Skip to content Skip to footer

Loading Results

Quicker routes to delivering change

In the face of a rapid shift toward cloud and digital technology, how can businesses overcome the project delivery lag before seeing results? Amid a workforce crunch, the answer could be to look to new partnering arrangements. Joining host Rowena Morris are Darren Hardman, VP and General Manager at Amazon Web Services and David Allen, PwC Market Activation Lead for Execution Managed Services. Together they discuss how keeping pace with transformation should start with looking at the delivery as well as the solution.

Listen on: iTunes  Spotify

Rowena Morris, Darren Hardman, David Allen

Rowena Morris:

Welcome to the latest episode of our Business in Focus Podcast. I'm Rowena Morris and I'm your host for this episode. Transformation and agility have been watchwords for these past two years. We've seen and heard impressive stories during the pandemic as businesses rapidly adapted to stay ahead of change from new business models to services. That pace seems set to stay, but it will need both technology and people to deliver. Our CEO survey finds that 75% of CEOs plan to grow their workforce this year, 29% are aiming to grow by at least 10%. Having the right skills, tools and understanding within a business, it’s vital to stay ahead of continuing concerns about cyber, continued volatility, and the pace of cloud innovation. With the need to grow the workforce and bring in the tech and digital skills to keep pace with cloud innovation and other advancements, how can businesses avoid their digital transformation being held back to the speed of their recruitment and onboarding? Today, we're going to be taking a closer look at how a different approach to delivery can create a step change in your organisation's ability to keep pace with change as we look ahead. I'm delighted to be joined in the virtual studio today by Darren Hardman, VP and General Manager at Amazon Web Services, who has seen first-hand increase in pace as businesses drive their journey to cloud. We're also joined by Dave (David) Allen, a PwC partner, who can provide us with the inside track on how professional services are supporting businesses to respond to these changes by a managed services delivery models for all sorts of services. Let's kick off with some intros and Darren, I'll come to you first.

Darren Hardman:

Hi Rowena, thanks for that. My name is Darren Hardman, I'm the VP and General Manager of AWS, and cover the UK and Ireland, and looking forward to sharing some perspectives from many customer interactions and conversations over the last couple of years.


Brilliant to have you here, Darren, thanks for joining, and Dave

David Allen:

Rowena, great to be here and to be part of this podcast. As you said, my name is David Allen, I’m leading our execution managed services business in PwC from a market perspective and have been working with a number of clients to think about how we can partner in very different ways to focus on delivering outcomes. It would be great to just talk through, some of the practical hints and tips, and insights, that we've seen from that work with listeners today.


Let's kick off and explore how our recent CEO survey findings compare to what you've both seen in the broader market context. As mentioned in my intro, 75% of CEOs plan to grow their workforce, which is up from our last CEO survey, where only 56% were anticipating an increase, because along with the need for talent comes some enduring challenges. While 45% of CEOs have automation and digitalisation as long term strategy goals, Cyber continues to be their highest ranked threat, and then there is, how they plan to grow and how ambition isn't always matched by agility. With 53% saying it takes more than three months to get a major project from proposal to approval, so it will be interesting to kick off with who's succeeding and why. Darren, if I come to you first, we know the pandemic has accelerated transformation, but how have you seen that increased pace of change come up and play in terms of delivery, not just ambition?


It's been interesting, hasn’t it, the last couple of years, depending on which industry you're referring to. It has either been a set of opportunities, tailwinds, or a set of challenges headwinds in historic business models. You just take travel and hospitality, where they've had to dramatically dial down their services or completely pivot overnight. Then you take other industries, retail supermarkets, who had to just double down over the last couple of years in the face of the pandemic to meet this huge surge in demand from their customers.

