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Deep Dive

Deloitte's global and local CMOs on agencies underestimating consultants, the future of offices and events and why buying martech will not solve your CX problems

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

18 August 2020 6min read

Deloitte Global CEO Matt McGrath: “I don't think the global business community is ever going back fully to the way that we worked before. I think that change has happened."

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

18 August 2020 6min read

Former WPP executive creative director and CEO and Network 10 exec, Matt McGrath, is now Deloitte's global CMO. He says a post-Covid world needs professional services more than ever, and warns ad agencies that may have underestimated its creative firepower to expect some surprises. Meanwhile, new Deloitte Australia CMO, Rochelle Tognetti, who's been teaching meditation classes at Deloitte through Covid, does not expect staff to return to the office any time soon - or ever, if that's not what they want. “I don't need ratios, I don't need to see the people. I just want them to be doing their best stuff, wherever that is.” She's also enlisted an AI chatbot called Brandy to help the Deloitte marketing team deal with the rest of the organisation's questions. Brandy is working. 

Check out this week's podcast below:

 

You need to know this:

  • Matt McGrath thinks business world will not automatically go back to offices
  • Flexible working is here to stay, a shift Rochelle Tognetti says is one of the biggest positives to come out of Covid
  • Digital transformation will therefore continue accelerating
  • McGrath claims Deloitte Digital is closer than ad agencies to Martin Sorrell’s vision of the new holding company model
  • Says ad agencies may be underestimating Deloitte's creative power 
  • Counters suggestions professional services firms are under pressure by claiming post-Covid world “needs consultants more than ever” to rebuild
  • Tognetti says Deloitte now walking the talk on its own martech stack, though some pipework plumbing still required

“I think people have this misconception about what happens inside a company like Deloitte. They don't really understand the gamut [of creative capability]. It's a very formidable and very innovative organisation. People are going to see more and more of what's possible from companies like Deloitte - and be very surprised.”

- Matt McGrath, Global CMO, Deloitte

Agent of change

Matt McGrath has just been appointed global CMO of Deloitte. For now he’ll be staying in Sydney, where he started out as a copywriter at what was George Pattison Y&R, climbing the ranks to become executive creative director and CEO. McGrath then took on media, becoming chief brand officer for Network Ten in 2013, helping to sow the seeds of its turnaround before heading into professional services and Deloitte Digital as Australia CMO in 2017 – where a team of 250 outweighs most Australian ad agencies.

Three years later, McGrath credits the creative and strategic thinking honed in advertising and media with helping him land the global gig, where he admits, “I’m lucky enough to have more things to worry about than ever before”.

Equally, post-Covid, McGrath thinks there is more opportunity for professional services than ever before – as all sectors digitise and all economies seek help to restructure, if not rebuild entirely.

 

Digital events, digital pitching: The new normal

McGrath’s remit is to find and codify the best of Deloitte’s global thinking and approaches. He thinks that the shift to remote working could make that role easier – as international teams and counterparts “are all in the same boat” and are “dragged closer together” as a result. On the flip side, he thinks that building new relationships, and the trust inherent to them, is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses post-Covid.

Given the death of physical events, at least for the foreseeable future, that’s where McGrath’s media experience may come to the fore.

“You really have to think differently about a virtual meeting versus a physical event. When we did the Australian Financial Review's Banking and Wealth Summit earlier in the year, I said to them, “This is like a TV program. We've got four to five hours. If we're going to maintain that attention, we've got to think about how do we keep people engaged and to keep it exciting and interesting.”

In an increasingly cluttered digital events space, it’s about “cutting things right back, making sure people have very, very concise ideas about what they're trying to present and what you're trying to get out of it, and then just understanding that human instincts to that people are going to need time out”, says McGrath.

“I was reading recently that a Zoom meeting is four times more taxing on you mentally than a physical meeting, because it's quite intense having to sit there in a small group and actually be focused on the screen and to be present the whole time,” he adds.

“But this is the new world that we've entered, and it doesn't look like changing soon. So we have to get used to it and make the most of it.”

As such, for its own business, and probably the rest of the economy, digital pitching “will become a part of the norm”, says McGrath. “This will become part of our skill set, part of how we operate. And that's really positive, it will be a great thing for everybody because it's going to allow more flexibility.”

