Web Text Items – For Price Waterhouse


Three sample items of the 'not very exciting' text pieces commissioned by Price Waterhouse for its web site.

Five hundred years ago, great trading empires were built by intrepid explorers and, too often, by bloody conquest. The trading giants of tomorrow are more likely to be built on skilled global communication – and by those best equipped to exploit the power and influence of digital communications and the internet.

There must have come a point, as home slid below the horizon, when great explorers like Cabot, Magellan and Cook turned to their steersmen and said something like: 'Well, in theory we know where we're going, in practice we know what we're looking for, but in reality we have no idea what we're going to find when we get there'. Thus were the world's greatest trading empires built.

Today, almost two years after PW launched its corporate web site at the 1995 Madrid 'Knowledge Fair', virtually every significant enterprise in the world has embarked on a similar voyage of discovery by launching itself onto the internet. PW's site, now comprising of over 2,000 pages of information and co-ordinated across Europe and the US, is set to continued expansion as the demands of the partnership and its clients increase.

"At the start it did feel as if we were heading into uncharted waters," admits Andrew Glew, editor of the PW site. "Everyone could see that the technology offered awesomely powerful opportunities for low-cost global communication. Millions were being invested in internet development and bitter battles were being fought for dominance in its software market. Everyone knew that there were huge opportunities beyond the horizon, but at that time only a handful had more than the haziest idea of how its potential would be harnessed."

This shouldn't surprise us. Mankind usually expects first to identify a problem and then ask technology to come up with a solution. In the case of the World Wide Web, the technology arrived uninvited, offering solutions to problems the commercial world never knew it had. But that's not a new dilemma. No-one sat around saying: 'I do wish Stephenson would hurry up and invent steam power!'. Indeed, when steam power arrived people were at first confused by the opportunities and implications it presented – but the industrial revolution was its formidable consequence.

"With the internet people were quite rightly asking: 'What's it going to do for me? Will it expand my business? How can we make it pay or become profitable?" says Glew. "But the honest answer until quite recently was that no-one really knew."

"Today we have clearer ideas as to where we're going."

PW's site has expanded steadily in two years, representing Europe and the USA and with content in both English and German. Other languages are likely to make their appearance over the next year or so. One curious statistic puts the site's growing importance into context: of all those who have joined PW over the past year, between 90 and 99 per cent of them have visited its recruitment pages and the rest of the site to prepare themselves for an interview. It appears to be the first source they turn to and this is increasingly true of clients as well.

The 'internet' is, of course, merely a catch-all word to describe the web, email, newsgroups and an ever expanding range of digital information services which link people, via their computers, throughout the world. In theory, anyone can take part in creating or accessing these multimedia services which, on the web for example, is rather like owning your own TV station – or a magazine with added sound and moving images.

Unfortunately the earliest exponents of the internet tended to be young, computer-savvy males whose less than solemn attitude to life was clearly reflected in early web content. This led many to think that the internet might never amount to more than a passing fad. But shrewd investors had glimpsed beyond the horizon and identified a business tool that would soon join the same revolutionising league as the printing press and the telephone.

"Of course we had to take this very seriously," says Jackie Sach who co-ordinates the European section of PW's site. Her office has a view of the old docks from which explorers sailed the world 500 years ago – but also overlooks the stark reality of today's gleaming towers in the City, the world's largest trading centre, where the implications of all IT development is most keenly felt.

"The first Labour budget earlier this year presented a challenge that we had to meet," says Sach. "We had decided to have headline coverage up on the site by 7.00 pm and then had the first reactions, in quotes and pictures, by 9.00. By 2.00 am we had an in-depth budget briefing on the site and were getting some impressive response. An important US client came through to congratulate us and we were pleased that, apart from our PW clients 94 per cent of those responding were from companies – some Global 200 – and 96 per cent were willing to give us information about themselves."

