Accenture - the era of the fast follower is over, perpetual change is permanent

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez February 17, 2021 Audio mode
Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021 report highlights some interesting trends we may see over the coming years, for leaders in digital and business.

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We tend to take company-backed research with a pinch of salt, as there are often many vested interests in play and the findings sometimes too ‘pie in the sky', not reflective of what's really happening with buyers. However, sometimes there are nuggets of detail that shine through that are worth highlighting, even if they need to be watered down somewhat. 

I'd argue that this is true of Accenture's Technology Vision 2021 report, released today, which surveyed more than 6,200 business and technology leaders. The results of the report, and Accenture's commentary alongside them, stray a little bit too far into ‘big picture dramatics'. That being said, I do think some of the key takeaways are useful for business and technology leaders to consider, as they continue to navigate a route through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The crux of the report is that companies are now shifting from reacting to the crisis, to reinventing what comes next. And part of this is integrating business and technology strategies as one, where companies compete on their technology stacks. Accenture notes that those companies with a "strong digital core" are growing revenues 5x faster than laggards today, which compares to 2x faster between 2015 and 2018. 

The result, it adds, is companies "racing to reinvent themselves and use technology innovations to shape the new realities they face". 

Paul Daugherty, group chief executive - Technology and chief technology officer at Accenture, said: 

The global pandemic pushed a giant fast forward button to the future. Many organizations stepped up to use technology in extraordinary ways to keep their businesses and communities running - at a pace they thought previously impossible - while others faced the stark reality of their shortcomings, lacking the digital foundation needed to rapidly pivot.

We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn this moment of truth for technology into a moment of trust - embracing the power of exponential technology change to completely reimagine and rebuild the future of business and human experience.

The five key trends

Accenture states that to succeed in the future, companies will need to become "masters of change" by following three key imperatives. First, technology leadership is a must and the era of the fast follower is over - perpetual change is the name of the game. Second, successful leaders won't wait for a new normal, they'll reinvent with a new mindset and new models. Finally, companies at the forefront will embrace a broader responsibility, deliberately designing and applying technology to create positive impacts beyond the four walls of the enterprise. 

With these key traits in mind, Accenture highlights five key trends that companies will need to address over the next three years in order to drive necessary change. These include: 

  • Stack strategically - Accenture believes that market competition now means companies competing on their IT systems architecture, where business and technology strategies are indistinguishable. 89% of executives responding to the survey said that their organisation's ability to generate business value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their technology architecture. 

  • Digital twins - Leaders are building intelligent digital twins to create ‘living' models of factories, supply chains, product lifecycles, and more. Accenture argues that bringing together data and intelligence to represent the physical world in a digital space will unlock new opportunities to operate, collaborate and innovate. 65% of executives surveyed expect their organisation's investment in this area to increase over the next three years. 

  • The democratization of technology - Thanks to automation and low-code technologies, there is a new grassroots movement in the enterprise, where ‘every employee has the opportunity to be an innovator and to optimise work'. 88% of respondents believe technology democratisation is critical in their ability to drive innovation across their organisation. 

  • Bring your own environment - Expanding the boundaries of the enterprise as a key focus and priority will come as no surprise. In this model, leaders can rethink the purpose of working at each location and "lean into the opportunity to reimagine their business in this new world". 88% of executives agree that leading organisations in their industry will start shifting from ‘bring your own device' to ‘bring your own environment' workforce approach. 

  • A multiparty system's approach through chaos - Multiparty Systems (MPS) share data between individuals and organizations in a way that drives efficiency and builds new business and revenue models. They include blockchain, distributed ledger, distributed database, tokenization and a variety of other technologies and capabilities. COVID-19 has demanded that businesses understand how people and things move together, without sacrificing privacy or efficiency - which has been enabled by MPS. Accenture argues that as companies move beyond COVID-19, they must not rebuild the mistakes of the past. 90% of respondents state that MPS will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation to create new value with their organisation's partners. 

My take

As I stated above, it's worth taking some of what Accenture says here with a pinch of salt. Not because it's not relevant - it is - but because the vast majority of companies are still grappling with complex business, process and technology systems that have come under extreme pressure during COVID-19. Jumping to the five key trends above, whilst mitigating the risk from historical architecture, is challenging. That being said, it's worthwhile that business and technology leaders think deeply about the above points and what they mean to you. The main thing I'd try and remember is that your business and technology strategies should be indistinguishable from each other. Keep that in mind with everything you do. 

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