I don’t know whether you’ve been able to do a little extra reading during these difficult times, but a book I can heartily recommend to take your mind off the pandemic and boost your business is “Human+Machine”. It’s written by my esteemed colleague Paul Daugherty, Chief Technology Officer at Accenture and I was delighted to welcome him as my guest in a recent Living Systems podcast.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Paul for nearly 30 years and I’m excited to share some of his experience of the changing tech landscape with you. We talked about people and technology during the various stages of the COVID-19 crisis. And our thoughts turned to the qualities that innovative, high-performing companies possess as they lead the pack in customer centricity, profitability and agility.

Two Tech Leaders Think

Paul says how amazed he’s been at how quickly global IT helped to get 99 percent of the 280,000-strong Accenture Technology team working from home. But he recognizes that not every company was prepared, or able, to do the same. He shares some research launched pre-COVID at the World Economic Forum in Davos which showed that only the top 10 percent of companies studied—those successful in digital tech and innovation—had cracked the code on systems resilience. Now, with the added pressures of the pandemic, that innovation achievement gap has widened. Paul believes Living Systems—being able to realize the full value of technology innovation at scale—are the way forward.

Cloud capable

Accenture has been able to respond quickly to the recent crisis because of two important advantages: first, we already had a strong cloud posture (95 percent of our business is in the cloud). Second, we firmly believe in advanced collaboration—for instance, tools like Microsoft Teams help us to operate with higher levels of productivity—from anyone at any time. And with more than 500,000 people, that’s a lot of extra productivity being generated.

Paul notes how cloud is coming into the spotlight as the enabler of this massive change that companies need to make—not only the cost advantages, but the flexibility and, most important, opportunities for innovation. And there’s an element of people power in the cloud, too. “It gives you that modern platform. And if you're looking to hire talent today, you're going to find people that want to work in the cloud,” Paul comments.

Top tech tips

Here’s Paul’s top three tech priorities that can help organizations going forward:

  1. Cloud—Accenture has just announced a three billion dollar investment in Accenture Cloud First—it’s a means to help clients across all industries become “cloud first” businesses and accelerate their digital transformation so that they can realize greater value at speed and scale.
  2. Automation— everything from robotic process automation, to smarter analytics, to true artificial intelligence that's on the agenda of companies.
  3. Virtualization—using virtual reality and augmented reality in all kinds of situations to create immersive environments and learn from each other.

Paul and I agree that it’s important to experiment, to get ideas translated to reality and into the market quickly—even more so in a pandemic. As a client told Paul recently: “COVID-19 has given me a new business case for innovation, because the business needs new things so fast we’re willing to try different things.”

Of course, there’s always the elephant in the room—cost. Investing in your future business is bound to affect your bottom line. But Paul has positive advice here. He suggests companies look at current costs carefully, see what really needs to be spent and then look at how different techniques can reduce those costs substantially. He also talks about laying a foundation for the future, capitalizing on early wins and building business value over time.

Take a risk

I think it’s important not to enter analysis paralysis with transformational change. Get started now. Find a small, manageable chunk of risk that you can self-fund and discuss with your business partners that your organization is willing to take on and go—because in this climate, success builds on success.

Take a look at some examples of how Accenture has been closing the innovation achievement gap. I hope our discussion on the path that Accenture has taken resonates with you as you move forward with your own plans. As ever, let me know if it raises any questions for you.

Listen to all the latest episodes of our CIO 24/7 Living Systems podcast series. And there’s more to come. Stay tuned!

Penelope Prett

Chief Information Officer

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