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How APIs Helped PWC Open New Revenue Streams Using Existing Data

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PwC Australia has taken the global lead in building new, technology-based, turnkey lines of business outside of PwC’s traditional service areas. PWC is applying its insights and knowledge base to the company’s vast amounts of existing data and leveraging APIs to uncover new revenue models and new services to offer to its customers.

PwC, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, is well-known for professional services structured around auditing, insurance, tax, legal, and traditional management consulting. In Australia, the PwC Innovation and Ventures group has taken the global lead in building new, technology-based, turnkey lines of business outside of PwC’s traditional service areas. Applying its insights and knowledge base to the company’s vast amounts of existing data, PwC has uncovered new revenue models, distinct from its traditional, labor-intensive services.

Traditionally, people at PwC connected to critical data in response to scheduled tasks or crises in order to provide independent advice, often after the fact, when there’s little runway to make considered business decisions. The company wanted to move beyond the status quo, where people connected to static data and where benchmarking, deeper insights, and alerts were often an afterthought. Expertise gained from analyzing data and drawing valuable insights often was limited to individuals—it didn’t scale. PwC aimed to leap forward technologically and build utility and value for its customers through the development of a vibrant API-based ecosystem.

Innovation From Down Under

Australia is helping to lead the way at PwC from a software and development perspective. Early on, the Innovation and Ventures group decided to collaborate with PwC New Zealand, which leads the world in cloud general ledger adoption. The group represents the first with over 20% of its customer companies keeping their general ledgers in the cloud (that figure is currently around 35%), and serves as an early example of what can be achieved with APIs based on cloud general ledger data.

Accessing proprietary data (most significantly general ledger data), transforming it, and connecting it to an ecosystem of partners and clients via APIs, has quickly proved a winning formula for PwC, in the form of its Next platform, which combines multiple cloud accounting tools and integrated cloud applications in an open platform. It also includes customizable dashboards that provide a holistic view of a client’s entire portfolio, including business trends, in real time.

“By our very nature, we’re a people and services business, evolving into a data business. The biggest help that Apigee has provided in this transformation is in helping us expose core, rich data so that our people who provide services today can actually demonstrate value in the market tomorrow.”

— Trent Lund, PwC Australia

In developing the firm’s first technology products, PwC Australia’s Head of Innovation and Ventures Trent Lund was adamant that as an accounting firm, PwC never spend a dollar building something that technology professionals had already done better. That credo led Lund to select Google’s Apigee as PwC’s platform of choice for developing productized APIs.

Cloud-first Strategy

Increasingly, the datasets PwC wants to connect with are from public sources and open APIs coming from cloud providers. The Apigee toolset is perfectly positioned for Lund’s team’s focus on data connectivity—especially now that Apigee is part of Google, Lund says.

“The Apigee integration into Google is really helpful for us because we can connect in with that same ecosystem. Our team is relatively small by global standards, so we really don’t have time to try and foster multiple technology relationships,” Lund says. “We need to have deep, trusted relationships where we can get a level of sharing now and into the future, and that’s what we get with Apigee.”

PwC Australia continues to innovate and build the platform, but rather than continuing to pay for development from its local innovation fund, the platform is now funded globally so that it can be accelerated and shared across four countries. Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States are simultaneously guiding the platform’s requirements and features as PwC develops with an awareness of each country’s individual regulations.

For example, compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and China’s data residency rules would be far more complicated without a single technology partner like Apigee that experiences the same global challenges as part of Google, Lund says.

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