Thought Leadership

Cecil Stokes: Adding Value to Tech and Talent Strategies with Deep Experience 

In 2024—and in any uncertain economic times—it’s as important as ever to have solid strategies for building and retaining talent. They’re the bedrock of your budget, production, and how your company accomplishes growth this year.  

But in a rapidly escalating technologic world, companies also need to make sure their enterprise IT strategies, processes, and products are created with clarity and in line with business goals. Sometimes these two pillars cross over. (You want to build your own AI-based solutions, but who are the people who will build it?) 

We spoke with Cecil Stokes, Evergreen’s Managing Director of Advisory Services, about his practice area and how Evergreen’s consulting capabilities help companies enhance their tech and talent strategies. 

Patrick Glynn: Hi Cecil! Could you define your role at Evergreen?  

Cecil Stokes: I’m the managing director of advisory services—our strategic advisory arm. That’s where we engage with technology leaders and budget owners to help them make better enterprise IT decisions based on everything we’ve learned in our careers and our experience as Evergreen. 

(Evergreen is Insight Global’s professional services division. Insight Global has become one of the world’s largest staffing companies since it opened in 2001.) 

PG: At a high level, why is it important to keep talent in mind when you’re building your tech strategies and vice versa?  

CS: That’s such a huge part of enterprise IT budget. It’s the people—be it the internal employees or the contingent workforce. So, if you don’t have a good grasp of the talent plan, it’s hard to understand what you want out of that investment and match it up to the right types of returns.  

IT leaders now are excellent business case builders. Everything has a business case behind it. The prevalent way of doing it is tying it to a quantifiable business objective. However, it’s impossible to build a business case if you don’t have a clear understanding of the largest cost component: the people.  

That’s where being a talent services expert at Insight Global really comes in as a major benefit to our clients. I think we’re underutilized in that area. 

PG: So why would a business seek advisory services on their tech and talent strategies individually—or both?  

CS: These leaders are really smart, really experienced folks—especially with clients we’re dealing with. These are Fortune 500 companies. Folks don’t fall into an SVP of development or infrastructure role, right? They’re well-equipped to make decisions on their own. 

What they may not have is the breadth of perspective and then the depth in the areas that they are making decisions on. The depth of perspective like a professional services company has.  

Perfect example: a data center migration or major enterprise cloud migration. You might go through a couple of those in a five-year period if you’ve jumped companies as an IT leader. As a professional services company, we talk to clients about what they are doing in this space every single week. We see it across industries, so we know where it’s unique to industry or where cross-industry learnings might apply to you. If you have professional services companies in your environment, you are leaving a big resource untapped by not pulling in their thought leadership.

PG: At what point in their decision-making process would it make most sense for a professional services company to come in and consult? 

CS: I would say the most important point would be at the business case development in the budget making process. If you’re determining the ROI of a given initiative, it’s an excellent opportunity to bring in a professional services provider—especially one that’s focused on tech services.  

Executives know their business, they know their roadmap, they’ve got their overarching strategy. But before you start making bets pull in some additional perspective on where those dollars might show some worth.  

PG: I imagine if a company is in the weeds, advisory services would help, too.  

CS: If you’re in the middle of a specific project, you have a budget and a timeline and goals tied to it, and you run into a little bit of trouble, yep! There’s not a person in Evergreen that has not helped a client get out of a tough spot within the technical areas we cover. So, for our clients that are experiencing challenges in the weeds and the areas that we specialize in—cloud, data or cross enterprise IT workforce management and talent concerns—that’s the place to pull us in. We’ve probably seen the problem or something like it before.

PG: You mentioned kind of coming in at the time a company is developing a business case for its enterprise IT decisions. At some point, I imagine, a company then wonders, ‘Are we going to buy products that help us execute? Or are we going to build those products ourselves?’ 

What’s important to keep in mind for a business when they’re making this Build vs. Buy decision?  

CS: One question I love to ask clients is, what is important for you to be good at? 

Over the past decade, a lot of companies have reconsidered what they need to be good at. And many companies have become much more tech-oriented in the things they think they need to be good at. Right now, with something like generative AI, a company might decide that they need AI capabilities. It doesn’t mean that they need to be an AI shop.  

Imagine I’m a railroad company. If my corporate strategy is digitization, and AI is really going to be the future of the logistics that are the cornerstone of our business, then, yeah, you might want to build. If you’re making the decision to build some of the AI capabilities that sit on top of your ERP system or customer relationship management system, that makes sense to me. You need excellent data scientists. You need to be a differentiator there, and you can’t be reliant on buying the same off-the-shelf products that your competitors are buying. The first one of you to build the capability yourself will differentiate your product.  

But if that’s not your goal—if your thing is hey, this business is about relationships and building rail—then maybe spending an additional three million dollars a year on an expert data engineering team isn’t what you need. Maybe you need to talk to your business about which capabilities fit neatly within the boxes that can be bought off the shelf—from products like Databricks, Snowflake, Azure Data Factory, or similar solutions.

PG: So, zooming out, what sets Evergreen apart in this advisory space—whether it’s for tech or talent solutions? 

CS: One, a mix of experiences sets us apart. We have deep, technical, fingers-on-keyboard experience with implementing projects that come at the end of build vs. buy decisions. 

We build custom, proprietary platforms for clients on common enterprise frameworks, we do niche custom development on platforms that they buy, and we support products you can buy out on the market.  

We see the day-to-day challenges that come with those products and strategies, and we can speak to them in a very simple manner. 

The other advantage is Evergreen is full of people that have had professional services careers in:

  • Advisory services (like myself)
  • The implementation side of things, like our practice directors that lead our technology and global system integrator (GSI) practices;
  • Talent services since Insight Global has started back in the early 2000s

We’re able to bring these experiences together through a company that has grown organically. There are no internal walls preventing us from putting thought leadership together and bringing it to our clients in a pragmatic way—to either buy services from us more efficiently or just make decisions for themselves because the relationship is there.  

You get a great professional services experience because we have deep, technical expertise from a talent and technology standpoint.