"The budget was very important to the UK, of course," Sach says, "but we are an organisation with global dimensions so ideally we would aim eventually to be providing parallel coverage to clients world-wide. The web is a perfect medium for us. We depend on computer communications as much as our clients do. We have messages to get across just as they do. We have information that they need. We ourselves depend upon gathering information in the first place. And in addition to that we have to foresee what will become significant to our clients in the future and have answers to meet their concerns. The web can only rise higher up the agenda for all of us, which is why we are putting so much thought now into how we can expand and exploit it."

Fundamentally the issues facing PW are two-fold. It has to develop web services which improve the internal performance of its international network of partnerships and quite separately it has to provide a range of web resources and information that enhance the services PW offers to its clients world-wide. And just to make things a little more interesting, PW's web planners can foresee the time when its clients will look to them for advice on how to manage their own web sites to their optimum advantage or even out-sourcing their web management entirely.

"The potential of the web for a multinational organisation is simply immense," says Andrew Glew. "Organisations of our sort of size always face a familiar problem – the bigger you get the harder it becomes to communicate. Merely keeping in touch with internal staff across continents poses problems. The internet and the intranet [internal corporate web networks] offer us powerful and cost-effective ways of keeping each other informed, maintaining common standards globally, ensuring that we don't send out confusing messages and providing a forum for internal debate. Whether you call it an internet or an intranet is almost beside the point: very soon most large organisations will be using the web both as their principal means of projecting to outside world and, more privately and securely, as a way of maintaining internal communication."

Doug Kalish, who heads the PW Technology Centre in the USA, is employed to think the unthinkable and foresee demands. He too, sees a decreasing distinction between the public (internet) and private (intranet) networks. "Obviously what will happen is that networks will reflect real life. Some information will be available to everyone, some will be very restricted. In between will be degrees of privacy which will be controlled by carefully allocated security and access protocols."

An example of this is being tested on the PW site now. The Stock Options Reporter is a commercial service, sponsored by International Assignment Services Group and operated by PW. It advises on the tax treatment of stock options round the world. In return for a fee, clients buy access rights to the latest information on a list of chosen countries. But the significant news is that, even as a test operation, 400 clients had signed up by early July – double the number who used to subscribe to the printed version of the same information.

Currently the PW web pages supply a lot of useful information free to all comers and this is likely to remain the case. A good example of valuable free information is the Technology Forecast Updater Service reports which provides a daily round-up on new developments in information technology. But the future is bound to bring increasing commercial exploitation of knowledge and resources on the web.

Inevitably PW clients will demand instant, secure and privileged access to the specialist market sector news and analysis that PW gathers. Management certainly need information they can access as issues arise at management or board meetings.

"Actually this already happening," says Doug Kalish. "We are already responding to exactly such a request from a client who wants access to specific sorts of information that we hold and which is tailored to their requirements. It's an experimental service at this stage but it's bound to be replicated."

And he can see a requirement in the future for a 'rapid response' role. Inevitably there are occasions when major world events, unstable markets or financial glitches can leave clients needing sound advice very fast indeed. Too often there's no time for leisurely face-to-face consultations and the web will provide consulting firms like PW with an opportunity to apply immediate first aid to a client's concerns or across a spectrum of clients with common characteristics. The cosy chat can come later.

As things are, Doug Kalish is not alone in believing that we are all bombarded by so much information already that it is actually becoming a devalued commodity.

"There are two parallel solutions to this problem," he believes. "First we have to add value to the information by ensuring that what we offer to clients is knowledge, analysis, synthesis and consultation. In other words, simply handing on information isn't good enough. We have to provide that information in a form that really helps a client to make decisions. The second solution is to make sure that the information we provide is branded. If it's PW knowledge then it should be worth something. It's like a news report – if it comes from Reuters or the BBC you expect it to have added value in terms of truth, balance and significance."

Leading on from that we can see the strong likelihood that partnerships such as PW may serve a role by operating on-line forums for senior management with shared aims and interests. Organisations such the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD) are valuable as national or regional forums, but they cannot draw together international business interests in quite the same way that the web might do.

