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EY confident supply chain sustainability will change world

In mid-March, TBR met with EY leaders to learn about their latest efforts around supply chain and sustainability, extending our previous discussions with the firm covering these areas separately. TBR heard from Glenn A. Steinberg, EY’s Global Supply Chain and Operations leader; Velislava Ivanova, EY’s chief sustainability officer and Climate Change and Sustainability Services leader for the Americas; Rae-Anne Alves, EY’s ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and Sustainability Supply Chain leader for the Americas; Martin Neuhold, EY’s Europe West Supply Chain & Operations leader; Lauren Rogge, EY’s senior manager of Climate Change and Sustainability Services; and Akshay Honnatti, EY’s U.S. Sustainability Tax leader.

Standing out by understanding the problem, defining it and tackling it head-on

During the hourlong discussion, three key observations emerged. First, the EY leaders’ emphasis on the global nature of supply chain and sustainability echoed the firm’s ongoing efforts to operate more seamlessly across international — and member firm — borders. Steinberg acknowledged EY’s Europe-based supply chain practice has been a leader globally, with more depth and experience than the Americas and APAC practices, but reiterated the globally integrated nature of EY’s approach to supply chain sustainability. Second, EY presented client stories centered primarily on traditional consulting engagements and outcomes, including strategies, road maps and change management. EY’s decision to play to its core strengths and avoid promoting technology for technology’s sake reinforces the firm’s overall strategy and its approach to clients’ business problems. And third, EY presented five themes, detailed below, which appeared to TBR to be split between regulator-driven and client-driven approaches. Given the nascency of supply chain sustainability as an EY practice and a priority for EY clients, TBR believes this five-themed framework can serve as a useful guide for clients, investors, regulators and any interested parties across both supply chain and sustainability. In short, expanding globally, playing to core consulting strengths and crafting a framework that resonates should be a solid formula for sustained growth.

To set the stage for the discussion, the EY team said their firm’s Supply Chain & Operations Consulting Practice is set to reach 30% year-to-year growth in 2021, and upward of 40% growth in the Americas. Among the drivers for that growth, EY mentioned ongoing shipping disruptions, excessive supply concentration risks and expiring legacy on-premises IT systems. As enterprises invest in tackling multiple related supply chain and operations challenges and increasingly tie every aspect of their business to sustainability goals, EY has seen new roles emerge, including a chief sustainability officer. In all, EY painted a picture of continued uncertainty around financial and regulatory pressures compounded by macro trends outside of most enterprises’ control. In other words, a perfect environment for consulting.

5 key trends define the supply chain challenges now, next and beyond

To make sense of the chaos, EY explained its framework for chief supply chain officers, including a version of EY’s customary “Now, Next, Beyond” approach, and then five key trends explaining what actions and investments their clients have undertaken (at EY’s recommendation). To set the framework, EY defined resiliency as the combination of visibility and agility, with clients encouraged to fully understand their supply networks, including their operating models and workforces.

Similarly, EY defined sustainability as the commonly used combination of environmental, social and governance, with the emphasis here more on clients taking an outside-in view of themselves. Rounding out the framework, EY described the “Now” as “cost-optimized, manual, rigid and linear,” the ”Next” as “agile networked ecosystems,” and the “Beyond” as “autonomous.” Within that framework, EY then introduced five key objectives:

  1. Ensure sustainable and diverse sourcing
  2. Enable traceability, visibility and disclosure
  3. Decarbonize the value chain
  4. Introduce circularity into your business model
  5. Assess impact of new taxes and incentives for a sustainable supply chain

In TBR’s view, Nos. 2 and 5 reflect the changing regulatory pressures around sustainability and increasing calls for structured, common reporting requirements (see this TBR assessment of an EY webcast on this exact issue). Nos. 1, 3 and 4 focus on enterprises themselves and the changes needed to meet sustainability goals and ensure enduring results.

