Leading companies that develop a people first approach will win in today’s digital economy, according to the latest global technology trends report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
As technology advancements accelerate at an unprecedented rate – dramatically disrupting the workforce – companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. Those that do will have unmatched capabilities to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.
“In the Accenture Technology Vision 2016, we’ve identified five technology trends that are critical to digital success,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology officer. “Digital means people too and a cornerstone of this year’s Vision is people first. Companies that embrace digital can empower their workforce to continuously learn new skills to do more with technology and generate bigger and better business results.”
In a companion survey of more than 3,100 business and IT executives worldwide, Accenture found that 33 percent of the global economy is already impacted by digital. Additionally, 86 percent of survey respondents anticipate that the pace of technology change will increase at a rapid or unprecedented rate over the next three years.
The Accenture report highlights how companies can often feel overwhelmed by the pace of technology change, experiencing “digital culture shock” at the prospect of keeping up with the competition. However, companies can adopt a people-first approach that will allow them to create new business models that drive digital disruption. One example is GE, which established a new approach called FastWorks that connected employees much more closely to customers and ultimately led to the rapid development of innovative solutions that sold well because they met and exceeded customer expectations. Additionally, Virgin America, the only airline based in Silicon Valley and the highest rated, has gone so far as to collaborate with its frequent flyers, returning customer loyalty with stock options before the company went public.
In the report, Accenture identifies five technology trends fueled by the people first principal that are essential to business success in the digital economy. The trends include:
- Intelligent automation. Leaders are embracing automation – powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and augmented reality – to fundamentally change the way their business operates and drive a new, more productive relationship between people and machines. Significant investments are well underway with 70 percent of survey respondents acknowledging increased AI-related technology investments compared to two years ago, and 55 percent revealing that they plan on using machine learning and embedded AI solutions like IPsoft Amelia extensively.
- Liquid workforce. By exploiting technology to enable workforce transformation, leading companies will create highly adaptable and change-ready environments that are able to meet today’s dynamic digital demands. The competitive advantage offered by a liquid workforce is apparent as survey respondents indicated that “deep expertise for the specialized task at hand” was only the fifth-most-important characteristic they required for employees to perform well in a digital work environment. Other qualities such as ‘the ability to quickly learn’ or ‘the ability to shift gears’ were ranked higher.
- Platform economy. Industry leaders are unleashing the power of technology by developing platform-based business models to capture new growth opportunities, driving the most profound change in the global macroeconomic environment since the Industrial Revolution. This is reinforced by 81 percent of our survey respondents who agree that platform-based business models will become part of their organization’s core growth strategy within three years.
- Predictable disruption. Fast-emerging digital ecosystems are creating the foundation for the next wave of disruption by straddling markets and blurring industry boundaries; forward-thinking leaders can proactively predict these ecosystem trajectories to gain a competitive advantage. Companies are already significantly or moderately experiencing ecosystem disruption, with 81 percent of survey respondents indicating that they are seeing this in their industry.
- Digital Trust. Trust is a cornerstone of the digital economy, said 83 percent of survey respondents. To gain the trust of individuals, ecosystems and regulators in this new landscape, businesses must focus on digital ethics as a core strategy; better security alone won’t be enough.
For nearly 16 years, Accenture has taken a systematic look across the enterprise landscape to identify emerging technology trends that hold the greatest potential to disrupt businesses and industries.
About the Methodology
Accenture’s Technology Vision is developed annually by the Accenture Technology Labs. For the 2016 report, the research process included gathering input from the Technology Vision External Advisory Board, a group comprising more than two dozen experienced individuals from the public and private sectors, academia, venture capital firms and entrepreneurial companies. In addition, the Technology Vision team conducted interviews with technology luminaries and industry experts, as well as with nearly 100 Accenture business leaders.
In parallel, Accenture Research conducted a global survey of more than 3,100 business and IT executives across 11 countries and 12 industries to capture insights into the adoption of emerging technologies. The survey helped identify the key issues and priorities for technology adoption and investment. Respondents were mostly C-level executives and directors, with some functional and line-of-business leads, at companies with annual revenues of at least US$500 million, with the majority of companies having annual revenues greater than US$6 billion.