Deloitte & Touche exec looks to drive innovation

John Hagel joins long-time cohort and co-author John Seely Brown to launch Deloitte & Touche's research centre for technology and business strategy in Silicon Valley

For nearly 30 years, John Hagel has advised corporate executives on how to use IT to push business strategies or create new business models. So when the renowned author and management consultant was approached by officials at Deloitte & Touche USA to help launch a research centre for technology and business strategy in Silicon Valley, he leaped at the chance.

But Hagel isn’t taking the plunge alone. He will share the role of co-chairman of the centre with his long-time cohort and co-author John Seely Brown.

Computerworld caught up with Hagel to discuss his new role and the charter for the new research centre.

What led to you join Deloitte? How did this come about?

Hagel: I got a call out of the blue from senior leadership at Deloitte’s TMT [technology, media and telecommunications] practice to talk to me about an opportunity here. The more we talked, the more intrigued I became.

Part of it had to do with the scale and scope of the firm in terms of the size, its depth of skills and resources, the scope of its relationships with customers, the scope of its services lines. And as I did more due diligence around it, I discovered that it’s a very results-oriented services firm, and that was very appealing to me. I ultimately measure my impact on the impact on the client.

What is your charter?

The primary goal is to build a major new research centre for Deloitte [that] will have its own staff and a broader network into the firm — and working with third parties to develop complementary research.

Will you be working directly with clients?

Yes, it’s in the blood. I’ve been in the consulting profession for 25 years. I also believe it’s critical in order to do top quality research to do client interaction and [to determine] how clients are receiving the research.

Are you working on any specific research projects you can talk about now?

It’s a bit premature to talk about the specific projects. We’re still focused on addressing the broader research agenda and gathering the people to do that.

What types of customers are you targeting?

Our primary focus across the board is CXO-level clients, targeting issues that would be on the CEO agenda. For industry focus, we really have three tiers of clients we’re trying to address. The first tier, because of our location, [is] technology companies in Silicon Valley. The second group [is] in the TMT world, technology, media and telecom, wherever they may reside. The third is other industries. A lot of the opportunity for innovation emerges from the broader business landscape.

How is your group different from what other consulting firms offer?

I think there are a number of levels of potential differentiation. For any particular slice, the package is pretty unique. We pretty much view this as a centre with a sustained investment around a very explicit point of view. A lot of the centres created by consulting firms are reactive research centres. We’re going to be much more proactive in going after a knowledge architecture and pursuing research after that.

A lot of research centres go after what I call descriptive research. We’ll certainly be doing that, but we’ll be moving to a prescriptive point of view — here are the actions you can take to respond to the opportunities and potential threats that are out there.

The third element is the boundary spanner between Silicon Valley and the rest of the world. The opportunities for innovation come from connecting those two worlds. We’ll be working both sides of the fence.

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