PwC unleashed: A professional services firm adopts Netflix-like business models

From Products to Digital on Demand and ProEdge

We reported this time last year that PwC Products completely shifted from being an old-school, white-shoe, tax- and audit-focused professional services firm from the previous age of the Big Eight to being a business solutions provider, with those “solutions” including SaaS, managed services and platforms. Now the firm has taken another large leap forward, adopting elements of business models most notably deployed by Netflix to bring its software and solutions into clients’ environments in a completely new way, while simultaneously reorienting the firm’s professionals around the skills and capabilities needed to serve their clients in a new world. We understand that assessment sounds over the top in a market already swamped by exaggerated claims around digital transformation.  

Sustained investment and committed leadership — it is that simple

PwC launched PwC Products in early 2020, as covered in our special report, in which we noted: “PwC is a business solution provider, and some of those solutions include products — tangible, defined assets that allow the firm to be, as the PwC leaders noted, ‘better, faster, and cheaper for clients.’ Some of those assets will remain within the firm, scalable but deployed only to increase speed or efficiency in certain engagements. Some assets will remain with the client, paid for in full, through licensing or by subscription. For all of the solutions, PwC’s approach will start with a business problem in mind, rather than employing a systems integrator mindset of plugging technology into a business.”

Building on PwC Products, perhaps on a timeline accelerated by the remote-working realities of the pandemic, PwC rolled out Digital on Demand and ProEdge in late 2020, bringing to clients two distinct offerings made possible by years of sustained investment in digital capabilities, including software and the firm’s own IP, as well as a leadership commitment to adjusting the firm’s business model to fully accommodate subscription-based pricing and software-centric engagement models. In TBR’s view, the first element — investing in technology — does not differentiate PwC from peers, except perhaps in the firm’s early start in some areas and sustained commitment to an organizing framework. The second element — leadership and adjusting the business model — marks a critical difference for PwC. Even though peers have made some similar changes, PwC has aggressively gone all-in and adopted multiple changes to its business models.

Digital on Demand: All the apps you want for one low monthly price (Netflix model 1)

In essence, Digital on Demand is PwC’s version of Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) App Store, but with a client experience more akin to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), where every option is available immediately without separate pricing or technical concerns. Similar to how everyone can watch their Netflix shows on their own device, PwC’s Digital on Demand solutions can be downloaded into the client environment, where they can be configured.

Led by PwC Labs Partner Michelle Wilkes, from the firm’s Consulting practice, and US Automation Leader Jeff Lower, from Tax, Digital on Demand belongs within the larger PwC Labs practice and carries through a relatively basic premise: Take the automation PwC incorporated internally, curate the solutions and refine the automations, and then make them available for PwC’s clients to deploy into their own environments. According to Wilkes, PwC built the foundational 6,500 automations across its own back office and for client engagement and saved 8.6 million hours of staff time across the firm.

Starting with finance functions, where PwC has legacy strengths and strong brand permission, the firm has partnered with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), UiPath, Alteryx (NYSE: AYX) and others to provide clients a menu of downloadable automations (access to cloud-based AI models via information extraction using natural language processing and machine learning), deemed by PwC’s Wilkes as “proven and relevant” because the automations had been designed by people who are deeply familiar with the finance functions and have experience in the finance environment. In short, Digital on Demand is readily deployable software built by finance process people for finance process people. Wilkes said the firm has 393 downloadable automations today, with plans to reach 500 by May 1.

On Feb. 18 and 19, 2021, TBR spoke with several PwC leaders: Michelle Wilkes, partner, PwC Labs; Jeff Lower, US Automation leader; Suneet Dua, chief product officer, PwC US; Darren Lee, partner, PwC Consulting; Mike Mendola, senior associate, PwC Labs; and Maria D’Alessandro, strategy director, PwC Products. This special report includes information and analysis drawn from these discussions and looks at how much the firm has changed and where the future of consulting lies for PwC and its peers. 

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