“I love the consumerisation of IT,” says Matt Peers CIO of Deloitte, adding that mobility is the company’s main priority. Having spent more than 10 years at Carphone Warehouse to eventually become IT director, it’s a statement which may not seem surprising.
“A lot of our people like gadgets and they want the latest tools. So a big challenge for me is to give them business applications and make sure they work wherever they are. That is hugely important.”
Peers joined Deloitte in September 2011, and soon rolled out a smartphone policy for staff to choose a device of their choice. The scheme enables them to access e-mail and other services through its partnership with push e-mail company Good Technology. Around 6,000 of the company’s staff now have signed up to it, with iPhones the most popular option. “People like the choice, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.
However, a full carte blanche "bring your own device" policy is some way off, he says: “Do I see a world where you can bring any device in? I do, but I think that is still some way off. The next step is for staff to take one of our devices and access a virtual desktop on it. I’ve always maintained that we will have people running on Citrix by the summer of this year.
“We have debated at length, why wouldn’t we just allow people to bring in whatever they want from home? But if a colleague is working for a client using a four-year old machine they haven’t bothered to do maintenance on and it fails – they’ll look to IT to support them.” Such a policy could soon become time consuming for the IT department, says Peers.
Mobile working is essential if the company is to stay ahead, he says. “This isn’t just about creating a couple of mobile apps and letting people get on with it. It’s about making our people truly mobile.”
File-sharing is another area that Peers is looking to introduce to staff, although he says a service like Dropbox isn’t quite mature enough for the corporate market yet: “Lots of our clients share data with us, given the nature of what we do. We want to enable clients and practitioners to share stuff using the right sort of audit tracking included within the tool. And it means people can get access to files wherever they are.”
The right partnerships
Deloitte’s IT operation is mainly run in house, with Peers’ heading a 280-strong team. “In my previous life I had taken advantage of using a number of different outsourcing partners, such as Infosys and IBM,” he says.
But using an outsourcer is not so clear cut with Deloitte, because some companies might be considered competitors in areas such as its consultancy practice, he says.
“I sometimes use this needle-and-thread approach – you’ve got all these different solutions in the ether and we are the needle and thread sowing them all together. The competitive advantage is gained by the speed at which we pull all this stuff together and give the tools to our practitioners. All competitors have access to the same tools, so what makes us special is our ability to manipulate these organisations and weave them together,” says Peers.
Becoming more agile is the key challenge: “It’s something that everyone says they want and I think it is a kind of Holy Grail. But the point is we are not very flexible today. One of the reasons is because we do everything ourselves. In fact I have 10 times more demand than I can supply, like every IT function. So when something new comes along that’s really important I often have to reshuffle all my deckchairs.”
One recent partnership was to work with a small UK app developer to create a mobile tool for staff to fill in time sheets on a daily basis. The coding was done by the third party but Peers’ team carried out the workflows and the creation of what the tool was going to.
“They do mobile development every day, we don’t. What we know is how practitioners work. We’ll do what we do best and let other people do what they do best," he says.
On-demand IT is also creating new models of working, he says: “Everyone is obsessed with the cloud, which I’m not. However, I do like that you can get services up and running very quickly, with contractual terms in place.”
Peers has inherited a largely virtualised environment, but other areas of infrastructure rationalisation could include reducing the number of applications running in the company’s datacentre.
“There is something there around the green agenda and being reasonable about the amount of stuff running in the datacentre – it is quite easy to get carried away. So we will look at reducing our footprint over time, the cloud will help us get to a place where we do operate a smaller footprint.”
Further consolidation is also on the cards, he says. “We are looking at how we can take a bigger step toward shared services. So for example, our member firms run SAP – but we all have our SAP teams, so it may make more sense for Deloitte to run a [central] SAP service that any member firm could tap into.”
One of the big shifts in IT over the past four years has been innovation in the back-office function, he says.
“We’ve seen the cloud and people are mad about virtualisation. There’s been a lot of focus on the back end in making us more efficient, there’s obviously a green agenda in there too which is also important. But as we go forward, it will be about what tools can we give to our practitioners that make us different in the eyes of our clients," he says.
For Peers, getting the IT right for his business users is the key priority. “I want to be in a place where our practitioners are really advocating the technology we have – that for me is the Holy Grail. If we have a place where people really like their technology, I’ll feel that I’ve done all I could ever do," he says.
“We as a firm want to be known as the ‘distinctive firm’, that is our strapline strategically. And my job is to make sure the technology can do that.”