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January 30, 2017
The huge missed opportunity for resources-intensive industries
By: Phillip Hazen

In the current climate, it’s hard to make predictions with any certainty. But one thing’s for sure, the pace of technology change will continue to escalate. For companies in resources-intensive industries – chemicals, energy, metals, mining and utilities - this means disruption on an unprecedented scale. As a result, technology transformation has never been higher on the C-suite agenda.

Right now, the transformational value digital technologies can provide is being underexploited. It’s a huge missed opportunity and technology leaders in resources-intensive industries have a critical role to play in seizing it. After all, they’re responsible for bringing together the disparate elements that, together, will drive their organizations’ digital transformations.

To better understand the scope of this opportunity, and the key change agents driving it, Accenture recently surveyed more than 200 senior tech leaders across chemicals, energy, metals, mining and utilities. In the coming months I will be working with our industry teams to take a deeper dive into what they mean for companies, industry-by-industry.

So, what did we find? At a high level, investments in digital technologies are growing rapidly. Resources companies are often viewed as laggards in this space, but over 80 percent of executives told us they’ve been upping their investments in digital over the past two years. And they’re optimistic about the results.

That said, we found the top-five most promising technologies are mirrored by the top-five capability gaps. Customer analytics is the top area where future potential’s concerned. But over one-third of companies say their capabilities here are in most need of improvement. It’s the same story for platforms, operational analytics, cybersecurity and mobility. Enormous opportunities…big capability gaps.

Focusing on the findings in each industry, chemicals companies identify mobility as the most important value-adding technology today. Looking ahead five years, that changes: interactivity (with customers) and cloud stand out as the top priorities.

Cloud offers the biggest opportunity to add value right now for energy companies. Further out, that shifts emphatically to cybersecurity – no surprise given the vastly expanded attacksurfaces created by the internet of things (“IoT”). Along with mobility, cybersecurity's also the number one focus for the future in metals and mining companies. Meanwhile, in utilities, artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to move center-stage over the next few years.

That’s no surprise. Overall, AI’s importance will grow and grow: what the IoT makes possible through connected devices and real-time data sources is outpacing human capabilities and AI enables automation of many of processes that are handled today through manual intervention. The technology remains relatively immature, but it’s going to adapt and increase in sophistication much faster than most people expect.

What about the key challenges standing in the way of digital transformation? Above all, access to talent stands out (for almost 90 percent of tech leaders in our survey). All resources companies operate in an increasingly complex technology environment and relevant skills are stretched in all disciplines. The deficit is most acute in security, but it’s also a big issue in areas from IT/OT convergence to IT delivery and data management. More investment is urgently needed in training, our respondents agreed, almost unanimously.

Cost is another serious barrier to technology transformation. That’s accompanied by a number of challenges common across all resources companies: lack of internal ownership, no clear strategy, and deep-seated cultural issues all feature strongly. Chemicals companies report the most cultural pushback against IoT adoption. For energy companies, it’s concerns over cybersecurity, and for utilities it’s cost. Metals and mining report a lack of internal ownership for IoT initiatives.

These findings all resonate with what we’re seeing in the marketplace. Of course, cost pressures are always an issue and most tech leaders are still battling to secure the investment they need from the business. But ageing workforce issues in resources-intensive industries businesses are a major concern, slowing adoption and increasing resistance.

As we dive into the industry-specific results further I look forward to sharing more on the key priorities for technology leaders as they drive toward put in place the cohesive organization-wide digital strategies that will be so essential from now on.

View our SlideShare for additional insights.

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