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PwC brings data to Return to Workplace decisions

Understanding the risks of returning to the physical office

As PwC and its clients begin the slow and uncertain return to physical offices, the firm has responded with solutions to help navigate business, health and safety concerns, while keeping a close eye on risks. With clients across the full spectrum of industries and geographies, the firm’s insights into factors challenging a return to workplace, opportunities presented by compelled changes, and risks both obvious and unexpected have become invaluable as the firm assists clients in what Risk leaders described as the mission to “help clients navigate massive disruptions and uncertainty.” Risk leaders shared that clients are reimagining the workplace and the workforce, questioning which roles are best performed in the traditional workplace; what kinds of physical offices meet business, health and safety needs; and how to mitigate the risks around a feared second wave of coronavirus.

While PwC has been active in assisting clients with immediate challenges, such as navigating the coronavirus relief bill, helping them organize for the massive change management related to Libor’s replacement, and addressing essential safety and productivity issues (see TBR’s special report on PwC’s “Check-in” solution), the firm has also accelerated efforts to pull together PwC-wide assets into newly configured platforms that specifically address the risks associated with returning to physical offices. The firm described its Workforce Planning for a Return to Workplace Dashboard as a technology-enabled tool designed to facilitate clients’ data-driven decisions around a wide range of risks. The tool creates a client-specific dashboard with data and analysis around health, safety and operational risks, as well as analysis around business considerations and employee sentiment and preferences.

In TBR’s view, zip code-specific healthcare (COVID-19) data paired with local regulations around return to work provide an immediately relevant operational view for clients evaluating risks around returning to the workplace, essentially providing a curated way to look at the complexities of all the locally specific issues when planning at the national or international level, knowing one size does not fit all in the COVID-19 world. The platform also provides clients with insight into employees’ remote working preferences, historical trends and risks broken down by region and by employee role. In PwC’s efforts to help clients operate with greater agility, gain better visibility into their business and risks, and anticipate what is next, these newly developed products should provide the firm sustained opportunities to engage with the full range of services.

During an hour-long analyst briefing session, PwC Risk leaders, including Tim Ryan, PwC US chairman and senior partner, shared with TBR recent developments around the firm’s response to COVID-19 as well as shifting client sentiments around the macroeconomic picture for 2020 and 2021. While the following special report contains information provided by PwC 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.

PCs in a pandemic

Join Ezra Gottheil and Eric Costa Sept. 23 for a presentation on how the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the PC business as well as the use of PCs. As people use PCs to work, learn and play at home, what are the implications for the types of PCs they are using, the environment in which PCs are used, and the future relationship between users and PCs, even after recovery?

Don’t miss:

  • How social distancing has affected how PCs are used and how the PC business runs
  • The long-term effects of the economic crisis beyond recovery from coronavirus
  • The effect of the crisis on the PC total available market as well as the implications

Business resiliency and people centricity: Fujitsu prepares for post-pandemic world

Putting people first, so they can put the customer first

In the early weeks of the pandemic, Fujitsu’s global delivery centers quickly shifted to all-remote work environments, transitioning in waves as COVID-19 lockdowns moved from Asia to Europe and the Americas. Fujitsu’s leaders and on-the-ground managers passed along lessons learned in Japan, China, the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia to colleagues facing imminent transitions. Perhaps surprising even Fujitsu’s leadership, some of the later transitions happened in less than 48 hours. In Poland, for example, the entire delivery center adopted all-remote work arrangements over a single weekend as the news coverage of COVID-19 shifted opinions and raised concerns about being in close proximity to coworkers in an office. Fujitsu experienced similarly rapid transitions at other facilities, including global delivery centers in Portugal and India. According to Fujitsu’s global delivery leadership, the transitions had no impact on Fujitsu’s delivery or customer satisfaction: “The SLAs [service-level agreements] hardly twitched.”

In TBR’s view, Fujitsu’s emphasis on its own people — ensuring safety, providing assurances around employment and meeting technology demands — likely had a positive ripple effect on the way employees delivered to Fujitsu’s clients. Fujitsu’s leaders noted the company’s commitment to “focus on people, and enable those people to focus on customers,” underscoring Fujitsu’s overall approach of putting its own people first. One example Fujitsu’s global delivery leaders shared with TBR centered on the company’s travel and visitor policies. Early changes reflected a slowdown in travel, but “not a strangulation.” Fujitsu’s employees believed they were still empowered to deliver to clients, traveling for work as necessary, but cognizant of coming changes and able to include their own feedback on company policies.

