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Welcome to the forefront of innovation! Today, we're sitting down with Dan Francis, the Chief Innovation and Digital Officer for BDO, to unravel the ground-breaking developments in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation. Dan has led on digital transformation and his team has responsibility for the BDO's recent launch of Personas, a secure AI platform, revolutionising the way 7,500 employees engage with their daily tasks.

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Can you tell us more about your role at BDO?

As the Chief Innovation and Digital Officer, my role is to lead innovation across BDO in the UK and globally with our international colleagues. I work closely with our partners and employees across all areas of the business to accelerate the development of digital products and services. Our strategy is one of “Digital Mindset”, and our culture is one where anyone can take an idea forward, and my team’s job is to help them build their idea for real and launch it back into the firm or to our clients and audited entities.

Dan, could you share more about Personas and how it's making waves in the digital landscape at BDO?

Absolutely! Personas is a uniquely “BDO” product, in that it is for our people, and takes on their own “persona” and can mimic their role. Practically, this means anyone at BDO with access can create their prompt and ensure AI acts to their wishes, needs and requirements. For example, it can behave and therefore output work just like a Tax Manager, or an HR team. We’ve done this by building a secure internal AI platform designed to augment our employees and enhance productivity. Using the latest GPT-4 models, Personas streamlines day-to-day tasks, allowing our talented teams to focus on providing complex, strategic advice that our clients and audited entities truly need.

It sounds like Personas supports various tasks. Can you elaborate on the features that make it stand out in the AI landscape?

Personas is a game-changer for us at BDO. It supports a myriad of tasks, from drafting the content of reports to analysing documents and in fact any content you want it to. One standout feature is its ability to adapt to each user's style and specialisation. Through custom personas, we refine prompts and receive outputs tailored to individual preferences and purposes. The integration of BDO “Tone of Voice” capabilities ensures consistency in language, tone, and writing style, reflecting our brand guidelines in all outputs.

You talk about these ideas being born out of BDO Labs. How does this reflect the innovative culture at BDO?

Our culture at BDO is one that encourages innovation at every turn. Personas emerged from BDO Labs, our four innovation teams which take ideas from employees across all sectors of our business. This approach accelerates the development of digital products and services. In the last year alone, BDO Labs conducted over 200 technology experiments, resulting in dozens of new digital products and platforms. This not only saves hundreds of thousands of people-hours but also showcases our commitment to delivering a more agile, competitive, and differentiated service in the market.

How is Personas contributing to everyday tasks, and what sets it apart as a unique take on AI at BDO?

I take immense pride in Personas, our in-house AI. It's scaling rapidly to assist hundreds of our people in their everyday tasks. What sets it apart is its intrinsic people-oriented approach. Personas isn't just a technology it's a unique perspective on how AI can augment human capabilities. It's the first graduate of FutureLabs, our exploration ground for the latest and most exotic technologies, showcasing our commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation.

BDO has a commitment to supporting employees in engaging with rapidly advancing technology like AI. How does Personas play a role in this commitment?

Personas is a key player in our human-led, technology-powered strategy. It reflects our dedication to ensuring that our people not only have the but also the digital mindset needed to amplify their learning and development. We are working hard to make sure Personas adds tangible value to our daily work, empowering our teams to deliver the best value to the businesses we work with.

Dan leads on bringing innovation and technology change to the firm's 7,500 colleagues. Personas, born out of BDO Labs, is a great example of the power of people-driven ideas and showcases the commitment to staying ahead in the dynamic world of technology. Above all, it shows that digital technology and innovation at BDO is driven by our people and our culture and is there to support our firm, its people and our clients and markets which we operate in.

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