What a difference a year makes. If possible, technology seems to have proved its value like never before. As the latest Accenture Technology Vision shows, being able to act fast and embrace change in every part of the business is closely tied to the technology decisions all of us make—and that’s especially relevant when riding out a pandemic.

Beyond the CIO

With cloud at the core, technology is no longer just one vehicle for success, it’s the vehicle that all possible success depends on. Which is one of the reasons why Accenture recently announced a US$3B investment to help clients become “cloud-first” businesses.

So, if technology carries the responsibility for making change happen, shouldn’t we accept that it’s the remit of more than one business function? I know that, even in my role as CIO, technology shifts at scale are not just about me or my team. Our progress—not only running Accenture during the pandemic but also supporting the introduction of a new growth model early in 2020—has been a direct result of being backed by the entire C-suite. And we’ve also counted on the new ways of working we introduced being fully embraced by all our people.

Our Technology Vision offers some interesting examples of industries where conventional business ideas have been upended. We were all too aware of the need to turn tech innovation to value for people and businesses during the pandemic. Along with Lincoln Financial Group, ServiceNow and Verizon, Accenture developed and launched People + Work Connect in just 12 days. An employer-to-employer initiative, it brings together companies laying off or furloughing people with those companies in urgent need of workers—a different approach for unusual times.

What are the 2021 trends?

Here’s more on the key trends in the 2021 Accenture Technology Vision:

  • Stack Strategically: Architecting the future helps leaders embrace change. Architecture matters more as the technology choices businesses make today determine what they can or cannot do in the future. Accenture was already running the in-memory database SAP S/4HANA, a powerful “single system instance” for our global financial data which meant that we were able to support our company’s goal to achieve digital transformation, meet the operational needs of our business—like remote working—and deliver our financial reporting and quarter end accounts without skipping a beat during the pandemic.
  • The Mirrored World: The power of massive, intelligent digital twins is about the growth of digital twins—representations or simulations of real-world entities or systems. Organizations are starting to connect massive networks of intelligent, digital twins, linking many twins together to create living models of whole factories, product lifecycles, supply chains, ports and cities. The businesses building such mirrored environments today will push their industries, and the world, toward a more agile and intelligent future. We’ve worked closely with Microsoft and AltspaceVR on a mixed reality experience we call “The Nth Floor” that means people can interact with each other in person, wherever they’re located. Whether having a virtual coffee break, undertaking training, or hosting important all-hands meetings, the Nth floor helps our people to be there—without physically being there.
  • I Technologist: The democratization of technology is about the importance of making powerful technology capabilities accessible without the need for specialized skills. Enterprises can ignite grassroots innovation by equipping every employee with the tools and skills to build technology solutions at the point of need. For example, all Accenture people use Microsoft Teams which offers frictionless collaboration that elevates our productivity and efficiency to new levels.
  • Anytime, Everywhere: Bring your own-environment equips workforces to change an enterprise from anywhere and everywhere. The biggest workforce shift in living memory is positioning businesses to explore the benefits of a virtualized workforce and expand the boundaries of the enterprise. Accenture’s smooth transition to remote working during the pandemic was made possible because our IT infrastructure is now 95% in the public cloud—and it is costing us half as much as our legacy delivery models.
  • From Me to We: A multiparty system’s path through chaos shares how multiparty systems can help businesses lead by changing the way they partner. From supply chains to digital ecosystems, the pandemic showed how brittle globe-spanning relationships can be. By rebuilding these partnerships with technology at the center, enterprises are finding ways to adapt together. Accenture has a long-running collaboration with SAP and our migration to SAP S/4HANA was the biggest change we’d made to our IT landscape in years. Similarly, our close collaboration with Microsoft has introduced solutions that are powering ever-increasing levels of efficiency and effectiveness at Accenture.

I’m excited by the fact that technology is helping to broaden leadership horizons, so that we all have a hand in what our businesses achieve and their impact on the world.

I firmly believe that when technology, ambition and a commitment to people converge, what seems impossible can become a reality. In the wise words of Accenture’s own CEO, Julie Sweet: “Let there be change”—and let us all play a part in managing it.

Penelope Prett

Chief Information, Data & Analytics Officer

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