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Peak PwC or just getting started? PwC’s NYC EC

No bigger stage: Have to get it right in New York City

Opening the New York City Experience Center (EC) long after the first one in Hallandale, Fla., launched allowed PwC to learn lessons about design, operations, talent and culture that will help ensure the high-profile NYC location excels in every way that PwC measures the success of these centers. According to PwC’s Seb Wocial, a design architect and member of The Difference team at the NYC EC, every design element of the new center built on ideas hatched and tested in its ECs, of which TBR has visited five others: Hallandale, Fla.; Frankfurt, Germany; Shanghai, Tokyo, and Toronto. Having seen the advantages of a stand-alone center in Miami and the challenges inherent with keeping the EC colocated with other PwC offices (such as in Frankfurt, Germany), TBR expected a more limited change to the physical space and was surprised by the PwC professionals’ intense attention to small details (such as where a carpet ends and hard flooring begins) and how enamored they appeared to be with their space. TBR has long maintained that digital transformation and coinnovation centers must be more than funky chairs and cool spaces, but very few of TBR’s visits to consultancies’ centers have included as much discussion of the purposeful architectural choices. One additional note: TBR has met with leaders and professionals working at the ECs and competitors’ similar centers and has seen the infectious enthusiasm they have for the environment and the work, which came through again clearly during this NYC visit. Finding the right people, like Wocial, a three-year veteran of PwC with a background in process optimization, and placing them in the collaborative and creative environments, accelerates change within the larger organization and continues to attract the best talent. 

Operations now, internal change later

Two elements of the new EC came as no surprise to TBR: an early preponderance of financial services clients and a steady stream of in-house sessions, designed to bring more of the BXT approach to NYC-based PwC professionals. While the more mature ECs have diversified their client bases (at least by industry), serving a heavy dose of financial services clients without explicitly making the NYC EC a banking hub echoes PwC’s approach overall. Other consultancies and IT services vendors have designated their innovation and digital transformation centers as single-industry-focused, a decision typically reflecting the vendor’s culture with respect to organization and industry alignment. The second element, internal sessions to promote BXT (Business, eXperience, Technology) and explain the EC’s capabilities, carries forward PwC’s best practices from established ECs and reflects a common thread through these kinds of centers: facilitating internal change in addition to serving clients. In TBR’s view, PwC’s ECs, like Accenture’s acquisition of Fjord, created a substantial ripple effect through the firm, changing culture and allowing long-tenured professionals opportunities to see what the firm could become. At every digital transformation center TBR has visited, this internal change has been discussed, but with varying degrees of commitment, with the most dominant variable the vendor’s expectations around return on investment (and corresponding metrics around number of client engagements — internal change gets shunted if the number of client engagements per month is the priority). Catalyzing internal change, of course, does not mean neglecting clients but does include careful selection of which clients use the centers and preparation prior to on-site engagements.

TBR had the opportunity to take an informal tour of PwC’s latest Experience Center (EC), hearing directly from one of the professionals running day-to-day client engagements about what makes the center work. The tour included discussions around operations, talent, and culture and what will be next for PwC, BXT and the ECs.

Three years later: PwC’s Miami Experience Center led the way

Three years ago, almost to the day, we went to Miami and saw something truly new, an “Experience Center” that PwC built to physically embody its emerging idea of coalescing consulting engagements around business, experience and technology. Saying we were impressed would be an understatement. Here’s what we said in our March 2016 special report on PwC Digital Analyst Day: “In addition to obtaining the right people and managing them well … the firm built an innovative office for the Experience Center team. PwC leadership explained the office design fosters collaboration, sparks creativity, celebrates success yet encourages failures along the way and upholds the firm’s values all in a comfortable environment — so comfortable that leadership hopes employees are more comfortable at work than they are at their own homes.”

Since that March 2016 visit, we’ve been to PwC Experience Centers in Frankfurt, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo and Toronto. And with every visit, we have chronicled the way PwC’s BXT framework has evolved, leading to our assessment that PwC has stopped playing “consulting roulette” as “BXT evolves from grand idea to engaged approach.”

We haven’t just visited PwC’s digital transformation immersion innovation centers over the last few years; we’ve visited centers with SAP, Accenture, EY, Capgemini, Atos, NTT and IBM. We’ve noted similarities and huge differences, as well as shared unknowns, like how to best determine the value these centers bring the consultancies and their clients. We continue working to understand the three pillars of these centers — clients, talent and partners — plus all the small-but-critical elements that make the differences between success and average vanilla “blah.” We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time discussing leadership, for example, and the impact on talent, culture and clients.

One more quote from three years ago, because this one jumped off the page, knowing what we know now: “By operating on a more global level, evidenced by its employees being encouraged to connect with their colleagues to bring alternative perspectives to address clients’ specific business needs, the firm works smarter. PwC shares success stories across its Experience Centers, slightly varies the talent mix at each center, and encourages mobility between the centers to further diversify the teams.” 

We’ve met PwC folks who’ve migrated from Miami to other Experience Centers, bringing that special sauce with them, and suspect this approach will be replicated by PwC’s peers as they continue building out their own cadre of experience-innovation-immersion-digital transformation center professionals.