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Transforming the Organization for the Digital Age

November 26, 2013

It’s not easy for large, traditional organizations to change, so it was inspiring to read the FT’s story this weekend on PWC’s cyber-security division.

PWC is a company that’s had its fair share of issues over the years, most notably its involvement in the Enron scandal. In recently enhanced its consulting offering with the acquisition of Booz and Co.

However, despite these changes, PWC is still regarded as a serious provider of consulting services to corporations across the globe.  It’s archetypal employee would be an MBA with a number of years of consulting experience; super analytical, smart and with the ability to provide transformative business advice.

This is not the type of company that you would associate with college dropouts and hackers, but these are exactly the type of recruits PWC has now attracted to its cyber-security division, which is now one of the fastest growing units, in terms of revenue, within PWC.

For a company, with its finger on the pulse of global management and CEO’s, it wasn’t hard to uncover that cyber-security was a critical issue for the world’s companies, but doing something about it obviously wasn’t easy. It took a lot of effort from one persistent senior consultant in order to persuade PWC’s management to make the investment.

PWC ‘s effort has been very successful; the cross-border security unit now employs 80 people and was ranked number one globally by Gartner.

To succeed, the company has had to transform its traditional notion of a typical employee and find individuals with specific skills that could be of use to the team. It also had to forgo traditional recruitment strategies such as college visits and empower the team to find its own people allowing them to utilize their own methods; such as spamming potential recruits on Twitter.

It’s a great example of what business needs to do to evolve, if you are insightful enough to grasp opportunities for growth within the orbit of your company’s expertise, that’s a starting point. To act on that insight takes some courage and imagination, especially if that “new world” is radically different to yours. In the case of PWC, there was clearly an identified client need for this service and the potential financial impact of selling these services was very clear, however, adapting the culture to accept these realities must have been harder.

To operate in the digital landscape it’s very clear that companies are going to need to think, behave and act very differently. To capitalize on these opportunities, it’s critical for companies to stretch their cultures to be able to adapt to these changes. There has to be flexibility, but there also has to be an understanding of how highly skilled specialists can operate within, but also contribute to the system. There’s a considerable risk of silos that end up creating an “us and them” mentality, which could be a disaster. It takes some serious management skill to hone a culture where there’s mutual respect and partnership and where the sum of the parts, enhances the overall offering.

The survival of traditional institutions is going to dependent on their ability, to not only understand the opportunities that the new digital world brings them, but to embrace them and integrate these skills seamlessly inside their existing entities.

For these traditional incumbents, their very future depends on their ability to do this, failure is not an option.

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