many ways it is the golden age of citizen innovation and not because they're going to be building new tools, but because the tools that are in their hands in order for them to provide the kinds of insights that you're talking about, those tools are unlocking capacity in people. They're unlocking the ability to drive value.

00:05:23:08 They are unlocking the ability to give an insight that may not have been possible just a few months or a couple of years ago. So, I do think it's a very exciting time, but there's no doubt these tools are also going to change jobs. They're going to change work. They're going to change what tasks look like, and they will disrupt some jobs.

00:05:41:03 And so there's a lot of change coming for all of us, but I think with any change, as usual, being the optimist, there's a lot of opportunity.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:05:48:08 Well, let's get practical for a second, too. So we've got some of our listeners that are going to be at some of our larger public clients that and nobody has unlimited budgets, obviously, but have some budget and capacity. We've got some others that especially with the potential for recession, but the certainty of inflation and interest rates going on that are looking at declining budgets for internal investments.

00:06:08:18 So if you flip around and put yourself in their shoes in terms of you are now the CIO or CTO at one of these companies, where are you putting your first and second dollars? And what's some of the order of things that you would do for practical advice for these guys?

JOE ATKINSON: 00:06:22:06 It's such a great question. One, I think if you're in an organization and you're watching the investment capacity of the organization decline, it's time to step back with the senior leadership team because the investment capacity is going to be required to survive and thrive in the future.

00:06:36:04 And I recognize that's easy to say and hard to achieve. Organizations are under all kinds of strain, but these technologies are expensive. The technology investments that are powering all of these innovations require investment.

00:06:49:06 Now you've got to manage that. You don't want to get ahead of your skis and all the discipline that people should expect to apply there. But I do think, starting with this challenge of what can we do to improve the operations of the platform that we have to unlock investment capacity so we can fuel what's next is a really important substance question that has to be discussed in the C-suite.

00:07:09:07 But let's assume you get through that question. You figure out what your capacity is. And again to your point, nobody has unconstrained divestment capacity. I do think standardization of infrastructure is the place to start. Most of us have grown up in organizations that have built technology in lots of different ways for lots of different reasons.

00:07:27:04 You may have grown up in an organization that has acquisitions and mergers and those types of things, and often the integration of the technology platforms was on the plate, but it was really to connect. It wasn't to standardize and simplify.

00:07:40:07 With all of this complexity, what's happening now is you have to simplify and standardize the organization, because if you don't, the speed with which all these innovations are happening, you simply won't be able to keep up. You won't even be able to keep pace. So I think simplification, standardization is key.

00:07:56:05 Now, that doesn't mean that you go wholly dependent on, say, a single or a couple of vendors. You've got to provide the flexibility. You've got to make sure that you've got a multi-cloud strategy. Most organizations are trying to balance all those things out. But I do think that this all starts with the infrastructure. It all starts with getting the foundations right in order to unlock the innovations later.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:08:16:15 But I like about those points that you're making is it really fits any one of the three things that I see people trying to do with technology. And so, you know, there's obviously cost reduction that we're always looking for. But then there's also how do we serve our customers and clients better and provide either a different experience or a different way for them to access and build in.

00:08:35:00 And then there's the third one, which is how do we provide better information to management and to our investors so that they understand what's going on and that we're making the right long term choices and increasing complex world, right?

JOE ATKINSON: 00:08:46:03 Yeah, look, I think those three pillars are spot on and I think the ability to get the right information in the hands of decision makers, particularly in times of such uncertainty and disruption, it's never been more important. You have to have great situational awareness; otherwise you're really going to struggle in these environments.

00:09:03:04 But I think your other point about the experiences, what's the experience of using the tech? This has been actually a very powerful learning for our team over the last six or seven years when we started to talk about how we deliver tech experiences to clients. One of the things that we learned, which probably sounds obvious in hindsight,

00:09:19:05 is if you're not delivering great technology experiences to your people, they're probably not going to be very excited about talking to their clients about technology experiences. You have to deliver a great experience inside your organization if you want your people talking with your customers, clients and stakeholders about technology.