Even though it's been difficult for many businesses, it absolutely has acted as a catalyst for cloud adoption and digital transformation. We've seen that over the last 18 months to two years, more companies turning to the cloud, because of the agility it gives them to execute change. The organisations who have adapted quickly to meet the end customer changing needs, by using the cloud are those that have really accelerated and those that have done that, we've seen them come out the other side of this COVID challenge, what we've called this reinvention dividend, that where they've experimented, where they've really put the customer at the heart of what they want to deliver. They've learned a ton in this reactive mode during the COVID-19 crisis that they're applying to how they approach things for the future.

The cloud certainly has given them flexibility, and agility, and scalability, at a time when there's been a new surprise around every corner. You saw it in online food delivery, this massive growth and massive demand when the pandemic struck. You saw it in broadcasters who needed to stream higher volumes than ever. You saw it again in supermarkets with online shopping. All of these industries, and many of the players in these industries have turned to the AWS cloud to help them adapt, pivot, and transform. I definitely believe that we've seen this new, more agile, adaptable, confident, enterprise emerge from this pandemic that holds them in a great place for the future. As long as they can execute on that strategy, and they can overcome some of the acute challenges that you mentioned in your introduction, and skills absolutely is one of those. We just did a survey called the AWS global digital skills survey, and we found that only 45% of the organisations that we spoke to have trained or beginning to train their organisations in cloud. We know that we have a responsibility with our customers and with the government locally to ensure that we are building those skills for the future.


I really like Darren, the point you make there around the reinvention dividend. That really resonates with me and really resonates with some of the things that we're seeing from a PwC perspective. I've characterised three broad transformation areas that we're seeing. Number one is about workforce transformation, which really picks up on the themes actually Rowena you talked about at the top of this podcast. We are seeing a real search for new ways of working, often digitally enabled, speaking back to the point that Darren just made there, around 45% data point that he just referenced, along with a renewal of the employee value propositions as organisations really focus on that war on talent and the great resignation as it's been referred to. That's point number one, workforce transformation.

Second area of transformation for us is portfolio transformation. Given the funds that are available in the capital markets, we're seeing an increased appetite for deals and for all organisations to really explore what markets they want to be in, what customers they wish to serve, what products and services that they actually want to bring to market and support that customer base with, and at a macro level working with a number of companies. Actually, Shell and BP are really good examples of this, where we're seeing organisations really start to pivot their business model into totally new segments and the whole renewable energy push and drives, a really good example of organisations like Shell and BP transitioning their portfolio.

The third area is digital transformation, that really goes to the heart of what Darren and the AWS mission talks to, but fundamentally, clients are looking to accelerate their journey to cloud and to build more scalable organisations. This is driven by a maturity of several technologies that are coming together at once 5G, IoT, data, and cloud that allow and mean for organisations to bring those capabilities to bear in a very interconnected way. Thinking about the sorts of data that you're able to capture about your end customer and end consumers, if you're not able to serve that through a cloud environment and be able to analyse that, that's a missing opportunity. We're seeing this journey through cloud really accelerated. Three forms of transformation, workforce transformation, portfolio transformation, and digital transformation.


It's great that we're starting to look at how this trend is playing out across sectors, and how we are seeing some organisations are able to turn these trends and sense of velocity into actual results. I'm keen to make the most of having you both here to help pick some of the factors that’s helping these businesses succeed. Darren, are there any common themes or traits among the businesses that are doing this the best at pivoting quickly?


Dave talked about transformation and concluded on those three points around digital transformation. We think, completely aligned to this, is this concept of developing a culture of reinvention. If you just take cloud, cloud has become a business enabler, as companies of every size are now deploying new applications to the cloud by default and looking to migrate as many of the existing applications as quickly as possible, but one of the most misunderstood concepts is the move to the cloud, is not just a technology change, it's really a cultural change, it requires a new way of thinking. When technology is available on demand, the old-world innovation and procurement cycles just don't work. This is very much reflected in the research we do, but also in the customer conversations I have, day in and day out.

