In brief

In brief

  • Digital technology has the potential to transform every aspect of the aerospace and defense value chain.
  • In a volatile world, digital is essential to outmaneuver uncertainty and achieve resilience.
  • To emerge stronger, companies must double down on their digital transformation by leveraging the full range of smart technologies.

Disruption and transformation

COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges aerospace and defense companies have ever faced. While the impact of the pandemic is not evenly spread across the industry, all organizations will need to adapt to a post-COVID world. Yet the motor for change in the industry was present before the pandemic.


of aerospace and defense executives agree that technology has become an inextricable part of the human experience.

Digital technology is transforming everything from customer experience to engineering and manufacturing. Whether it’s about being more data-driven, deploying more automation and AI, or using the cloud across all operations and fostering a more collaborative culture, every organization now recognizes the importance of digital to the future of the industry.

While the Aerospace and Defense industry is demonstrably embracing digital, there’s still plenty of progress to make. The themes of the Accenture Technology Vision 2020 for the Aerospace and Defense industry highlight some of the key influences and trends that aerospace and defense businesses will need to navigate as they accelerate their journeys into the new digital world.

The I in experience

Customers are increasingly wary about the commercial use of their data. They want a bigger say in how their personal data is used and greater input into the experience they get from a service. Aerospace and defense companies are already providing immersive and co-created experiences to improve aircraft design and maximize the enjoyment and comfort of the flight experience.

Leading businesses will need to work even more closely with their customers to create the digital experiences of the future. These next generation, technology-driven experiences will place people at the center of the aircraft design process, prioritizing comfort, hygiene, safety and the passenger experience.


of aerospace and defense executives agree that organizations need to dramatically reengineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more human-centric way.

AI and me

It’s not just the partnership between customers and businesses that will define the industry moving forward. Human-machine collaboration will shape the future too, and aerospace and defense companies have been ahead of the curve in adopting AI.


of aerospace and defense executives report that AI has been adopted across multiple business units, compared with 23% for all industries.

But unlocking AI’s full potential means more than just buying or building a tool. It means reorganizing the entire enterprise to ensure that AI and human talent can effectively work together. Among a range of benefits, this could enable more efficient supply chain management and improved aircraft design.

Robots in the wild

Robotics also pose fundamental questions to the industry about the relationship between human labor and technology. This is especially the case as robots’ capabilities begin to extend beyond controlled environments.


of aerospace and defense executives believe that robotics will enable the next generation of services.

Robotics’ potential is transformative for the industry. Manufacturing automation, falling hardware costs, and the advent of 5G are expanding the possibilities of robotics in new terrain, improving how aerospace and defense companies design, manufacture and roll-out their products and services.

The dilemma of smart things

The nature of what aerospace and defense organizations sell is also changing. Gone are the days when products were a finished, physical item. Instead, what are increasingly being sold are evolving services, for example, intelligent engines and next-generation flight management systems (FMS).


of aerospace and defense executives expect their connected products and services to have more, or significantly more, updates over the next three years.

The management of these products has profound implications for business models. Shared ownership in particular is becoming more common, as aerospace and defense companies continue to retain some control and responsibility over a product or a service sold to airlines or a government.

Innovation DNA

Evolution in product design and implementation require a broader culture of innovation. Scientific advancements are moving out of research and development labs into practical applications faster than ever, maturing digital technologies continue to propel digital transformation journeys, and emerging Distributed Ledger Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Extended Reality, Quantum Computing (DARQ) technologies all have the potential to transform the industry further.


of aerospace and defense executives believe the stakes for innovation have never been higher.

Aerospace and defense leaders need to ensure that their organization’s culture allows for easy assimilation of these new technologies.

A three-point plan for a digital future

Even before the pandemic, the Aerospace and Defense industry was dealing with profound change. To best equip themselves for the journey ahead, companies need to structure their digital transformation around three key points:

  1. Pivot towards digital transformation and leverage smart technologies while balancing the drive for efficiency with the need to invest for the future.
  2. Adopt intelligent solutions powered by AI.
  3. Invest in resiliency by enabling talent and rotating to the cloud, to increase the speed of strategy execution.

To help achieve these, Accenture has identified eight imperatives that put digital at the heart of the business and help build comprehensive digital capabilities across the value chain:

Eight imperatives that put digital at the heart of the business.

8 imperatives for a digital state of mind.

Taken together, these imperatives can help aerospace and defense companies plan and prioritize the actions they must take now and next to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and continue their upward journey to becoming resilient, fully- digital enterprises.

Podcast: What technology investments to watch for

Companies across the board are slashing costs, preserving cash, and trying to adjust to a new normal after the novel coronavirus throttled down business prospects. But there is one area they are sure to spend even more money on in the coming years as industry regroups after COVID-19.

Listen in as Aviation Week’s Senior Business Editor, Michael Bruno, and Accenture’s Global Aerospace and Defense Lead, John Schmidt, discuss what to watch for in technology investments in Aerospace and Defense.

Don't miss a single episode. View the full series.

John Schmidt

Senior Managing Director – Aerospace & Defense, Global

Marc Gelle

Senior Managing Director – Aerospace & Defense, Europe


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