00:09:38:06 And everybody's talking about technology because it's driving so many businesses today. But for us, as we were thinking about where we can move from pure services to services plus tech to deliver full solutions, we needed to make sure that our people had confidence in the technology, that when they were using the day to day assets that we delivered,

00:09:56:04 that they could look to those and share that experience with their clients in order to give everybody confidence that we were delivering it to scale and the capability of the people expect.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:10:04:12 Yeah, and when I think about the user experiences too, I mean, like my mind, like I'm sure most people's minds will jump sometimes to the iPhone or the iPad. I mean, what do you think it is device that is so intuitive that literally toddlers can pick it up and understand how to play and interact with it?

00:10:19:08 And when we look at a 99 cent tap game and everybody knows where to go tap next, even the toddler, and then we look at a multimillion dollar system and people are confused. It begs the question now, obviously the multimillion dollar system does a lot more than the toddlers tap game, but that's still significantly raise the level of expectation from computers from when you and I started back in the as my daughter likes to say, the late 19th century, so.

JOE ATKINSON: 00:10:42:19 Yeah, I remember those days and it's funny, there's two thoughts come to mind with that example and Tim Ryan, our senior partner, and I had the great privilege of spending some time with Tim Cook at Apple and one of the things that he said in that meeting, and I've quoted him many times since he asked us what benefits we were getting from our relationship with the company.

00:11:00:21 And part of what we said is, look, you're helping us figure out what simplification looks like, and his answer to that was, Joe, it turns out simplification is really hard. Making things hard is really easy, and that inverse relationship, I think, is a constant reminder to all of us. We want to get great relationships or great experiences out there.

00:11:20:15 But if you don't understand that relationship between simplicity and experiences, then it's hard to deliver them. But the other example I share all the time is so I will go back to our late 90s before the turn of the century for you and I David but when we first started to see video being distributed through mobile devices, there were a couple of conversations that took place.

00:11:39:12 One was this conversation that is real. That happened a lot. People would say, why would anybody want to watch video content on their mobile device? That's crazy. Like, there were literally people who just didn't see a reason to consume video content on their mobile device. Obviously, they were wrong about that and that's where most of us consume a majority of our video content.

00:11:58:12 But the other thing I always remind people is when you first started to do that, you'd get the spinning hourglass or whatever the icon looked like and because this experience was new, your willingness to wait through that spin and the choppiness of that video delivery and the interruptions and the lagging and all the things that happened,

00:12:17:04 you were just so amazed at the power of the technology that you really didn't focus on how lousy the experience actually was. Fast forward to now, even fast forward to three years later. If we have that lagging experience, we just think the world's falling apart like this is a terrible experience.

00:12:32:06 The standard of expectation around an experience rises exponentially all the time, and that's a little bit of the lot in life for anybody that's driving technology experiences across large enterprises.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:12:42:11 Well, and you know, that also fits into one thing that we haven't talked about, you know, retaining your people and retaining your customers and retaining even your executives who are going to want to see all this. It all intertwines and it's not the experience to, like, make us feel good.

00:12:58:06 I find it's more of the experience to make you feel like you're efficient and you're adding your time into a valuable place as opposed to doing things that anything else could be done.

JOE ATKINSON: 00:13:06:11 There's no question. It's another great point. If you are again, we have the great privilege of our model that we have somewhere around 15 or 16,000 people join this firm every year. Lots of people leave the firm. They go off to become great clients and they move on to other stages of their career, but we bring in over 15,000 people a year.

00:13:23:14 If you look at those 15,000 people, imagine them trying to figure out an organization like ours. We've been around for 107 years. We've got 60,000 people in the U.S. and then imagine them sitting at their desk and just having a lousy, isolating experience.

00:13:38:05 It can feel like nobody cares about you. It's this human connection that can be delivered through a great technology experience where you feel like somebody cares, how hard is my job to do? As somebody offered me tools to simplify it? Do they give me the training that I need to take advantage of it?

00:13:53:08 And while they're not reading the £800 novels and user manuals that you and I enjoyed at the turn of the century, they do expect it to work and expect it to work intuitively, and I think that obligation on employers to make sure you're delivering that is really important.

00:14:08:01 The other obligation I talk about a lot with employers and it's particularly, I think, important today with the rise of gen AI is what's your obligation to prepare people for the changes in technology so that they're relevant, they can grow their careers? I view it as an obligation of particularly big employers.

00:14:23:06 I realize not everybody has investment capacity, but if you're an organization like ours, you have tens of thousands of people that count on you to grow the business, to deliver great experiences to serve clients, to be financially responsible.