As February ended and the virus’s global sweep became apparent, Fujitsu employees were prepared for a shift from limiting travel to limiting visitors to office locations, primarily to provide employees with additional safety and protection from COVID-19 exposure. Another example centered on employee communication and support to ensure well-being. Fujitsu holds ongoing check-ins with employees through coffee sessions and distributed surveys to keep everyone connected and engaged, confirming the employees responded positively to the company’s approach to COVID-19. Fujitsu executives noted to TBR that over 80% of employees felt positive about the approach and execution of its COVID response. The meetings recognized employee needs beyond workload constraints, taking personal COVID-19 challenges in consideration. Overall, TBR believes Fujitsu’s global delivery leadership made a critical decision to focus on employees first, which eased the challenges related to moving to all-remote working through Fujitsu’s additional protection for employees’ well-being as well as protection for their families from COVID-19. Further, by coordinating across countries and regions so that successful strategies could be repeated and mistakes could be avoided, Fujitsu made it possible to sustain customer satisfaction and consistent services delivery.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Fujitsu’s global delivery leaders, including Head of Global Delivery Tim White, Head of Global COVID-19 Response and Chief Information Security Officer Clive Tillotson, and Specialist Marketing Manager Charlie Ayling, TBR analysts heard about the company’s immediate responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing operations and expectations for the post-pandemic world. This special report includes some highlights from the discussion. Additional information will be included in TBR’s quarterly analysis of Fujitsu Services

Atos and COVID-19: Serve now and prepare for the future

Atos, its clients and its communities will be ‘Future Ready’

In a one-hour virtual session with analysts, Atos’ Pierre Barnabe, head of Public Sector & Defense as well as Big Data & Cybersecurity, and Robert Vassoyan, head of Healthcare & Life Sciences as well as Unified Communications & Collaboration, detailed the company’s response to COVID-19, framing the discussion around communities, clients and technology and explaining what Atos expects as the world emerges into a post-pandemic, “Phase 2 Future Ready” world. In contrast to some peers in the IT services space, Atos’ initial emphasis on “serving our communities” reflected an ecosystem-centric view of the changed environment that brought the company’s responses to the pandemic to a different level. Barnabe and Vassoyan spoke specifically about serving national governments, healthcare providers, schools and public safety officials.

In addition, Atos mentioned helping clients facilitate an increase in remote and contactless payments, adjust their responses to new behaviors and consumption patterns (such as in utilities), broadcast media from remote and global locations, and enhance cybersecurity in work-from-home environments. In all, Barnabe and Vassoyan emphasized that the company’s ethical commitment to being an active and responsible corporate citizen was not challenged in response to COVID-19 but was, instead, core to how the company managed the pandemic and positioned itself and its clients for the next phase. 

Atos uses an industry-led organization to understand clients’ business priorities

Atos leads with technology-enabled solutions and technology expertise to solve clients’ business problems. The new industry-led organization, which has been in the works since early 2019 and was implemented in 1Q20 with six global industries and five regional business units, improves the company’s ability to cater to clients’ industry-specific needs and generate business outcomes. According to TBR’s 1Q20 Atos report, “While Atos’ performance will be negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the company has a relatively resilient business profile that will enable it to operate in the crisis. Approximately 67% of Atos’ revenue is generated by multiyear contracts that contribute recurring revenue streams; 10% by big data and cybersecurity solutions, which are in demand due to COVID-19; and 23% by projects, which depend on discretionary spending and usually experience slowdowns during economic uncertainty.”

TBR also noted that “a balanced vertical mix with revenue contributions of between 12% and 20% across the six industry groups will allow Atos to use growth opportunities in sectors such as telecommunications, healthcare and public sector to compensate for growth challenges in industries highly impacted by COVID-19” such as automotive, retail, and travel and transportation.

Atos in a post-pandemic world: Atos is utilizing its industry-led approach and technology expertise in areas such as supercomputing and machine learning to address clients’ immediate needs driven by the global COVID-19 outbreak, help clients recover and adapt, and prepare their businesses for the future.

Accenture and CHROs connect people and work during COVID-19

In the early days of the nationwide shutdowns, members of the Accenture Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) Forum saw the storm brewing, compelling them to think creatively. With swift action and support from CEOs, HR leaders from Accenture, Lincoln Financial Group, ServiceNow and Verizon mobilized their efforts and capabilities and developed a solution that facilitates continued employment. Accenture stood up People + Work Connect, an analytics-enabled platform, with the goal of helping enterprises sustain business continuity by allowing human resources to move to meet demand.

What it is and what it is not

TBR had a chance to discuss the nuances of the People + Work Connect platform with two of the architects behind it, Accenture Talent & Organization/Human Potential Lead Eva Sage-Gavin and Work & Workforce Lead Nicholas Whittall, to understand their motivations for and expectations of the platform.

With Accenture acting as the technology provider, rather than the mediator between organizations’ supply and demand workforce needs, the company’s role is largely centered on assembling and managing the collation and design, and building and running the platform. A team from Accenture Liquid Studio built a business-to-business, fit-for-purpose platform to help companies match available workers to open jobs based on select criteria including location, experience and number of openings. The platform is currently available for free, and Accenture leaders have said the company “won’t ever charge.”

