Abdi Goodarzi on the Future of Enterprise Performance
An Early Start
It’s 6 a.m. Pacific Time when Deloitte Consulting Enterprise Performance (EP) leader Abdi Goodarzi steps into his Costa Mesa, California office to start the day.
Immediately, in conversation, one can feel the optimism – and there’s no shortage of reasons why.
Within Deloitte Consulting, Abdi leads an integrated portfolio of offerings with a robust set of digital transformation capabilities that enable enterprises to solve strategic and tactical business challenges and evolve into industry-leading competitors. The EP portfolio, which includes ERP platforms, supply chain and finance solutions, and IT optimisation services – provides an enterprise-wide lens, addressing the rapid, cross-business function change occurring at the heart of the modern enterprise. With COVID-19 response and recovery at the forefront of enterprise planning, the necessity of business resiliency and adaptability is more resonant than ever.
The impact his teams have on clients is represented in an expanding list of annual accolades. EP’s SAP practice recently won four SAP Pinnacle Awards, including Partner of the Year. The Oracle practice was named the Global Cloud Transformation Partner of the Year; the Emerging ERP practice was named the Infor Global Integrator of the Year; the Workday practice won two Partner Innovation Industry Awards; and the Government and Public Sector practice won the SAP Innovation Award for Business Transformation. And that’s just looking back over the past year.
Before delving further into the world of EP, we ask Abdi how his background shaped his path to the leader he is today. Born in the Middle East, Abdi shares his experiences living in Turkey, Canada, and Boston, before settling in southern California.
“Early on, I was surrounded by very strong women who were instrumental in making me who I am,” he says. “I learned a lot about being strong, being able to face challenges in life, being straight ahead, resilient, passionate and authentic.”
Abdi continues, “I consider myself a global citizen. Exposure to many cultures has helped me shape my views about life, my clients, the work that I do.”
“You recognise that each language and every culture has its own sophistications and benefits. Similarly, when you bring a collection of individuals from diverse backgrounds with the right set of capabilities and knowledge together to solve complex problems, you quickly realise that you have to think globally in order to bring minds together, leveraging the uniqueness of each point of view.”
As the conversation continues, the significance of this statement permeates across Abdi’s leadership principles and EP initiatives, during a time when organisations and their people had to come together to navigate a way through one of the most significant disruptions ever experienced.
With introductions completed, Abdi’s boundless sense of energy continues with a tour of six unique themes across the landscape of EP – why EP matters and agility lessons from the COVID-19 crisis, the rise of the Kinetic Enterprise™, co-innovation across ecosystems, the changing roles of CXOs, embracing the power of diversity and inclusion, and the power of teams.
Why EP Matters, Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis
The first of Abdi’s themes ties the shocks of the pandemic to new understandings of enterprise resiliency and agility.
The battle against COVID-19 was in its early stages when EP jumped into the front lines. The practice helped a syringe manufacturer enable their operations to deliver COVID vaccines by conducting a detailed capacity andand smart factory analysis on multiple manufacturing lines. The team delivered its rapid assessment virtually, using remote collaboration tools, and leveraging rich manufacturing data to identify near-term capacity improvements of as much as 20 percent to help increase supplies of this critical COVID-related medical device.
EP assisted another client in coordinating an ecosystem strategy across labs, universities, and businesses to support regional testing, including development of a new supply chain model for testing supplies. The end result of the project was the client’s ability to rapidly and safely address critical risk groups.
“With COVID-19, it was about crisis management,” says Abdi. “We saw that organisations that had invested in more advanced technologies earlier had better success dealing with this disruption. It took a lot of technical capabilities in the background to go overnight into 100 percent virtual operations.”
“A magnifying factor on enterprise disruption requires a look back. For the majority of the transformations completed in the ‘90s and early 2000s, it was about integration, consolidation and tech adoptions. They did not consider or adopt the key elements needed to thrive or survive in a rapidly changing environment. The non-standardisation of data, and resulting complex processes and systems, did not translate well to sudden changes in working methods.”
