Digital Transformation and Technology Investment

The relationship between digital transformation and investment in technology is critical yet frequently misunderstood. On the episode, we speak with a world-leading expert on the subject.


Dec 02, 2016

The relationship between digital transformation and investment in technology is critical yet frequently misunderstood. On the episode, we speak with a world-leading expert on this subject.

Bill Briggs is the Chief Technology Officer for Deloitte Consulting, former global lead of Deloitte Digital, and a Director in the US technology practice. Bill is a strategist with deep implementation experience – helping clients anticipate the impact that new and emerging technologies may have on their business in the future, and getting there from the realities of today. As CTO, Bill is responsible for helping to define the vision for Deloitte Consulting LLP’s technology services, identifying and communicating technology trends affecting clients’ businesses, and shaping the strategy for Deloitte Consulting LLP’s emerging services and offerings.

As a Director in the US technology practice, Bill served as overall program lead, chief architect, or technology lead on dozens of critical transformation programs for global Fortune 100 organizations across industries, including financial services, health care, consumer business, telecommunications, energy, and public sector.


Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode #206 of CXOTalk. CXOTalk brings together the most innovative leaders in the world, talking about the impact of technology on organizations; and we're talking to day with Bill Briggs, who is the Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte Consulting. And of course, Deloitte Consulting is one of the largest consulting organizations in the world. I'm Michael Krigsman, your host. I'm an industry analyst and I'm thrilled to be here, and I hope that you are, too!

Bill Briggs: [Laughter] Wonderful, Michael! Two of us are, for sure!

Michael Krigsman: Bill, thanks so much for joining us today! You're coming to us from Kansas.

Bill Briggs: From Kansas City, which is always fine as the CTO and I was actually the global leader of Deloitte Digital, and we started our digital practice and [would] meet with executives around the world, and they'd say, "Well do you live in Mountain View or Cupertino?" And I say, "No, Leawood." "Is that somewhere near metro Palo Alto or Magnolia?", and I'd say, "No, it's in Kansas City." And then I'd say, "Silicon Prairie", and then that gives a chuckle, and then we have to move on. And if they push me, I can say, "the Paris of the Plains," which is nice, but my wife is where family is and I'm in a different city every day, so it's worked out phenomenal. We love it here.

Michael Krigsman: Well, tell us about Deloitte Consulting.

Bill Briggs: Yes, so you started us off on the right place. We're the biggest professional services firm in the world, and we pride ourselves in helping the biggest companies, the biggest government organizations, to transform themselves: full-stop business model reinvention, helping solve the biggest problems that they have with operations, changing the way that they engage with customers, you name it, across every industry with a global presence. And what's great is I joined the firm eighteen and a half years ago, computer engineer, along the way got an MBA, but engineering technology [is] in my DNA. And when I joined in technology, it was an interesting little side-experiment for a firm that was more often known for our tax and audit, which is still an important part of the broader Deloitte. But now, consulting is the biggest player in the world, and technology's the heart of what we're out there with clients, harness[ing] to do all of the things they need to do to drive innovation and growth, so it's been satisfying.

Michael Krigsman: How many employees do you have?

Bill Briggs: Well, globally it's over 230 thousand. That's through the broader Deloitte. I think for the US consulting, it's 80 thousand or so? We should fact-check that but it's close to it, so this is huge, which is phenomenal because I joined out of undergrad. It's really fun to see, as the next generations come up and push our thinking and help us evolve our services, and ... I still think that kid right out of college, when I'm down, especially on campus recruiting and helping our new staff through ... Then I look in the mirror and see the hairline and get reminded that maybe that might not quite be the case - in spirit, right? [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Well, it seems like you're having a good time there, but I think one question that immediately comes to mind is: So, you're a professional services organization, and yet, you have your ... you're the Chief Technology Officer. And so, why does Deloitte Consulting need a CTO?

Bill Briggs: Well I mean, it comes back to …If we believe that every company's a technology company, and technology is changing so quickly, and the only constant that we have anymore is the constant for change and the surety that tommorow's going to be more complicated than today. And those things come together. My role is about research, about innovation, you know, for our clients and also the investments we need to make within the consulting practice and how we evolve our services, and stay ahead of the issues our clients care most about, and invest the right way in the traditional sense with our people, with the right skills and capabilities, partnering with the right alliance vendors so we can go and make a difference; and in recent years, just as importantly investing in products and hybrid offerings, so we have a way to bring IP to the table that's not just our people and the ability to get really hard things done, but to actually come in with part of the answers pre-baked in products and offerings. And so, it's a mix between those worlds: there's research, innovation; but it's external-facing, most of the time with clients, and then, a nice feedback loop into the things that we need to be doing to go and up our game, and evolve with the same factors that are driving our clients to invest and transform.

