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Future Systems can help you scale
innovation and achieve full value

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In Brief

  • Today’s C-suite is investing in the latest technology, but they aren’t necessarily unlocking its trapped value for their businesses.
  • We’ve cracked the code on strategic use of enterprise technology by studying both “Leaders” who are building what we call Future Systems and “Laggards,” who are investing in but not scaling and realizing the full value of innovation.
  • The stakes are high: Leaders are seeing more than 2X the revenue growth of Laggards.
  • Organizations can adopt the mindset and methods of Leaders to close their own innovation achievement gap and build Future Systems that are boundaryless, adaptable and radically human.

Tech is everywhere,
value isn’t.

The growing innovation achievement gap

Under enormous pressure to generate growth, today’s C-suite is adopting technology that spawns new capabilities and applications. But many still struggle to scale innovation company-wide.

It’s creating what we call the innovation achievement gap—the difference between technology innovation investment and realized value.

Value is difficult to capture in part because the conventional IT “stack”—spanning software applications, hardware, telecommunications, facilities and data centers—wasn’t built for today’s world of analytics, sensors, mobile computing, artificial intelligence applications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and billions of devices. Nor was it designed to adapt to the world of tomorrow, whatever that might be.

But it’s not the case that digital native companies are closing their value achievement gaps, while legacy companies aren’t.

We’ve found that growth in every kind of company depends on a systematic and sequential adoption strategy in line with Future Systems—enterprise systems capable of scaling innovations repeatedly and granting organizations the strategic agility they need.

Tech is everywhere

Future Systems: Finding New Value

Companies in the top 10%—those we refer to as the leaders—grow revenue at 2x the rate of laggards.

Realizing the full value of tech investments

Discover the path that leading companies are following to reinvent their enterprise technology.

Work the Systems

To crack the code, we conducted our largest enterprise systems survey ever and collected data on more than 8,300 companies’ IT systems strategies, asking about:

  • adoption of key technologies
  • penetration of technologies adopted
  • organizational culture

We scored the companies on these dimensions, calling those in the top 10% Leaders and those in the bottom 25%, Laggards. By tracking performance indicators between 2015 and 2023 (projected), we can see a strong correlation between technology adoption and achieved, or expected, value.

The difference is staggering: Leaders grow revenue at more than twice the rate of Laggards.

And the lost potential is snowballing.

In 2018, Laggards had 15% in foregone annual revenue. If they don’t change, they could miss out on as much as 46% of their annual revenue by 2023.

Laggards annual revenue graph 2 Laggards annual revenue graph 3 Laggards annual revenue graph 4

This illustrative model shows that the difference between Leaders and Laggards’ revenue growth is projected to widen. Leaders' expected, self-reported growth is represented by the purple line and Laggards the blue line. Dollar values illustrate opportunity cost for a hypothetical company with $10 billion in revenue in 2015.

Capture the value

Leaders have a deliberate stance toward technology adoption and a clear vision for what their companies’ future systems should look like.

While some leaders are born, others are made: Everyone can emulate the mindset and methods of the top 10%

But it’s not just about collecting new tools; they prioritize and sequence implementations in optimal ways. They cultivate Future Systems, a state in which businesses adopt complex, interconnected systems of technologies, applications and people. As a result, their systems allow for a seamless flow of product and service innovations from one process to another.

Laggards, on the other hand, have faith in a “fast follower” approach, implementing technologies as individual point solutions without a plan for cultivating systems. So, when a potentially game-changing innovation comes along, they fail to scale it.

Let’s take a closer look at why Leaders are building thriving Future Systems, which are boundaryless, adaptable and radically human:


Boundaryless systems take advantage of blurring boundaries to create new spaces where ideas and partnerships can flourish.

Historically, the components of the IT-stack—database, applications and infrastructure—have been treated as independent entities. These days, divisions are fading.

Boundaryless organizations utilize the cloud, have a uniform approach to data, security and governance, and have established paths for exploring unconventional business/technology partnerships.

Pie chart 75%

say systems are breaking down the boundaries between data, infrastructure and applications, between humans and machines, and even between competing organizations.


Adaptable systems learn and improve by themselves, eliminating the friction that hinders business growth and helps humans make better decisions, much faster. Powered by advances in data and intelligent technologies, those with adaptable systems aren’t fazed by change.

Decoupling Entire IT Stack Decoupling Entire IT Stack Decoupling Entire IT Stack graph

More than 80% of Leaders agree that decoupling the entire IT stack is a key step toward adaptable systems, compared to less than 40% of Laggards who think so.

Key markers of adaptable organizations include enterprise-wide use of automation and AI, a continuous data supply chain in the cloud to power the AI in the enterprise, and a stable but modular, flexible, and constantly evolving architecture.

Radically human

Radically human systems talk, listen, see and understand just like we do, bringing elegant simplicity to every human-machine interaction.

Pie chart 91%

91% of Leaders are extremely effective at working with cross-department teams that combine IT and business to create customer-centric solutions, compared with only 41% of Laggards.

Thanks to technologies such as natural-language processing, computer vision, voice recognition and machine learning, radically human systems are becoming less artificial and more intelligent, making them easier to interact with and more efficient.

