One Sunday in early March, as I was reading headlines about the pandemic in The San Francisco Chronicle, an oft-quoted sentiment jumped into my head: The pace of change will never again be as slow as it is today.

Working in the technology world, I’m always trying to wrap my head around how things are speeding up — for instance, how computer chips and data processing are growing exponentially faster.

But on that Sunday, it was a pandemic that was growing at an exponential pace, and I was wondering where and how technology would keep up.

Could our life sciences clients quickly redeploy AI, collaboration software and data to find a vaccine? How might IT systems at our clients in other industries be elastic or resilient enough to handle all the required changes to keep supply chains moving — and workers connected to critical systems?

How technology moves at speed and scale

Accenture Research moved quickly to address the need for instant insights on these and other challenges when faced with COVID-19. We looked to our research on future systems — a state in which businesses adopt complex, interconnected living systems of technologies, applications and people to scale innovations repeatedly — which helped us quickly address some of these questions for our clients.

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In a world turned upside down, your people need to trust that your company is using technology for their good — not against them.

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As the pandemic posed immediate challenges (such as setting up systems for teams to work remotely) some of the theories we’d explored before COVID-19 helped us chart the path forward amid the crisis.

Here are a few of the relevant points from the research that shaped two guides for companies looking to create an elastic digital workplace and build their system resilience:

Developing trust and transparency are more important than ever

We already knew 94% of the leading companies in our future systems study use tech and data in a way that enhances transparency and collaboration in the organization.

Trust was important before the pandemic, no doubt about it, but in a world turned upside down, your people need to trust that your company is using technology for their good — not against them. Whether creating a workplace culture of trust or a trustworthy cyber system, trust matters more than ever as the world is grappling with a record number of unknowns.

Fast adoption of new tech is essential

In earlier future systems research we had an insight around tech adoption, in particular around adopting new IT like blockchain, deep learning, natural language processing or new hybrid cloud computing architectures.

The sooner companies were adopting these technologies and working in a highly distributed and cloud-based way, the better. In particular, cloud enables companies to utilize other technologies successfully, including AI and analytics.

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As much of the world moved to working from home, flexible systems became essential, overnight.

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Ninety-five percent of our future systems study’s Leaders (those who are building future systems) have adopted advanced cloud services like serverless computing. Compare that 30% of Laggards (those who are investing in but not scaling and realizing the full value of innovation).

Building systems that help make the organization more flexible

In our future systems research, we saw that leading companies developed IT architectures to be boundaryless, adaptable, radically human systems. For instance, more than 80% of our survey’s Leaders were making moves toward more adaptable — “decoupled” IT — compared to less than 40% of Laggards.

As much of the world moved to working from home, flexible systems became essential, overnight. Of course, flexing systems to the new “work-from-home” paradigm will present new challenges that companies must proactively monitor and manage, especially regarding the security of intellectual property and data.

No more silver bullets

Developing our thinking during COVID-19 was a first for me in several ways. For instance, I’ve spent much of my career trying to detect subtle patterns in the business zeitgeist to predict big changes on the horizon.

But with COVID-19, the new patterns were unprecedented and weren’t subtle.

Our clients had clear needs — to keep stakeholders connected and productive — and our ideas needed to help show them how in real-time.

This document is intended for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, and may not reflect the most current developments. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this presentation and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit, or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professionals.

 

H. James Wilson

Managing Director – Accenture Information Technology and Business Research

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