The enterprises who faced challenges over the last year were also the ones who struggled not just because of legacy infrastructure or legacy business models, it is because they just didn't have the right culture in place to pivot quickly and react. Just like some of the examples Dave gave to the challenges that were thrown at them through the pandemic. It can't be seen that transformation is just a one off project, or an absolute end state, it is actually a mindset. This concept of continuous reinvention, and the process has to start by really working backwards from what your customers want, taking them on a journey and working back from that, and saying, ‘how do we get there’ and helping anticipate all the challenges that they may have and looking around corners on their behalf, so that you can innovate and support them in their journey. We've seen real whole industries transformed by businesses doing this. AWS digitally native customers, such as our fintech customers have entered and transformed that traditional banking sector.

It's all been done based on customer demand for an enhanced digital experience, and enhanced functionality, being able to really react quickly to those demands and pushing that new service out to them. If you look at the fortune 500 from just 20 years ago, only half of them still on that list. If a company wants to be around for the long term, this culture of reinvention is critical, and these companies have just got to make it a priority to build that culture within their business.


I really agree with that Darren, and that whole cultural point really resonates, particularly from a workforce perspective. From a PwC perspective, what we're seeing is that, yes, clients want focus on the right technology, but they absolutely want to focus on using the right technology to deliver results. There is this real understanding that results only happen when technology gets adopted by people. For us, I'd pull out three observations, building on your points Darren. Number one, no person left behind. There's this real sense that I'm seeing, that technology will actually be an augmentation capability for the workforce. Really thinking about how does technology enable a new value proposition for employees, but how is also hiring organisations thinking about their upskilling programs to really take people on that journey from an internal perspective. It really also does come to the second point. Again, Darren, you touched on this, a continuous improvement mindset. Organisations that understand they need to build an organisational capability that is continued to grow and evolve, particularly in a cloud environment where your opportunity to deliver new products and services, and respond to challenges, like we've seen through the pandemic, those organisations that have the agility to be able to bring those new products and services to market have really benefited from that, and ability to respond to customer needs. Then the third area, the third capability set I would point to, would be an ability to think end to end. We've all through transformation programs had that concept of thinking end to end, but when pressure comes on, and when priorities are set in front of us, sometimes we can see a fracturing of an organisational muscle and regression and the ability of an organisation to think end to end, really continuing to push that from an organisation perspective is critical. For me, I'd identify three things, no person left behind, continuous improvement mindset, ability to think end to end.


Thinking about those three pillars is really helpful, I really like this idea that you're talking about around transformation, not just being an initiative, it's being around transformation as a mindset really resonates. Let's turn the spotlight towards what's happening behind the scenes. I am noticing that you both reflected this increase in velocity and agility in terms of the work that you've both done, which might feel a little out of pace with our audience's experience, potentially, of bringing in external support. How has this affected how businesses approached the external advisor part of these projects? Dave (David), I'll start with your perspective this time.


Yeah, it's a really good question Rowena. Like all businesses, the pandemic and the several tectonic plates that are moving in the market at the moment are causing us to reflect as a business how best we serve our clients and our customers. What we're seeing is, certainly from a professional services’ perspective, a move beyond just advice and strategy, we've got a really good brand and a really good reputation of working with clients from an advice and strategy, and implementation perspective, but we are seeing clients want to move beyond the need for just ideas, and thoughts, and challenge at times to outcomes. That's really about different services-based mindset, and it is really causing us to reinvent how we work with our clients. Often actually think about how we do that over perhaps a longer time period than we usually would, with a very different, perhaps commercial approach often in terms of really ensuring that we invested in delivering those outcomes and really bringing that partnership model to bear in concrete terms.

Just to sort of bring this to life for you, we've done a little bit of research, and one of the headline statistics that captured us, and again you can prove anything with statistics, can't you, but we identified that 53% of our clients were looking to move all of their advisory budgets into managed services models. Actually, 42% of clients said that they would consider moving some. We are seeing this real big push towards managed services as almost a proxy for clients wanting to think about moving beyond advice and strategy into more of a partnership model, based on delivering outcomes, which allows and gives the space for, that continuous improvement, evolving mindset about how we bring our capabilities to bear with clients.