00:14:37:01 I think you also have an obligation to make sure that as all these technology disruptions roll through our business models, that we're preparing people to make the leaps that are going to be necessary to be relevant and grow their career using new tools, using new technologies to be relevant, and to be conversant in generative AI, for example.

00:14:53:15 I think everybody needs to understand those things and employers need to help.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:14:58:01 So one last question. As we're closing out, we've talked about what's coming, what the impact of that, some of the challenges, some of the costs, some of the impacts that it has across the organization, but let's talk about one thing that we haven't hit on yet, which is the exciting view of the future and where all this may go in the changes to our economic models, to what we can provide our customers and everybody?

00:15:17:23 What do you see there? What's exciting you these days?

JOE ATKINSON: 00:15:20:08 Look, there's a great article that Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz just released, and if you haven't read it, it's a great read and it is why AI will save the world and what he talks about is the power of AI tools.

00:15:34:02 And if you just step back and look at the power of AI tools and imagine a world where every single human knowledge action is augmented by the power of technology to bring you more speed, more clarity, more quality, better insights, to bring you a control check when you need everybody's job will get better.

00:15:51:07 Everybody's job will get more effective. Everybody's judgment will actually get better when you start to apply AI tools in responsible ways. And again, every listener now knows I'm an optimist. I've confessed to that 16 times so far.

00:16:06:01 But I also have to acknowledge the challenges, right, and challenges that people worry about. They worry about hallucinations. They worry about all of the nightmare scenarios that people talk about with generative AI and AI taking over things and making decisions on behalf of humans. The end of the day, what you've got is code.

00:16:21:04 You have computers taking actions that we instruct them to take, right? And if you take the right framework, we use our responsible AI framework as a starting point. Then the risk goes way, way, way, way down and the opportunity goes way, way, way, way up.

00:16:35:07 And that's really the theme of this idea of AI can save the world, is if we think about it the right way and not just in a hopeful way and cross your fingers way, but you actually do the hard work to apply it in responsible ways.

00:16:47:09 I don't think there's a challenge that humanity faces that AI isn’t going to help us solve faster, better, more effectively.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:16:54:09 But, you know, I think that's a perfect stopping point. So, Joe, I just want to say thanks so much for your time today and look forward to seeing you soon.

JOE ATKINSON: 00:17:01:09 Same for the time and thank you for the invite and great to see you and look forward to seeing you soon Dave. Thanks so much.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:17:07:19 Thank you for listening to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC Managed Services Audio Series. I'm David Shebay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 00:17:17:01 Copyright 2024 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC Network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. This podcast is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:00:00:00 Welcome to Beyond Corporate Services, PwC’s Managed Service’s Audio Series. I'm your host, David Shebay. Today, we're speaking with PwC’s Tyson Cornell, who's been with the firm quite a while and had a number of different roles. Tyson, I don't want to steal your thunder. Would you mind introducing yourself?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:00:21:19 Sure thing. Hey, David, great to be here. And I am the Deputy Lead for our Cloud Digital Platform. And I also am the sector champion for our private sector. So, I look forward to talking to you today.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:00:32:12 That's a pretty fun intersection. One of the things we want to talk about today was really around some of the technology components and specifically around some of the backbones that people do. And when I'm talking about these, I'm thinking of some of the core ERP, some of the bigger technology investments that companies are doing. And there's always a question of when do I do it?

00:00:52:06 What are the triggers? How should I be thinking about these? They seem to be changing and evolving really fast. And so maybe you can shed a little bit light just on your views for what you see in the market and for when people should be thinking about these significant investments.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:01:07:22 Sure, the market is obviously very complicated. So, I think it depends, of course, does sound like salty answer of the different industry and potentially the size of the company. You know, you mentioned big ERPs and some of the big names that are out there. Clearly, if you're a large Fortune 500 company, many firms have already gone through, if you will, that transformation of putting in a large ERP for some areas of their business.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:01:31:07 Now, certain industries actually have not because the platforms maybe only support areas of finance in their core operations, they don't actually have any of those processes standardized. So, they're looking at taking the opportunity to move to the cloud as all those platforms are moving to the cloud. This is kind of the next wave I think organizations are looking at.

00:01:49:20 So you see some organizations that have already moved to an ERP and they may be customized many of those components of the platform. And then now they're taking a step going to the cloud where they're looking at standardization and taking advantage of the platform processes that tend to be leading practice to the cloud.

