One on One with KPMG's Steve Chase

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When disruption is the order of the day, how do large companies with long established ways of doing business get up to speed? Ideally, as quickly as possible. Whether it’s closely eyeing your service offerings for imminent obsolescence or moving towards a continuous delivery approach, standing still no longer is an option. A recent KPMG survey of more than 600 senior executives found that although 76 percent of those polled saw disruption as a constant and increasing force, only 17 percent said their companies were prepared for it. Consulting caught up with Steve Chase, U.S. Advisory Management Consulting lead, KPMG, to get a better look at this new reality and how companies of all sizes are adapting to not just survive, but to thrive in this volatile environment.

Consulting: What are some of the most disruptive forces businesses face today?

Chase: The most disruptive force we’re seeing today is actually the speed with which these disruptors are hitting our clients. It used to be you’d hear about something and it’d have kind of a half-life measured in multiple years, you had plenty of time to take a wait-and-see approach before that disruptor created real competitive advantage. Nowadays, I don’t think our clients have that luxury. I think they’re seeing new entrants to their business or they’re seeing where someone’s catching a cost advantage or someone’s adapted their product to meet a market force and it’s happening in months now as opposed to years. I think most of our clients are just not engineered for change at that pace.

Consulting: So is a constant state of flux the new normal? 

Chase: I think that’s right. It’s not about buttressing yourself, it’s about recognizing this as the new normal. The clients that get on the right side of figuring out how to take on new innovation are going to be the winners. That does not mean the only survivors are going to be unicorns, but it does mean that when you meet these people, in business, certainly in the consulting industry as well kind of take a “this too shall pass approach.” We’re finding that just being a fast follower isn’t sufficient, you’ve got to be out on the leading edge, which also requires you to have a pretty defined approach around how you sift through which of these disruptors will be meaningful to you. If you fail around it, which you absolutely are going to do, you fail fast and you fail forward. You learn from it and take it to the next thing you’re working on.

Consulting: In the study, most polled said they’re aware of this constant disruption but only 17 percent said they feel prepared. What do you attribute to that gulf?

Chase: I think it’s because of this clockspeed change. I think in general if it weren’t for the speed of change, most folks that lead parts of organizations that are reasonably scaled and sized have an operation that supports it that tries to protect itself from change. Change leads to service outage, service quality issues, product issues, those sorts of things, and only allows in the things that are really meaningful.

Consulting: How are KMPG clients capitalizing on this disruption?

Chase: I break it down into two things. One is how do I use this disruption to enhance my existing products and services or create new ones that I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to deliver in the past. So there’s a services or product opportunity out of the disruptors, but then there’s also the how do I use the disruption itself to change my own business? So something like a regulatory change you wouldn’t think oh well that’s a real opportunity, it’s always cost enhancing. But actually maybe it’s a burning platform to use to just change the nature of the organization and break down some of its barrier issues it would have caused and you wouldn’t have been able to get through otherwise.

So those are kind of the two ways we think about it: how I deliver the service and what my services are specifically. If I take that into KPMG or broadly what does that create in terms of opportunities for consultancies, this is something we think about quite a bit when we sit down and do our strategy about our business. Where are the parts of what we do that are not going to be relevant in the future? What are our clients going to need? Where will we make investments? We’ve increased the size of our innovation budget substantially over the last 3-5 years because we see exactly the same opportunity. There are some sets of services we can offer to potentially monetize our IP in a different way, and there are also opportunities to deliver our services in a different way.

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