A coherent and complete sustainable supply chain and operations framework

To illustrate the importance EY places on the framework, the EY team walked TBR through several use cases, all tied explicitly to one or more of the five objectives. Across the use cases, three points stood out to TBR. First, one of EY’s most compelling use cases has been EY itself. The EY team shared an example of a global retailer seeking EY’s advice on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) improvements based on what the client understood about EY’s own internal DE&I success. Second, EY’s technology integrations appeared to be a seamless component of solving a client’s problem, rather than an attempt to shoehorn technology into an engagement to sell a solution. And third, EY’s ability to bring regulatory expertise, particularly around tax issues, consistently elevated the firm’s value with clients.

EY has not been alone in trumpeting its own internal success, layering technology into consulting engagements and bringing governance, risk and compliance expertise to the table. What may separate EY, in TBR’s view, is the coherence and completeness of EY’s sustainable supply chain and operations framework. Repeatedly, the EY team came back to the trends affecting the firm’s clients and recognizing the opportunities to make fundamental changes, not simply short-term operational cost-takeout measures. One example of this long-term thinking came from Steinberg, when he noted that the “circular economy is one of the main levers to decarbonization.”

In EY’s own estimation, clients looking to “introduce circularity” into their business model will need to grapple with, among other challenges, “consumption of resources faster than regeneration cycles with an over-reliance on resources which don’t replenish themselves fast enough to sustain the ever-growing demand” and “regulatory requirements” which may create “extended producer responsibility, waste reduction regulations and the banning of certain products and materials.” Most enterprises have not planned for resources regeneration cycles and waste reduction regulations, but EY appears to understand most enterprises eventually will, so the smarter clients will start now, with EY’s guidance.

Comes down to measurement: Who decides, who measures, who cares

TBR believes sustainability and supply chain challenges require strategy consulting and change management-led approaches, not technology-driven solutions, which plays to EY’s strengths in the near term. As clients’ own sustainability competencies mature, EY should be well positioned to provide technology-enabled solutions to help clients sustain their decarbonization efforts. EY works with its Alliance Partners including Microsoft, SAP, Enablon, and P&G to develop and deploy new ESG solutions in the market focused on ESG reporting, carbon emissions, decarbonization, supply chain and product transparency. They have also formed a partnership with Nottingham Spirk, a product innovation company, around embedding ESG criteria into product design for its clients.

TBR’s favorable assessment of EY’s potential hinges in large part on EY’s track record for layering both trust and data into the firm’s consulting and technology solutions. The most critical element for sustainability will be measurement, starting with how the enterprises, regulators, employees and investors come to agreement on definitions for “sustainable” and “decarbonization.” If EY can lead that discussion and provide its clients with meaningful answers, the firm will stay ahead of the sustainability curve and continue growing its supply chain and operations practice.

 

Taking innovation to 4 dimensions: EY, Nottingham Spirk and the metaverse

In mid-February, TBR met with EY-Nottingham Spirk Innovation Hub leaders and learned further details about the goals and operations of the relatively new center. The EY team included Greg Sarafin, EY’s Global Alliance and Ecosystem leader; Jerry Gootee, EY’s Global Advanced Manufacturing Sector leader; and John Nottingham, cofounder and copresident of Nottingham Spirk. Three weeks later, Gil Forer, EY’s Digital and Business Disruption leader; Woody Driggs, EY’s Americas Consulting Digital Transformation wavespace leader; and Shubhra Kathuria, Metaverse, NFT and Foundry Leader at EY wavespace, walked TBR through how EY has been delivering wavespace sessions in the metaverse. On the surface, EY presented approaches with stark contrasts between “not much that can’t be made here” and “mapping a client’s journey to the metaverse.”

EY-Nottingham Spirk: Commercialization at speed and innovation with partners

Since TBR’s visit to the grand opening of the EY-Nottingham Spirk Innovation Hub in October 2021, the pace of engagements has stayed consistent with EY’s expectations, steadily increasing as the firm’s leadership, technology partners and clients appreciate the potential for taking innovation straight through to commercialization at scale. According to Gootee and Nottingham, many industrial clients have come to the Innovation Hub looking for both a strategy reset and guidance on how to innovate differently. Nottingham said manufacturing clients, in particular, have been “firefighting” through the current market due to supply and demand imbalances and a generally turbulent environment. Even while focused on operational challenges, these clients continue to be interested in looking to the future and understanding emerging opportunities. Gootee reinforced that EY’s role remains convening a value chain that can drive innovation for clients.

