A new look at our 2020 Technology Vision trends

When we published Accenture’s 2020 Technology Vision report, COVID-19 was not yet a global pandemic. Now, it’s the greatest challenge the world has faced in decades. In just a few short months, it’s transformed people’s lives on an unprecedented scale, impacted every industry, and altered the course of companies’ growth. But the pandemic has not slowed innovation—it’s amplifying it to historic levels.

Our technology trends explore how people’s values are shifting, and digital-age technology models are increasingly out of sync with them. This imbalance—when business value is misaligned with people’s values—is what we call "tech-clash." It’s a very different crisis, but COVID-19 does not overshadow the issue. It exacerbates it. Now more than ever, it’s critical that businesses think about outmaneuvering today’s uncertainty.

The I in experience

The enterprises that start building personalized, interactive, and shared virtual communities today can carry that success far into the future.

AI and me

Investing in explainable AI and other tools that enable true human-AI partnership allows businesses to reimagine their workforce in the future.

Robots in the wild

While today’s robotics leaders are filling new, pandemic-related roles, the ones truly thinking long-term are also building a more automated future.

Dilemma of smart things

Enterprises need to consider how they can introduce new features without overstepping. Failing to support these changes produces short-lived benefits.

Innovation DNA

Leaders who create agile and resilient innovation DNAs will be positioned to meet new needs and build new capabilities faster than ever before.

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How to manage now

At this time, the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on human life, the global economy, and enterprises is not yet known. But already, it has become an extraordinary catalyst for change. The need for innovation is greater than ever, driven by new challenges that are more disruptive than most have ever faced. The question for enterprises is: How fast can you act? In light of this new reality and new imperative, we are revisiting our 2020 Technology Vision trends and exploring how they will impact people and business in the post-COVID world.

The I in experience

In The I in Experience, we explore the evolution of digital experiences: black-box personalization, now common, leaves customers feeling out of the loop and out of control. Instead, organizations will need a new model for personalization—one that emphasizes customer agency. Now, there is a significant caveat: COVID-19 has transformed the role and importance of digital experiences in people’s lives. Businesses will need more agile engagement strategies, now and in the future, if they want to thrive.

In the short-term, people are changing, and enterprises should update their personalization strategies to keep up. Businesses need a way to quickly update their understanding of individuals’ wants and needs, and quickly retire information that is no longer valid. The enterprises that give people the agency to steer their own digital experiences will be the first to understand what their new wants and needs are.

Long-term, the purpose of a digital experience will be transformed. Demand is soaring for truly shared digital experiences and digital communities, and leaders are rising to the occasion. The need for digital platforms and experiences will continue to accelerate in the future, as businesses and consumers seek alternatives to in-person gatherings in a post-COVID world. The enterprises that start building personalized, interactive, and shared virtual communities today can carry that success far into the future.

AI and me

Our AI and Me trend explores how leading enterprises are fostering human-AI collaboration—bringing AI’s near limitless capabilities together with people’s ability to direct and refine ideas. Before the pandemic, this was already top of mind in many industries. Now, AI should be an even higher priority and the benefits have never looked more promising.

Short-term use cases are clear: workforces desperately need augmentation. Already, human-AI collaboration is playing a role in the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine. Outside the medical field, the pandemic is introducing new constraints and challenges that AI systems can help overcome. AI can help people dream up new solutions and ideas to build a more flexible organization.

Long-term, COVID-19 will enable us to see human-AI collaboration at its best, potentially easing people’s concerns about the technology. A 2019 global Accenture study on AI found that one of the top roadblocks to scaling the technology is lack of employee adoption. But the pandemic could push us past this. If enterprises invest in explainable AI and other tools that support and enable true human-AI partnership—people will experience the technology at its best. Success today could open new possibilities for businesses to reimagine their enterprise and workforce in the future.

Robots in the wild

No trend has escalated quite like Robots in the Wild. As social distancing becomes the new normal, robots are moving from controlled environments to uncontrolled environments in many industries faster than we expected. They are more critical than ever, as businesses and governments search for new, “contact-less” solutions.

In the short-term, robots are taking on new responsibilities during the pandemic. Robots are joining our frontline workers and helping to fight the virus. They’re helping businesses do even more, while simultaneously demonstrating new use cases to regulators, workers, and the public. The pandemic is showing robots in their best light, and the impact won’t be forgotten.

Long-term, the robotics ecosystem will be accelerated. The pandemic is strengthening the case for robotics and automation. The growing need for automation will boost more than just robotics. Consider how 4G networks grew in lockstep with the rising popularity of smartphones. Robots, IoT devices, and 5G will likely have a similar relationship, as many robot use cases will need increased data transfer rates and decreased latency. While today’s robotics leaders are stepping up to the plate to fill pandemic-related roles, the ones truly thinking long-term are also building the foundation of a more automated future.

The dilemma of smart things

In The Dilemma of Smart Things, we explore how businesses need to confront the beta burden and the unintended consequences that occur when smart products are constantly in flux. Now, COVID-19 is increasing our need for these smart and updateable products, which have great public health potential. But the beta burden could complicate things down the road.

In the short-term, smart devices are becoming tools in the fight against COVID-19. Smart health devices can help identify symptoms, can monitor patients, and have troves of valuable health data that can help researchers and governments save lives. Many robotic devices have been rapidly updated or repurposed for COVID-19, enforcing safe distancing in public spaces, dispensing hand sanitizer, and more. Where introducing new features and functionality may have upset people in the past, they are now much more welcome in the context of COVID-19.

Long-term, however, the beta burden will return in force. Businesses must keep the threat of future backlash in mind. Device-driven efforts to combat COVID-19 are already sparking conversations about privacy, and many are worried that their data could be used against them in the future. Enterprises need to consider how they can introduce new features to their devices without overstepping. The ones that fail to fully support these changes and updates will find that the benefits are short-lived.

Innovation DNA

In our Innovation DNA trend, we explore three different areas of innovation: mature digital technologies, scientific advancements, and emerging DARQ technologies (distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, extended reality, and quantum computing). Businesses will be set apart by the way they merge and combine seemingly separate strategies from all of these areas. This is still true, but COVID-19 has shifted the balance, accelerating DARQ technologies beyond expectations. Today, emerging technologies are gaining momentum and innovation timelines are speeding up.

In the short-term, the pandemic is putting ecosystems through an innovation stress test. COVID-19 is pushing companies to work together in new ways, creating ecosystem-wide innovation. Consider how cities are partnering with hotels to house homeless populations and stem the spread of the virus in crowded shelters. The pandemic is driving enterprises to consider and test many new partnerships and possibilities. The partnerships, products, and services that enterprises are building today have the potential to define business and technology for years to come.

Long-term, the rules around innovation will never be the same. The world is changing faster than anyone expected, and businesses need to be more flexible than ever. Many leaders are weaving together new innovation strategies and forming new partnerships to help them pivot quickly and continuously during this crisis. We need bold innovation to get through this, and we will still need bold innovation when it passes.

Our trends today

COVID-19 has made our Technology Vision trends more relevant and urgent than before. Opportunities that businesses expected to have years to prepare for are quickly approaching. To meet these challenges, organizations will need to innovate, invent, and redefine themselves. People are depending on technology more than ever. How quickly and responsibly enterprises deploy it matters more than ever, too. We are living in an unprecedented time, heading into a fast-changing future. Our technology trends can help you set your course.

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