In the spotlight: High-Performing Organisations

PwC’s Experience Center


Digitisation is sweeping companies of all sizes in all industries and areas of value creation. That’s nothing new. What is new is the high-performing approach adopted by PwC’s Experience Center as it guides its clients through digital transformation. PwC’s 28 similar experience centres worldwide produce concrete results and provide first-hand experiences, from strategy to implementation – all in next to no time. In this interview, Holger Greif, Leader Digital Transformation, explains how it works and why PwC’s Experience Center in Zurich has its expert hands full.


Holger Greif

Holger Greif

Partner, Leader Digital Transformation, PwC Switzerland

Out of your comfort zone into the future

Why did PwC create the Experience Center?

Digitisation has been on the agenda of managers and decision-makers for years. At the Experience Center we make it into a tangible experience. We show what being customer-centred really means. And we guide companies through digital transformation, from strategy all the way to implementation. The emphasis is on translating ideas into concrete results. Our Experience Center has actually been around since the beginning of 2016. Now we’re moving, and in January 2018 we will be open for business on Rieterstrasse near Sihlcity in Zurich. There we’ll have enough room for our 50 digital specialists, 300 clients and countless ideas.

Digitisation is dismantling existing structures and business models. To what extent are you helping your clients make this happen?

It’s true that in most cases existing structures haven’t taken account of digital transformation. Digitisation affects every single discipline within an organisation and only works if everyone pulls together, from R&D and IT to marketing, sales and management. At the Experience Center we work with clients to find answers to four questions: Firstly, what opportunities and risks are emerging from disruption? Secondly, how can organisations put their customers and the customer experience back at the centre of what they do? Thirdly, what technologies are available, in other words digitisation and process automation? And fourthly, how and where can companies build trust, for example by means of cybersecurity, secure data use and protecting privacy? We go into all four areas in very concrete terms with our clients. We use usability labs and navigation analysis to show how customers behave and what triggers which emotions. We use concrete examples to demonstrate high-end technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, virtual reality environments and artificial intelligence in use. For example, we can enable clients to experience the impact of cyberattacks live.

Figure 1: Customers can find answers to their key questions in the Experience Center
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Disruption
Transforming business through innovative business & product models that don't exist in the market today.
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Operations
Digitising our clients' processes to improve employee productivity, supplier interaction, and customer satisfaction
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Engagement
Enabling digital interactions between clients and customers in a more engaging, seamless way
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Trust
Ensuring secure information in a digital age to insure trust in our clients by their customers
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Workforce
Empower employees and position your business for tomorrow by changing how the employees learn, think, interact and solve problems with the help of digitisation.

Your motto is “We don’t know the future, but together we’ll create it.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

We always approach things from the perspective of the market and the business, not of technology. So we don’t just show nice PowerPoint slides. We translate ideas into reality. This way we become part of the digital transformation. We build prototypes or create minimal viable products live. We also design complex websites and applications. In most cases our work begins with an immersion session.

What’s that?

The immersion session is one of our core services, and represents the way we approach innovation management. It’s a workshop where we and our client come up with exciting ideas for their digital business model. This allows us to achieve in two days what would normally take months to produce: concrete results. These results consist of a strategic approach with one or more prioritised ideas, concrete details such as functionalities, and a timeframe for implementation with all the relevant stakeholders.

Figure 2: Innovative within a few days; from inspiration to implementation
Develop a prototype Result Select ideas Focus Come up with ideas Creativity Provide stimuli Inspiration Check digital readiness Preparation
Preparation Result Inspiration Focus Creativity The first step is to assess your company’s digital readiness. Our questionnaire will help you. Preparation – Check digital readiness Our experts give short presentations to introduce you to trends and topics from the digital world. The main focus areas will depend on the results of your digital readiness profile. Inspiration – Provide stimuli Start collecting ideas to drive your project forward. In just a few hours, you can obtain and classify up to 100 ideas relating to your digital business model. Creativity – Come up with ideas Now the ideas need to be divided into appropriate groups and prioritised. The best idea will be put into more concrete terms in order to give it form and substance. Focus – Select ideas The Immersion Session concludes with a “paper prototype” or a possible “customer journey”. You can start implementation the very next day thanks to this tangible result. Result – Develop a prototype

  • Preparation – Check digital readiness

    The first step is to assess your company’s digital readiness. Our questionnaire will help you.
  • Inspiration – Provide stimuli

    Our experts give short presentations to introduce you to trends and topics from the digital world. The main focus areas will depend on the results of your digital readiness profile.
  • Creativity – Come up with ideas

    Start collecting ideas to drive your project forward. In just a few hours, you can obtain and classify up to 100 ideas relating to your digital business model.
  • Focus – Select ideas

    Now the ideas need to be divided into appropriate groups and prioritised. The best idea will be put into more concrete terms in order to give it form and substance.
  • Result – Develop a prototype

    The Immersion Session concludes with a “paper prototype” or a possible “customer journey”. You can start implementation the very next day thanks to this tangible result.

What’s special about an immersion session?

Immersion sessions are where we initiate dialogue, create a framework, reduce the complexity, firm up expectations, provide stimulus and help our clients tread the right path courageously. Our clients can implement the result of their immersion session step by step on their own, or with the help of our experienced experts. This way we ensure that digital initiatives don’t get holed up in silos or blocked by people who aren’t involved.

