By Mzukona Mantshontsho
DELOITTE is a brand under which over 270000 dedicated professionals in a network of firms throughout the world collaborate to provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services to select clients.
The South African Professional Services Academy (SAPSA) spoke to Chief Digital Officer Valter Domingos Adao at Deloitte about his personal and professional journey thus far.
What does it mean to you that your colleagues have entrusted you with the position of Chief Digital Officer?
Unlike many other businesses, “Becoming Digital” meant developing the skills, services and products to guide our clients through this new Digital Era but at the same time, also transforming our business to become “Digital Inside”.
My path into the world of Digital commenced 3 years ago. At the time, I was leading Monitor Deloitte in Africa, Deloitte’s premier Strategy, Innovation and Economics practice – and was then asked to build and scale our “business of the future” – which was Deloitte Africa’s entry into the Digital Domain. This was the scaling of Deloitte Digital.
At the time, most organisations saw digital as an app of some sort, a social media tool or marketing channel. We saw the gap to build a business transformation or a business re-imagination capability that assisted our clients to remain relevant and thrive into the future, by leveraging digital technology, and digital thinking. Essentially assisting them to re-imagine their businesses to be more productive, client engaging and innovative.
As a Professional Services firm, it was critical that we developed this digital capability – Professional Services is one of the sectors that falls into the “short fuse, big bang” scenario. It hypothesises that the sector would face a significant amount of disruption in a short time horizon due to digital/exponential technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, etc.
We cannot be advising our clients on becoming digital unless we, as Deloitte, have started maturing the digital characteristics of our business
Deloitte Digital was originally a Consulting client offering, with which we did well. We essentially created one of the most recognisable digital brands on the continent. When I was asked to lead the digital transformation of our business, as the Chief Digital and Innovation officer, it made perfect sense. In my opinion this was a natural, and necessary extension of my role.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term as Chief Digital Officer?
The typical response to this is usually, “We would have achieved success when we no longer need a Digital Officer or a digital strategy because our entire business would have achieved the highest possible level of digital maturity.” This is the wrong way to think about it.
Success initially comes through a series of many milestones. The mark of success could, however, be broadly defined by achieving the following two outcomes:
- In my opinion, the most critical goal would be to get our business to a sustainable digital cadence in which its capacity to change and evolve matches the metabolic rate of change of client needs, exponential technology and the competitive landscape, and
- Achieving this digital maturity state in the most cost efficient and impactful way. In other words staying focused on implementing on a digital transformation journey and not being distracted by gimmicky, cool stuff, of which there is a lot in the world of digital. One has to stay focused on what is critical to unlock business value and create a positive impact on our clients. I see organisations spending money and time on ‘vanilla’ initiatives that serve to tick the proverbial digital box or create good PR but create little or no economic value.
The former goal is ambitious and requires a business that is completely digital at the core and in how it interacts with the market.
How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
I am pioneering in my nature and direct in my style. I enjoy efficiency, performance, a good debate and appreciate people who are confident in their capabilities (not arrogant though – I have no tolerance for arrogance). I am very comfortable with the unknown. I get tremendous pleasure from creating new things or making old things better.
People development is also super important. The logic is clear. The stronger, more involved and empowered people are, the more we achieve as a team. It creates a multiplier effect. We do more with less, and with greater purpose. It also creates depth and succession. I encourage diverse teams in an inclusive environment, in which our people have a voice. I encourage people to voice their opinions, challenge the status quo and experiment.
I believe that a leader in this environment needs to be a doer, and remain on the cutting edge of thinking and close to the market. The higher the risk or novelty of what we are doing the more involved I get in the thinking, debating, shaping and deploying. You need to challenge people’s thinking and, in order to do that, you need to be in the “knowledge and in the detail”.
I am a big believer in storytelling. Families are deeply entrenched in storytelling, and so I encourage this in my teams. We use it to share knowledge, build purpose, and strengthen culture. I use it to create great hope during difficult times and perspective during good times. My teams extend the same into their teams.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
There is a formal and well-structured mentorship programme within Deloitte. It has played a significant role in our people’s development and undoubtingly my development. In addition to that, I also undertake mentoring outside our formal programs and even outside my teams, especially if I see individuals with potential who are not achieving their full potential.
I have an open door policy, which is not always easy to maintain due to the constant demands on my time by the market, clients, internal projects etc, but I recognise the importance and value of being available and present.
I firmly believe that the best form of mentoring is to be a role model your people aspire to. This relates to the values we demonstrate, the way we treat our people, the way we engage with our clients and the importance we place on self-development, as a professional.
What accolades have you and your organisation received recently?
