but it was some time ago and we haven’t worked together in a long, long time. And still we maintain our friendship and connection and we learn from each.
[00:01:01] Stacy Sherman: So much, and that’s what work is about. And I know this show right now is not about this topic, but I do have to say to the audience that ‘work is life’. It really blends.
[00:01:15] Michael B White: It really does. It really does. And the people who do that well and leverage those experiences over the course of their professional career, and in some cases, in their personal life, tend to be more successful people and also knowing when to back away. The integration part is so, so critical.
[00:01:33] Stacy Sherman: Love that. Well, first of all, of course, I know who you are, but the audience might not. So please tell who are you? What do you do for a living?
[00:01:43] Michael B White: Well, what I do for a living is, I’ll probably answer it a little bit uniquely. I think what I do for a living is to look at challenging problems and really guide people to be their best in addressing those problems. And typically, I’m coming from the angle of this is a business problem and how can we potentially use technology to solve that. Now that’s what I do in theory, but my title is Global Managing Director at Deloitte, and I’ve got responsibility for a couple of things. I’m very big into innovation and I’ve got responsibility for guiding our global consulting, our global financial advisory and global risk advisory applications and portfolio within technology, ensuring that we have the best technology to answer our business needs.
The other thing I’m responsible for, which really goes a lot to our history together and most of my career is I’m responsible for the portfolio around global brand at Deloitte worldwide, that deals with the technology that enables deloitte.com everywhere in the world, all of our member firms in the countries and regions that we serve.
[00:03:06] Stacy Sherman: I love that you started with what you actually do in your own terms, because I tell everyone a job description is okay, it’s on paper, but really we mold the Play-Doh. We mold it to be what we believe in and that’s what you’re doing.
[00:03:27] Michael B White: Yeah, it’s exciting. Never a dull moment. There’s always something different. And quite frankly, as leaders, no matter what space you’re in, whether it’s the CX space or some other space,
as a leader, you have to be able to pivot. You have to be able to understand what’s happening in the marketplace. You have to be able to correlate all that we do to solving problems for the business and to create great experiences for those who use our products, our services, or the technology that enables all.
[00:03:59] Stacy Sherman: Well said. Now let’s get to why. And this is really not about Deloitte, but about what you said in the beginning, which is why did you choose this path? What’s your why?
[00:04:13] Michael B White: Hmm. It goes back a long way. Probably more than two decades when I was five, no, just joking. I chose this path because I was confronted with a business problem or an opportunity. I’m a marketing communications guy, went to school for it, got a master’s degree in it. And I was faced with reaching a target audience in a new way.
And I was at this company that is no longer in existence today, but it was a staffing company and it was brought out and merged with another company. And they came to me with a challenge that I needed to communicate a particular message or group of messages to a specific audience. And I said, Hmm, let’s see how we can do that.
And then I started trying to figure out what we could do differently. And there was this thing called, oh, I don’t know, the internet. And I’ve went to the IT department. And I said, “Hey, I heard about this new, cool platform and it’s called the internet. And I would like to get my message out to our target audience.” “You’re absolutely right,” is what the IT person said. “It is a cool, cool, cool new medium, but sorry, we’re too busy building applications. We can’t help you, but here’s an HTML book that can help you and you can build your own website.” And I took that on as a challenge. And it was very fortunate for me that I was at the very, very early stages, almost at the vanguard of the internet becoming a commercial tool that was viable.
And that has really guided me throughout my career. And I think that getting to the place where I am today, I’ve been in a number of leadership positions, both within the technology organization, as well as the marketing and sales organization. I believe that all of those skills come together and are more pertinent now more than ever for leaders in the space because it blends the best of both worlds. My curiosity two decades ago led me to be this hybrid person that is able to understand the benefit of technology and solving a business problem. And not just from an online perspective, but in all aspects of technology that enables our businesses today.
[00:06:42] Stacy Sherman: I have to repeat that. Your curiosity then has really gotten you to where you are today. I mean, that’s really powerful.
[00:06:54] Michael B White: It’s been a fun journey. And I think one of the challenges, Stacy, is that we tend to get really good as experts in our space. And the questions that we ask ourselves seem to be a repeat because we’re at the top of our game, but it is incumbent upon us as leaders in our respective fields, whether that’s CX or something else, or a combination thereof to continue to be curious.
Because if we continue to be curious, we will continue to learn. We will continue to move towards greater understanding. And it’s at that point, that greater understanding that allows us to be exceptional in a particular area, delivering on exceptional experiences that transform business. And in some cases people’s lives.
[00:07:51] Stacy Sherman: Oh, ooh.
[00:07:52] Michael B White: I think that’s key.