Which techniques and methodologies do you use?

We have a broad range to choose from depending on the situation and the team set-up. We use kick-off speeches, design thinking, lean start-up, co-creation or investor pitches where groups of participants have to convince the others of their ideas. Our methods are practical and have proven their worth with many different clients, from Swiss family companies to global corporations.

Sounds like hard work.

It is hard work. Immersion sessions produce outstanding performances. We function as high-performing teams. The groups taking part span different people with responsibility and stakeholders of the company. This includes decision-makers and representatives of disciplines such as the business, marketing, IT, product development, and so on. In our workshops, we take organisations out of their daily business and their comfort zone. For two days, they can devote themselves entirely to their digital transformation.

What do you understand by high-performing?

In digitisation, too, people often only look at things from one angle. In our immersion sessions, we bring all the different perspectives together: the business, the customer experience, and the technology. This way we can draw together different ideas and inspiration from different angles. We tend to talk in terms of the power of perspectives rather than “high-performing”. Approaching a digital project on a multidisciplinary basis enables you to draw a complete, rounded picture and quickly move on to implementation.

Figure 3: We contribute a threefold combination of core expertise, experience and technology
Our UX experts give you the means and guidance to put the customer at the centre of your multichannel offerings. Our technology experts endow you to evaluate the technology that is needed to modernise your products and services. Our industry, digital experts and strategies allow you to align your products towards a digital, client- centric approach for the industry. Business Technology Experience Power of Perspectives
Our UX experts give you the means and guidance to put the customer at the centre of your multichannel offerings. Experience Our technology experts endow you to evaluate the technology that is needed to modernise your products and services. Technology Our industry, digital experts and strategies allow you to align your products towards a digital, client-centric approach for the industry. Business Business Technology Experience Power of Perspectives

When do companies come to the Experience Center?

Our clients are at different stages of transformation. Some are right at the beginning of the journey and don’t know what digitisation means for them. They’ve read about it, gone to the odd presentation and had discussions about it. We help these clients be clear about what the concept means and come up with initial ideas and lighthouse projects that will illuminate their digital path and the potential pitfalls.

The second group consists of clients that are right in the midst of digital transformation, but haven’t yet coordinated efforts across the organisation. In many cases the first digital projects have been delivered by the IT, HR or marketing department. We give these companies a digital fitness test. We make sure they’re on the right track and are building on their strengths.

The third group consists of clients who have mastered the first wave of digitisation. We help these companies dive deeper into specific areas, for example artificial intelligence or blockchain. We help them demarcate customer segments for the desired areas of focus and develop new business models.

Which are the typical hurdles encountered by your clients in the process of digital transformation?

Digital transformation fails if it isn’t supported by top management or the boss. Another problem lies in a tendency to underestimate the complexity involved. Some clients aren’t able to work on strategy, data use, prototypes and market launch at the same time and respond flexibly to feedback from the marketplace. Digitisation isn’t a purely technological issue in any case. We talk of business-to-people. It’s about customers and staff, their desires and emotions.

And then there are customers who want too much at once. When it comes to digital transformation, you should start with small steps and trigger a snowball effect in terms of acceptance and funding. Digital projects grow exponentially. In the lower, flat part of the curve it’s important not to lose your nerve, because the usual key performance indicators usually don’t mean anything. If you want to digitise successfully you need a lot of staying power and the right measurement systems.

Which alternatives do clients have to digital transformation?

Honestly? None. Sooner or later digital transformation will hit every company in every industry. It might take a bit longer in areas such as healthcare where trust is heavily dependent on interpersonal factors. On the other hand, the same applies to the digital as to the analogue world: an idea has to come onto the market at the right time.

Which team and job descriptions are behind the Experience Center?

On the one hand, we have “young guns” working for us who are specialised in innovation, Lean1 , UX2 and Design Thinking, and clearly belong to our “creative block”. We also employ software developers, scrum masters3 and so-called product owners for the delivery of complex solutions. They’re supported by data analysts and seasoned cybersecurity experts from PwC Digital Services. Many of these people have an academic or scientific background or started out in software development and industry. Our core team is pretty young. Depending on the client and the task at hand, we also add experts from the various value creation disciplines and industries within PwC.

How does the Experience Center differ from other digital creativity labs?

As I’ve described, we take a holistic approach from strategy to implementation, and, if desired, can provide everything on a one-stop basis. This way we make sure we have the big picture and reduce coordination losses. Our services are delivered with the quality standards people expect from PwC. Many providers only cover a single step in the process, for example strategy, creation or development, and clients have to take care of the rest themselves. We offer concrete results that make us part of the implementation – and the client’s success.

PwC’s Experience Center: facts and figures

  • More than 28 Experience Centers worldwide

  • More than 3,000 consultants on digital transformation

  • 160 specialists in Switzerland, combined under PDS (PwC Digital Services)

  • >60 projects successfully delivered

We’re at your service!

Holger Greif

Holger Greif

Partner, Leader Digital Transformation, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 13 86

  1. Reducing waste, paring back the methodology and philosophy, and coming up with an iterative, step-by-step approach to develop products and services customers love.
  2. User experience: making sure that the user experience and the interaction between people and machines are intuitive and self-explanatory.
  3. The person who makes sure that people stick to the agile development process. The scrum master supports teams and takes care of any potential obstacles.