Dell EMC and HP alumnus Armughan Ahmad talks about his move to KPMG in Canada, and how he intends to accelerate their digital transformation business, which will include increasing the work KPMG does with the IT channel.
KPMG in Canada has formally announced the appointment of Armughan Ahmad as its Canadian Managing Partner of digital and technology solutions. KPMG already has a strong portfolio of such services. Ahmad’s task is to expand them – significantly. That will involve new initiatives, new hiring, new strategic partnerships, and new initiatives to expand the company’s ecosystem and work more closely with the IT channel.
Ahmad is best recognized for his time spent at Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Dell EMC. He came to HP when they acquired 3Com, where he had been Vice President of Global Strategic Solutions, in 2010. He then became Vice President, Channels, System Integrators and Service Providers for the U.S., Canada and Latin America at HP. When Dell moved into the networking solutions market in 2012, Ahmad moved there, as Vice President and General Manager of Networking and Converged Solutions. In 2014, he became SVP and GM – Cloud Solutions and Alliances, and continued in that role after the merger with EMC until last year. He actually joined KPMG in Canada last November, although the appointment is just being officially announced now.
“I have been running these global businesses for almost 20 years,” said Ahmad, a Canadian who has been able to spend most of his time in these global roles based in the western end of the Greater Toronto metro area. “At this point, I really wanted to look at what’s happening specifically in the Canadian economy. There is a huge boom happening here from a tech ecosystem perspective, with the diverse talent that’s in Canada. Everyone is talking about this, and how it will contribute to the digital economy, and how it will impact jobs because of AI. Coming from the technology side, I wanted to bridge the gap between traditional management consulting, and the technology ecosystem and the startup ecosystem.”
KPMG is one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms – which used to be the Big Five until Arthur Andersen took on Enron as a client. KPMG in Canada is a Canadian subsidiary of the global partnership. It is owned by Canadian partners, and focuses on providing digital transformation services for clients. The practice is already a strong one, which predated Ahmad’s arrival and includes AI and data analytics, blockchain, cybersecurity, digital customer experience, enterprise solutions, hybrid cloud, Internet of Things and privacy.
“KPMG started out, like the others, providing tax, audit and advisory services, but over the last decade have all moved into digital services, artificial intelligence and cloud transformation,” Ahmad said. “It’s not just to provide the traditional tax, audit and management consulting services.” Advising others how to transform their businesses fundamentally in a time of massive change necessarily required transforming themselves. That became essential because as all these companies became very large global integrators, their practices tended to become entrenched and agility was not one of their assets. All these companies understand this, and Ahmad said that KPMG has become consciously aware of the need for self-disruption, pointing to a 2018 study by Bill Thomas, KPMG International’s Global Chairman.
“We are disrupting ourselves, moving to becoming a digital firm, and we have already been on this journey for a while,” Ahmad said. “Bringing in talent like myself and others is intended to turbocharge this existing strategy, and adopt more of this culture of innovation and empowerment. We have done things like hire a Chief Mental Health Officer.
“My coming here is more about our formalizing our strategy, as we accelerate our investments,” Ahmad continued. “We offer a full, connected enterprise strategy that spans the front office, middle office and back office, that helps clients think about how these should work as we transition from the information age to the customer experience age. People are looking to shop, to purchase insurance, to bank in different ways, and that requires businesses operate in a different way themselves. That includes the front end with their CRM, and in the middle office with supply chain and operations, where clients need to think how to transform their supply chain for this era. The traditional back office like HR and IT also needs to be rethought, because CEOs and boards want to overhaul these to move budgets from the back office to the front office.”
Ahmad pointed to a paradox around digital transformation. While awareness of it is stronger than ever, and studies now consistently show companies want to act on it, how exactly they translate this into tangible actions remains problematic for many.
“Everyone agrees now that the digital economy is critical, and that they have to transform and it’s the number one agenda,” Ahmad said. “But when you go to the C suite, they struggle with how to translate this into changing business processes. Buying technology from an enterprise technology provider is not enough. What will be their customer experience strategy? We just launched a new solution with Google Cloud Platform on intelligent transactions to deal front office conversations. That is the customer journey. What will the operations and supply chain strategy in the middle office be. Customers need a full journey mapping on how to get there, which we can provide.
Ahmad said that KPMG cannot do this alone either, and so has been aggressively partnering with IT enterprise vendors, including all the big hyperscale cloud providers, and major enterprises like Workday, ServiceNow and Oracle with strong enterprise presences.
“In addition to our technology alliances, we need to bring our work together with research institutions,” Ahmad stressed. “In December we announced the launch of what we call Digital University, with Simon Fraser University’s School of Business.” That program will teach auditors advanced skills in digital and cognitive analysis, to enable them to better provide business insights.
“We will be announcing something similar with other universities,” Ahmad indicated.
KPMG is also actively working with government in similar ways.
“All governments, regardless of their policies, invest in reskilling of talent, in global skills programs, and in things like superclusters,” Ahmad said. “How do you reskill talent? In this economy jobs will CHANGE – not disappear, so you need to reskill to keep up with that. Similarly, how do you refocus data strategy, making sure who owns the data for governance purposes. We are part of those discussions.”
With a lot of channel DNA in his background, Ahmad is well-aware of how the IT channel can work together with a GSI like KPMG, although he pointed out that this work has already been happening.
“The channel needs to understand that KPMG is already working with a lot of the channel partners,” he said. “I am stressing bringing the whole channel ecosystem together however, because the channel should look to partner with companies like ourselves that can provide full business transformation services, and use channel partners to help deliver them.”
Finally, Ahmad stressed KPMG’s own commitment to reinvention.
“We are expanding our Ignition Centres, which foster innovation and digital transformation for both ourselves and our clients,” he said. They opened their first Canadian one in Vancouver last year, and there are plans for more.
“We also plan to add what could be a few thousand jobs in this practice as we expand it,” Ahmad added. “Ultimately though, it requires working together with all these other groups to make things happen. We believe we are really differentiating ourselves in the way we are developing a full ecosystem.”