Professional services firm Accenture is the latest heavyweight to highlight the importance of a new kind of leadership if organisations are to capitalise on the growth opportunities that technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics offer. But as it points out in its annual technology report, it isn’t only about creating business opportunities but ensuring such technology has the right impact on society. The new era of leadership, therefore, must prioritise “trust and greater responsibility”, it states.
As part of its Technology Vision 2018, Accenture surveyed more than 6,300 business and IT executives worldwide. This year’s report, Intelligent Enterprise Unleashed: Redefine Your Company Based on the Company You Keep, reveals how such technologies aren’t just enabling companies to create innovative products and services but also changing the way people work and live. This, in turn, is changing companies’ relationships with their customers and business partners.
More than four-fifths of respondents (84 per cent) agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of how people live today and Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology & innovation officer, reckons just as cities developed around ports and then railroads, or people rebuilt their lives around electricity, the world today is reimagining itself around digital innovation. “And, by extension, the companies that provide those services. This requires a new type of relationship, built on trust and the sharing of large amounts of personal information.”
It is worthwhile noting that what makes this digital revolution so different from anything that has gone before is its interactivity. Customers have far more access to those who are developing the products and services that they purchase. As Accenture points out, this two-way street is leading to a level of “integrated innovation” and degree of trust between the parties that hasn’t been experienced before. “With this two-way partnership comes new responsibilities – to consumers, employees, government and the public,” it cautions.
The Technology Vision 2018 lists five emerging technology trends that Accenture stresses companies must address if they are to build the partnerships that will be necessary to flourish in the digital revolution. They are:
Citizen AI: raising AI to benefit business and society As artificial intelligence (AI) grows in its capabilities, so does its impact on people’s lives. Businesses looking to capitalise on AI’s potential must acknowledge this impact, “raising” AI to act as responsible representatives of their business.
Extended reality: the end of distance Virtual and augmented reality technologies are transforming the ways people live and work by removing the distance to people, information and experiences.
Data veracity: the importance of trust By transforming themselves to run on data, businesses now face a new kind of vulnerability: inaccurate, manipulated and biased data that leads to corrupted business insights and skewed decisions. To address this challenge, companies must follow a dual mandate to maximise veracity and minimise incentives for data manipulation.
Frictionless business: built to partner at scale Businesses depend on technology-based partnerships for growth, but their own legacy systems aren’t designed to support partnerships at scale. To fully power the connected Intelligent Enterprise, companies must first re-design themselves.
Internet of Thinking: creating intelligent distributed systems Businesses are making big bets on intelligent environments via robotics, AI and immersive experiences, but bringing these intelligent environments to life will require not only adding key skills and workforce capabilities, but also modernising enterprise technology infrastructures.
In my view, the trends make for fascinating reading as well as importantly alerting leaders to the challenges ahead and the exciting opportunities for organisations in the future. Organisations have an opportunity to impact and integrate with society in a way they never have before, and we need to grasp this with both hands. The more important organisations are to society, the more in demand our products and services will be to customers and therefore the greater security of our own future.