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July 26, 2016
Predictable disruption: Stay ahead of the curve in the cloud
By: David Hoff

Predictable Disruption: Stay Ahead of the Curve in the Cloud

The fast pace of the world in which we live has made it hard to say what the next year, let alone the next five years, will bring. But the one thing on which we can count is that our world tomorrow won’t look the same as it does today.

Predictable disruption in the digital age

In our 2016 Technology Vision Report, Accenture highlights this fast-paced disruption, but we also argue that it’s predictable, to an extent, as we now have the proper foresight into growing ecosystems and can better anticipate the impact of this growth.

As a result of this foresight, digital leaders who are paying attention to emerging markets and trends can develop strategies to stay ahead of the curve. Of course doing so also requires being agile enough to put these strategies into action at the right time—and that’s where cloud technology comes into play.

Harnessing cloud technology to keep pace with disruption

Technology is moving at the speed of light and it’s bringing businesses along for the ride. Now more than ever technology needs to play a strategic role inside your organization, improving how the business functions in nearly every aspect.

As your business embraces these new technologies, you must also keep an eye toward the future, putting in place a plan for continued innovation to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology and consumer expectations. Throughout all of this innovation, it’s essential that the technology remains tied to objectives that will further your business.

At the end of the day, you need to be aware of the fact that digital technologies are dramatically changing three key factors: The market in which you’re competing (it’s faster-paced and more agile), the expectations of your customers (they’re more social and empowered) and the requirements of your employees (they want easy collaboration and flexibility). Regardless of the industry and past success, no business is immune to these changes.

Market changes

The market in which your business is competing is different; you need to become increasingly digital because your competitors are doing the same in the hopes of becoming more agile.

One of the biggest benefits for businesses that replace legacy systems with more innovative processes powered by cloud technology is the ability to be agile, making both small, iterative changes as well as more disruptive modifications quickly and easily. Making this type of digital transformation helps you stay prepared to keep pace with rapidly changing trends and customer expectations.

This agility is especially critical in enabling IT to respond proactively to business demands, as saying “no” to the business is not always an option anymore (look no further than the emergence of shadow IT for proof). Increasing agility should also help IT preside over integrated business and IT innovation by exploiting a broader universe of digital technology and information and by delivering deep innovation that extends beyond process optimization. Situationally-aware CIOs understand that the cloud has the power to transform the role of IT, notably by shifting focus away from traditional application management and (via the “rental” model that prevails in the cloud) allowing active solution replacement and provisioning commensurate with the needs of the business.

Customer changes

Today’s customers are more social and empowered than ever before, and it’s imperative for your business to understand how this impacts their expectations.

Modern customers are extremely social, sharing advice and experiences online, and are acutely aware of the fact that your competitors are only a click away, which empowers them to demand more from your business. Whether it’s making a purchase or contacting the service center, customers want—and increasingly expect—a convenient experience and a seamless, technology-powered process.

As we look at what customers are doing today and what they expect from businesses in return, it comes down to the fact that customers are now in the driver’s seat, and the key to winning their business (and loyalty) is to engage with them on the channels of their choice. And this engagement not only needs to be delivered in the right place, but it also needs to be delivered at the right time and provide the right value based on customers’ needs at that point in time.

Employee changes

When it comes to employees, there are drastic changes not only in terms of how they work, but also where they work.

Let’s start with the how. These changes are driven by two trends: The consumerization of IT and the rise of BYOD. The consumerization of IT, in particular, has drastically changed employee expectations for how technology aids the working experience. For example, most adults are now “CIOs” at home, as they have to manage a variety of devices (laptops, phones, tablets), and are accustomed to weaving simple yet powerful technology throughout everything they do. This exposure at home has carried over to the workplace, as people know exactly how modern technology can improve everyday tasks. Factor in the rise of BYOD, which is all about allowing employees to use the devices of their choice, and you have two converging trends that are all about enabling users to be productive and collaborative wherever and whenever the need arises. In turn, this more flexible work experience should result in a true transformation in how employees engage with one another and get work done.

Now for the where. As of 2015, nearly four million people reported working from home at least half of the time, which represents a 103 percent increase in 10 years. The rise of consumerized IT solutions and BYOD programs have certainly helped accelerate this change. And these numbers will only continue to shift as the workers themselves change. Accenture’s own research finds that millennials became the largest generation in the workforce in 2015 and they will comprise 76 percent of the workforce in a mere nine years, and this type of flexible work environment is exactly what this cohort expects.

Simply keeping pace isn’t enough anymore—you also need to stay ahead!

Factors like the market, customers and employees have already undergone significant changes and they’re continuing to evolve at a rapid pace.

Businesses certainly need to catch up to these changes, but that shouldn’t be the focus. Rather, the goal should be to become forward-thinking and agile enough to stay ahead of these changes. Simply put, you need to take a page from hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s book and “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

Gretzky’s advice has never rung more true for businesses than it does today. Technology and, with it, the entire business environment are evolving at a rapid pace and it’s not enough just to make a few advancements and then stand still.

To be truly successful today and tomorrow, you need to focus on continued innovation. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an enormous leap each time, but the most successful organizations will always be looking forward, anticipating new needs or desires that might emerge and coming up with a new way to fulfill those yet unnoticed gaps.

Always keep an eye on the future

As a result of major advancements in technology, the business landscape looks vastly different today than it did just a few years ago and it’s continuing to evolve at a rapid-fire pace. Furthermore, your customers’ and employees’ expectations and behaviors are also changing, as they are equally as hungry for cutting-edge technology.

To stay competitive, businesses need to stop fighting the change and embrace it. And to be truly successful, you need to look ahead and plan for continued innovation. This second piece of the equation—planning ahead and continuing to evolve—is arguably more difficult than meeting today’s expectations because it requires a truly forward-thinking perspective and a positive attitude toward constant change, but it is possible.

Are you able to keep up with the pace of today’s market, customers and employees? And are you prepared to keep up with them tomorrow, when expectations can change at the drop of a dime? Your answers need to be “yes.”

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