"A firm like PW will be very well placed to act as a broker for its clients as a whole – hosting a forum which transcends geographical and national boundaries," Kalish believes. "This is almost inevitable and we need to plan for it now."

PW's web site team is well aware that it faces both practical and cultural hurdles. Until everybody has internet access built into their desktop PCs it's going to be hard to demonstrate its advantages and potential. It's a curious fact that office staff are more likely to have internet access from their home PCs than their office terminals which is where – and when – they need it most. Another problem is that senior management is generally very wary of what unfettered use of the internet might mean in terms of security or the way staff might use it – an attitude that harks back to the early days of the century when a firm's one office phone was often kept locked in the MD's desk.

"It will probably be up to firms like PW to encourage their clients to exploit the new opportunities," says Andrew Glew. "In the meantime, we are leading by example with the development of our own web resources."

Doug Kalish, who works with the internet all day and every day is still stunned by its power:

"It's amazing! I've just been watching pictures from the surface of Mars, 130 million miles away. NASA had them on their site within seconds of their arrival on earth. In theory anyone can simply point-and-click to see a vision of the future."

Which, in a 21st Century sort of a way, takes us back to Cabot, Magellan and Cook.

A piece by CAL, from material supplied by Price Waterhouse and intended for its web site 14-07-97)

The pace of change in the way we do business has been phenomenal. But progress in the ways companies account for their performance and assess their future prospects has been woefully slow. Accountants and their clients may have satisfied legal and taxation requirements but they have done little to make the process a valuable management tool.

Price Waterhouse is not alone in thinking that an important shift in the way company performance is judged is long overdue.

Their solution – the concept of Value Reporting – offers a radical change to the way in which company performance and prospects are reported, providing a far more realistic assessment of the what a company is worth.

In essence Value Reporting surveys a company from the point of view of a shareholder, investor or analyst.

If capital is the life-blood of any company and cash-flow the vital arterial system, then the 'value drivers'(financial and non-financial) which Price Waterhouse use as measures in Value Reporting are akin to a comprehensive set of health checks, body scans and prognoses.

Examples of the 'value drivers' which Price Waterhouse uses in its Value Reporting procedure are:

  1. Sales growth rate
  2. Operating profit margin
  3. Cost of capital

Non-financial 'value drivers' include careful analysis of:

  1. Market share
  2. Customer satisfaction
  3. Product defects
  4. Employee skills
  5. Research & development
  6. Brand position
  7. Efficiency of administration, transactions and use of space

All of these factors – and many others – contribute to the value of a company. They are what gives a company its 'worth'.

Price Waterhouse believes that company reporting should do far more than merely satifying legal and taxation requirements. It should give company directors a realistic view of their future as well as their past. Equally importantly, it should give investors, shareholders and those who advise them a more informed basis on which to commit capital.

Value Reporting is already being adopted by some of the world's largest and most forward-thinking companies, and many more will be using it by 2005. Indeed, the adoption of Value Reporting may be essential for survival in the 21st century.

"Rightly or wrongly accountants have sometimes been accused of being more interested with past performance than with future prospects. What we're saying is that without a detailed, objective assessment of a company's true 'value' now, next year and in five years time, no accountant or board of directors can hope to address the long-term requirements of the company, its investors and shareholders."

A piece by CAL, from material supplied by Price Waterhouse and intended for its web site 14-07-97)


A career move to Russia?

As you may know, Russia is one of the world's most dynamic and rapidly expanding economies, offering very exciting prospects for anyone with the energy and resilience to meet a challenge. With a population of nearly 150 million spread across two continents, Russia contains and produces many of their world's most important natural reserves of minerals, including oil and gas, and represents one of the largest developing markets for goods and services world-wide.

However, working in a country which is going through massive political, social and economic transformation is not always easy. Nevertheless, the rewards can be high, both financially and in terms of personal and career development.