00:02:07.11 Now, when you look at some of the what are called fast growing companies or some of the mid-market, I think it's a different case. They might not have needed to use any platforms or they maybe have a few smaller platforms that they use and they're looking at the opportunities they can take to get to cloud native, if you will, ERP platforms to give them advantage. So, it's different depending on where the companies are sitting currently.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:02:30:10 So let's talk about that for a second and decompose the cloud and the standardization, because I think one of the things that everybody who's been in business for a while has gone through some ERP challenges over the time, and frankly, it's sometimes hard to see the benefits, But I feel like sometimes that's because we don't embrace standardization enough and the cloud is helping towards that.

00:02:49:18 But when we think about people as they're thinking about this journey and starting this journey, what are some of the keys that they need to do to actually get the returns from these investments?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:03:00:02 Absolutely. Well, a few things when you look at going to a platform, you need to really understand what outcomes you're looking for, as you mentioned, to get the benefits. You know, you're not moving to a platform to have the as is environment you have within your company. But you really need to understand where your company differentiates to provide value.

00:03:18:11 And usually when you move into the back office, it's very hard to differentiate today's world when you look at areas of finance and sometimes HR. So, if you want to differentiate from the lean practices that platforms provide, I think you really need to understand what those differentiating capabilities are.

00:03:34.11 As you start moving toward the front office and how you actually interact with customers that's where companies tend to really differentiate and provide value and differentiate services and understanding that will be key where you might want to differentiate from the platform. Because when you're buying the platform, you're not just buying technology, you are buying leading practices and processes and you might as well take advantage of that.

00:03:56.17 I would say if you go back ten years or so when you had (Unintel Phrase) ERPs, a lot of times you would have to come up with your standard process and you would actually embed that within the platform because you are buying technology and some architecture, if you will, that you had to use and you are stuck with doing some customization.

00:04:15:05 But obviously the platforms have come a long way and provide a lot of the out of the box processes that you just need to configure the platform. And if you take advantage of what these platforms provide, you're in a much better place around upgrades and we are moving to the cloud. That's part of the value proposition.

00:04:29.16 You are getting a platform to get those upgrades to stay up to date with the latest capabilities. You might as well take advantage of those, especially if it's not providing a differentiated value for you as an organization.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:04:41:06 And you know, you touched on something, but I just want to tease it out for a second. When you talked about some of those upgrades, particularly in the cloud environment, the ability to do upgrades for some of the technologies on a more consistent basis, especially if you keep that standardization, has got to be a significant cost reduction and improvement for speed enhanced features for our clients.

00:05:01:04 Is that what we're seeing play out?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:05:02:22 That's exactly right. And that's why depending on what platform you go to; they've got strict rules around the customizations you can actually make so you can get yourself in trouble. In other cases, you absolutely can make a lot of customizations where you've put yourself in a position where you're not getting the benefit of those upgrades because you decide to do something totally on your own.

00:05:21:07 So going into it, understanding what you want to get at the value of the platform and what you're paying for from a maintenance perspective, I think is very important. But all really comes back to the strategy of how do you want to use technology for business value and differentiating capabilities and understanding where your firm really needs to be different.

00:05:39:07 We snapped our fingers and everybody is on the same ERP platform. You arguably could say everybody has the same capabilities in certain areas and doesn't have the advantage. But do we know that's not true? Because every organization does things differently and that's the value they provide in the marketplace.

00:05:53.17 They just need to be very specific about that and understand that value that they're looking for when they undergo these journeys.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:06:00.18 Yeah, I like that. And one thing I want you to do before we move to people for a second is to think about these technologies that are out there. So obviously there's a whole host of software companies, big tech companies, many of whom we partner with and work with every day. But as I watch them, they're expanding their individual capabilities, which is awesome.

00:06:20:10 But I start to see more and more overlap for some of these capabilities. So, if I flip it around on you and ask you to think about it from a CEO, CIO, or any operator lens, CEO, CFO lens, and you see these ever expanding capabilities, how would you look at or what are some tips that you can provide to our listeners for how they should be evaluating these software packages?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:06:44:05 Sure. I think it still comes back to understanding those capabilities that you're looking for, like you mentioned. So, if you look at it by different business functions, you're looking at understanding what the processes are, the capabilities that you need.

