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Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte Consulting, conducts hundreds of Fortune 500 companies toward a flawless sound. See how this self-described engineering geek helps hundreds of companies solve problems and realize their ambitions.
Bill Briggs is very aware of what he must have looked like in college: with big glasses, ill-fitting T-shirts, and a social scene he describes as “too much time in a computer lab,” the aspiring engineer fit the description of a geek to a T.
Today his glasses are far more stylish and his social calendar is much improved, but he still enjoys geeking out.
Professionally, his interests lay in the Horizon 1.5 (the next 18 to 24 months of developmental tech), as well as exponential tech like robotics, AI, augmented reality, blockchain, and other leading innovations and trends that are transforming our marketplaces, governments, and the global economy.
At home, his interests manifest in similar ways: bringing STEM to life for his two young daughters, fixing and building pinball machines, and sometimes tormenting his wife with a never-ending parade of gadgets and gizmos.
But the passion he shows as the Chief Technology Officer for Deloitte Consulting comes from figuring out how to solve the biggest problems for the largest companies in the world. Needless to say, this geek has come a long way.
Most of you know Deloitte as an accounting and auditing firm, but its consulting branch has helped some of the biggest corporations and companies in the world embrace up-and-coming trends.
This includes pretty much anything from traditional large-scale, business-led, technology-enabled transformation programs to helping organizations understand and harness up-and-coming trends and technologies like digital, cloud, and analytics.
“Everything we do is fiercely focused on business value—helping companies take on big investments with confidence,” Briggs shared. “With technology, it can be easy to get wrapped around the ‘what’—the bells and whistles of ever-changing platforms, products, and domains. But we quickly move to the ‘so what’—translating what’s possible into what’s valuable and helping these companies shape and actively create their future.”
In the last few years, Deloitte Consulting has also added a different facet of its services. For this firm, it’s not just about problem-solving: Deloitte assists the world’s biggest organizations with reaching their ambition-based goals, analyzing global trends across industries and sectors and helping boardrooms make decisions on how to evolve their products, services, and even business models.
“Our clients love when we come with big ideas, and that we’re willing to invest and help realize the journey.
“For my world, it's particularly exciting because technology is the backbone for so many of those ambitions. Today, every company is a technology company at its core. But it's not enough to wax poetic about the potential: you need to be able to imagine tomorrow while knowing how to get there from all of the complexities of today— existing core technologies, organization and talent, regulatory and compliance implications broader ecosystems, and more. So our job became delivering and making these goals not just attainable, but sustainable.”
As you can imagine, Briggs and his team at Deloitte Consulting never experience a dull moment. The week I had the pleasure to speak with him, the company met with the CEO and leadership team of a top insurance company.
In this instance, his team’s goals were twofold: help the company define what digital means to the business and the insurance industry, and share how a company can digitize its processes and functions to drive a better return on equity.
Shifting to a digital way of thinking for this insurance firm had some lofty elements like embracing the Internet of Things and predictive analysis to create new products and services anchored around loss prevention, not claims processing and reimbursements. For example, developing concierge-like services to help avoid parking a car in a high-risk neighborhood. It involved challenging some hard realities, like what mobile and web self-service might mean to their network of insurance agents. It also needs to include things that too often get overlooked—what opportunities exist in the heart of the business. In this case, it meant considering what robotic process automation and cognitive bots might mean to their billing shared service office, or their customer service support teams.
"One-offs are easy to grasp, like incorporating digital payment platforms for the ease of its employees and customers. But how do those all add up to something really powerful?" Briggs asked. "We're at a time when we need to be bold in vision, rally behind the 'so what', and then get surgical in the 'now what'—breaking down the ambitions into digestible, achievable ways."
Conducting the Orchestra
Creative thinking, design talent, industry knowledge, and an unparalleled tech team make up the end-to-end service that Deloitte Consulting offers. From dream to design, design to build, and build to run, Bill Briggs is at the center of the orchestra, carefully conducting his team through the rises and falls of the music.
“The challenges are always different; the world is always changing. Instead of being stagnant and adverse to change, we ask how we can take advantage of the new developments in the business and market climate.”
