I lead Accenture Strategy in Greater China and I have almost 18 years’ consulting experience behind me – 16 of them in strategy consulting. That sees me helping organisations with long-term strategic transformations, including finding new growth avenues, developing innovative business models, creating their talent strategy and restructuring their organisation.
Over the past month or so, I’ve seen quite a lot of debate on the internet around the development of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and robotics, and how all of that could impact consultancies 10 or 20 years down the road. What kind of value will consultants bring as machines get more and more intelligent?
I don’t think the way Strategy Consultants add value in the future should be via our outsourcing capacity because that work can be done via technology – Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. What cannot be replaced, and something which is extremely helpful for businesses, is the insights and foresights a Strategy Consultant can bring to support and shape those businesses.
By insights I mean that although everyone can see the same information, it takes insightful people to immediately cut to the core of the issues and draw insights out of it. That insight isn’t something you can wire into technology – into a robot’s mind. By foresights I mean the ability to anticipate how the world is going to evolve. And how that’s going to impact a particular business before determining how the business should prepare for it.
Accenture is an interesting and exciting place to be because of our unique position. A lot of the cutting-edge, really cool technology companies are Accenture clients. The other week I had an intriguing conversation with some unicorns (start-up companies valued at over $1 billion). It gave me a great understanding into how creative they are in terms of innovating their business model.
The future evolution of technology is something that can enhance or disrupt the business world. We’re deeply embedded within the technological ecosystem so we’re very well positioned to anticipate how technology is going to evolve and how technology evolution is going to shape or disrupt businesses. It enables us to bring insights and foresights to help different organisations better prepare for that evolution. And that’s something that intelligent machines won’t bring.