Price Waterhouse is playing a key role in helping Russia to achieve a transformation of its economy and to develop its businesses and industry. Our practice in Russia is expanding fast, so we are always interested to hear from anyone with the skills and abilities we need to serve our clients.

A Russian assignment...

Benefits of an Expatriate Assignment?

Everyone sees different benefits from an international assignment. They might include:

  1. A broader range of experience.
  2. The scope and support offered by a large international firm.
  3. Experiencing a different culture.
  4. The opportunity to learn and use a new language.
  5. Better financial rewards and career security.
  6. The chance to pass on skills and contribute to a rapidly developing practice in an evolving country.
  7. The chance to develop an international network of contacts.
  8. Real responsibility and pioneering work in a technically challenging environment.
  9. Meeting new people and making new friends.

Finding your way through the recruitment maze...

As an Expatriate
Normally we would expect you to be fully qualified (i.e. CPA/ACCA/ACA/CIMA) for our Audit Business Advisory Services. However, if you have Russian language skills we may be more flexible and would be interested to hear from you. Very few expatriate staff join Price Waterhouse in Russia below the level of Assistant Manager though opportunities are increasing for staff with 2+ years experience.

Strong skills are needed owing to the complexity of the new information staff must acquire. Expatriate staff are responsible for transferring specialist/managerial skills to local staff which requires good base knowledge coupled with practical experience.
As an Undergraduate or Trainee

Currently, the practice does not usually recruit overseas graduates directly into the Russian practice, preferring them to pass their professional exams in their home countries before joining PW Russia. Additionally, it is the practice's policy to recruit predominantly Russian staff for entry level positions where this is practicable. A key objective of the partnership is the development and promotion of Russian staff to senior positions.

We would be interested to hear from anyone with: Russian language skills and who may still be completing their professional exams. Each year we offer a few short secondments which may lead to joining the practice for a longer assignment upon qualification.

Furthermore, we have excellent opportunities for: Russian accountants who have had experience in the West. We can offer them quick career progress and tailored career development, including international experience and travel.

Duration of assignments

As a minimum, employees join us for at least 3 years (3 busy seasons). Occasionally the duration may be slightly shorter. Within our Management Consultancy Services practice many of our staff join indefinitely.

The Russian challenge...

A Russian assignment
A tour in Russian is not for the faint-hearted. Everything you take for granted at home may be different – telephones, accommodation, services, food and climate. Some positions, such as those in the oil and gas industries, can require extensive travel and living in uncomfortable conditions for several weeks at a time. Conversely, Russia offers tremendous work challenges and great opportunities for travel and sightseeing. Altogether it might turn out to be the greatest professional challenge you will face and is certainly a great place for anyone with a positive attitude to change.

Offices outside Moscow are, in general, more suited to single staff – or to couples where both people have skills that enable them to work for the firm. Such postings are not recommended for those with children. Local facilities may be fairly limited and these close-knit communities are best suited to those with a gregarious nature.

PW Russia is one of the most 'international' of all our territories with over 20 different nationalities represented. Increasingly our employees there are extending their tours or moving on to other emerging markets to build on the new skills they have acquired.

How to apply
Please send us a copy of your CV. Include your full passport details and your home/office telephone and fax numbers – plus details of any e-mail address or voice mail you may have.

If you have a partner or spouse who might be accompanying you, please include their CV too.

Sending us your CV puts you under no obligation but does help us to match applicants to new vacancies quickly. New opportunities can arise suddenly, so please keep in touch with us.

Meanwhile you may find it useful to learn more about Price Waterhouse by exploring our extensive and growing web pages further for more background to our activities.

© (1997) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The text and graphical content of this and linked documents are the copyright of their author and or creator and site designer, Christopher Long, unless otherwise stated. No publication, reproduction or exploitation of this material may be made in any form prior to clear written agreement of terms with the author or his agents.

Christopher Long

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