Bill Lesieur, Accenture Technology R&D Principal and a leading contributor to the Technology Vision 2017
The future of work has arrived, it’s digital and it’s on-demand, according to the 2017 Accenture Technology Vision. With new technologies that enable on-demand labor platforms and online management solutions, businesses are moving toward open talent marketplaces, forming a blended workforce of internal and external employees based on current needs and demand for specific skills.
Bill Lesieur, Accenture Technology R&D Principal and a leading contributor to the Technology Vision 2017, shares his insights on this trend: Workforce Marketplace: Invent Your Future. If you want to learn more about Technology Vision 2017 and Workforce Marketplace trend, please join our Live Broadcast on March 30, 2017.
Q: What skills and experience do you have, in your overall career and with Accenture, that led you to be part of the team that formed Technology Vision 2017?
Bill: From the beginning of my career, I have always been very comfortable in envisioning and embracing the future, and more importantly, evangelizing the opportunities of business and technological change—inherently disrupting the status quo.
My first job was in the IT shop of a Fortune 200 company. Within the first year, I had worked myself into the group that introduced all the “new stuff” into the company—and we were sometimes called renegades for it! We went on to disrupt the status quo of a conservative mainframe shop into one of the most aggressive IT shops in the industry. The bleeding-edge IT environment unleashed unprecedented market power, and launched the company into the Fortune 100.
From there, I became an industry analyst and research director covering all the hot spaces of telecom, mobility, wireless, Internet, and IoT—all fueling the rapid uptake of the always-on connected world and foundation of the digital era. Joining Accenture and the Technology Vision team was a natural and ideal progression from these forward-looking roles.
Q: What inspired you in the marketplace, in your conversations with experts, or your work with clients that led to the formation of this trend? Do you have specific examples?
Bill: I developed the platform trend chapters for Technology Vision 2015 and Technology Vision 2016—the Platform Revolution and Platform Economy trends, respectively. I worked closely with platform experts and academics, including Marshall Van Alstyne, co-author of the best-selling book “Platform Revolution,” published in March 2016. The Tech Vision External Advisory Board was also very influential in providing insights into platform technology and business models of all kinds.
I also worked closely with our academic partners at MIT Sloan as part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE). Accenture is the founding corporate member of the IDE research program. In fact, I relocated to MIT in 2016 as a “visiting scientist and digital fellow” to work on joint research on the on-demand economy, talent marketplaces and the digital transformation of labor.
With an in-depth knowledge of platforms and ecosystems, I laser focused on what I originally was calling “people platforms.” While it’s sometimes still challenging for large enterprises to envision, the people aspect of platform ecosystems will be a core competitive advantage going forward.
Q. While new technology companies aren’t the only ones embracing this “talent revolution,” some companies may be hesitant to stray from a more traditional, hierarchal workplace structure. Do you feel that this trend can positively impact companies across the globe and in a variety of industries? Why or why not?
Bill: Traditional hierarchal workplace structures drove unprecedented success in the industrial era and will not totally go away. The goal of bureaucratic hierarchies was to maintain the status quo and optimize process—and it worked marvelously for decades to drive rapid economic growth, but the game has changed in so many ways in the digital era. No matter what part of the globe or what industry, there are major parts of enterprises that can be transformed to function more like marketplaces, and provide the speed and agility that the digital era demands.
In short, corporate bureaucracy is killing innovation and constraining economic growth. In developing the trend, I engaged with management guru Gary Hamel on his research on bureaucracy, and we reference his study results in the study.
Q: As they transform to act more like marketplaces, companies are fundamentally rewriting the idea of the social contract. Questions will arise, such as, who is responsible for providing training or benefits for non-traditional employees? How can people just starting out in this new “Workforce Marketplace” plan for their career? Are there specific issues you would advise them to address when considering a new position as part of this new digital workforce?
Bill: We are going through monumental changes in our socioeconomic structures—the “social contract” relationships between corporations, governments and employees. We are moving toward a workforce that is looking for a completely different work environment as compared to 30 or 50 years, let alone 10 years ago. This workforce transformation is happening around the world, but not without conflict and policy challenges.
In the end, tech will not solve everything, but the digital transformation of labor markets and the management of work is happening—technology for people. Online talent marketplaces are the railroad tracks of the digital era. Those economies—both developed and emerging, industries and individual companies that understand and embrace the future of work and workforce marketplaces—will be the winners. This does not have to be daunting; we can do this in a smart and embracing way that will drive a people-first economy.
Q: Many job seekers are going to read these trends and be inspired to join a team that performs such innovative, groundbreaking work that is truly reshaping the business landscape. What advice do you have for people who aspire to be involved with such impactful projects?
Think big and bold about the future.
Embrace and evangelize constant change.
Learn from the past, and then let go of it.
Be creative and embrace diversity in all parts of your life.
Focus on creating the dynamic person you want to be.
Find others with the same passions.