00:06:57.19 And even more importantly, today is, what’s that data model about you're getting visibility to? Because your data is was so important so that you can actually get visibility into what's happening in the organization and then critical to that is actually taking some sort of action versus just seeing it.

00:07:14:04 And when you imagine some of the capabilities that are being embedded by the platform, it's not just the processes and the data, but now how are they giving insights so that you're not looking at data in the past where okay you can make decisions based on things that happened in the past? That's not as helpful. How are you now predicting and getting the correlations of things that have been happening so you can actually make decisions that could impact the future?

00:07:37:13 Obviously, embedding AI is very key right now and all the platform providers are doing that and you see that in certain areas. Some areas have already had some embedded AI. You then see generative AI. Obviously everybody's talking about and I think it's not just about embedding, if you will, some of the technology capabilities. It really comes down to how do you want to use those to impact your business.

00:07:58:12 And I think that's what's really critical when you think about it, you can do anything with technology as you know, the question is really should you and do you want to be the individual in the organization that owns maintaining that technology, or do you want to pay a large provider that does that for you?

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:08:14:20 And what I'm hearing, too, when I think about the overlay in terms of economic outlook and what's some of our clients are going to be experiencing in terms of revenue challenges, income challenges, cash challenges, and these technology components are the drivers for why we're doing it need to be really known, focused on and understood, and maybe drive prioritization, more importantly over the next couple of years than they have in the past.

00:08:38:07 Are you seeing any of those indications?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:08:40:12 100%. I think you're seeing a huge move that really talks about cloud. And, you know, what does that mean? And when you see the move to the cloud, you're seeing one organization like we talked about understanding where they have standard business processes that can be enabled through, if you will, a business application.

00:08:56.15 So taking advantage of some of the leading business applications for those areas, then knowing that you need to be differentiated and the questions that we see are, okay, do I make some changes within this platform or are some of these areas so critical to our organization that we're going to do what I call cloud native development?

00:09:15:09 And this is where you'll start using some of the cloud service providers and you're doing some of your own engineering or you're partnering with another firm to develop custom engineer organizations taking advantage of the cloud for those differentiating values. You know, customers going to cool again for years, right? We only do things within the major ERP platforms and people tried to stay away.

00:09:35:04 We did talk about standardization early on today; however, with the cloud, what it enables you to do with some of the cloud native capabilities and the flexibility and standard architecture, organizations will take advantage of that to really lean into those areas where they want to add differentiated capabilities and get value out of them immediately.

00:09:53.19 And that speed to value that the cloud provides is dramatically different than what it was just years ago.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:09:58:21 It's going to be interesting to watch over the years. Like I feel like back in the eighties when we were in the MRP environment and there were a bunch of disconnected systems and we rolled into the ERP environment, we continue to roll forward, but now the speed of technology, the overall speed of business is such that things are being created outside and around the ERP systems faster than they can really be incorporated into those.

00:10:20:01 And so it's almost like a yin-yang flux that seems to be going on. You think that's going to continue? There's the core ERPs straight to incorporate more and more of this technology that's continuing to evolve so many different places.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:10:31:21 Yeah, I do. I do. I think we're seeing organizations obviously look at core ERP platforms and where they think those will play, and then you can almost view the organization as an ecosystem of providers and technology. And how are you looking at potentially some best of breed, how are you looking at other smaller providers that provide real niche capability where you would want to partner with someone to provide that.

00:10:53.10 Certain large organizations that have the engineering capability might want to do some of that on their own. We tend to see a mix of the core ERP some of these, you know, package solution best of breed capabilities that you're using.

00:11:05.19 Other vendors provide in addition to potentially some of your own custom engineering, all of that together providing, if you will, this future cloud capability to really cloud enable and cloud empower your business and all that together with the understanding what your data model is, because as you know, the different platforms could be different, but you need to have one visible view into the data and the correlations of that data so you can act on it.

00:11:30:17 And that to me is really the key, as a lot of organizations can have the top technology, but they haven't organized around making different decisions and acting on it, using their business in a way to take advantage of the visibility that their platforms provide. That's one of the key differentiators I think, that we see, and it's making sure you link all that together for advantages what's the key ingredient?

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:11:54:05 Yeah, I like that. I mean, I used to strongly be against multi ERP environments just because they seem to be harder, but I've actually shifted over the years to where I'm fine. If you have multiple ERPs, as long as they have identical data models, which of course is almost impossible. But the data model is absolutely key. Let's shift to people for a second.

