Not so long ago, quantum computing seemed destined to remain more of a theoretical possibility than a practical reality. Despite many impressive scientific advances, getting quantum’s radically different and faster compute out of the lab and into the real world was a major challenge. It was always just a few more years away from practical business application.

Now, that’s all changed. Quantum computing technology is advancing rapidly and is on track to start offering new solutions to some of the longstanding and complex business problems that have always been beyond the reach of classical computers.

In other words, quantum computing is almost here. And businesses need to get ready.

Prepare for quantum or prepare to be overtaken

From new medical remedies to enhanced wealth management strategies to smarter rerouting of supply chains, quantum computing promises radical transformation in many industries.

In fact, quantum may end up being one of the most disruptive technologies of all time. Future competitive advantage will go to those companies that can leverage its potential to solve previously intractable business problems and generate next-level insights about customers, operations and business strategies.

There are three types of problem in particular where quantum is likely to bear fruit. These are:

  • Optimization. This is the “travelling salesman” type problem of finding the optimal solution in areas like logistics and scheduling.
  • Machine learning. Quantum computing will accelerate capabilities in areas like feature mapping, linear equation solutions, clustering, and regression.
  • Sampling and simulation. Fields such as chemistry, materials science, and structural design will benefit from dramatically greater sampling and simulation abilities.

The catch? Approaching quantum in a siloed or haphazard way yields precisely what you would expect: a few sparks of innovation but no lasting impact. To solve real-world business problems at scale—in areas like financial portfolio optimization, manufacturing efficiencies, and more—quantum computing needs to be much more tightly integrated into the enterprise infrastructure. Companies will need to take a top-down, business-centric, industrialized approach.

Four steps for a coherent quantum strategy

But what are the most important things a business can do now to get ready? In Accenture’s latest report, we set out what we think are the four key steps companies should be taking.

#1 Make sure your people understand the potential

The first is to ensure both your IT department and the wider enterprise understand what quantum computing can offer. This will involve breaking out of traditional mindsets and being willing to rethink business problems that have always seemed unsolvable.

The key is to be systematic about this process. You need to prioritize the problems that are most open to a quantum solution. In other words, those that are best tackled through optimization, machine learning, or sampling/simulation.

This is an area where working with an innovation partner can be invaluable. It will give you access to expertise in proven quantum use cases in your industry. You‘re then much better placed to select the most promising of those use cases based on a combination of strategic fit and potential business value.

#2 Build an innovation roadmap

To get more out of quantum, you want to avoid ending up with a series of siloed point solutions. So it’s important to take a long view and set out the link between your quantum program and your broader IT and business strategies. Done well, this will result in a dynamic innovation roadmap with a feedback loop that continuously adjusts to both progress in technical quantum development and the changing needs of the business/IT strategy.

As part of this roadmap, you’ll also want to be thinking about leadership support and governance for the quantum program, and whether you’ll be developing an internal quantum practice or bringing in external expertise. It’s also vital to consider security from the outset, including quantum-relevant security protocols and quantum-safe technologies.

#3 Evaluate the hardware/software

Choosing the right quantum system is obviously a key early milestone in this journey. However, with so much rapid evolution in this space, it will be some time before mature and/or industrialized solutions emerge. What’s more, as things stand, many parts of the quantum ecosystem are focusing on different aspects of the technology—not all of which will be relevant to your chosen use cases.

Unless you’re happy to give up your IP for free access to a quantum system, you’ll most likely want to contract with a quantum vendor. To date, this has been seen as something of a barrier, requiring a longer-term commitment than many companies could justify in their business cases. But fortunately, this process is becoming simpler, with some vendors now offering pay-per-use models in the cloud. Access to the hardware is getting easier all the time.

#4 Start sourcing quantum talent

It goes without saying that to get business value from quantum, you’ll need talented people both on the academic side (think quantum physics scientists and researchers who understand the hardware, algorithms and system interfaces) and on the development side (think coders who can connect the algorithms, libraries and services and build the enterprise applications or products).

For some it will make sense to upskill existing data scientists in quantum development. However, relevant training courses are in short supply and in any case it can take years to upskill a team to the level required. As such, for the majority of enterprises, sourcing external talent from a partner will be the fastest and most effective way to acquire the necessary capabilities.

Get ready to go faster with quantum

When we hit the technology’s tipping point, the quantum future will likely arrive suddenly and rapidly. It’s therefore essential that enterprises get ready now. Technology as potentially disruptive as this could change the competitive landscape overnight in many industries. So now’s the time to start planning—and start experimenting!

Click here to read our newest report, "Get ready for quantum impact." For more information about our work with quantum computing, contact Carl Dukatz.

David Treat

Global Metaverse Co-Lead and Technology Incubation Group Lead

Carl Dukatz

Lead – Global Quantum Program

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