An example of Radically Human is our Anomaly Detection solution, where we augment our teams with AI to find anomalies or fraud in myTimeandExpenses and evolve with the changing behavior of employees.

Companies that can think in terms of systems, as opposed to point-solutions, stand to outpace others in terms of both revenue and margin growth.

There’s method in the mindset

Leaders take five key actions consistently to close their innovation achievement gaps and rise above the rest.

Leaders take five key actions consistently to close their innovation achievement gaps and rise above the rest.

  1. Adopt technologies that make the organization fast and flexible

    Leaders are moving to decoupled data, infrastructure and applications that enable greater flexibility and a faster-moving IT culture.

    While Leaders opt for flexible, uniform and scalable architectures capable of responding to market demands, like seamless customer payments, Laggards find it difficult to move away from rigid IT architectures which leaves them unable to maximize investments in innovation and vulnerable to system-wide outages.

    97% of Leaders adopt critical technologies such as microservice architectures, containers and Kubernetes that allow decoupling.

  2. Get grounded in cloud computing

    Cloud computing is essential to Future Systems because it enables companies to successfully utilize other technologies, including AI and analytics. As such, Leaders treat the cloud as a catalyst for innovation.

    Sophisticated cloud adoption - laggards Sophisticated cloud adoption - leaders Sophisticated cloud adoption bar graph

    95% percent of Leaders have adopted sophisticated cloud services compared to around 30% of Laggards, who tend to see the cloud as a cost-effective “data-center.”

  3. Recognize data as being both an asset and a liability

    Leaders ensure data quality, creating security measures that anticipate threats and building ethically responsible frameworks for managing data and AI. This establishes a virtuous cycle of data creation and consumption, because the quality is always improving.

    90% of Leaders ensure data quality, only 40% of Laggards do so. And while 90% of Leaders continue to enrich their data, just 54% of Laggards are doing so.

    Similarly, the AI handling the company data must gain the trust and confidence of the people who use it to avoid the risk of adverse effects on business performance, brand reputation and regulatory compliance.

    94% of Leaders have a systematic way of managing AI in a responsible/ethical manner, compared to 49% of Laggards.

  4. Manage technology investments well – across the enterprise

    Leaders have clear visibility into company-wide technology investments.

    Systematically track ROI graph - leaders Systematically track ROI graph - laggards Systematically track ROI graph

    94% of Leaders systematically track ROIs for investments in automation across the organization, compared to only 47% of Laggards.

    Leaders work toward business alignment by breaking down barriers between IT and other departments. They also establish innovation centers, creating pipelines for innovation transfer. For instance, they might consider how improvements in machine-learning-driven sales and customer relationship technology could be used to predict and preempt employee turnover.

  5. Find creative ways to nurture talent

    A workforce immersed in yesterday’s technologies is one of the biggest obstacles to creating the expansive, flexible, human-centric systems necessary for success.

    Our survey respondents believe that without some retraining, 52% of their IT workforce’s skills and almost half (47%) of their non-IT workforce’s skills will be obsolete in three years.

    87% of Leaders are using AI and advanced analytics to personalize learning, predict skills needs and match workers’ skill requirements with appropriate training modules. Only 35% of Laggards are involved in such efforts.

    Leaders also make sure their talent is not afraid to experiment and present non-traditional ideas—important components of learning and growing.

Four barriers to innovating at scale

Across the world, companies cite architecture flexibility as the biggest of four barriers to innovating at scale. Respondents were asked about their effectiveness in addressing each. See how your country stacks up.

Technology Adoption: Mastering new technology frontiers at speed and at scale.

Architecture Flexibility: Building flexible, uniform and scalable architectures capable of responding to market demands.

Systems Trust: Safeguarding trust in systems with constantly evolving approaches to security and data.

Organizational Transaction Costs: Reducing interaction impediments, both organizational and technological.

Our Plan,
Your Move

Spending money on the latest technologies and working hard to solve problems as they arise is simply not enough to get to the top in today’s fiercely competitive business environment.

Spending money on the latest technologies and working hard to solve problems as they arise is simply not enough to get to the top in today’s fiercely competitive business environment.

To scale innovations repeatedly and grow twice as fast as others, companies must evolve to Future Systems by cultivating the mindset and methods of the top 10%, right now. Those that wait will find it increasingly difficult to catch up, as new technologies proliferate while the pace of innovation accelerates.

Now is the time to make your move to the future

Leaders already enjoy a considerable head start and will not be standing still. To scale innovations repeatedly and drive growth, companies have to depart from adopting technologies as point-solutions and evolve to future systems.

About the Research

We surveyed C-level executives from 8356 companies (half IT, half non-IT) from 20 industries and 20 countries. Our dataset captures key growth and revenue indicators over an eight-year time period. About 80% of the companies included have $1 billion or more in annual revenues.

Get the Essentials

The way companies invest in and deploy enterprise technology has a direct and lasting impact on their revenue growth. Find out more about the mindset and methods of the top 10%--how they’re evolving to future systems and getting the full value from their technology investments.

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