“I don't think the global business community is ever going back fully to the way that we worked before. I think that change has happened.”

- Matt McGrath, Global CMO, Deloitte

Work from home: Here to stay

McGrath thinks work from home is here to stay.

“I don't think we're ever going to go back completely. There was a huge amount of scepticism about how effective we could operate as a firm globally. Not just our firm, but pretty much every other major, large multinational firm didn't think that what we have achieved could have been achieved. We could be just as productive, work just as closely and still have people working virtually. So I don't think the global business community is ever going back fully to the way that we worked before. I think that change has happened.”

Offices, though, are not going to disappear.

“Of course, people are going to want to work together and to connect together, particularly those younger members of staff and people that join the organisation. They need to feel part of something and physically meeting does have its advantages.

“But I just think going forward, we are going to have this mix of virtual and physical worlds. That is one of the great silver linings of the Covid experience.”

 

Professional services: Under pressure or set to gain?

Given all that, there’s a certain irony that Deloitte used a virtual meeting to inform 700 local staff they were losing their jobs as the Covid crisis deepened, part of 6,000 job cuts globally at the firm, with thousands more across the sector. Locally PwC has also slashed 400 from its headcount, while last year Accenture axed 70 roles.

It’s a sign that professional services, for years posting bumper returns, is far from immune to the economic environment.

But McGrath is confident that the world needs consultants more than ever before.  Does that make his role – as chief architect of Deloitte’s brand and growth strategy - also more important than ever?

“I think marketing's not more important than it ever was before; marketing has always been extremely important for the brand,” says McGrath.

“If you look at what's happening within economies around the globe, consulting is going to become more and more important, because we have to remake and rebuild our economies. The skills of consulting businesses will be fundamentally required to transform ... rebuild and to revitalise economies.”

As such, professional services are still "hugely in demand", he suggests.

“Consulting is going to be more and more critical. Those changes in digitisation, whether it's a consumer business or retail business or a mining business, those needs have accelerated. So I think there's a bright future for those parts of professional services.”

“Consulting is going to be more and more critical. Those changes in digitisation, whether it's a consumer business or retail business or a mining business, those needs have accelerated. So I think there's a bright future for those parts of professional services.”

- Matt McGrath, Global CMO, Deloitte

Agencies versus consultancies: Full circle?

Ad agencies have spent the last few years telling anyone who will listen that consultants, the suits, will never match their creative culture and executional firepower. Locally, meanwhile, a raft of senior ad agency execs wooed by professional services firms recently exited, many returning to home turf citing cultural differences.

So it’s an interesting twist that WPP’s Ogilvy has just hired Andy Mane, Deloitte’s former global head of digital, to knock it into shape. A signal perhaps that the sector, having gone full circle, is finally converging; and what does McGrath, a former WPP exec, make of Sir Martin Sorrell’s bid to tilt the holding company model towards a hybrid between the two?

“Martin Sorrell is an absolutely brilliant man. What he's done in remaking S4 Capital as a reimagining of what advertising should be, I think is an absolutely brilliant model,” he suggests.

McGrath claims Deloitte Digital’s own business is “certainly much closer to the vision of the future that I think Sir Martin Sorrell has got than perhaps a lot of advertising agency networks have been. So I think we're in a very good space.

“People are very interested in what's happening in professional services. [Ogilvy poaching its global digital lead] can only demonstrate that what we're doing with Deloitte Digital is so powerful that they want our talent,” he says. “Just as we used to recruit from the advertising agencies, now the agencies are recruiting from us. We can only take that as a great compliment.”

 

A formidable creative force? 

A former ECD, McGrath dismisses the cliché around consultancies lacking a fundamental grasp of creativity and creative culture as wishful thinking on the part of ad agencies.

“I think people have this misconception about what happens inside a company like Deloitte, because we have an incredibly creative bunch of people. They are creating literally robotics, creating these leaps in technology. There are people that are creating and designing a brilliant digital experiences; there's some fantastic traditional creative skills like writing and art direction,” says McGrath.

“So I think people don't really understand the gamut. What they see is some of our other services, which are really very important and tend to be done in the other hemisphere of the brain.

“But there's this incredible group of creative people within Deloitte, it's a very formidable and very innovative organisation. I think people are going to see more and more of what's possible from companies like Deloitte - and be very surprised going forward.”

