One on One with Protiviti’s Cory Gunderson

Global consulting firm Protiviti has promoted Cory Gunderson to the position of Executive Vice President. Previously a managing director and leader of the firm’s global financial services practice, Gunderson will now lead the firm’s overall global solutions. Consulting caught up with Gunderson to talk about his new role, his goals for the firm, and some of the big challenges clients are facing around digital transformation.

Consulting: What’s been keeping you busiest in your new role?

Gunderson: Well busiest may be a relative term, but we’ve had a smooth transition over the last several months, so we’ve been going through the planning process for 2018 and getting ready for this year. For me, my prior role was leader of the global financial service practice, which is a big part of the firm, so I knew a large chunk of the firm pretty well. We’re a people business no matter how you look at it. Our own people, in terms of the firm, employees and managing directors, but also the clients. So what I’m spending most of my time on is the people side, getting to better know colleagues who I may not have had to interact with as much in the past and also understanding and looking at our clients and their needs, what the market is demanding, how it’s evolving, and using those things to set the North Star of where we’re going and help our firm succeed and help our employees have meaningful careers.

Consulting: How does your background prepare you for your new position as Executive Vice President?

Gunderson: If I’ve learned anything it’s probably that you’re never as prepared as you’d like to be for the next step. There’s always things you don’t know and things you learn along the way. Certainly the market is dynamic and ever-changing, to me that’s what makes it fun and exciting, so I’m looking forward to challenges as yet unseen or unknown in the new role. I’ve had the privilege of doing a number of things within Protiviti over the years, I’ve been a solution leader, so when I was leading our global risk and compliance solution I’ve been in the role of the people that are now part of my leadership team, so I understand the interaction model and expectations, hopefully I have a good sense of what’s realistic and not realistic in terms of asking the leadership team to do things. I’ve been in their shoes and I think there’s value in that. What I’m excited about as well is being an industry leader for the last several years, that’s a different role, and it’s different than the solutions role so I think there’s a great opportunity to partner very closely with Pat Scott, head of our industry programs, to bring together solutions in industry to make sure we’ve got a great interaction model of helping our clients succeed and helping our people do meaningful work and make impactful contributions. 

Consulting: What will your primary areas of focus be within Protiviti’s Global Solutions?

Gunderson: In the advisory and consulting space it’s all about relevance. Making sure we’re relevant to our clients and are able to bring to the table solutions and capabilities that help advance their agenda. We’re a service business, so we have to help them succeed for us to succeed as a business. I’ve been very focused on looking at capabilities, looking at our relevance and what are areas we do extremely well that we need to keep investing in and grow capacity as well as areas that are emerging or areas that are trends we see in the marketplace that we need to invest more in to make sure we’re maintaining that relevance. 

Consulting: What are some of the big consulting opportunities you’re seeing?

Gunderson: There’s an interesting dynamic happening broadly, you’ve got organizations focused on their digital agendas, our clients are focused on their digital agendas, how do they transform themselves, how do they deal with the new realities of digital transformation around market expectations. They’re looking at things like AI, machine learning, how they use their data, how they govern their data, the quality of their data, how they manage their data, how do they transform their customer experiences. These are things I think all of our clients are focusing on. However, even at the more tactical or granular level, functions within clients are thinking about transformation, digital enablement and how it affects them. 

Consulting: What are some of the big hurdles clients are facing with those digital transformation efforts? 

Gunderson: It’s interesting, some of the challenges are almost historically consistent challenges on any sort of major initiative. Governance does matter, you need to have a healthy balance between experimentation and innovation, and what I might call “controlled chaos” as you’re doing that. But you also want to make sure the organization has that North Star, that it knows why it’s doing that transformation. Don’t just look at say, blockchain, and say ‘everyone’s talking about blockchain so we need to go figure out what it is.’ Link it to a business issue, link it to what you’re trying to solve, how you’re going to enhance your value to your customer. Start with that principle first. Sometimes you see organizations saying they need to play in that space because everyone else seems to be, so let’s jump in and go figure it out. You can waste a lot of time and energy around that.