Briggs joined Deloitte Consulting right out of his undergrad. Before this, his major in computer engineering had seemingly dictated a path towards Silicon Valley. The year was 1997, he had interviewed with the titans of industry, and had many job offers. But a friend who had taken a job at Deloitte the previous year pointed him in the direction of consulting.
“I never considered consulting before that point. I had just finished a software engineering internship at a big, high-tech company when I realized I didn’t want to be a part of the cube farm. Team leads who had worked on the same product for a decade didn’t exactly inspire. The symphony of PCs shutting down at 4:45 to slide down the dinosaur’s neck at 5 pm wasn’t for me.”
The timing was perfect: he had a spark of interest in the field and was able to come into the company when all businesses, no matter their fields, were transforming into tech companies. And he made a promise to himself: as soon as he stopped having fun at this position, he would try something else. It’s 18 years later and that still hasn’t been an issue.
Briggs cited three things that continue to attract him to the position: one, the problems he gets to work on and the impact he and other executives get to make together. As he said, “if that doesn’t excite you, you shouldn’t be in tech.”
Another of his favorite aspects of the position is the people: specifically, learning new ways to help them become the leaders of tomorrow.
“I own campus recruiting and have an active role in talent development—specifically how we build tech fluency within Deloitte. I’m only here because of the mentors and teammates that shared their passions and gave me a real sense of purpose. It’s phenomenal to be surrounded by experts in every imaginable field who I can count on to make me better. I love returning that favor whenever and however I can.”
Working up to the title of CTO has provided him his third favorite thing about the job: a unique position to see what’s coming next in technology and actively exercising his brain, especially with seeing how innovation and disruption manifest across industries.
Predicting the Future
Deloitte Consulting’s Tech Trends Report, now in its seventh year, depicts this point perfectly. Even for someone outside of the consulting environment, it’s fascinating to see how the biggest technological trends in business have evolved over the last decade. And there’s a lot that the Briggs is excited about.
“Cognitive analytics—the combination of machine learning and AI—is the next frontier. How do we analyze known and ‘dark’ data around us, and drive predictive insights and automated responses? How can we amplify the knowledge and the experiences of the individual through the information surrounding us?
“I’m also excited about the possibilities in natural language processing, mixed reality, and the Internet of Things. If we can control the collision of these three trends, the days of a two-dimensional piece of glass dominating our personal and work-lives will seem quaint.
“Voice controls, gestures, and intuitive reasoning based on who you are, what you’ve done before, and what you’re likely to do next are going to define U/I (user interfaces)—allowing us to interact with other people, places, and assets like something out of science fiction.”
Deloitte Consulting’s Fortune 500 clients have spent trillions on technology to date. With these upcoming changes to tech, Brigg’s job becomes more focused on modernizing and revitalizing the current technology in many of these companies.
“‘Legacy’ is often looked at as a 4-letter word. Core infrastructure, data, and applications need to be ready, but they weren’t designed to support this brave new world,” he said. “The trick becomes taking emotion and perception out of the equation, getting precise about how existing IT is holding back the business, and getting surgical in investing to improve the foundation.
“It also means fundamentally challenging the operating, delivery, and organizational model of most IT departments, modernizing the mission and mode of IT while the underlying stack is being upgraded.”
Briggs and his team at Deloitte Consulting will help these companies remain confident and avoid being overwhelmed by what he defined as the “new, shiny objects” in tech. With so much opportunity for growth, both for its clients and inside Deloitte itself, there’s a ton of upside amidst the change.
As is typical with change, however, companies will need to avoid seeing it as a threat to how they’ve always done things.
“In nearly every industry and geography, there’s an existential threat levied every time there’s disruption. Deloitte Consulting defines the hero’s journey for these companies: there are also unprecedented opportunities for innovation and growth. Turn the abstract potential into digestible parts and take action. If companies continue to get distracted by ‘shiny object syndrome’, it’s going to be really hard to get past ‘go’.”
If your symphony at work is a little out of tune, has a few too many old instruments, and is interested in new sheet music, Bill Briggs the conductor has you covered.
In short, this geek rules.