Michael Krigsman: So a big part of your time, then, is spent helping advise your clients on their technology, investment, and their innovation strategy with respect to tech.

Bill Briggs: Yeah. And it's been fun to see that conversation, even 8-10 years ago, that was still the CIO or CTO-focused conversation within a big Fortune 50 company. What we're seeing is it's increasingly a CEO-level conversation, or even a board-level conversation, right? What are the things that we need? It's a continuum, and on one side is the hero's journey, this unprecedented opportunity for innovation, growth, which is how do we evolve our services? How do we evolve our business model? How do we evolve how we compete? How do we evolve the values of our industry? The other end of the spectrum is the existential threat of disruption. That's over every one of our clients, in every industry, including even professional services .... So, how do we make sure that you're balancing between those two very real forces? And the challenge is there's so much happening, and sometimes I use shorthand to say, "Listen, macro forces, digital, everything is happening in digital." Everything is happening in analytics, data analytics, advanced analytics, I know you want to talk a little about AI and the like; everything that's happened with cloud, is happening with cloud. Everything that's happening with the core systems we've invested trillions of dollars over the years: our back-office, our mid-office, our front office, the heart of how the business runs, how do we rethink and modernize those core systems? And then, the business of IT: the actual role the CIO, the IT department, the skills they need to bring to the table, and how they need to deliver and operate differently.

So, those five buckets, you can pick any one. So, we could play Jeopardy and pick one. And we could spend this hour on the amazing advances that happened, just in digital or just in analytics; and then you take  a step back and say, "Actually, they're all important, and they're not independent, isolated things. There's so much collision between those topics." And so, you have to quickly get away from being overwhelmed by so much "What” in the world, right? All of these things that are happening, interesting advances, new technology players and platforms. The "what" you've got to understand, but only to get to the "so what?" What does it mean to my business? What does it mean to my customers? What does it mean to my market? And then, what I think we do better than anybody is to actually get to the "Now what?", right? So, harness the "So what?" to get to the "Now what?", and then have the confidence to start making investments, because it's very easy to have “analysis paralysis” with so much potential and so much change.

Michael Krigsman: So, basically then, the easy part is observing; tell me if I'm paraphrasing correctly; so the easy part is observing the state of the world. What's much harder is to figure out what are the investments that we make, that will be the proper, correct response to that?

Bill Briggs: Yeah, and it's not being dismissed. The great work that's happening can advance those individual technology domains. And, that's certainly a challenge, just to understand the actual "what"; and the difference between the promise and the vendors, and the startup community, and the academic community, and what's actually ready for enterprise adoption. But then, the actual two things that are hard: We sometimes say, "How do you imagine? How do you deliver? How do you run the future?" And the "imagine" piece can be hard, because our natural starting point is always going to be in today, or yesterday. So, we're anchored into how we've used technology. And if you think about the earliest days [with] mobile, you might have seen we recently had a great partnership announced with Apple to drive enterprise mobile, and basically free the enterprise. Why have we changed our personal lives so much, and then once you walk into the office, the way you do your job still looks pretty similar to the way it was 10-15 years ago?

And part of the problem is when we go in, and you look at a finance process, or supply chain process, or a sales process; it's very tempting to say, "Ok. How do we take the things that we used to do and just move them to a different form factor and a different technology? And you have to say, "No, no, no. Fundamentally, how could, and how should we do things differently because of all of these new opportunities, this new potential, all the collective 'what?"' And then, once you get that "imagine" piece, then you can actually typically get a very crunchy, very real business case, which solves for the "So what?" And then, take action with the idea that we're going to learn; we're going to have to expand our scope; we're going to have more ambitions over time, and we don't have to solve for all that before we get going and get tangible progress and momentum.

Michael Krigsman: How do you explain, so, I'm sure that many of your clients are going through various types of digital transformation projects. And, how do you explain the connection between the business aspect of digital transformation, and the technology components of digital transformation?