“For the post-COVID world, it will be all about speed, scale and insights,” Abdi says. “Some organisations are in a much better position today because they had the agility to adjust, modify and manage disruptions. We have a new understanding of business resiliency today. Assisting enterprises ‘immunise’ from disruptions – creating agility for organisations to deal with unforeseeable events at a much faster pace in the future – is not just what we deliver, but where we walk the walk.”
“The investments we’ve made in technology over the years kept us ahead of trends and able to convert to 100 percent virtual operations overnight. Software, operations, and our people moved rapidly over foundational infrastructures that were pre-designed for a remote-collaboration model. Single-sources for data, accessible from anywhere, ensured our teams remained connected. In effect, we had vaccinated our business to become immune to certain kinds of disruption, which minimised the impact of the pandemic on our client projects. Now it’s clear to everyone that investments in business continuity and disaster recovery take on a whole new significance. Going forward, organisations will need to continue to find ways to vaccinate their businesses to stay immune to future disruptions. We are doing this work with our clients today, and continue to invest in the forefront of innovation and technology, demonstrated by our Smart Factory capabilities and the Kinetic Enterprise framework.”
A Smarter World and the Rise of the Kinetic Enterprise
“Let’s talk about future-state capabilities that are transforming the foundations of businesses today,” Abdi says. “Smart stores, connected patients, drones, smart factories, autonomous vehicles, and intelligent farms – these are all part of our smarter world vision, and they all have two elements in common: They all need to connect to enterprise systems to process and analyse data, and they demand integration of cloud and AI into every aspect of the business.”
“There will be a race for AI and automation over the next five to 10 years,” Abdi continues. “Whoever wins that race will be the ones that will thrive in their respective industries. Many of our client conversations used to focus on cost reduction and making operations more manageable; today, the urgent discussion is about the acceleration of connectivity and automation between data, systems, processes, capabilities and the workforce. Autonomous businesses and processes are the must-haves for competitive relevancy today and tomorrow.”
Underscoring EP’s commitment to connected devices and automation is the launch of an operating Smart Factory demo site in conjunction with Wichita State University. The Factory’s end-to-end smart production line demonstrates the art of the possible through advanced manufacturing methods and technologies. The functioning factory site makes digital transformations real by facilitating conversations with clients on how to merge leading technologies with operations. Clients are encouraged to explore the art of the possible, leaving with new perspectives on solving challenges, and a viable pathway to implementing change.
Tinged with excitement, Abdi summarises the significance of the Smart Factory with one question: “How do you create an entire end-to-end smart operation around your factory that is enabled by cloud and AI, and dramatically changes your positioning against your competitors? Let us show you.”
For EP, smart factories are just one example of the power of connectivity to transform an industry. Abdi highlights that technological disruption is a constant, and addressing continuous evolution in the frame of capability discussions is key for the success of the modern enterprise. Where once enterprise systems were “built to last,” the rapid acceleration of technological change required a new way forward – toward enterprises that are “built to evolve.” In conjunction with its ecosystem partners, Deloitte has defined the new “North Stars” of the enterprise – Clean, Intelligent, Inclusive, and Responsive. These are the four pillars of the Kinetic Enterprise, an enterprise perpetually in motion.
“With the Kinetic Enterprise framework,” Abdi states, “we ask – how do you build intelligent enterprise business platforms, inclusive of an ecosystem of applications and microservices, that can responsively scale on demand?”
Referencing recent business adaptability challenges, Abdi highlights, “Historically, the Clean pillar was one of the biggest challenges in technology adoption and transformation programs. The technology was customised to meet individualised and siloed business expectations – which led to sub-optimisation of the overall business. The ‘clean’ core is a big factor in creating fungibility and agility – nimble platforms that allow you to scale as your business changes.”