[00:07:52] Stacy Sherman: I got chills. That is so good. So powerful. And it’s really why I know firsthand how exceptional of a leader you are, but I won’t butter you up too much this moment ’cause we’ve got a lot of material here. Although nothing wrong with giving you a big clap because it’s true. You’re so amazing.
[00:08:14] Michael B White: I appreciate you.
[00:08:16] Stacy Sherman: So what’s one fun fact, work or not work-related, that people might not know about you?
[00:08:26] Michael B White: Hmm. I don’t know if you know this, you may know this, Stacy, but I’ll share this. What came to mind for me was, fun fact… I took six years to graduate from college. And I went to four institutions. If you include Westchester Community College in New York, where I took two classes in the summer.
But I bounced around quite a bit and took my time getting out
because I eventually landed at Alabama A&M University (historically Black College and University)
that really allowed me to develop those communication skills and some of the theory that was foundational for my career. And so I sort of bounced around a little bit to get there. The first semester in college, I basically flunked out.
And that was at a different school, but the perseverance in me and somebody really encouraging me and said, “Hey, you know what? You have the potential for greatness. And I see a lot of great things in you. Get back in there and make it happen. And I know that you’ll have an impact in the business world and in society.”
Some people may say, “Hmm, I dunno if I’d tell everybody that.” But I think it speaks to my journey. And I think there are a number of people out there who are struggling, young folks who are listening to this podcast may be discouraged by how long it’s taking them to achieve their goals.
But if you persevere and you stay with it, it’s amazing what you can achieve.
[00:09:58] Stacy Sherman: I agree. And there’s a lot of people, especially as we’re getting out of this whole pandemic, that people are evaluating, what can I really do? And it’s okay to have fallen or gone a little backwards to go forward.
[00:10:13] Michael B White: Yeah, I think that’s okay. I think that’s okay because we learn a lot. We make mistakes. I’m pretty focused on innovation because I think it goes to the curiosity piece. And at one point in time recently, I used to lead all IT professionals in driving innovation within Deloitte across the world. And one of the things that I would talk about and taking risks is that you have to experiment.
You have to be willing, in a smart way, to be prepared to either win or learn. Some people say fail. I’m trying to change my lexicon here and say, “Yeah, failure is good, but win or learn.” And if you are learning in the process of that failure, then in the long run, you’re winning. You’re winning for yourself.
You’re winning for your team, as well as the organization that you serve.
[00:11:06] Stacy Sherman: I feel a book coming. I feel that’s a good book title. I gotta say. It’s so true.
[00:11:12] Michael B White: Thank you. I have to give credit to a colleague of mine, Angel Ayala, based out of Nashville. It’s okay to fail, right?
And he said, “You know what? Let’s rephrase that. We can either win or we can learn.” As opposed to using the negative of failure. I think failure is appropriate in certain circles, but I love the mindset of winning or learning because it makes it okay for the people that we interact with and engage with on a regular basis.
[00:11:39] Stacy Sherman: Ooh. Love it. Love it. So let’s talk about customer experience, especially in the technology space and the talking about IT professionals. They have such a critical role. In companies, in business, and truthfully, wherever I’ve been, they’ve been my best friends to get anything done. So, you interact with the it department. And from my understanding, you’re really translating and blending what the front needs are so that they can make it happen. So, based on that, can you tell me in your perspective, what does customer experience even mean? What is the link to IT?
[00:12:29] Michael B White: Wow. IT technology professionals love to engineer new things. They love to tinker with toys. They love to go out and uncovering emerging technologies. And that’s all good. That’s a part of the job. And in the teams that I have, I’ve got people who were really, really good at that. And they can basically build you anything as long as they understand what they’re building.
In the old days of it and technology, in general, product technology, I think people, engineers would build something that they thought was cool and that showed off their ability to create something magnificent. And I think we could go throughout a litany of companies that have come and gone that had an absolutely stellar technology.
However, they didn’t take into account what the end user wanted. They built it with an engineering mind without understanding what the customer experience would be when they engaged with the product or the platform. And I think that one of the most critical evolutions of technology organizations and IT organizations over the last two decades have really hinged upon is this idea of understanding what the customer wants and what is the experience that will meet their need. You have to be able to build a technology that keeps the customer in mind. Let me tell you a little story here, Stacy. Before we met, I worked at the weather channel. At the time, it was the 10th busiest, most sought after website in the world, weather.com. And I was charged with re-evaluating our e-commerce system, our registration system, and how people interfaced with that. One of the things that we did, and we were had to really recognize that we weren’t just building a webpage, we weren’t just building technology on the backend that actually served it, but we incorporated some new approaches that most people call agile programming today and iterative user design. And we incorporated that and built it over an 18-month period to the point where that experience was so rich that I don’t remember the numbers, but we increased our revenue considerably.