Bill Briggs: Yeah It's perfect in any ... can't even say between the business and the technology, or even the broader digital application versus just the customer, and the marketing, and the places that are easier to start with. And, digital ... When we launched Deloitte digital almost five years ago, we had some criticism at the time, as we acquired agencies and invested heavily in creative and design, and brought a lot of things that we already did, we brought them together to get it to scale. And, a lot of it at the earliest days, were commerce, and web, and mobile development, and content management; and things that had a heavy emphasis on the customer side. And so, at the time, people said, "Why would you limit this new offering that's going to compete directly with the agencies in a way that you haven't before? And Deloitte brand, isn't that an albatross kind of holding you back?", because it doesn't have the awareness with the CMO perhaps, and it doesn't have some of the witty, pithy agencies, like, sexy gleam around it.

And even at the earliest day, when we launched it, we said, "No, no, no," because digital - all of that stuff, for sure; but it's also, how do you reshape the enterprise? How do you reimagine the enterprise; how work gets done? And by the way, most importantly, it's about how do you think about your products and services and offerings, and how do you evolve it? You have either adjacent digital solutions and services, with a physical product? Or do you actually move and pivot more directly to digital being a primary market? So, from the earliest days, we said, "It has to be all of that," and it's been great to see our model of a digital consulting agency,  be the model everyone's trying to emulate now.

But, you hit on a great... Whenever I go in an actual workshop titled as "Digital Strategy" or "Digital Transformation," almost every one of those, the most time we spend is, "Let's just try to define what we think that means." And we have workshops, and a lot of tools that we created to kind of spark that discussion. So, the executive team at a client can say, "When we say 'digital,' it means these three things." And by the way, it's typically not those are the three and the denominator is three, the only things it will mean is an ambition statement that's broad, but then we're going to go after and try to make it real, make it actionable; and we're going to translate "digital" into these initiatives. And almost always, it has things that go well beyond just that customer engagement, and sales and marketing, and the like. So that's still an important part of it, for sure. It's just not the only part of it.

Michael Krigsman: So, I would imagine that there’s a challenge that many clients face, in terms of understanding the full scope of what this actually means, and then how do they get there, because when you talk about “reimagining the enterprise,” that’s a major statement.

Bill Briggs: [Laughter] I just said, I never had more fun because there’s so much opportunity in front of … You know, not actually as an opportunity for Deloitte to grow our business, which is going to happen; but the idea that we’re helping the biggest companies in the world truly, truly, truly transform themselves. And so, the scoping that is big and complex, and challenging…

The other piece to it, that’s a real constraint, is that we’re now almost in 2017, and most big organizations have started the digital journey already, because the opportunity was so clear, and so they launched initiatives to start trying to put predictive analytics into the supply chain, and to try to have omnichannel, context-driven, personalized customer engagement across all interaction patterns, [etc.].

And so, part of the issue becomes … because each one of those has been championed by a different function or a different executive team, maybe a different line of business; to do it at the scale that we like to say the full opportunity is at, you’ve got to bring those things together, which doesn’t mean shut everything down until you have this unified, holistic vision and everyone … because the reason everyone’s investing in making the point providers they’re making is because the opportunities are very real and immediate. But, you’ve got to take a step back and say, “How do we solve for data in a more deliberate way? How do we sift software content in a more deliberate way? How do we stall for integration and APIs in a more deliberate way? How do we actually elevate things to platforms instead of point solutions, and, and, and, and, and …”

And so, that’s a big part of what we do is try to help make sense of that, I won’t call it “noise,” because “noise” might have a negative connotation; it’s just a lot of feverish activities, right?

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter, and Wayne Anderson is wondering, “How does the Chief Technology Officer relate to security compliance, governance, and the Chief Information Security Officer?”

Bill Briggs: Yeah, it’s a great [question]... I rattle off my five big forces, and I typically say the punchline of risk in cyber as the sixth, which is embedded in each one of those. Security and privacy, regulatory and compliance… And by the way, we’ve started evolving that definition to say, “In ethics and morality, in market risk and financial risk;” so, a broad risk discussion instead of making it just about cyber.

But I work very closely with our CISO, I work very closely with our advisory group that actually owns enterprise risk and cyber. It’s one of the strengths that we have, again, that fifteen years ago, when the prevailing wisdom was you have to split your consulting arm from the rest of your traditional advisory tax and audit businesses, you know, we count them together; we’re the only one that can put them all together, and now we see having that cyber as a part of our technology, digital transformation offerings.

You know, so we can make cyber and the broader risk discussion a part of the outset. When we’re doing ideation, we’re actually having those considerations at the table in the discussion from the beginning, and we know what it’s going to take, and how far we can push boundary-wise, and how aggressive we should be with any given industry and country to make sure that something that’s a discipline throughout the whole life cycle of investment and transformation. If it’s just a compliance activity at the end, to say, “Hopefully, we don’t go to jail or hopefully we don’t do something to get sued, or hopefully we don’t do something that will put us on the front page of the paper and cause a lot of brand damage,” you’ve already lost if that’s all that you’re doing.

