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As Accenture Interactive pivots to more purposeful work, Brian Whipple names his first CXO

Accenture Interactive is planning to gradually pivot its business to work predominantly with clients aligned to a wider social purpose. To do so, global chief executive Brian Whipple has hired the group’s first chief experience officer in Olof Schybergson.

Schybergson is the co-founder and chief executive of Fjord, the design consultancy acquired by Accenture in 2013. Remaining as chief of the studio, he will now also be charged with leading an "experience reimagination program" for Accenture Interactive globally, as the first person to take the chief experience officer job.

Schybergson will take the lead in championing the idea of experience within the corporate, civic and governmental sectors, working with leaders across Accenture Interactive’s growing portfolio to conceive and deliver “reimaginations we are yet to envision”.

Examples of possible projects include reimagining the hospital waiting room, and ensuring cities are set up for mobility – pointing to Accenture Interactive’s bid to break out of the c-suite and into the wider breaches of public life.

“Olof and I – and really the rest of Interactive – are taking charge in trying to identify eight to 10 human experiences that we can invest in with our clients that will really help people's8 lives become more efficient or more meaningful,” explained Whipple. “We’re taking this to heart inside the mission and the very fabric of what we do with clients day-to-day.”

“It's good business right now to have things that are aligned with purpose ... and in particular, the world of creativity – including Accenture Interactive – has done an inadequate job of that. So, we really need to get going on that in the future.”

'Fewer, larger transformative projects'

Whipple is one of the growing group of executives that believes taking on purposeful work is equal to taking on long-term profitable work, be it in marketing, consultancy, design or any other capability in the company’s stable.

The primary reasoning behind this belief is the ongoing transfer of “trillions of dollars in assets and wealth” between the boomers and their younger counterparts – future leaders who care more about the environment, sustainability and purpose at large who will actively reject partners that don’t.

“I have a fantastic global team of people that are aligned specifically on this vision of helping clients at the intersection of purpose and innovation,” said Whipple.

“I spend a lot of time with [those people] and clients on that exact topic, and we are tending to shift our time and focus more and more to the clients that want to get into fewer, larger transformative projects around purpose and innovation.”

Small projects for bigger ideas

This doesn’t necessarily mean Accenture Interactive will immediately stop working with clients who may not prioritize purpose the way Whipple and Schybergson do; the chief executive believes any move in that direction will take place in the naturally in the long run.

Nor does it mean it will stop taking on the smaller, less commercial projects that may be purposeful but lack a commercial punch. In fact, Whipple explained, this kind of work will be vital to Accenture Interactive’s future.

“We might get into a new market and [need to] prove a particular technology's contribution to reinventing experience,” he explained, “and to do that we're going to invest in some smaller projects to prove to the client ecosystem in that space that technology can effectively train people.

“So, we are going to continue to do smaller creative projects – absolutely. But we're going to do them according to a strategy of how we get our clients to larger, more purposeful innovation projects over the long term.”

While advertising may seem powerless, ineffective or trite in the context of hospital waiting rooms, Whipple is adamant the likes of Droga5 and Karmarama are still “dead center” to his grand vision.

Advertising the results of a purposeful transformation is just as important as implementing the transformation itself, he believes, “because at the end of the day, you can have the greatest creative idea and the greatest technology, the greatest experience that's been reinvented, but that experience needs to be communicated to people.”

“They need to be told about it,” he said. “That story needs to unfold. They have to understand why that experience helps make their lives better.”

Growth in the time of Covid-19

Whipple is always asked a question along the lines of “what company are you going to buy next?” He rarely bites and isn’t biting now – although does say note that more inorganic growth is coming in the next 12-18 months.

That was last Thursday (12 March), however – the day President Trump officially closed the US border to 26 European countries. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has set the majority of businesses off track and thrown any investment plans on to icy ground, if not completely on ice.

Still, Whipple reckoned there may even be a glimmer a purposeful transformation amid the bleak backdrop of Covid-19.

“Look at what's happening now around the world, with greater emphasis on remote workforces,” he said. “That will undoubtedly impact the marketing area. And we will be a great partner for our clients in helping them figure that out as well.”

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