Both the EY and Nottingham Spirk professionals remain committed to commercialization at speed and scale, as well as strategies and business model transformations, product innovation and immersion, and the future of technologies and markets. Gootee, in particular, re-emphasized many of the priorities and characteristics described in detail in October. TBR asked specifically about the role of EY-Nottingham Spirk’s technology partners, such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and SAP (NYSE: SAP), which led Gootee to note that ideally three-quarters of the clients coming to the Innovation Hub will be led through by EY, while the remaining quarter will be shepherded by technology partners. In TBR’s analysis, no other IT services vendor or consultancy has a similarly tightly intertwined engagement structure, which allows and even encourages technology vendors to lead clients through this kind of digital transformation and innovation space.

Wavespace metaverse: Building trust through familiarity and faces

Over the last seven or eight years, TBR has visited more than 30 innovation and transformation centers, soaking in the immersive experiences and trying out the funky chairs. The COVID-19 pandemic forced IT services vendors and consultancies to shift to entirely virtual engagements, and TBR has been predicting an evolution toward hybrid sessions since the start of 2021. Over the last year, TBR has attended some virtual analyst sessions, which included avatars and kind-of-still-beta versions of the metaverse. Just as the EY-Nottingham Spirk Innovation Hub broke new ground in innovation and transformation centers, EY’s wavespace metaverse is breaking new ground in an entirely new space.

EY 2021: Hybrid and omnipresent

TBR perspective

A few years ago in a wide-ranging discussion, TBR analysts and EY executives considered the future consulting business model, noting how most industries had been fundamentally disrupted by technology while consulting had seemingly remained unchanged. Fast forward to the current pandemic, and EY clearly anticipated where consulting was headed: hybrid engagements, delivered in-person and virtually, substantially aided by technologies, including big bets EY made on AI, blockchain and cybersecurity. In addition, EY has understood a significant shift in the IT services and consulting ecosystem, in which technology vendors’ needs have been supplanted by clients’ needs, making partnerships less about sales and marketing and more about delivery.

During the opening session of the Technology Analyst Summit, Dan Higgins, the firm’s Global Technology Consulting Leader, said clearly and definitively EY intends to become “the transformation consulting leader,” an ambition that requires best-in-class and scaled capabilities around technology, data, platforms, products and ecosystems. In Higgins’ view, one of EY’s strengths in tackling that ambition came from being able to bring the entire firm to bear at a client, from all aspects of consulting, as well as tax and strategy & transactions. The September Technology Analyst Summit and the one-on-one discussions with EY executives in the following weeks confirmed TBR’s assessment that EY’s evolution continues, undeterred by COVID-19.

In an expansive and informal discussion with TBR after the event, EY’s Global Vice Chair for Consulting Errol Gardner said the firm’s performance in the Asia Pacific region has returned to close to 2019 levels, adjusting more rapidly to the COVID-19 era than other regions. He predicted massive opportunities to consult with the government sector in Europe in the coming year as well as sustained uncertainty in North America (specifically the United States), all while noting that the current market does not favor new entrants or substantial account turnover, with most clients unwilling to take on additional risks associated with onboarding new consultants.

Gardner’s comments extended his Technology Analyst Summit opening remarks and provided some assurance that the radically changed business model for consulting would not lead to a radically changed EY, except in certain areas, such as remote working, diversity and inclusion, and resilience. Gardner also reinforced one of the overarching themes TBR took away from the entire event: The future is hybrid, which includes not just delivery but also how EY structures itself and continues to build its business. Beyond recruiting talent, building solutions and acquiring assets, Gardner reiterated the firm would be relying on ecosystem partners and expanding beyond traditional alliance structures to meet clients’ evolving demands. In TBR’s view, this approach to ecosystems has developed over the last few years as the firm has shifted from selective and limited alliances to a more expansive partnering model.