While TBR recognizes the noble approach Accenture and its partners have taken to develop, manage and offer the platform free of charge, in the long run we believe the company is gaining value from the effort (discussed below). With design principles including “progress over perfection,” Accenture developed the platform in 14 days from pilot to launch, reaching its goal of a “Minimally Loveable Product,” rather than an all-encompassing solution. TBR sees Accenture’s approach here as another example of COVID-19 accelerating change across IT environments and, more broadly, business policies and practices.

At the same time, both Sage-Gavin and Whittall reinforced that the platform’s simplicity and scale appealed to businesses looking for immediate solutions to massive problems. We see the simplicity of the data request — Accenture stayed away from using personally identifiable information when developing the platform — as critical to the platform’s uptake and success, such as when two call center companies — one laying off workers and one looking for experienced call center staff — can use the platform to ensure a minimal number of jobs are lost in particular locations. Additionally, features such as a depository for ideas, questions and advice, called a “Knowledge Exchange” on the platform, can provide insights into best practices on benefits and evolving HR practices.

We see such insights impacting not only the HR role but also the broader organization. As COVID-19 abates, revised HR policies and the lessons learned through using the platform to address challenges during the pandemic will likely influence future staffing and IT needs, thus affecting organizations’ planning and financial cycles. As Accenture maintains an arm’s length distance from how companies handle the recruiting and onboarding processes once the match is made, the company is able to provide data concierge services, identifying which data is most important to future refinements of existing ERP systems and HR platforms.

Zoom videoconferencing booms amid COVID-19, but Microsoft and Google will win with broader SaaS

Zoom’s rapid adoption highlights security concerns; Microsoft and Google are better positioned

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOGL) were relatively well prepared for the unexpected demand for videoconferencing, with global data centers and strong security measures in place, while Zoom’s security was not ready for the same scaling. There have been numerous reports of “Zoombombing,” which is when hackers join a Zoom meeting and disrupt the workflow, particularly in online classrooms. While some educators did not use password protection to make their online classrooms private, TBR believes this security lapse also occurred because Zoom lacks end-to-end encryption. Microsoft and Google Cloud have experienced difficulty with outages but have performed well in terms of security with end-to-end encryption in Teams and Meet. The regularity of these hacks has led to a recent investigation by the FBI and caused some government agencies, companies and educational institutions to ban the use of Zoom. In TBR’s special report Security measures taken to combat impacts of COVID-19 on businesses will have long-term implications, Senior Analyst Nicole Catchpole discusses the security concerns with Zoom and other cybersecurity threats that have risen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoom, Microsoft and Google remove pay barriers, increasing usage and setting the foundation for a much larger base of paying customers post-COVID-19

Use of videoconferencing solutions is skyrocketing, but modernization of these platforms will be a long-term strategy

Zoom, Microsoft and Google are offering their video-collaboration tools for free to support the unexpected global shift to remote work and learning environments. For six months, Microsoft is removing paywalls for Government Cloud and certain Office 365 subscriptions — including Office 365 E1 for businesses and Office 365 A1 for educational institutions, both of which include Microsoft Teams. Google Cloud is also offering Meet for free until Sept. 30, but only to existing customers, which makes it slightly more restrictive than Microsoft’s offer. Finally, Zoom has also removed the 40-minute time limit on its free basic subscription tier for K-12 schools in numerous countries, including the U.S., where the company boasts roughly 60,000 customers as of mid-March. Within the “freemium” tiers that are available, Zoom customers can have up to 100 participants in a virtual meeting, whereas Teams and Meet can support up to 250 people in a meeting. Given that each of these vendors has reduced cost-related barriers to adoption, customers can select the vendor that best fits their broader IT environment.

The global shift to a virtual work-from-home and learn-from-home environment has drastically increased demand for SaaS solutions that support collaboration and remote workflows, particularly videoconferencing as companies and educational institutions try to maintain as much face-to-face communication as possible. Among the numerous SaaS offerings available, some of the most popular are Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. Zoom quickly rose in popularity and became a household name, growing from 10 million users in December 2019 to 200 million users in March 2020. While Zoom’s (Nasdaq: ZM) number includes individual nonpaying consumers, the vendor has also signed paying business and organizational customers including IAC Group, Rubrik and Texas A&M. Microsoft Teams and Google Meet experienced growth spikes as well. The number of users on Teams more than doubled, from 20 million daily active users in November 2019 to 44 million in March 2020, including enterprises such as EY, SAP (NYSE: SAP), Continental AG and Accenture (NYSE: ACN). Google Meet grew by more than 25 times from January to the end of March and is adding 2 million new users per day, with customers such as Korean Air, Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) and TELUS (NYSE: TU). While Zoom’s total user growth is strong and its offerings are widely used, TBR expects Microsoft and Google Cloud will start to poach Zoom customers due to their value-add hardware and SaaS offerings Office 365 (200-plus million users) and G Suite (6-plus million users).