00:12:12:17 You know, I'm a people person. It always comes down to doing this. Let's think about CIOs or CIO organizations or just companies that are trying to keep up with all of this. And the real question is how do people keep up with this? How do you stay on top?

00:12:26.19 How do you learn to make the best decisions? I mean, outside of calling you or one of the folks on your team, what are ways that we're trying to keep our people upskilled and on top?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:12:36:07 Well, you're absolutely right. I mean, there has never been as much change as we're seeing now. When you look at the cloud platforms, there's new capabilities and microservices coming out every month. So being able to stay up on that from a core engineering and capability development standpoint is extremely difficult. And so you really need to be in the tools using it all the time.

00:12:55:02 This isn't something you can do as a hobby. And then there's, of course, all the platforms and making sure you understand those. And key to that is practicing that. We've got the luxury, obviously of having practices and staff that spend 24 hours a day helping companies and different companies through all those different scenarios. So we feel really good about the experience we're able to get.

00:13:14:19 If you're an organization and that's not something you should be doing every day, you might have this, you know, huge Herculean effort to put in a platform that's the most experience your team is ever probably going to get. Then there's some ongoing maintenance that they'll have, you know, making sure that you actually are continuing to build out muscles like working out David, which I'm sure you do every day you know, you can't just..

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:13:33:01 Twice a day.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:13:34.12 Do it once. That's exactly right twice a day. You need to continue to make sure that you're toning that muscle one of the skills across those different technologies. But I'll tell you, like it's never been harder. And I think that's one of the challenges that I don't think an organization can say, hey, you know, we're going to have top technology talent across every single one of these areas.

00:13:50.17 If you're not a software company. And that's not what you do and you're not in the business to develop this job, it's very difficult to do that. So it's picking the areas that I think you want to be great at and good, and then knowing how you can use other organizations, other software providers to provide that muscle.

00:14:06:12 A lot of the platforms now obviously provide certifications and so we do certifications. Other organizations can do that so that makes sure individuals are up if you're academically understanding how things work. But that doesn't mean you necessarily understand the practice and what works in the real world.

00:14:22.19 So I'm a big fan of not only having, if you will, academic certifications, but knowing what that means in the real world and practicing it and how it actually goes live in organization, the results you get. So you need to put both those together and organizations need to make sure they're practicing those skills.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:14:38:08 I want to now ask kind of in the future for the people. I'll tell you what I see. I see we've got some people that are really deep in individual systems, whether that's an ERP or a CRM or anything. We've got people that are increasingly trying to learn how those interconnections work, particularly when you talk about your data models, then being able to keep those and then you've got a whole group of emerging tags, automation, things that overlay and interact.

00:15:04:13 To me it seems like the technology person of the future, we're going to obviously need to maintain people that have the skills that they have today. But a new type of technology person also is going to need to arise in terms of people that can join all these parts together and see a cohesive future for solving some of those problems you were talking about earlier.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:15:25:02 Yeah, look, I couldn't agree more and not to, I guess to beat you, but I don't know if it's necessarily a new skill. I think it's maybe a skill that was even more important back in the days when almost all the software was custom. I grew up being an architect, solution architect, and then enterprise architect.

00:15:40.13 And I think that skill has never been more important. When organizations kind of lean into one large platform, all of a sudden some of those skills didn't become or didn't seem as important because they kind of lived around the ecosystem of maybe a large platform.

00:15:54:13 But when you're seeing, like you mentioned, needing those key skills to go deep and maybe multiple platforms, you always will need this skill of an architect. Maybe I'll say enterprise architect, but with a capital E, those individuals actually link business architectures.

00:16:10.16 So the key business functions and business capabilities you need across organization to a solution architecture of what are all the different technologies and where they overlap and understanding, if you roll that data model for the overall view. And then you work with the different teams in those application, if you were specialists to bring it all together.

00:16:29.10 But that understanding at the top level of how that will work and how you're actually getting value and where you need to lean in the different platforms and capabilities, that's absolutely necessary. And I think that's going to be even more critical skill as organizations look at pulling together all these technologies to run their business.

00:16:45:15 When you and I joke about this, when we talk sometimes that, you know, it's really impossible, I think, today to get any differentiated business capabilities without using technology. It's just not happening. Right? So you really need to link your knowledge of a business where value is with some of the right people that know how to enable that through technology and usually almost always not the same individual.

