What’s hot right now in the business world? Which companies are making the right moves in this age of disruption? How are incumbents responding to their more nimble rivals? We spoke with Robert Wollan, senior managing director for Accenture Strategy, Customers & Channels to find out. We captured the results in one of our “Coffee Conversations,” a podcast series featuring our most senior people at Accenture.
We were lucky enough to cross paths with Robert Wollan. Anything remarkable happen during your week so far?
Robert Wollan: It’s been a week of contrasts: I started out in Silicon Valley talking to some clients who are the innovators everyone’s looking at. We talked about what’s next. Then I met some incumbent players who are anything but focused on the future. But need to be.
Which companies are getting it right in this era of disruption?
RW: There are legacy companies like Disney that continue to show they understand monetization. They have an ability to innovate and invest in the areas that can be turned into money, which I’ll happily pay for when I take my kids there.
We often talk about the Airbnbs of the world. But what’s interesting is how the incumbents are fighting back. Look at how Marriott Starwood is thinking about taking advantage of their global scale and size to go against a digital player. That’s what I call interesting. You can see the level of innovation on their website and their mobile apps. These are real investments.
There’s also a lot happening around subscription services. You have probably seen companies such as Trunk Club, Blue Apron or Home Fresh, or Birchbox. They have truly changed the cycle time and are winning the war of relevance. We’re paying a higher dollar value to have those things delivered to our homes and they are creating interesting cases for incumbents as well as new subscription players coming into the market.
If we look at the utility companies, the energy companies, the big heavy industry companies—how are they different compared with consumer—facing players?
RW: They are getting more and more like their B2C brethren. What do I mean by that? They are creating new capabilities and leveraging digital to nearly the same extent as the consumer-facing B2C players. And they’re talking about direct-to-consumer in a much more serious way than they ever have before. They want to create the same level of “friendliness” in B2B as consumers enjoy in B2C.
And so what kind of skillsets do the trail-blazers need to have?
RW: Two things: Universally they need an appreciation of data and the right amount of data to focus on. We’ve all been on that pendulum swing of looking for every piece of data that will give insight. And ignoring the data. I think that we’re settling in now, and the role of data has become a key differentiator between the players who are succeeding and the ones who are distracted.