And mostly, and a lot of my friends are CISOs, they like to kid that the worst thing that can happen is they become the Chief “No” Officer. [Laughter] Or the one putting the “no” in innovation. You spell out “innovation,” and it’s got “no” in the middle, and if you make them be the people that are always slowing you down, you’ll never get past imaginable risk, right? And we’ve got to get to acceptable risk, and recognizing that risk is real, and it’s something we have to consider, but we have to decide what’s the appropriate response how to mitigate the best. So, I love the question.

Michael Krigsman: What does all of this mean for the CIOs? Because when you say the CISO doesn’t want to become the “Chief ‘No’ Officer,” historically, for many people working in large companies view the CIO as the person who’s the king or queen of “no.”

Bill Briggs: Yeah, I mean it’s funny how if you would have asked me fifteen years ago, I would have said that CIO is one of the worst jobs, because it’s almost a no-win. The best cases that you hear their name your technology brought up in the boardroom or in the C-suite, and it’s such a completely … We actually just did, and we can clean out a link to the study… We just published a global CIO survey, and we basically found last year that there’s three big archetypes of CIOs. And one is a nicely, to say, there’s an operator which is focused on efficiency and driving the traditional things I think IT departments were asked to do: how do we get more reliable, predictable; how do we have better accuracy, to spend, cost containment; so there’s an operator archetype. There’s a business co-creator archetype, which is more of, “How do we align with strategic initiatives, and drive real change?” And then there’s the change instigator which is the one that’s the catalyst for understanding what translating to the “So what” and driving the imaginative, deliberative piece of it.

And interestingly, it’s a pretty equal mix. So we interviewed 1,200 CIOs, we find it’s a pretty even mix between them all. When you ask them [about] aspiration, it over-indexes for the business co-creator and change instigator side. But the point of it is none of them are right or wrong, you’ve got to be the right CIO for your time and for your place. And, we’ve seen over and over again, organizations that don’t have that core operational discipline in place. It’s really hard to elevate IT to anything other than the “no”. [Laughter] … The list of grievances of how things take so long and aren’t dependable and cost too much.

But in that, I think there’s this great realization that the CIO can evolve to these higher levels. It’s not a seat at the table that can be the one actually helping inform about the potential of helping spark the real investment. We shifted from fifteen years ago when I said it’s a really hard job and I wouldn’t recommend my kids getting into it. I think in 2016, it’s actually one of the most exciting jobs that you can have, if this confluence of opportunities is realized the right way.

Michael Krigsman: So, how can CIOs as well as organizations take advantage of this opportunity? And can you elaborate a little bit more on why this CIO opportunity is so great now, during this period of time of digital transformation?

Bill Briggs: Yeah, I mean, we hit on if technology’s the heart of all the change you see in front of us, and not only the full potential, but then … As we dream about tomorrow, we have to get there from today. And so, as we talk about advanced technology adoption and transformation, the thing [...] that’s still going to go through; data and systems, like people, I’ve got to find a way to unlock the foundation I have to make it more agile and let it be a contributing part, if not a really critical part of this journey of digital transformation. And so, that requires me to get there from today, I need the mooring line; as I look to the stars and the moon, I have to have a mooring line that says, “How do I understand the path there to port and how do I get back down again?” And with that, enterprise class, when we say “digital”, it’s truly easy to say, “Let’s do a lot off IoT prototypes, on an Arduino board, and we’re going to play with some open source libraries, use something really interesting, in a plant and facility, a customer site, or retail store.

We then say, “Ok, I’m going to actually sell that as a product, for I’m going to extend my core operations so that my supply chain and inventory management is dependent on that signal I’m getting from those solutions.” Doing it enterprise-class, with all -ilities; I don’t know if you ever heard of the “rattling of the -ilities before.” You get to the valid of the -ilities: [...] ability, and security, and maintainability, scalability, inflexibility, and operability, interoperability. These things have held true inside tech for so long.