In a follow-up discussion after the Technology Analyst Summit, EY’s Global Business Consulting Leader Amy Brachio described an evolution of clients’ consulting needs and how EY tackles those changes. According to Brachio, clients previously brought EY problems that required a specific skill set or clearly defined capabilities to solve. As emerging technologies have forced changes to clients’ business models, EY has responded to more complex and transformational problems by bringing to bear the entire firm.

Frictions within the global firm that previously prevented more holistic responses have been minimized through resetting how EY looks at clients’ problems and how EY measures its own success. Rather than focusing on global total engagement revenue by competency (such as supply chain), EY has shifted to evaluating performance based on the buyer’s agenda and understanding which skills and capabilities the entire firm needs to bring to solve more complex problems. In TBR’s view, shifting from a traditional mindset around revenue metrics based on competencies to a client-centric, holistic understanding of EY’s role within a client’s ecosystem reflects the firm’s overall culture around purpose.  

Sticking to strategies and building alliances around security, AI and blockchain

Ever-expanding alliances with key technology partners have underpinned EY’s technology evolution over the past few years. Building on comments made during the Technology Analyst Summit, Global Alliance and Ecosystem Leader Greg Sarafin explained to TBR that the firm’s alliance remained grounded in joint solutions, integrated platforms and shared clients, not joint ventures or business groups. In contrast to other leading consultancies and global SIs, EY’s approach to partnering with technology vendors, particularly companies such as SAP (NYSE: SAP), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), revolves around definitive opportunities centered on EY-built platforms and solutions. For example, the firm has partnered with IBM Watson to create Diligence Edge, a due diligence platform that, according to Sarafin, substantially reduces the hours needed to “find the worms and the pearls … [to] accelerate the time to find issues and accelerate the time to value” for clients examining acquisition targets. Sarafin added that EY will “lean in on solutions” and “solve big problems” with EY-built solutions and platforms.

While EY may deliver some of these products as managed services, the firm’s primary business model will continue to revolve around the consulting, process re-engineering, integration and change management work necessary for clients to continue with their digital transformations. On that last element, Sarafin noted that COVID-19 brought religion to boards about the importance of digital transformation, ending the indecisive start-and-stop nature of many engagements and convincing EY’s clients they need to move to the cloud. As part of EY’s story on digital transformation, Sarafin shared with TBR that EY’s wavespaces would continue to evolve, becoming more tightly aligned with technology partners, such as Microsoft, or more industry-centric, such as around manufacturing in a to-be-opened wavespace in Ohio. (Note: TBR has written extensively on wavespaces and on innovation and transformation centers generally.)

EY Virtual Technology Analyst Summit: On Sept. 28 and 29, EY hosted analysts for a global EY Virtual Technology Analyst Summit, which showcased the firm’s technology-centric offerings and capabilities and included breakout sessions on functional areas, such as blockchain, security and analytics, as well as client success stories. The following includes information gathered during the event and in subsequent one-on-one discussions with EY executives.  

Global trade and maritime ports: How EY tackles both with digital transformation and data

Bringing expertise, technology and experience to the business of running a port  

TBR has covered EY extensively, reporting on the firm’s evolution in both technology and global operations, most recently in a special report that noted, “EY has rapidly evolved its technology consulting practice and its overall value to clients around emerging technologies and is now addressing scale, standardization of quality across the globe, and sustained investments in innovation and the ecosystem through its common global strategy and practice architecture.” The wide-ranging discussion with Jonathan Beard and his colleagues reinforced that assessment, particularly in the way EY emphasized its opportunity to apply its industry markets expertise and technology capabilities to an ecosystem in need of rapid digital transformation.

The firm, according to James Wainwright, has been building on its NextWave Global Trade Initiative with its own assets and intellectual property, harnessed to long-developed understandings of the maritime industry, and pulling together its global technology consulting expertise. While the Global Trade Initiative is still a work in progress, EY has clearly made a commitment to play to its own strengths, move rapidly in an evolving market, and become a critical, trusted link within the broader ecosystem. Heading into the latter half of what has been a horrible year for everyone, EY’s specific challenges will reflect the headwinds across the maritime port and supply chain markets overall: coping with the pandemic, growing in a turbulent global macroeconomic climate, and investing in the right technology to solve the knottiest business problems.