Business and technology services providers are no exception to the accelerating change in business models. In a world before the pandemic, EP had already leveraged the Kinetic pillars as the driver of innovations and investments in the shift to digital delivery capabilities and platforms. Within EP’s competitive landscape, the flexibility in these platforms and assets to provide value and insight as client’s business needs evolve, became a leading differentiator. One of EP’s early investments was the integrated Deloitte Ascend™ platform. Blending leading industry insight with digital platforms and automation, Ascend today delivers leading practices, benchmarking data, and solution frameworks across nearly 35 industries.
“Knowledge of each industry and the way an individual process is expected to operate or drive value in any given industry is a differentiator,” he says. “Ascend provides a digital platform to access that information, which accelerates and enriches our clients’ insights, enabling us to collaborate closely to define the best fit technology solution.”
For EP, the Kinetic framework has become a unifying beacon across both clients and ecosystem partners. Its unifying language, centred on value-driven capability delivery, is written in jargon-free terms that allow the business and technology to speak on the same plane.
Ecosystem Integration and the Importance of Innovation
Abdi’s third theme is the necessity of coordination and innovation across the solution ecosystem. Crossing technology platforms, manufacturers and academia, Abdi views EP’s role as the ecosystem integrator, creating a universal language that creates enterprise-level alignment.
Expanding on EP’s ecosystem approach, Abdi highlights a familiar principle.
“As individuals have differing perspectives, so do each of our ecosystem partners – a software company can think about planning in a different way from someone who does in-house manufacturing at a factory,” he says. “As long as you can understand and connect those perspectives, you can solve their problems in a much faster way.
“We bring our industry knowledge of what our clients will need today and in the future. Our alliance partners bring the technical platform. We then work with our ecosystem partners to help define foundational and enhanced expectations of the software.
For us, the co-innovation approach is key,” he states.
“What we want to deliver to our clients is an implemented solution of the ideal version of the software – one that they can continuously evolve and operate as their business and processes transform, rather than replace, every few years.”
For Abdi, a successful ecosystem integration results in “maximum value for our clients by blending the ideal solution of business needs, ecosystem capabilities, innovation and scalability, with a common understanding of how the solution assists the enterprise in becoming Kinetic.”
Abdi adds, “I keep mentioning this word ‘innovation’ – it has to be part of any organisation's ecosystem strategy. Otherwise, you will not see a rise and decline is the only direction.”
Evolution of the CXO, AI / Cloud as Value Multipliers
For innovation to become core to an organisation’s strategy, CXO understanding and support of enterprise capabilities and platforms is critical. For his fourth theme, Abdi reflects on recent CXO conversations as he discusses the evolution of enterprise executive roles.
“First, the role of CXOs for every organisation has completely changed,” he begins. “Understanding the technology footprint is a part of every business transformation. CXOs today face the necessity to understand the accelerating and mission-critical infusion of technology and innovation in everyday business processes. Every company will need to think of itself as a technology company – the traditional boundaries of the CIO now encompass other CXO roles.”
“Second, the days of focus on cost management as the sole factor are over. Today, defined value generation is equal to cost-related outcomes. Many of our clients are asking for more investments from us and skin-in-the-game concepts to make sure those outcomes are generated at the end of complex investments.”
“We completely agree and support our clients’ perspectives. Why would you do a finance or supply chain transformation if it is not impacting your shareholder value, if it is not creating efficiencies and productivity for your people, and it is not improving and advancing your culture? You have to create those mappings and ties before you can invest in anything.”
“Third, technology itself has become a lot simpler to adopt and implement. We've gone from an age when it was important to have the right technology to where you can have many choices. As a result, CXOs’ mindsets about what they were expecting out of their investments are also changing – the amplification of outcomes and value that are driven out of these investments – those expectations are increasing by considerable multipliers.”