We don’t get a pass because suddenly, in this digital realm, we have to think about those things. And so, for CIOs, first and foremost, technology is only more important than yesterday. It was vogue for a while for some of the analysts that the CIO role become the Chief Data Center Officer, or the Chief Electricity Officer, where the technology is a utility that we just happen to [use]. And that’s true if you only think about the world from the lowest end of the operating stack. I think the opposite. It’s the design is more important than ever. Integration, bringing all these parts together is more important than ever. Architecture, with an emphasis on “-ilities” is more important than ever. Understanding what’s coming next; the sensing, the scanning, the vetting, and bringing that to the business with an idea of what it means for your industry, for your company, for your business. You know, all of those things, I would say, are the most important things that any company could do, and do well, and who better to do it than the CIO, where she or he owns that agenda, and a lot of that knowledge today?

You know, but the flipside is what you’re doing today isn’t going to be enough. [Laughter] So, one of the things that we’re seeing is: Like what finance did 20 years ago, and like what the supply chain did 15 years ago, and like what sales did 10 years ago, the IT function itself is going through a transformation phase. And the irony that we didn’t apply technology to the technologist’s job to practice our own craft is being fixed; and so there’s this great confluence of autonomic platforms with virtualization, containerization, and cloud, and APIs, all this is coming together.

Okay, that was a long … Really struck a nerve, Michael. That was a dive-try, Michael!

Michael Krigsman: No! But this is an important issue for may CIOs, and before we leave the CIO topic, can you compare or contrast this future CIO role, say, present or future CIO role, versus what the role was historically? The reason being I think that that comparison will help people understand, help CIOs and organizations understand, where the role - the opportunity in the role, let’s put it that way…

Bill Briggs: Yeah, and I see historically a lot of CIOs kind of grew up through the infrastructure, through the application space. And so, a lot of them had deep technology jobs. And, that’s important; so the tech fluency and the tech IQ is not just important to the CIO and the IT department, it’s increasingly important to the broader business, and we’re seeing companies increasingly invest the tech fluency or the tech savviness or the tech IQ of their organization at large. For the technology-minded CIO, part of the challenge is … We have to understand how we can do things differently than how we’ve grown up, and probably earned our title, earned the role, because of this combination of new technologies and new ways to deliver the new technologies. And so, we use a construct called “Right Speed IT.” Others have used bimodal, or two-speed IT. But part of that is to say, Agile is becoming the new norm, and it’s probably a hybrid Agile, because a lot of what you have to do in those legacy systems don’t lend themselves to the same speed as the pure digital cloud development. So, how do I balance, and truly adopt Agile? - Which means a pretty significant change in my IT shop and how the business interacts with IT to deliver a project and program.

It means I have to instill a culture of curiosity, and a culture of learning in my shop, and personally in myself to stay relevant and credible. It means I have to invest in these tools, and I use dev-ops as just a number I love for a lot of things, but I need to be able to automate testing in a way that I probably can’t do at scale today, I need to automate, release management; and so it’s less hands-on, manual labor on keyboards. I need to invest in autonomic processes that help IT run, and help me free up my people to do more important things. And so, this mix, you know, and not just being the order-taker, when the business has decided to invest in a space, or even worse, the business decided to invest in a space and already contracted the vendor to do it. The CIO, the IT department, should be the spark for the imagination, and certainly should help drive the solution-shaping of what the right collection of technology should be in play. And then, owning that whole deliver and run cycle, but doing it faster. And I always say - Right Speed IT - sometimes my tagline or kicker is, “The only right speed is faster.” [Laughter] But, the idea that there are two extremes and never the twain shall meet is fantasy that I’ve never found in the world, right? This hybrid model has to be able to win.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter, from Arsalan Khan, and I want to get through this one relatively quickly, because I want to talk about technology as well. So, Arsalan Khan is asking, “How do you think about innovation and the different types of innovation?”

Bill Briggs: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Can you even give an answer to that? [Laughter]

Bill Briggs: It’s a great question! We actually have a very robust framework of ten different types of innovation, which goes from business model, and the traditional product that’s an experience, and so it’s a really great backdrop to say innovation can be a discipline, should be a disciplined process. There’s many different types that we have to think about, and not just focus on product or feature innovation, which is a bias we typically have. And then, how do we institutionalize an approach for sensing and scanning, for experimentation, for vetting, for scaling, and for potentially divesting … and there’s a way to actually… to treat an innovation response to all these disruptive forces. And, what we’re seeing is organizations actually investing in a foundry-like model that as a bit of a lab, a bit of a partnership, where they’re reaching out to the ecosystem and saying, “Our traditional vendors and new startups, and, and, and: How do you all help me and take a piece in investing with me? Because, I’m not ready, maybe, to go as full-in as I need to on any one of these topics. But I also shouldn’t have to shoulder all that responsibility.”