To set the stage, Port Optimization solution Lead Wouter van Groenestijn noted that there exist “many suboptimalities in ports” and the operators, port authorities and others in the ecosystem collect vast amounts of data but very rarely tap into it. As an example, EY cited workforce planning — ensuring the right people are on location exactly when needed, based on a ship’s expected arrival — can be enhanced through data management, AI and analytics, provided the data is collected and used properly. With skills and experience combining vast and constantly evolving data sets, EY can play a role in addressing specific run-the-port problems, which span multiple ecosystem players, such as operators, shippers, regulators and freight-forwarding companies, and have a direct impact on operations and profitability.

In addition to providing expertise around data, EY serves as a useful ecosystem hub as it is a trusted partner to all the stakeholders within a port. TBR has heard multiple variations on this idea that maritime ports contain vast complexities with overlapping interests, jurisdictions and business models, reinforcing the need for a neutral party to handle shared concerns such as data. Optimizing that data then comes from, in EY’s estimation, knowing what to look for, which only comes through experience working with maritime port clients and their ecosystem clients and partners.

In mid-July TBR continued looking at the digital transformation parallels between maritime ports and smart cities by speaking with a team from EY’s Global Trade Initiative about the firm’s efforts with port authorities and broader port ecosystems. Jonathan Beard, partner, Strategy and Transactions, Hong Kong; James Wainwright, senior manager, Financial Services Advisory, London; Wouter van Groenestijn, associate partner, Strategy and Transactions, Singapore; and Lynn Dike, associate director, Brand, Marketing and Communications, London, described EY’s initiatives and solutions in the context of a wildly uncertain market. The following reflects that discussion and builds on TBR’s previous reporting on this space.

EY tackles COVID-19 and prepares for Next and Beyond

Now, Next, Beyond: The perfect framework for our COVID-19 present

In a wide-ranging discussion centered on COVID-19, EY’s global leaders detailed for TBR the firm’s views on the current situation, the immediate needs and opportunities ahead in 2020, and what the post-pandemic reality will be for EY and its clients — Now, Next and Beyond. As an EY framework for a couple of years, Now, Next, Beyond perfectly suits the current moment, when enterprises across the globe need assistance addressing immediate operational challenges, from supply chain to financing to human resource management. At the same time, EY’s clients have already begun planning for or taking the early first steps in implementing changes necessary to survive and grow in the near term, the next few quarters and years. And for EY, the deepest client partnerships are forged through transformations, in which EY serves as trusted partner.

Now: Know your business, know your environment, become resilient

In the Now, EY has brought clients multiple trackers — tools that provide enterprises immediate insights into their operations and expected near-term challenges — while helping to build greater resiliency over time. Even though the pandemic’s impacts vary widely by location and seemingly change daily, assessment and resiliency tools, in EY’s view, remain essential for most enterprises, partly because very few companies came into the pandemic with a data and technology strategy.

As part of the response to COVID-19, the firm rolled out its Enterprise Resilience Assessment Tool and overall COVID-19 Enterprise Resilience Framework to help clients understand the current state, map a route to resiliency and track progress. Extending beyond the enterprise, EY has developed a suite of trackers to help clients follow and understand the constantly changing impacts of the pandemic. EY’s Trade Tracker, for example, provides clients updates on government changes to trade rules, a kind of one-stop trade policy shop. Other tracker focus areas include tax policy, labor and employment law, and immigration. In TBR’s view, these tools — and EY’s emphasis on the big picture, not simply operational needs — underscore the broader value the firm brings to transformational engagements, which should benefit EY as clients move from COVID-19 response to post-pandemic strategy.

Next: Bringing technology to bear in a way EY has not done before

“As one EY professional explained, ‘When we solve a problem through applying tech, and thus creating an asset or tool, we want to productize and commercialize and globalize.’ Like a ship making course corrections while still navigating toward a desired destination, EY has adjusted its business model, folded asset-based consulting and managed services into traditional consulting, and committed to emerging technology.”TBR special report Now. Next. Beyond.: EY’s road map for moving from current to future, May 2019

Turning to growth, EY’s leaders noted that clients increasingly speak to the firm about the need for technology at speed and innovation at scale, with humans at the center. For a firm with a relatively new foundation in technology at speed, EY provided TBR use cases and details around how the firm meets those clients’ technology demands.

