While many Australian companies have evolved over the years to become digital businesses, it’s still not uncommon to hear business leaders say they’re “not technologists”, points out Rohit (Ro) Antao, a 15-year PwC veteran who moved to Melbourne from Silicon Valley to be Partner Lead of PwC Australia’s recently launched Digital Innovation and Cloud Engineering (DICE) practice.
"There's something particularly common to Australian boards and CEOs, but it's a problem everywhere, that once you start discussing cloud opportunities they feel the need to tell you they're 'not technologists'", Antao says.
"But they don't have to know everything. We just need them to feel confident and comfortable with the idea that technology can solve key problems and achieve better business outcomes. It's a challenge, but also a huge opportunity."
Now is the time to seize that opportunity, amid what is arguably the most complex market conditions ever. Businesses are grappling with extended lockdowns in Australia, the fight for talent and the “great resignation”, increasing pressures to deliver on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) promises and the road to net zero, technological innovation and cyber risks.
Business leaders can use web-based computing services to help overcome these challenges, enabling employees to work remotely, shoring up fractured supply chains and providing new digital services to consumers, says Antao.
To help them do that, this year PwC launched its DICE business, which aims to help companies work towards a better balance of human and technology factors in their transformation.
Realising cloud’s potential
Antao was the firm’s cloud transformation leader in the United States when cloud was first taking off, and over the past decade he's pushed to help leaders to understand cloud’s potential and gain confidence to embrace its ability to deliver more scalable results while reducing capex demands on businesses.
"A lot of CIOs and CEOs remember how capital intensive a lot of past tech investment has been, especially getting things right when it comes to issues like governance," says Antao. "But cloud changes cost structures right alongside the new capabilities it brings to the table."
Antao says that the PwC message of "where human meets digital" is, at its core, about ensuring problem solving is about what people need at the forefront so that the results of technology are the focus.
"We should stop focusing on phrases like 'optimisation' and 'innovation' and just talk about what it means to explore new business avenues through technology. It can be that simple," Antao comments.
Transforming inside out
PwC has been on its own transformation journey over the past few years and learnt its own lessons during the pandemic. David McKeering, PwC's Australia Consulting Leader and Australia, South East Asia and New Zealand (ASEANZ) Consulting CEO, says the focus has been on becoming a more contemporary consulting business.
"We've really shifted away from a traditional outlook to a mindset underpinned by technology," he says. "As an organisation and as individuals we've undergone a reset to think about the future of work and our place within it."
PwC Australia’s Consulting business has almost doubled to a team of over 1,500 during the past two years, with the DICE team a focus. The team is now designed in a multidisciplinary way to involve more diverse thinking and help clients to keep coming back to that core idea that a solution should drive technology decisions.
Antao points to examples like building chatbots for websites that do more than answer customer queries, but also notice when someone is disgruntled and may require human assistance.
"It's not about technology versus people, it's absolutely both," says Antao, noting that PwC has skills to offer in areas such as workplace mental health and wellbeing alongside its DICE capabilities. "This is what sets us apart.” We are not here to sell a product, we're here to make a meaningful difference to the way businesses operate and the way their people succeed."
The right time to rethink
Antao feels strongly that this is the ideal time for any business to rethink how it operates from top to bottom. How it works with partners, with customers and with its own teams – and that a consultancy like PwC can provide the broader perspectives leaders need to add confidence to their roadmaps.
"There is a window of opportunity in this market now, and as they say, 'necessity is the mother of invention'. Clients need this DICE perspective to help them succeed in this climate,” he says.
Antao and McKeering agree that some questions about cloud haven’t changed. For example, IT leaders may want to know how to migrate to cloud and how to scale and modernise using cloud.
Helping the C-suite focus on sustained outcomes rather than technology is key to PwC’s approach. "Getting back to 'what's the true outcome the client is looking for?' is what it's all about," says McKeering. "That's where PwC comes in on the cloud conversation, by providing people with the trusted expertise and the contemporary technology solutions to solve through the challenges and opportunities.”