And so, when I mentioned up front our products, our solutions, our hybrid offerings, a lot of that is geared toward those spaces, and a lot of times with specific clients who were co-investing on something that’s extremely important in the future of their business, but they’re not ready or able to take on all the challenges themselves. And typically, it has cognitive analytics, and machine learning, and AI, and digital and these things [...] So I love the question, and if you search the ten types of innovation, it’s a great bit of work that we have. There’s actually a book written about it, and we use it all the time.

Michael Krigsman: And it sounds like this is very consistent with the Agile and dev-ops approach that you were just describing, which is also designed to bring together people who traditionally were in different organizations, or different departments, which were silos.

Bill Briggs: Yeah. And, our Tech Trends for ‘17 is going to be published next month as unbounded IT, which is trying to remove those constraints of silos, of responsibility, how do you get the other … When we started the Deloitte digital round, not only did we hire creative designers and behavioral psychologists, cultural anthropologists, and the like; but when we acquired Monitor and Doblin, true design firm, true strategy firm - it takes bringing all those together; and we pride ourselves in deep industry expertise, which is really important.

What’s really been fascinating is we’re seeing a strong desire to bring cross-industry knowledge. It’s not just how do we understand what other retailers are doing, but can we learn from what oil and gas has done to use fiberoptics to understand the actual flow of oil and gas 25,000 feet down in the ground, that same technology might be able to be used in a retail store to understand customer flow. And so it’s bringing together…You know, innovation, people think a lot about lightbulbs and Eureka moments. Most of the time it’s the importing and exporting of ideas, and we’d love to be the broker of that.

Michael Krigsman: And we have another question from Twitter. Shelly Lucas is wondering, “How do you feel about the notion of data co-ops, which are an outgrowth of data management platforms?

Bill Briggs: So, it’s interesting that we see this explosion of data, and this need to take care of not just the traditional things that we didn’t do well before, but this broader, unstructured view, and one of the Tech Trends of ‘17 is “dark analytics,” which is video and audio and image, and other unstructured techs, and the deep web and, and, and… And so, there’s a platform element of how do we create solutions that can take on all types of data, but not make it so the chaos is unrecoverable? So, the structure backing in whatever we can find, and eventually we go and sift through it.

With this idea of co-ops and other data management, and managed service - can we create teams that are working together? And for a while it just seemed like if we just had data scientists, that would be enough. But [we] actually need probabilistic programmers, and we need folks that are great with visualization and presentation, so the graphic design and … How do we actually illustrate findings, and let people explore how confident we are with the rules and the algorithms, because the move from just insight to automation, to actuation, to allowing a response to be made because of the findings that we had. You need that level of buy-in that a black box model that a machine learning algorithm isn’t ever going to show you, kind of why it came up with the conclusion it came up with, so you have to find other ways to bring that to life.

So, it’s important that two of our biggest priorities right now are data management and managed services, and they go nicely together. Very insightful question.

Michael Krigsman: One of the things that is very important to you as well, I know, are the technologies that are going to be important to us. And so, would you share with us the tech trends that you’re publishing, and how do you choose them? Why did you settle on these?

Bill Briggs: You know, every year. It’s the eighth year we’ve published tech trends, and what we try to do is say it’s the Horizon 1.5, which is the 18-24 month type of lens. And that makes it so they are pragmatic, but prognosticating. It’s the pragmatic side of prognostication, is what I’d say. So, they’re within the realm of, we think in the next year or two, we’ll see mass adoption impact. And so, it’s a yearlong process. We have automated scanning, we would meet clients, vendors, academics, startups, VC’s tap our people for their ideas, and things they think are important and coming. And so, every year, it’s the vetting, and the thing that makes it, when we winnow it down, it’s the one we want a good representation across the full breadth of domains. So, we don’t want to over-index in just digital, or over-index in just analytics, so we want to make sure we’re shining a light on the full spectrum.

And then the second is, because it’s the Horizon 1.5, we have to have real examples of real companies, or real government agencies getting some value out of these things today. It doesn’t mean they’re fully realized, it doesn’t mean they’re at the end of the journey, they could be breadcrumbs and directionally just proving out why it matters. And so, really great ideas that get scuttled the last minute is because we can’t find enough interesting client examples of who’s really doing it, and not just a one-off prototype.

Michael Krigsman: So you care about what’s actually practical. And so, what are some of those things?