Over three separate hourlong briefings with EY leaders in Europe, Asia and the Americas, TBR analysts heard details on the firm’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its strategies for serving clients in the post-pandemic world. While this special report contains information provided by EY as well as TBR’s analysis, a more complete assessment of the firm can be found in TBR’s recently published semiannual Management Consulting Benchmark.

With use cases built on public chains in production, attention turns to public and private sector interaction

Near-term market implications: What is next, rather than beyond

TBR believes the intersection of public policy and commerce is the next area where technologists will apply their energies within the blockchain realm. The core platform elements are in place with clearly articulated road maps for ongoing development work. At issue will be the policy regulations and compliance methods needed to ensure blockchain-enabled business activity can be seamlessly imported into legacy systems of record for financial reporting purposes.

Similarly, nation states and native-cloud platforms such as Facebook will vie to become the de facto economic exchange mechanism for blockchain transactions. Notably, Libra Association, the Facebook-created digital currency, recently named former U.S. Department of the Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey as its first CEO, indicating Facebook’s strategy for bridging the nation state-commercial entity divide. Taking a conservative posture to minimize security threat vectors to protect the value of the currency in question appears, on its face, to be the most prudent course of action. On the other hand, taking a more aggressive position that allows for deeper embedding into commerce chains and exposes the currency to more programmability — and consequently creates a greater surface area for malicious attacks — is a risk nation states and businesses will undertake to gain greater participation in the digital economy.

In the short term, then, the conservative posture is prudent. In the long term, however, such conservative viewpoints could result in shifting geopolitical power. The U.S. dollar, for example, has been the de facto foreign exchange clearing mechanism for decades. A conservative posture on the part of the U.S. Federal Reserve on digital currency opens the door for other entrants to displace the U.S. dollar as the international clearing mechanism and, in so doing, removes a valuable foreign policy tool from the U.S. diplomatic toolbox at a time when U.S. diplomacy is already severely challenged.

The fourth annual EY Global Blockchain Summit had a vastly different look and feel as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the engagement to a virtual forum and turned the spotlight on the rapidly coalescing use cases that blockchain technology underpins. The core coterie of blockchain builders does not have to prove technical value through “use case show and tell” of how the technology works, but rather needs to discuss what the technology delivers in terms of business process improvement. However, technology companies do need to outline product road maps to ameliorate persistent concerns. More important, though, is the need for automated interaction, adjustment and compliance with business rules and the ever-evolving public policies designed to mitigate risk. It appears clear that as revolutionary as blockchain can be to business commerce by shifting the tracking of such activity from general ledgers to distributed ledgers, it can be equally transformative to nation states, depending on what form of currency exchange settles out as the de facto clearing mechanism for multi-enterprise blockchain business networks.

EY and technology: Embedding AI and moving beyond trust

Taking AI further

EY’s “six habits” study provides detailed information and assessments of digital transformation leaders’ best practices as well as “actions for the boardroom,” such as “create a culture of continuous learning” and “embed innovation with corporate governance.” In previewing the study, TBR noted that the recommendations for boards to consider when accelerating AI — “assess the current state,” “integrate AI into core” and “measure AI benefits” — perfectly mirror EY’s own consulting offerings around AI. In discussing AI further, Higgins and Little explained that the firm has been applying AI when making its own financial forecasting and HR management decisions, providing additional insights into how different solutions could be rolled out to clients. Little made explicit that the firm would “build AI into every solution we have,” laying down a clear marker of the firm’s bet on emerging technologies. The firm has been trying to move away from the historical consulting and systems integration approach of putting many people on projects and would instead be adopting more agile sprint methodologies, automation and AI. A concerted effort to embed AI both internally and in every solution built for clients echoes TBR’s November 2019 Digital Transformation Insights Report: Emerging Technology, which noted that, “to capitalize on the cost savings generated by AI, vendors must shift their value proposition toward navigating clients’ technical and business change management obstacles to implement solutions, a strategy requiring continued investment in consulting expertise.”