We increased our throughput, and we can talk about that in a few, as well as all of the experiences on the front-end on top of the underlying technology that revolutionized that e-commerce system on weather.com to the point that that user experience was so advanced that it was in place seven years after that deployment. I was long gone. The team was long gone. But that experience was so rich because of the way we built it with the user in mind with the customer experience in play, making it easier for everybody who interacted with that platform. That it lasted way beyond our intended use. And so I think when you look at things like that and take that as an example, and you have those principles in line and you tie that to the idea that we’re going to build a cool and new technology, we’re going to leverage emerging technologies and bring it in, if that user experience is not there, what you have done is decoupled good, good feeling that comes from a user or a customer from an amazing technology that they will never interact with probably again, or they will never get to the end result.
[00:17:03] Stacy Sherman: If you think about what we did when we worked together, it was that. And I didn’t even realize at the time was so game-changing, which is we created these flanker brands.
We created these side brands so that we didn’t touch the mother ship, right? The corporate site. And did our testing on these other flanker brands or subsets of the brand, learned tasks, and then applied it to the main.com. I mean, that was brilliant.
[00:17:39] Michael B White: Yeah. And when we were colleagues during this time, we thought through all of that. Stacy may not tell you this, but she was a pioneer in the space. So when everybody else was trying to figure out how to leverage dot com online properties and the like, Stacy was at the forefront of that. And what we did was so cool. We were some of the first people to think about that.
Most people at that time were just putting stuff up online and they weren’t thinking about the end users experience. They weren’t thinking about those people who responded to an ad and said, “Yep, I think I might want this.” “Oh, when I get there, you all are making it very difficult for me to get to the end result.”
Well, if we improve that. Then we’re able to get more throughput in and we take that knowledge and leverage it with all of the other brands. Brilliant.
[00:18:39] Stacy Sherman: It was.
[00:18:40] Michael B White: Fun times, too, wasn’t it? We had fun.
[00:18:42] Stacy Sherman: Ugh! It was so much fun. Again, it’s the reflection backwards that makes me realize we were so ahead of ourselves. UX was just becoming an acronym, but we were doing it and CX.
[00:18:59] Michael B White: Absolutely. And what else did we do, Stacy? Not only did we think about the user, asked some of our customers to give us feedback on their experiences, but then we look at the data, which is, I think absolutely critical to customer experience. I think you do this day in and day out. And whatever angle you’re coming from, if you’re not looking at the data, then you’re missing a very valuable piece.
And we were very early on obsessing about the data to improve even a half a percentage point of throughput because that half a percentage point could be millions of dollars. And I think it was fairly early on with that good obsession that we have, that relentless focus on understanding not only what the customer or the user told us ahead of time, what they told us after they completed or bailed on our experience, but also looking at the data for those who we couldn’t get in touch with to really analyze where we could improve to provide the most fabulous experience we could, not just so we could make more money– yes, that was the underlying goal– but we created an enriched experience that was then tied to our brand.
[00:20:24] Stacy Sherman: I love that. Now, taking that memory and those actions and the impacts, fast-forward to today, how do you drive that cross-department alignment? Again, IT technology gurus and experts, gosh, I admire them, because they have these skills that I don’t. They are so brilliant in crafting these technology experiences. However, they’re often internal focused. So now you come in and you’re representing the customer, sometimes I assume it’s an internal user and then there’s an outside customer. So how do you drive that alignment?
[00:21:20] Michael B White: Hmm. Well, I think one of the things that I do is make sure that our engineers understand, we don’t build technology for technology sake, right? We’re building it with solving a business problem in mind.
And that business problem is usually surfacing from customers or clients and the goal of interacting with us. All right. Whether it’s Deloitte or someplace else, whatever company, you name it. The goal of businesses to make money, almost assuredly. The goal of the end user and the customer is to have a great experience.
We want our clients to have a great experience because if they do, then they’ll keep coming back to us. So I lay the foundation with all of my teammates, down to the first year developer who might be in India. That they understand why we are here and what is our charter, no matter what the application is, no matter what the platform is, it really doesn’t matter.
And to really invigorate them in the importance of our interactions with our customers and our clients, even before we start to build technology. So to get an understanding from them as close as we can get, sometimes it’s hard, that’s part of the hard part, right? It’s hard to get close to some of our clients and our customers, but getting as many of my teammates as close to the customer as possible, and at least at the feedback level, to understand the why. Then ensure that from an operational standpoint, we have experienced experts at all levels of the build– the engineering level, the business requirement level, understanding, digging a little bit deeper into, not just that we want this function, but why do you want that functionality?
What is it serving? What’s the purpose? Ideally, in a perfect world, that business requirement reflects that. And so, when I’ve got an engineer with hands-on keyboards, trying to build out that functionality in a user story, they understand the basis and the why for the customer or the client.