Bill Briggs: So I mentioned dark analytics, which I love. That’s the unstructured traditional sources, audio, video analytics, advanced computer vision, advanced pattern recognition. It’s gonna dot, dot, dot into the deep web, which is lurking as a really fascinating potential source of complementary data. So that’s one. It goes hand in hand with another trend on machine intelligence, which is the one trying to make a point of too many people use terms interchangeably that are different, but related. So, a bit of it’s to say, “This is machine learning, versus deep learning, versus NLP, versus NLG, versus cognitive analytics, versus, versus…” But the point of all of it is there’s really great new techniques available, that we can apply, and one: Don’t get wrapped up around the technique of the algorithm or the technology. Again, understand the possibilities you can bring it back to real questions that matter, and if you have any answer to the real questions, you could do something differently in the business or in the market. And so, that’s a nice … It’s trying to bring the broader AI discussion, and make it a bit more grounded and actionable.  

Another one I love, and you might see around me some VR headsets and things in the background, but mixed reality, which is the combination of AR, VR, and IoT, and some others. But, the point not being on the individual headsets, or technologies, or sensors, or connected devices, but how we need this rich context to come together with the new engagement pattern; a new way to experience the world around us, or the world as being simulated for us, with the hooks between the physical and the digital … And, we declare success because we moved from point, click and type; to touch and swipe, and now talk. We hope we get to a new world of being beyond the glass sometime soon.

Michael Krigsman: Can you give us some examples for how mixed reality will be used?

Bill Briggs: Yeah. So, take a field service technician for an oil and gas company: when they’re on site, having the pumps with sensors that can report out its health, and help them quickly get to the place that needs repair, or maybe they’re out making a repair before it actually breaks down because they’ve got advanced analytics and data that knows that a failure is imminent, and we’re going out to prevent the downtime. But if they’re wearing some kind of a smart glass that can actually be guided to that space, so think of a GPS beaconing that’s bringing you right to whatever the piece of equipment is, and scanning to show you exactly what needs response, having [a] work aid in your line of sight, kind of stops for the repair based on all the best-knowing of every other pump like that that’s scaled in the past, potentially have you able to initiate what the second or third level support person that’s back in the home office in Texas, that can see what you’re seeing, and actually tell us straight in your line of sight to give you visual clues, while they’re giving you directions auditorily; and actually help you resolve the issue completely heads-up and hands-free. So, and then by the way, as the repair’s finished, there’s  a video and an image that gets associated with the work order, all the paperwork is automatically done because the machine is reporting out that it’s repaired, there’s proof of your geopositional where you work, video of the repair that was done - so instead of Friday being back and filling out all the paperwork and completing all the system tasks and the workflow, it’s being done for you.

That, a few years ago, would have felt like something out of - I love the TV show Black Mirror - that would have felt like something out of Black Mirror. And it’s real today! And so, our point for all of it is, even while AR and VR get a lot of attention, and even IoT gets a lot of attention with the consumer realm, and you probably guess, Michael, I’m a purveyor of gadgets so I’ve got all kinds of things around the house, it’s the enterprise: what it means to the business, what it means to the government agency, that’s where we think the biggest adoption’s going to come. And the rest will follow. It just you how far we’ve come that some of the press thought it was particularly pithy when I said, “It’s the enterprise a vacation of technology? Is the opposite of consumerization?” And we’ve swung so far over in the last few years, that we’ve forgotten technology adoption, from its inception until 6-7 years ago, it always was the workplace in the enterprise that kind of drove [it], and somehow that’s clever to say again, which I’ll take credit for it.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] Well, we have just about five minutes left, and we haven’t spoken too much… You’ve mentioned AI and machine learning, and so maybe, please share your thoughts on that, and also, why are the ethical implications, and ethical issues around AI, becoming so important?

Bill Briggs: Yeah, so the first part of machine learning, algorithms without us are scripting ahead of time what we want the conclusions to make. It’s finding its way to understand relationships between mass datasets, and coming up with correlations, and causation potentially that wouldn’t have been easily discovered otherwise. So, historically, reporting was just get a bunch of data, we’ll look at it, and from that, we’ll be able to intuit what it means. Machine learning is saying, “Listen, tell me a bit of what the question you’re asking is, and I’m going to go look at all the data, and the things you tell me might be important, and the things that you don’t think are important, I don’t care, I’m going to lay out everything, I’m going to trial the combinations, run a bunch of simulations; I’m going to see what actually matters and come up with some conclusions for you.”

What’s really interesting is the first round of adoption’s going to be in these sites. So, it will be an extension of traditional analytics and business intelligence. And so, here’s a few of what’s happening right now, here’s a view of what happened, and some interpretation of it. There’s not a lot of ethical debate about that one. That’s just a better way to do things we’ve done before with data.

