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Pioneer Profile: Zoe Bailey – BDO

Creating the right mindset is critical if professional services firms are to drive and embrace innovation.  BDO through a volunteer army of innovation builders and its Idea Drop platform is changing the way its 5,000 UK staff think and approach work and client delivery.  Spiranti met BDO’s Chief Strategy Officer Zoe Bailey to discover more.

BDO is two years into a journey of building a culture of innovation.  It has already achieved remarkable results that has seen a volunteer army of innovation builders and the adoption of Idea Drop – a digital platform for sharing ways to improve the way the business is run, new services to clients, and ways to strengthen client relationships.

Its central strategy goes by the name of BUILD – representing Brand, Unifying culture, International, Leading markets and Digital mindset.

“It is the digital mindset part of our strategy – and particularly mindset – that is key to the success behind innovation,” says Zoe Bailey, Chief Strategy Officer at BDO.  “We have for the past two years been preparing the foundations that will underpin technological innovation.”

“It means being agile and responsive, and using emerging technology to reinforce our lead in client service, ensuring we stay relevant, competitive and easy to do business with.”

Zoe and her team has created a volunteer army of ‘innovation builders’ across the UK tasked with working together and independently with their teams to encourage a culture of innovation.

“There are now 37 innovation builders,” explains Zoe.  “They are drawn from across the business and share a passion and skillset for bringing about change.  It is the free flow of information and ideas up, down and across the business that will encourage the development of new ways of performing tasks and the development of new products.”

Innovation builders report into the Digital-Board – a group of BDO’s senior management tasked with driving Digital Mindset priorities – where ideas are considered for implementation.

And it is this the generation of ideas that has delivered the most impressive results.

In December 2018, BDO launched a pilot of Idea Drop – an ideation platform – in Bristol, the North West and its London Audit Group with the view to rolling out across the firm in 2019.

“The results have been astonishing,” says Zoe. “Idea Drop has so far led to 907 new ideas together with over 500 comments and discussion around those ideas.  We have introduced 20 separate challenges which alone has generated 276 ideas.”

“We have deliberately opened a wide funnel for ideas,” says Zoe, “before we challenge the value of those ideas.  Some ideas are very simple – from how we address clients in our communications – through to more challenging new service lines.  There is a lot for us to work through, but it has shown that there is a real appetite for innovation and new ways of thinking.”

BDO’s innovation journey continues with the appointment of a Head of Innovation, Dan Francis, who will, amongst many other things, shift the focus from quantity to quality.  Creating new innovative products for BDO clients.

“We are also working on a series of case studies to demonstrate back to the business the success of our innovation builders and the Idea Drop platform,” says Zoe.  “And we are also looking at rolling out across BDO globally.”

Innovation needs to be at the heart of every business for it to grow and remain relevant to a changing economic landscape.  Innovation is more than just the adoption of technology.  Real and lasting innovation is built on creating the right mindset first.

Zoe Bailey is Chief Strategy Officer at BDO.  She can be reached by email: zoe.bailey@bdo.co.uk.