00:17:07:03 And so how do you get those groups to talk, communicate and understand how to produce value with those different skills is so important.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:17:14:18 Yeah. I was actually at a baseball field the other day and talking with the general manager of one of the MLB teams and they were sharing how they're capturing data differently and they're actually capturing the time in between the reps as the players are doing certain exercises and measuring those because they're looking for that last 10th of a percent edge and trying to fine tune.

00:17:39.15 That to your point that's where they're finding the value and they've got technologies now embedded into their weights in their weight systems to be able to time this down to a very fine degree and so that's where they're investing in the technology. And I've always appreciated that viewpoint of yours in terms of focus on that value that you're driving for the organization.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:17:57:05 I couldn't agree you more.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:17:58:11 Yeah. So we've got one last question for you, Tyson and I always have one question that's kind of unscripted, unprepared, so that, you know, you get the top of the head answer from you. As you look forward, as you think about where this might be in five to ten years from now, as you see all these technology evolutions and you know, you've seen so many in the past, what would you say ten years from now? Where do you think this looks like?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:18:19:15 Yeah, well, it's exciting. I think, like I mentioned, things are changing so fast. It's really going to be interesting to see how we really, if you will commercialize some of the leading technologies that are available. All the buzz right now is Generative AI. And I think what's interesting is people are seeing what's possible, but there's a difference between what's possible and then how does an enterprise actually roll that out at scale?

00:18:41:05 We actually need engineers, I think absolutely yes. But how things get created will be different. How you're getting information out of systems, how it's predicting and how you actually run the organization, things will absolutely be changing. And I think all of the things we've talked about so far today are all going to have a role, but they'll be a having a different role in how things work.

00:19:00:15 But it takes time. As you know, companies have invested some hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to put in, if you will, the ecosystem, the backbone and all this unique business knowledge and embedded in technology. That's not going to all be undone in just a couple of years. It takes time. But we absolutely know that there'll be new technologies that will take over certain pieces of that.

00:19:21:23 And I'm pretty sure that using the new technology will speed up the time to value in the future when they replace those with new technology.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:19:30:06 Yeah, I agree. I saw a quote the other day and I wish I remembered who said it so I could give appropriate credit, but the person was asked, do you think AI is going to replace humans? And the response was, no, humans are not going to be replaced by AI, humans are going to be replaced by humans using AI.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:19:46:10 That's right. I totally agree. That's exactly right.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:19:49:07 Yeah. I can pretty clearly see how all those are going to change. What's going to be also interesting to me as we look forward to the future, we're already starting to see shifts in workforces for what the traditional silos, I'll say pre computers were where finance and accounting and tax and supply chain are all different areas.

00:20:06.19 And I'm starting to see more evolutions to where those teams are starting to meld in more and more because the data flows are consistent across the ERP and across our technologies. And so as we start to now put AI into the mix, how will all those positions continue to evolve? I think it'll be fascinating to watch.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:20:24:17 I totally agree.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:20:25:23 Well, Tyson, first of all, thank you. I'd say the biggest takeaways I've got from you is make sure that technology is focused on business value, that there's big changes that are continuing to go and evolve the individual people that need to be involved, their skills and requirements are continuing to change perhaps even more rapidly as we continue to go forward.

00:20:45:00 But do you have any kind of final thoughts you'd like to leave the listeners?

TYSON CORNELL: 00:20:49:01 Probably only what I touched down before is that it is such an exciting time right now. I don't think we've ever had a time in our lives where technology is moving so fast and we're seeing what's really capable and what can be brought to organizations to provide value. Then I think everyone should be looking at what's happening. Things are moving so fast, so, you know, don't look away.

00:21:07:16 Don't keep your eye off of some of the new releases that are coming out and consistently, think about how can you take advantage of those technologies, apply them for business value, just like you said.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:21:18:09 Awesome. Well, Tyson, thanks so much for joining and I appreciate your time and look forward to hanging out in the future.

TYSON CORNELL: 00:21:23:23 Thanks, David. Thanks for having me. Have a great day.

DAVID SHEBAY: 00:21:26:06 Thank you for listening to Beyond Corporate Services. PwC’s Managed Services Audio Series. I'm David Shebay.

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David Shebay

Partner, Finance and Accounting Managed Services, PwC US

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