The second one, which we think is going to be majority of activity for a while is this augmentation, where it’s actually like the oil and gas example, machine learning could have been running through all the scenarios, given the feedback it was getting from the faulty pump, and all the service history and records, and performance history records it has from all the devices it’s ever seen, can come up with a very personalized approach for that incident, for that repair person, on their level of expertise, and what we can trust them to do with the piece of equipment in front of them. And so, there’s a lot of complicated analytics happening in the background, but it’s not launching a drone to automatically fix the pump, it’s giving it to the individual to help them do their job better. So that augmentation is really where the exciting - a lot of where this is going to go for the next five years.

The last one is where you actually have cognitive agents doing the actual workload itself, potentially. And it can be in a dumb sense, so bots and RPA are topics that have a lot of potential - robotic process automation. A lot of those are just glorified strips. They’re taking repeatable tasks, and doing them in an automated fashion, brute force, instead of having someone hit F5, it’s doing it on their behalf. The end of that spectrum becomes actually, with intelligence, with reasoning, a virtual worker, a virtual agent, doing what a system engineer would do, or doing what a loan officer would do; and we’re seeing the technology advance to make those more feasible, and actually it’s happening in pockets right now. And you can tell - see why that extreme, it really does start seeming like we’re shifting a big part of our workforce to things that we ask our workforce to do potentially could be done by an artificial intelligence.

And so, it’s a real issue. And I think we need to be up front about it, that’s why we put ethics and morality in the beginning of all these conversations with our clients. And it opens up dialogue of what is the social responsibility, not just to show off things, that we care about the environment and civic rights, and a life into the employability of our people, and the people in our communities and the like. And I think we’ll see an appropriate response. Every time that humanity has said technology will forever make us unemployed we found a way to evolve; and so, if you think of this as the second or third industrial revolution, I’m very bullish on we’re going to find a way through and be even better off than we were before.

Michael Krigsman: Wow. You know, we’re basically out of time, I wish we had another hour to go. But you’ll have to come back, and we’ll do it again. But, one very last comment from Twitter - a question from Twitter, which is from Sohail Sarwar, and I hope I pronounced your name correctly, and he’s asking, “Are there mainstream opportunities for small service providers to collaborate with large firms like Deloitte?” What advice do you have?

Bill Briggs: Yeah, there certainly are. I think the thing that I always tell smaller firms is it’s coming in with very pointed opinions of where your services line up with where our clients go, or if you focus in a given industry. And, making it not rather it fill… wouldn’t it be …  I’m a big Beach Boys fan, but it’s not “Wouldn’t it be nice?”, it’s the “Here are the places where we’ve invested, here are the places where we think there’s a market, and we really think there’s a great compliment here.” You know, a lot of what we do now is help matchmake between big companies, and small vendors doing interesting things. And so, it’s just a matter of making that pointed … make that so it doesn’t take a meeting to get something exciting on the table, what that particular potential combination could be. The beauty of the time we’re in right now is there’s no such thing as “too big to fail,” and there’s also no such thing as “too small to matter,” so …

Michael Krigsman: So be simple and clear and have a very specific understanding of what the needs of the target are.

Bill Briggs: Yeah. For sure.

Michael Krigsman: Well, we are out of time. We’ve been talking with Bill Briggs, who is the Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte Consulting. And I have to say before we go, you have a most interesting office.

Bill Briggs: [Laughter] Thanks! You know, it’s funny how for a long time, you had to kind of hold back your, let’s call it “geek sensibilities” and things, and as engineers and technologies inherited the Earth, it’s nice to be able to celebrate what a lego death star or a chess set …. There’s a Notre Dame helmet behind. I’m still a proud Irish alum, even if we’re on dire times right now, but thank you!

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] And you have a guitar.

Bill Briggs: Yeah, and there’s pinball machines right through there, but we’ll have to do the Cribs episode next time, Michael. Maybe we will. Secret doors, home theaters, pinball machines, Hefe cans, it’s a beautiful thing.

Michael Krigsman: Well, next time we’ll ask you to play for us.

Bill Briggs: Okay, sounds good!

Michael Krigsman: Alright. Well thank you so much, we have been talking with Bill Briggs, who is the Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte Consulting, and you’ve been watching Episode #206 of CXOTalk. Tune in again next week. Thanks a lot, bye-bye!

Published Date: Dec 02, 2016

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 397