From the AWS perspective, you refer to them as external advisors. For us, this is our partner network, and it's a critical component of how we scale and how we support our end customer base. We got in our global partner network over 100,000 companies, PwC being one of them. They are providing technical and consulting support. 90% of the Fortune 100 are actually using one of these AWS partner network organisations for the delivery of their cloud solutions. Covering a whole wide variety of companies that cover every feasible use case, you can imagine, across every single industry bringing that industry angle, that change angle and that execution angle. Just to the point that David said, many of these partners are actually certified in the AWS money service provider category, which means they can provide the end-to-end AWS solutions to customers at any stage of their cloud journey. Not just initial consultation on solution design, but also building and then optimisation ongoing support. That plays nicely to some of the statistics that you've just talked about Dave around customers really wanting to look for outcomes versus projects.


Absolutely, actually just playing back and thinking, Darren, as you were talking there, for me there is this focus on business outcomes, the integration of advice, build, run, and continuously improve is almost the new end-to-end, more integrated lifecycle. The prospect and I know, you in AWS have been thinking a lot about this, the prospect of new commercial partnership models to really underpin that drive.


That's a really helpful way of thinking about it. I suppose to end on as ever, we really like to provide our listeners with some practical next steps before we close. What would that be and Darren if I come to you first?


Yeah, an observation and a learning from me just over the last couple of years is that speed is the only sustainable advantage that a business can have, because anything you create can ultimately be replicated by your competition. It really is about moving quickly, staying ahead of the competitors, make sure you're the first to get that new experience or product in front of your customer or potential customer, and that's going to be rewarded. To invent, and to innovate quickly, you've really got to understand the flywheel of what your customer needs. You need to be able to identify not just what they need today, but you got to look around corners and identify what they need in the future. You can then use the cloud to quickly transform your business to get it to where it needs to be to deliver on your future customer needs. At Amazon, we do this as part of our working backwards process, where we will create what we call a PR-FAQ, which is basically a definition of what the future looks like. Then we'll take a step backward and we'll break it down in terms of, how we can ultimately deliver on that journey. That process is all about looking to the future, to provide your business with scalable rapid transformation path, that ultimately the cloud can enable. Take on that cultural change, be bold, experiment, that's what the cloud gives you, and always obsess about your customers.


Really love the PR-FAQ process Darren, I'm a huge fan of that. The opportunity that really provides, and I'm always amazed whenever I see it in action, it really gets people to think what a success looks like over the next three or four years, and then how do you work back from that, it's such a powerful process. The opportunity that working with Amazon to really bring that to life has been brilliant. I know rather practical, but it's one that I really like.

From a PwC perspective, actually just reflecting on this conversation, what it has brought to bear for me actually, is the interrelationship between workforce and how organisations are looking to take their workforce on a journey, digitally upskill, but also augment their capability with technology, but also their focus on their own core business model, and how the interrelationship between workforce, a new core business model, powered by technology, such as AWS is then developed actually, perhaps a longer time frame in terms of a partnership focused on outcomes. The interrelationship are those topics are really interesting for us to explore.

A couple of points from a PwC perspective, just rather practically, one, although there is an interrelationship between those things, having a real clarity and focus in terms of what your vision is, and ultimately, what your business case is. So, what's actually going to be valuable for you, your stakeholders, your customers, and a real clarity of thought around that is really important. That's actually why I really like the AWS PR-FAQ process, because it really does bring that out. The second thing is that will really allow you to then think through what your options are in terms of bringing that vision to life, both in internal capability sense, but also which technology alliances you want to take you on that journey, and which partnering options will best support you on your journeys through realizing that business case, that value, that ambition.


That's a great point to end things on. Thanks very much both for that really interesting conversation and helping us to join up the dots between big ideas and delivering results, some great areas of focus for our listeners there. You can find out more about execution managed services by visiting Please subscribe to keep up to date for all of our latest episodes and thanks everyone, see you next time.


  • Rowena Morris
  • Darren Hardman
  • David Allen
Follow us