Building better ecosystems

In discussing changes to the partnering ecosystem for all consultancies and IT services vendors, TBR has emphasized the need for re-evaluation and constant management of alliances, particularly as the technology vendors themselves change their own partnering models and go-to-market approaches. EY has stepped ahead of this change, recognizing the firm needed to evolve its traditional partner program into strategic ecosystem management.

In February EY released a new study on the “six habits of digital transformation leaders,” based on a survey of global CEOs and board members. TBR spoke with Jim Little, EY’s global Microsoft Alliance lead and EY Americas Technology Strategy lead, and Dan Higgins, EY’s global Technology Consulting leader, to gain additional insights and comments on the study, as well as to understand how the firm has shifted its internal operations and strategy around technology. TBR has attended multiple EY events in the last few years, including those geared specifically toward highlighting the firm’s technology practice. Based on those events and the March 2020 discussions with Little and Higgins, TBR believes EY has substantially changed its approach to technology consulting, from enabled to embedded and scalable, which will increasingly expand the firm’s opportunities with global clients, potentially at the expense of traditionally more technology-centric competitors, such as Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and Deloitte. Little and Higgins explained that EY fully intended to embrace a new strategy around technology, with solutions designed for reach and scale, a brand seeking to move beyond trust, and an ecosystem managed to “create real outcomes” for clients.

Becoming the bridge: EY and its 2020 Global Information Security Survey

TBR perspective

EY’s latest Global Information Security Survey illuminates critical aspects of how EY sees itself positioned in the cybersecurity services market, even as it informs on the trends and troubling developments across the information security space. Reviewing a preview of the results, TBR was struck by three elements: First, EY clearly sees itself as the bridge between security professionals and their internal colleagues, a role that requires technical expertise and, more importantly, trust from all sides. Second, understanding the toughest challenges facing chief information security officers (CISOs) does not require EY staff to be security experts as much as it requires navigating clients’ organizations and budgets and metrics. Third, evaluating security concerns (or lack thereof) across an entire client’s organization becomes even more challenging for EY when the threats change dramatically, as this year’s survey shows.

The bridge between security and … everyone else

When previewing the survey results with TBR, EY security leaders repeatedly described the firm’s role within a client’s organization as the bridge: between security professionals and business leaders, between security professionals and board members, and between security professionals and industry leaders (both internal and external). According to EY, the firm revamped the survey for 2020 with a fresh approach to reflect clients’ emerging appreciation for the role bridging often difficult and strained relationships between security professionals and their own colleagues. One of the starkest findings, in TBR’s view, showed respondents’ ratings of the relationships between the security teams and other groups within their organizations, ranging from Neutral, Distrust or Non-Existent to High Trust and Consultation. Not surprisingly, IT departments had the most trust in security teams while more than 70% of the respondents indicated the relationship between marketing and security teams rated neutral or worse. While understandable that marketing teams would chafe at restrictions placed on them by security concerns, EY’s critical insight revolved around “New Initiative Owners,” which includes marketing. If new investments and reallocated budget dollars (as well as C-Suite and board interest) flow toward lines of business, R&D and marketing, but security teams have poor relationships with those groups at more than 55% of enterprises, EY’s role as a bridge becomes even more critical. Security teams cannot get sustained support and new funding if their colleagues driving new business do not see them as teammates or even positive actors within the organization.

TBR believes that EY’s efforts to position as a bridge conforms with the firm’s overall approach to consulting and plays to EY’s strengths around risk and compliance. In addition, playing that role demands a high level of trust among all the groups within a client; EY has invested heavily in building that level of trust and continues to benefit from it. Immediate technology-centric opportunities in connection with migration and management of SAP S/4HANA workloads can serve as a use case and strengthen EY’s trust with the IT buyer, a persona the firm looks to strengthen its relationship with, especially when it comes to application and data security management. Challenging for EY, however, is the fact that most organizations continue to make reactionary decisions around security and frequently bring security concerns and requirements into a business initiative well after the first few developmental stages. These variables create opportunities for EY as a security services consultancy and potentially enhance the firm’s role within clients.

