Everywhere I turn, new technologies, products, and strategies are emerging in response to COVID-19. Look at Spot, the Boston Dynamics robot dog, which counted visitors and helped enforce physical distancing in a park in Singapore. Or look at the explosive growth of tele-health—the need for social distancing is expected to drive a 64.3 percent rise in telehealth demand this year! For many, the key to overcoming COVID-19 isn’t just out-lasting the virus, it’s out-innovating it.

In February, we published Accenture’s 2020 Technology Vision. The annual report highlights five technology trends that will have major impact on businesses in coming years. But COVID-19 has introduced many unexpected challenges, and we have seen an incredible acceleration of technology and innovation follow. Given this global shift, we’ve revisited our trends in a mid-year update, Driving Value and Values during COVID-19.

This update features leading businesses that are pushing technology years ahead of schedule. And yet, not everyone has realized that innovation is the path forward. Gartner has predicted that global IT spending will fall eight percent in 2020, as CIOs prioritize “mission-critical” technology and services over those for transformation and growth. This is understandable, with customers, employees and ecosystem partners all operating within new and uncertain circumstances. But there is a better path forward! Everyone is taking this moment to reprioritize and re-strategize, and the enterprises that choose to step back from innovation will fall further and faster behind those that step forward.

We are living in a moment of incredible technology innovation.

 

Let me explain why. When we published the Technology Vision, we saw signs of tech-clash. People’s values are shifting, and digital age technology models are increasingly out of sync with them. This imbalance is still growing; COVID-19 hasn’t overshadowed the issue—it has exacerbated it. We also saw powerful trends and major opportunities to rebuild trust and realign people’s values with enterprise value. But the moment to realize these opportunities is no longer in the future—it’s happening today!

  • In The I in the Experience, we outline how customers are starting to want more from their digital experiences—more interactivity and more agency to make choices. Now, with more people staying home and digital technologies facilitating nearly all of their interactions, interest in digital experiences and XR is surging. For instance, at Accenture we’re using our internal VR workshop platform to build multi-person, photorealistic VR environments, that can be used for training, remote events, and much more. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to build deeper customer relationships!
  • In AI and Me, we talk about a new way of working, where human workers and AI systems collaborate with each other—and we’re already seeing it in action! AI systems are helping enterprises pivot during this pandemic and are helping to streamline the drug discovery process. This is a chance for customers, workers, and regulators to all see AI at its best. 
  • Perhaps more than any other trend, Robots in the Wild, has escalated rapidly. Our trend predicted that robots would soon move from controlled environments, like warehouses and factories, to every environment and the open world. New needs created by the pandemic, like sanitizing streets, contact-less delivery, and more, have made this a reality already.
  • The progression of The Dilemma of Smart Things, brings us back to tech-clash. In this trend we discuss beta burden—when customers are frustrated by constant change in products they consider to be theirs. The pandemic has brought enterprises a temporary reprieve. Customers are more willing to trust new services if they’re meant to keep them safe. But it won’t last forever. The beta burden will return in force.
  • Finally, the pandemic has shifted the balance of Innovation DNA. This trend demonstrates many innovation opportunities from maturing digital technologies to emerging DARQ technologies (distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, XR, and quantum computing). Now, COVID-19 is accelerating DARQ, and the partnerships, products, and services leaders build today will have long-term impact.

For the many businesses reprioritizing their technology and innovation strategies, adjusting for tighter budgets and possible resurgences of the virus, I cannot emphasize enough that these technologies and trends are more urgent than ever! We are living in a moment of incredible technology innovation. This virus is among the biggest challenges we have faced in decades, and the companies, governments, universities, and individuals that step up, inventing new solutions and fulfilling new needs, are positioning themselves to be post-COVID leaders.

Read more in "Driving Value and Values during COVID-19," our mid-year update to the 2020 Technology Vision.

Marc Carrel-Billiard

Global Senior Managing Director – Accenture Labs

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