Evolving at a perfect pace: PwC EMEA Products

In mid-February, TBR met with leaders from PwC’s core Products team for EMEA, including David Padwick, PwC EMEA Consulting chief operating officer; Ralf Jaspert, PwC Germany, Advisory Digital Products leader; and Nele Van Buggenhout, PwC UK Perform Plus Leader, to discuss TBR’s observations, based on multiple interviews with current and former PwC professionals as well as with PwC clients, that PwC Products has not been adopted as enthusiastically across Europe as it has been in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the PwC leaders told a more complete and nuanced story about Products in EMEA, the emerging role of software and managed services sales, and expectations for near-term growth, describing in detail to TBR how the firm expects the next few waves of PwC Products to play out.

Creativity, if not scale, and client-driven technology in EMEA

Drawing contrasts between PwC US and PwC EMEA, Padwick noted that while PwC EMEA adheres to the firm’s global advisory strategy, at least two differences stand out. First, the PwC brand in the U.S., according to Padwick, is more technology-centric than the PwC brand in Europe, which influences how PwC EMEA consultants tailor their go-to-market messages in the region. Given the technology-centric nature of engagements in the region, combined with a higher volume of services, PwC EMEA’s sales structure has not been able to pivot to support business development through products and solutions. Second, PwC EMEA has focused on developing software assets to expedite the delivery of consulting solutions to clients and has not been designing them specifically to be sold, independent of traditional consulting engagements.

Padwick stressed that PwC EMEA contains “plenty of creativity, even without the scale” of the U.S. and that the various EMEA member firms and professionals have developed a “long list of [software assets] with applicability … and [PwC EMEA is] getting better at prioritizing.” While this initial characterization painted a picture of PwC EMEA trailing the U.S. to a significant degree, Padwick and his colleagues explained that the longer incubation periods and slower sales cycles do not preclude PwC EMEA from having a strong position with Products.

Perform Plus platform evolves to meet client needs

The PwC EMEA team walked TBR through a couple of specific offerings developed organically within the firm’s Europe practices. As far back as 2016, PwC had been working with financial institutions on stress-testing their risk and asset management systems, an effort Jaspert said had been codeveloped with clients, lending the resultant solution greater applicability and credibility in the market. This stress-testing solution as a product was a start and  is now one of 47 consulting-centric products that PwC EMEA clients license directly from the firm.

Another solution, as described by Van Buggenhout, started with a 12-week coaching program encompassing a wide array of enterprise activities, such as sales and product development. Urged on by clients, PwC EMEA built a digital solution, Perform Plus, to capture daily performance information and ideas and employee well-being, enhancing clients’ internal teamwork. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated PwC’s efforts behind the Perform Plus platform, which the firm has now deployed with 25 clients across EMEA, as well as the U.S. and Canada. Perform Plus is built on Google Cloud with a standard API that allows integration with other technology enabling it to handle a variety of platforms, including a recent large-scale deployment integrating a client’s daily Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) data.

For TBR, PwC EMEA’s decision to codevelop solutions with clients and let the consulting engagements drive the technology solutions (not the other way around) reflects the global firm’s lessons learned from the last 10 years as emerging technologies have permeated nearly every consulting engagement and clients have come to expect a technology-enabled solution to their business problems. In previous discussions with PwC professionals in Europe, TBR repeatedly heard comments indicating that clients do not perceive PwC to be a software company, but the European clients that have recently purchased PwC Products have become excellent use cases and reliable references for other European clients. The firm’s brand perception may be slow to change, but the quiet reality is that PwC is steadily increasing revenues tied to Products.