How did Accenture change tack when the pandemic hit?
Laura: We knew we had to get content that would help our clients to market in days, not months. So that called for a completely different approach. Our first step was to set up a centralised governing board of our most senior people to make sure we had representation from across Accenture.
Bringing together that small group meant we could move quickly, and that was supported by new tools and templates, because we wanted our viewpoints to look the same and align to our overall narrative. We created templates for different types of content, so where we wanted something a bit shorter, for example, it was templated. And we gave very clear instructions about the types of content we thought should sit in different parts of the page – we were quite prescriptive, which again helped the content pieces to feel connected.
Technology was vital for establishing robust processes. That meant we knew when pieces of content were moving from one part of the business to another: from the initial development of the content to the brand review, the legal review, going through Accenture Creative, and then finally our approval to publish.
And did it work?
Laura: Yes. We managed to get our distribution down from months to days, and at the same time we kept a unified voice and narrative. It was crucial to gain the alignment of our senior business leaders and make sure they were prepared to review the content extremely quickly. They were incredibly generous with their time, which definitely helped to move the process along.
Automating the process also helped things move faster, because alerts were going to people to tell them that something was ready for them to review. It wasn’t perfect from the start, but the thing about assembling small teams of great people is that they work very hard to make it work. So, it wasn’t long before that process really kicked in and worked very well.
Do you expect the small, centralised governing-board approach to be a temporary change?
Laura: I think we saw a huge benefit from coming together like we did, and I would be very surprised if we don’t continue with key elements of that. With an organisation as big as Accenture (500,000 people), it’s challenging to ensure we’re representative of every different part of the business. But this process helped us maintain one Accenture voice and complete focus on the client issues.
I think everybody saw huge merit in that. It made us more efficient, more effective, more consistent, speedier, so I would be very surprised if people wanted to revert to the model we had before.
So you sped up production, but what about the content you were putting out? Has that changed at all?
Laura: I think we made a conscious decision to lead with functional pieces. How can we help with the supply chain? What’s the impact on people? What’s the impact on customers? So we created those umbrella pieces first, and then added our industry perspectives to each.
We look at value and relevance – it’s client-centricity, isn’t it? For us it’s about being close to our clients so that we understand exactly where they are in the pandemic cycle, and then creating the insights that they can turn into action.
We’re really lucky to have our Accenture research group, which does some amazing modelling and looks at trends and data. So that’s been really helpful for looking at different scenarios. There’s no crystal ball with this, of course, but I think it’s enormously helpful to clients if you can give them modelling data – as well as opinion.
Has the frequency and volume of content you’re producing changed much?
Laura: It was inevitable at the start that everyone was compressing a lot of information and publishing it very quickly, because our clients had a lot of urgent problems to fix. So we did produce a lot very quickly. First, to try to help clients stand up their businesses. Second, how can they seize opportunities and make their businesses more resilient? Third, what are the long-term impacts on industry? We talk about the never normal: how can we help businesses to transform quicker in order to emerge stronger?
The volume of the content is slowing down a little while we look to tackle the current big topic for our clients: how to outmanoeuvre uncertainty. I think we can now be much more considered and focused on the longer-term issues for clients and industry.
Finally, has anything in your role surprised you over the past few months since Covid-19 hit?
Laura: Accenture equipped 400,000 people to work remotely in a matter of weeks. I am not sure pre-COVID, I would have thought that would be possible, but we did it and how productive we’ve been!
And I probably know a lot of my colleagues even better now than I did when I was going into the office – there’s something about when you’re all working remotely: you make that extra special effort to connect.
Laura Bishop was speaking at our recent Thought Leadership Network webinar