“We have never been so collaborative. It's really blown my mind what we've been able to do across virtual mediums. It's really helped us break down barriers, whether it be at team level or a geography level.”

- Rochelle Tognetti, CMO, Deloitte Australia

Rochelle Tognetti: Local lead, now higher speed

Rochelle Tognetti, one of Australia’s early digital marketers during the dotcom boom and a senior marketer at Deloitte for more than a decade, takes the reins from McGrath as CMO.

She thinks the success of home-working and the shift to virtual meetings and events has been transformational, forcing the firm to innovate.

But, given the real and present danger of virtual event overload, Tognetti says Deloitte has “pulled back” from attempting to replace physical with digital like for like. Following an initial “explosion … we have got smarter and consolidated,” she says.

Where events have become digital, “we've been thinking long and hard about what is the right format to keep that level of engagement. And what we've seen is shorter, more punchy meetings with greater diversity of content are really starting to hit the mark”.

 

AI: Making consultants deal with Brandy the chatbot

Covid has accelerated about five years worth of digital transformation into five months. So it’s handy that Deloitte’s brand team can now call on an AI-driven chatbot to handle an increasing number of inquiries from consultants within the rest of Deloitte’s operations.

The bot, called Brandy, “has been well accepted by the team”, says Tognetti, and has relieved pressure, enabling the brand team “to focus their time on more meaningful brand work rather than just answering day-to-day questions”.

Once Brandy has been fully honed, the aim is to roll it out to clients.

“There’s nothing more disheartening than spending your day doing admin, trying to get information and data out of systems that aren't connected. So we're not quite there yet, but the investment in Salesforce was the last piece in the puzzle for us. We've got all the pipes and out focus now is on connecting them.”

- Rochelle Tognetti, CMO, Deloitte Australia

Digital transformation: walking the talk?

Deloitte is also now walking the talk in terms of its own digital transformation, though Tognetti admits that, for a company that makes a margin advising others on how best to connect customer experience pipework, further work is required.

“I wouldn't say all our pipes are yet connected, but it's certainly our focus; we are really serious about this. We rolled out Salesforce only two months ago. That was a big call in the middle of Covid for us to continue with that project, but we made that choice because we're really serious about our investment,” says Tognetti.

“So we've got all the right pipes, and our focus now is on connecting them. It’s just so important, for us and for clients, to really understand and ensure experiences across all of the digital channels - from web to email and events - are consistent and relevant,” she adds.

“There’s nothing more disheartening than spending your day doing admin, trying to get information and data out of systems that aren't connected. So we're not quite there yet, but the investment in Salesforce was the last piece in the puzzle for us - and now we're really focused.”

However, Tognetti underlines that investments in martech – even best of breed - do not equate to improved customer experience.

“Simply adopting the tools isn't enough. It's knowing how to use all the tools in a very human way with empathy; how to elevate experiences beyond the tools,” she says.

“Just because you invested [in technology] doesn't mean that you've solved the problem.”

“One of the great outcomes of this period is liberal thinking around people being encouraged to work where they perform and do their best work. If that's at home, if that's in the office, if that's a hybrid, I think that's where I want to see us go.”

- Rochelle Tognetti, CMO, Deloitte Australia

Work wherever you do best

Tognetti agrees with McGrath that people won’t automatically return to offices post-Covid.  She thinks the success of home working is perhaps the biggest positive to come out of the pandemic - for business, for staff and in some senses, for culture.

“We have never been so collaborative. It's really blown my mind what we've been able to do across virtual mediums. It's really helped us break down barriers, whether it be at team level or a geography level,” she says.

“Some of our team have never been so fit; I think a lot of us originally made the mistake of replacing the commute with working - and very quickly learnt that you're going to burn out if that continues. So, our team has been using their time wisely and using that commute time to actually get their exercise and wellbeing.”

While there is some tradeoff in terms of embedding corporate culture for new and younger staff, Tognetti says the future need not be binary.

“One of the great outcomes of this period is liberal thinking around people being encouraged to work where they perform and do their best work. If that's at home, if that's in the office, if that's a hybrid, I think that's where I want to see us go,” she says.

“I don't need ratios, I don't need to see the people. I just want them to be doing their best stuff, wherever that is.”

 

Check out this week's podcast below:

 

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