In a discussion with TBR prior to the release of the 2020 Global Information Security Survey, EY previewed the survey’s findings and how the firm sees a changing role for itself in the security services market. In TBR’s view, the survey’s most notable findings underscore strategic moves by EY to evolve its security services practice, including a focus on bridging organizational gaps between security teams and business leaders within EY’s clients.

EY’s Managed Services: A co-sourcing partner for value creation

EY’s approach to managed services is a boardroom rather than operational discussion  

While the nuances around the definition of managed services vary across vendors and buyers, the common theme of supporting organizational functions resonates with all. As a result, there is a fair amount of confusion and sometimes little-to-no differentiation among suppliers that are simply trying to expand client mindshare. While the advent of AI, cognitive and similar technologies, along with the firm’s desire to participate in the “as a Service” space, has fueled EY’s efforts to build its information systems management capabilities, the firm’s position in the managed services space is largely determined by its role as a trusted tax partner. While buyers have engaged with EY for years around its tax expertise, outsourcing and/or in some cases co-sourcing, tax technology and tax operations are somewhat newer areas of opportunity for the firm. Delivered through EY’s Tax and Finance Operate framework, the firm’s relationship with the CFO buyer allows it to capture strategic tax activities typically managed by in-house tax professionals including financial crime, tax policy administration and cyber, among others.

EY has seen its fair share of success in the space, most recently signing a long-term managed services agreement with Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which followed a similar deal with a global insurance provider back in 2018 for managing tax and compliance. As part of the Nokia deal, EY will provide tax, finance, data and technology managed services supporting the mobile provider across 127 countries, leveraging EY Global Tax Platform and global delivery centers.

Adding technology to a business framework, as EY did with the inclusion of Microsoft Azure in the EY Global Tax Platform, and platformizing micro-processes to support corporate applications, including corporate income tax, provisioning and value-added tax, is one way EY’s Managed Services practice is trying to bridge the gap between tax services and IT, which can then drive other opportunities, including in advisory services. As digital permeates all services and the regulatory environment across the globe continues to evolve, EY’s investments position it to carve a niche applicable to its strengths rather than building one inorganically, similar to rivals that have been investing heavily in areas such as marketing operations to better appeal to the CMO buyer.

In a day of personal stories, EY showcases the results of corporate commitment to talent recruiting

A small but influential group from EY’s leadership team, including incoming Chairman and CEO Carmine Di Sibio, were on hand in a newly redesigned wavespace to recognize the winners of the EY NextWave Data Science Challenge. An extension of the program deployed in Australia last year, this global challenge resulted in 12,000 submissions from 4,500 participants from 477 universities in 15 countries.

The basic challenge: Predict human traffic patterns

The overarching goal of the project was to take a data set provided by EY partner Skyhook of citizens in the greater Atlanta area. The challenge was to take the citizens’ locations as of 3 p.m. and predict where those citizens would be located at 4 p.m. EY Global Analytics Program Director Antonio Prieto, who spearheaded this effort that will be expanded on in November, stated the intention was to connect students to a challenge that resonates with EY’s mission of building a better working world, which can be done through analytics-optimized smart cities.

Participants were allowed to enter multiple submissions as their models evolved and as they generated new “what if” scenarios. The award winners received cash prizes, EY badges and EY internships. The winners and their locations were:

First Place: Sergio Banchero is studying electronics in Australia and is a native of Brazil.

Second Place (shared): Katherine Edgley and Philipp Barthelme shared the second-place prize and are both studying applied mathematics at the University of Edinburgh.

Third Place: Chia Yew Ken of Singapore has an affinity for natural language processing and finds the parallels to AI pattern recognition interesting.

Each participant presented their basic findings and discussed the underpinning mathematical calculations and manipulations in ways that challenged this mature worker with a liberal arts background to comprehend. The incremental improvements on the algorithm scores seemed slight until put into context by Banchero, who translated his algorithm’s net improvement over the average of all submissions as ultimately capable of reducing 3,200 pounds of CO2 emissions, which would require rain forest acreage equivalent to 16 football fields to remediate naturally.