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Tech advances from ‘roadie to centre stage’ amid COVID-19

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Every business is a technology business, and this is something that every organisation has to think about and reflect on in terms of how it approaches the world going forward.

This was the word from Paul Daugherty, group chief executive for technology and CTO at Accenture, discussing the new realities that businesses must “digest” and incorporate as they move forward.

Daugherty was speaking during the virtual launch event of the Accenture Technology Vision 2021.

“To be a leader in digital and to address the digital achievement gap, you need to be as good at technology as digital natives and as digital giants. Everybody needs to have that technology capability; every business must be a digital business.”

Now in its 21st year, Accenture’s technology vision report identifies the most significant technology trends that organisations will apply to disrupt business over the next three years.

As the world begins to emerge from the challenges of 2020, this latest instalment of the report looks at the power of technology to reimagine and reinvent what comes next.

Commenting on the role of technology during the pandemic, Daugherty pointed out that technology was the lifeline that kept things going, kept things operating, and kept everyone connected.

“If COVID had happened five years ago, it would have been far more devastating, with far more severe consequences given the state of technology.

“The role of technology going forward is very different. For example, in a rock concert, IT and technology used to be the roadies [road crews] – they were off the stage, supporting the show behind the scenes. With COVID and now this role of technology going forward, technology really is the star on the stage. It is centre stage and that is something we need to reflect in our businesses as we look at the role of technology and the technologists that we have in the business.”

He explained that COVID-19 hit the giant fast-forward button and propelled the world into the future at a new pace – 10 years of transformation compressed into one or two years.

“We are in the future but we just haven’t caught up yet – that is really what we are focusing on in the vision: how do we catch up and how do we change that mindset.

“Before COVID-19, we had done work around what is happening with digital and we found there was a digital achievement gap. The leaders in any given industry with digital, who are using technology more effectively, outperform the rest by two times.

“When the fast-forward button was hit during COVID, the gap widened. The top 10% are outperforming by five times. This is a stark reality and realisation for many companies and for many leaders as they think about what do they do next in this new environment.”

Five-pronged focus

This year’s theme for the Accenture Technology Vision 2021 is “Leaders wanted: Masters of change at a moment of truth”, according to Daugherty.

He explained it is a moment of truth because there is still exponential technology change that needs to be reflected in the business that is creating new opportunity.

Unpacking the five key trends in the report, Daugherty said they are the things leaders should pay attention to as they chart the course of their business.

The first of these trends is called “stack strategically: architecting a better future”. This, he explained, has to do with how organisations do their technology. “It’s not just about the outcome but how you develop the technology, the architecture and the architects that are strategic to your business, which is why we are seeing C-suites and boards care about the technology and how it’s done.”

He added: “As you think about architecting the future, it is about things like the cloud – how do you get to the cloud and how do you extend to the edge. It’s about data in AI and how to incorporate it in support of your business.”

The second trend, said Daugherty, is around the “mirrored world” − the power of massive, intelligent digital twins, digital, computerised twins that mirror the physical world.

“This is moving from simulation to operations and impact,” he stated. “Analysts forecast that spending on digital twins investment will increase from $3 billion this year to $35 billion, a tenfold increase in just a few years.

“That is what we see on the horizon…digital twins in retail, digital twins in sports, digital twins in automotive, in security with a cyber twin capability that we've developed, and that's really charting a course to a different way of running the business and driving effectiveness in business going forward.

Trend number three, he said, is called “I, technologist”, which is the democratising of technology. “If every business is a digital business, then every person needs to know technology and needs to be fluent in technology.

“It's about different ways of equipping people. The average person, not the IT professional, must develop applications in minutes rather than the old way of doing things. The CIO's role will change to one of developing the applications to empowering many more people and equipping many more people to power the business with technology.”

The fourth trend is “anywhere, everywhere”, he said. “It's much broader looking at how we power people to work in this new way and the role of technology in doing that. This is about creating the new culture of how people work in this environment.”

The fifth and final trend is “from me to we”, something Daugherty said is a multiparty system's path through chaos.

“The future is about more complex ecosystems to solve these big problems we face. Think about carbon tracking, think about broad health and healthcare systems. Think about broad supply chains; you know, circular supply chains. This is going to involve multiple parties working together and the time for multiparty systems. By that we mean, blockchain distributed ledgers and the like is really here, and it's required, and we're seeing the impact of them.”

He concluded: “We have an exciting future ahead. It's the future of human empowerment and human potential working with technology in a new way – solving some of the big problems that are intrinsic in the world today.”

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