I have received numerous accolades, both internally, within Deloitte, and externally. A few notable ones include:
- Receiving Deloitte Africa’s CEO Impact Award
- Being invited to join Singularity University as a faculty member
- Recipient of the Constellation Transformation 150 award, which recognises the top 150 global executives leading digital business transformation efforts.
As Deloitte we have many. In the digital domain a few notable ones including being recognised leaders in the fields of:
- Innovation strategy consulting
- Digital strategy consulting
- Customer transformation
These are core disciplines in the domain of digital.
How has the firm fared in terms of achieving its business growth objectives?
Under the current economic conditions, we are doing well. We have established a leading digital brand and presence. Not only is our business growing but we are also increasing the digital density of our revenues, which speaks to the digital maturity of our respective businesses.
Through what means does the organisation ensure that the firm maintains high level of ethics and integrity?
It all starts with integrity. The foundation of our business is built on trust and each of us plays a role in protecting, preserving and enhancing the Deloitte brand.
It is not simply about adding policies or rules – our culture forms and enhances when we live our shared values and the behaviours critical to our brand, our purpose and to each other.
We have a Code of Business Conduct and this sets the foundation and outlines the commitments that we all make as Deloitte professionals.
As leaders, it is our job to bring our code of conduct to life. Not only do we need to live the code of conduct and demonstrate these commitments but we must also support each other in our efforts to live and work with integrity.
Our actions set the tone for how we operate. Our environment is one where all people feel empowered to speak up, consult and raise their voices. It is important that each one of us ensures that integrity is visible in all areas of our business.
Kindly highlight some recent contributions by the firm to the community and to the relevant professions your professionals are a part of.
We have several initiatives within our societies. In fact our purpose is to make an impact that matters. We do this in many different ways and through many different initiatives.
My most recent initiative, we’re activating, mentors and supports young black digital entrepreneurs. This is important as SMEs are going to be critical to solving some of the challenges we face as an economy, i.e. low economic growth, unemployment, etc.
We do not provide them with funding but rather we use our capabilities to mentor them. To assist them to develop and sharpen their business skills, their product value propositions and business models. We also expose them to elements of the training our people are exposed to, which will make them proficient in critical business skills. It is such an empowering initiative for us, because we get to work with the most inspirational young people that are doing amazing things in their communities. It is fantastic to know that we may have a tangible impact on these entrepreneurs and the communities they service.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position as Chief Digital Officer?
The goals and aspirations of my portfolio makes me tick. We are essentially creating our “business of tomorrow”, and doing the same for our client’s organisations. When creating something new, there is no a blueprint or playbook to be referenced. It requires deep insight, innovative and strategic thinking. It requires experimentation; it requires support from a broad range of stakeholders. It is complex. It is fast paced. It is pioneering. It is exciting.
The thing that keeps me up at night is the pace at which we, as country, are incorporating “digital” into our country’s economic strategy to benefit from its exponent effect. We are not doing enough and the bit that we are doing, we are not doing quick enough. As a mid-sized economy, to preserve and enhance our global competitiveness we need to be quick at creating value from this new digital economy.
We also need to solve our unemployment problem, and contrary to many views, I think we’ll solve this problem with “digital”. We will not solve it in the traditional construct of large organizations and government hiring people. We’ll achieve improved employment levels through the creation of micro-entrepreneurs enabled by digital platforms. We are seeing signs of this across Africa and in developed economies. As business we need to encourage more of this. As a government we need to ensure that the right policies, and structures are in place to enable it
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how is it attended to?
In a word, yes. Transformation and diversity, in all its forms, is a high priority for our leadership, our people and to our prospective employees. Our commitment to transformation is visible in the highest leadership structures of our firm.
Transformation, while often described as a target, should be seen as an organisational cadence that needs to be achieved and maintained. Our people want to know that we take it serious and do more than just report on it. They want to see results in its truest form. They want to see transformation in our leadership make-up, they want to see it in their peer group.
We have a number of initiatives across our business, but the ones for which I have the greatest appreciation for is where we have identified young people with great potential as they enter the work environment, and develop them grow into formidable business leaders. The value created for them and for everyone that gets to works with them is tangible. Initiatives like this build leadership and capability depth.
How does the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
Having people that are highly skilled, well-trained, and do purposeful work, is the best way to ensure your client’s experience is at the highest level of professionalism.
We recruit the best candidates, we provide amazing training, our teams are diverse, they are mentored and have access to leaders that are demonstrative of the organisation’s value.
We do our best to get regular feedback from our people. We want to know how we’re doing at initiatives to ensure we create the best possible working environment that enables them to bring their best to the fore. Happy and engaged people equals happy and engaged clients.