“All new recruits will be required to wear a suit to the induction next week.” the email said. Not the most auspicious welcome communiqué to receive from the invading ‘alien mother-ship’.
It had all happened so quickly… The champagne was flat; the money was in the bank. Deloitte had acquired Market Gravity. And I was, uncomfortably something I hadn’t been in 20 years; an FTE.
The hangover would last a while — as we all groggily woke up to a new reality, stumbling into our new world — did I just hear someone say I have to do timesheets now?
It was just the beginning; the mandatory seven hours of compliance videos, subjection to acting quality so terrible it could rival Arnie in Kindergarten Cop soon followed. Questions about conflicts, um, Dad, you know those shares in Rolls-Royce …? Huh? What do you mean we can’t use Dropbox and Google Drive?
Then there was the sheer scale of the thing; some 244,400 super smart people work for Deloitte worldwide. 50,000 of those in consulting. Loss aversion was the default position for much of the wider team.
Fear grew. It didn’t help matters when I proudly presented a progressively bolder brand identity on the internal slack channels — integrating the Deloitte green dot.
One of my UX designers wondered about their career progression after discovering there were potentially 15,000 others to compete alongside. Others just rocked in quiet corners, ritually reciting the brand values under their breath.
So what does Deloitte, an audit business, one of the ‘Big 4’, working in more than 150 countries, want with a small, boutique innovation consultancy? Well, there’s the little matter of design — and the element of it that can’t be ‘processed’ or (machine) learned — it’s called creativity; the ability to imagine the possible, the difference between ‘minimal’ functional and loveable products.
Deloitte can build anything. In any code base, any language, and on any platform at any scale. But before you jump to building a SAP S/4 HANA stock management platform, blockchain smart card retail payment systems, Salesforce-based A.I. ordering system with bespoke marketing automation, or an international core banking system capable of 000’s concurrent transactions — you first need to understand what people want to do with it. What Deloitte and their many international clients need is the ability to uncover that magical atom of insight, which forms a molecule of inspiration, that can then be the catalyst for the next large digital transformation project. Propositions that do more than answer a need but go beyond and create real differentiation and delight.
It is tempting in a new world of insight, market uncertainty and customer centricity to put logic and reason ahead of feeling but to have real impact — to create tangible differentiation, there needs to be a balance.
The truth is it was a pivotal move for both businesses. Market Gravity, a nimble, self-organising, entrepreneurial team of talented misfits that hack innovation in big businesses, had reached a stage where we were leading the proposition development for our clients but were frustrated that we didn’t have the firepower to execute the huge integration platforms required for the transformation, so ultimately lost some guardianship. Deloitte needed to invest in design thinking to leverage consulting, technology and creativity.
And the partnership was proven; we had previously completed a number of successful launches of co-created propositions together; CYB’s new bank ‘B’ and the ‘Retiready’ for Aegon to name a few. Market Gravity leading the proposition design; Deloitte delivering the heavy-lifting agile software development. The fit was obvious.
The future agency model.
With the frustration around the big agency types who still believe their clients should leave them the well alone to get on with it, and only reappear once they’ve ‘fixed the problem’. Coupled with the undeniable role of a new customer-centred approach, has meant that companies and their specialist, cross-functional teams have been embraced as both industry and customer insight experts — not just ‘clients’.
Informed intuition is worth a thousand times more than any commissioned research papers.
The likes of PwC, EY, Deloitte and KPMG, together with Accenture, IBM and McKinsey, share the same view and have made similar strategic investments. The traditional domains of the large agencies including branding, UX, creative design, customer-centric data analytics and customer engagement, are becoming core to leveraging the data they hold for their clients.
There’s no doubt that recent advancements in analytics, machine learning and AI have been extraordinary. Watson, for example, is now helping with cancer research and tax returns, among other things, but despite the intelligence, machines do not have the capacity to imagine like the human brain. While skills can now be taught to human or machine — talent remains unique to the individuals that possess it.
Attending my first ‘Technology Directors off-site’ session, I was encouraged by the genuine excitement around the acquisition and the recognition of Market Gravity’s role as a catalyst for new digital transformation projects. Working with clients like Clydesdale Bank in cross-functional teams, united by mission, pushing creative boundaries and delivering rapid, tangible outputs all means that everyone is starting to feel a little more comfortable with the flowery shirts.
What also struck me was how important the consulting aspect of the business was to Deloitte, making a significant revenue contribution. There has been tremendous growth across the company and in the technology consulting area specifically — a clear reflection of the global digital transformation paradigm.
Deloitte has some cool shit going on too — Teaming up with McLaren Applied Technologies to build data-driven products. Collaboration with Apple in Cupertino called EnterpriseNext and a lot of work around self-driving cars and the impact on mass transit systems. Plus a dedicated blockchain practice in Ireland. Even an alliance with Facebook to help companies fully evolve into digital businesses. The ambition to create and deliver change is undeniable.
“When you have a complex problem and are the senior executive of a big company, you call Deloitte. They are on speed-dial.”
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO
My role will be to continue to challenge and push the thinking on our projects around the globe — it looks like Market Gravity will be adding additional locations to our existing bases in NYC, Edinburgh and Toronto. Deloitte also has committed significant funds to the promotion and growth of the business worldwide, over the next few years. So, if you need to get stuff done, and you want the assurance of size, speed, scale and expertise — it’s a good time to get in touch.
Oh and in case you were wondering yes, I wore a suit to the induction day.
It was pink.