Abdi addresses the new CXO expectation, stating: “The only way enterprises can reach these value multipliers is by taking advantage of more innovation and technology, such as cloud and AI, which are dramatically changing the ways an enterprise can advance their business. The more you invest in these concepts as enablers of innovation, the better you empower your business against disruptions and align your future enterprise goals.”
Culture, and Diversity and Inclusion
In conversation, Abdi has addressed the critical elements for the enterprise of today and tomorrow, so far discussing the Kinetic Pillars, the necessity of innovation, a common language across expanding ecosystem choices, and value assessment. For Abdi, there is another factor for executives to consider that will define long-term success for their organizations – their people. Abdi begins: “People should not be a siloed or a second-tier factor in any organization. People are at the heart of everything.”
“In the context of transformations, investments in people have not been on par with investments in systems and processes.” Abdi continues, “There's no point in having all the technology if you don't have the responsive culture and programs in which people can adapt to new ways of doing things, where the technology becomes a part of the company working alongside the people.”
“There has to be an appropriate level of investment in your most valuable asset to take advantage of the full spectrum of capabilities. This is not an afterthought for us – the people side is of such significance that we have underscored our AI practice with the theme ‘Age of With’ – humans with machines. We bring our Human Capital teams to the table to help us with the change management brought about by industrial and societal changes, with our Future of Work solutions.”
Abdi shifts to a wider angle, and discusses his own organization’s culture: “In addition to the investment in skills, as a leader of any group of people today, you have to understand what is happening in society – the differing points of view, expectations and passions of individuals working in your organisations, including their social views.
You have to have that clarity and that openness. Here at Deloitte, we consider diversity, equality, and inclusiveness a vital part of our cultural fabric.”
Abdi reflects, “That culture was what initially attracted me to Deloitte – our ability to provide the diversity, opportunities and performance expectations that get the best out of me and every person who is here.”
As part of Deloitte’s culture, Abdi and his team share how internal learnings go beyond keeping up to date on the latest platform updates and emerging technologies. The initiatives include open internal dialogue wherein individuals can share experiences of bias, inclusion principles and the changes that everyone needs to bring to the table to have a comprehensive set of values.
“I consider myself a ‘people person,’” he says. “You can learn a lot from everyone around you. Inclusivity includes understanding various cultures in different parts of the world. We want to make sure we have a good understanding of what those cultures are, how individuals in those cultures operate, and how we can honour our unique values. This is how we include the individuals and groups that constitute a global firm – we want them to feel like they belong to the organisation and have the best talent experience, regardless of where they live, what they believe, and what they do.”
The Power of Teams and Authenticity in Leadership
As the sun begins to rise above California’s Santa Ana Mountains, Abdi discusses his final theme on the power of teams. He frames his approach referencing his passion for soccer and professional sports.
“First, what we do in the world of consulting isn’t a tennis match,” he says. “It’s a team sport. It requires you to depend on others while they depend on you. It doesn’t matter who’s the captain and who’s the player – you have to trust the team, you have to respect the team and you have to empower the team. That’s been my mantra: Operate a team format.”
“Second, every leader brings a different approach. Maintaining that authenticity to your perspective is important. The power of differentiated perspective is what turns a group of people into a powerful squad uniquely qualified to deliver exceptional outcomes.”
“Third, when a team is invested in the same cause, you must take the time to understand, respect and support what each party brings to the table. Creating a common language that is inclusive of all parties is integral to success.”
Abdi summarizes, “Then - collectively between our teams, our clients and ecosystem partners, we can solve any challenge ahead.”
The conversation ends as it began – a high-energy view into the world of tomorrow, leveraging decades of experience and a people-centred mindset.
The ever-evolving path of enterprise evolution will require a big thinker, an innovator, a tactical mindset, and someone that can communicate across organisational borders, boundaries, and languages. For Abdi, the road ahead seems a natural fit.
“This is what I love about my role – the ability to leverage who I am,” Abdi concludes. “I love problem solving, dealing with complex challenges, and collaborating with people. For me, the glass isn’t half full. It’s full – every day.”