Drawing expertise from sport to disrupt though digital

24 May 2016

by Ollie Phillips Director

It is almost a year since I walked through the doors of PwC, having previously enjoyed 12 years playing professional rugby. Although I now find myself on a totally different playing field, the power of technology and digital remains as the cornerstone of all innovation and disruption, with its unique ability to foster and cultivate change ever present.

Sport is a great example of an industry that has been transformed by technology. Gone are the days of reputation and perception being the only medium for measuring performance, now there is a new barometer for success. When I first began playing, VHS cassette was our ‘high tech’ and sophisticated way of assessing performance. Twenty three big, bulky rugby players all huddled around a television to review their efforts, trying to analyse where they could gain any improvements over their competition in the future. Now performance is analysed and presented in a very different manner. Every movement, pass, kick, tackle, scrum, and lineout is recorded; coded and then presented in whatever format you would like to see it in.

On top of this, players in today’s game have wearable technologies woven into their kit that provides a detailed insight into their performance and general well-being. Areas such as heart-rate, exertion levels, concussion protocol, illness, top speeds and fitness levels are now readily available for all to see. All of this data is delivered live, in real-time and can be scrutinised, analysed and criticised on a daily basis. Coaches now have a wealth of information at their disposal, from which they’re expected to make quick and smart decisions about their primary assets, in order to ensure that their team is firing on all cylinders and ultimately winning games. Players are now fully accountable and if they want to be competitive, then they need to make sure that they’re maintaining world-class levels of performance, both on and off the field. The provision of data, coded and presented in a format that is easy for them to digest and process is integral to them achieving that goal.

Technology has transformed sport. It’s made it more professional and has quantified what ‘world-class’ performance and preparation should look like. The result is bigger, faster and stronger athletes can deliver a level of quality on the field that has never been seen before. So what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with PwC and why did I ever walk through the door in the first place?!

Well the answer is simple, I think! PwC has enjoyed a position of power for a lot of years. It’s a professional services organisation with a long established history for providing some of the best advice in the world. Our people are our true value and the wealth of knowledge and experience tied up within those people, makes us an extremely valuable ally for any business. However, like in sport, technology is disrupting the landscape and enabling and forcing us to change.

We can no longer rely on our knowledge and experience alone. We live in a global society, that is interconnected and in constant dialogue and discussion with one another. Knowledge is now readily available and openly shared, making it very difficult to rely on that as a prized asset anymore. Technology is presenting us with a choice; do things differently, present business solutions differently and interact with our clients differently or else, get left behind.

My role within PwC is to make sure that doesn’t happen and that necessary changes happen. By approaching things from a different perspective I think I can help to enable change. Experience has taught me that embracing something new is not always plain sailing and often you have to focus on ‘selling the benefits’ in order to ensure that there is mass support for the movement. Having led a team before, both for my club and for my country, I feel that I’m well equipped to deliver on that challenge and ensure that people within the firm recognise the value and benefit that technology can bring to them.

Within PwC I now lead on several initiatives within Tax; MyTaxPartner and Flex to name a couple. Both are technology-driven projects for the firm and both have the ability to transform how we deliver tax services to our clients. They allow us to communicate and understand our client, their wants and needs, better than we’ve ever done before. It also allows us to gain phenomenal efficiencies in both process and time, so that we can focus more on the client, the relationship that we have with them, and the value that we deliver to them.

The parallels between sport and professional services are remarkably similar. Both are highly competitive environments and both are totally dependent on the performance of its people to deliver success. Technology has disrupted and changed both industries, but it’s essential that we recognise that it is the people that operate and deliver within the organisation that constantly dictate the success of such change. If the culture is right and the benefits of such transformation understood, then the organisation stands to reap the rewards from its investment. Your people are your champions and if technology can make their lives simpler and more efficient, then you’ve got an incredibly motivated and inspired team to manage.

It is a daunting challenge, but one that I think PwC is handling incredibly well. PwC is a juggernaut and perhaps not as mobile as some start-ups out on the market, but it is dynamic, innovative and always looking to embrace change…..how do you think I ended up walking through the door!

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

by Ollie Phillips Director