So then we can be great partners because it might’ve been explained to function in a certain way. And some engineers will go ahead and just build it the way they were told, not add any thought process in that, but when they understand the root, when they understand that we’re there to create them an amazing experience when they understand problem that we’re solving, then they might be able to be a strategic partner, that first-year developer in India may be a strategic partner by saying, “Hmm, I know the requirements say this.”
But if we’re trying to achieve Nirvana in a customer and user experience, we might want to build it a little bit differently in this way. “Hey customer, what do you think,” or “Here are some options.” Now we’re talking about not just responding to the customer and creating a great experience, which we can do without all of what I described.
But we get to an exceptional experience with an exceptional partnership with our end customers, users, and clients, because we listened underneath the high level business requirements or the very specific engineering requirements. And we understand what problem and what experience we’re trying to provide.
And that, Stacy, I believe is 100% pure gold because when we build the next technology, we’re smarter for it. And we have the trust of our customers and our sponsors to do more than just regurgitate what was given to them at a very high level. That in and of itself is power.
[00:25:50] Stacy Sherman: So to recap, you’re helping them understand the why. When they understand the why, then they buy in, they’re fully engaged. And you’re also giving them an opportunity to be creative, to actually contribute to the problem-solving.
[00:26:15] Michael B White: 100% spot on. And that’s where we get magic. Unfortunately, a lot of technologists aren’t there, a lot of organizations are not there. It is an evolution. And while you may have it in some pockets, it may not be in other areas, but if you can get an entire organization, which is my goal for the team that I lead is to be in that space.
And it’s going to take time. It’s going to evolve. The trust doesn’t come overnight. But the more we’re focused on the experience. The more trust we will garner and the more creativity we add to solving that business problem, wow, sky’s the limit.
[00:26:57] Stacy Sherman: And trust is everything. We can go on that for another hour. But time is coming to an end. So I’m going to give you a couple of fast questions. I told you this would go fast. So what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever given or received?
[00:27:18] Michael B White: The best solution advice I’ve gotten and that I convey back is take care of your people. I have this philosophy that my job is to make somebody as successful as they can be and as they want to be, to provide an environment where they can grow, flourish, and expand their career, and do that so they can do an amazing job and have success and be fulfilled. And then it’s incumbent upon me to make them so good or provide the platform for them to be so good, but then it’s on me to retain them. And that may not be the case. I may not be able to retain them, but my goal is to make them as successful as I can, as long as we’re working together.
[00:28:03] Stacy Sherman: Love it. With about a minute left, last two questions. If I had a ton of CEOs and entrepreneurs and leaders in my room, what’s the one takeaway, the one advice you want them to remember and apply?
[00:28:20] Michael B White: That’s really hard Stacy, but I’ll stay in relevant to the customer experience, the user experience. Give your people permission to ask questions and be curious. Don’t shield them from the customers or the clients. Find a way, whether that’s in the recorded session, whether that’s in customer sessions. Get as many people understanding what the customer or client need is as possible, provide that format. Don’t get in the way, because the more you do that, the more the people on the ground, more of the people who are hands on keyboards, and more of the people who are operating will have a better understanding of how to meet the customer and the clients’ needs.
[00:29:08] Stacy Sherman: Yes, I think we all need to be the Undercover Boss. That show is so good, about, oh goodness, really putting yourself in the employee’s shoes, in the customer’s shoes. And finally, if you could go back to your younger 20-year-old self based on what you know now that you didn’t know then what would you tell younger Michael Buckham-White?
[00:29:35] Michael B White: Stacy, great question. Enjoy the ride a little bit more practice, better well-being. Stay closer to your passions. You’ll be more successful. It’s okay to take some detours and do some different things and make sure it guides you back to the things that you’re passionate about because you’ll have more energy.
The more you go up in the leadership path, the harder it is, the more it consumes your time, the more stress you have. If you enjoy what you do more, you’ll be more successful, you’ll be more fulfilled and you’ll probably live a little bit longer.
[00:30:14] Stacy Sherman: So well said. Well, thank you so much for being here. And I know people are going to want to find you. Is LinkedIn the best or somewhere else for you?
[00:30:24] Michael B White: LinkedIn is great. That’s the platform that I’m the most active on. And you can certainly reach out, refer to this podcast, and a reason for us to connect, and I will gladly connect back with you and we’ll begin our dialogue.
[00:30:38] Stacy Sherman: Wonderful. Well, thank you again for your friendship, your knowledge, your wisdom, and for being here.
[00:30:46] Michael B White: Stacy, thank you. I’m honored. Thank you for allowing me to be on here. Thank you for being a consistent and great friend over the years. And I look forward to us in the next 40… Well, we’ve known each other a long time, not 40 years, but a long time. We’ve got 40 more years to go.
[00:31:01] Stacy Sherman: Exactly, exactly. Thank you.