Shaping the future will require companies to become masters of change by adhering to three key imperatives. First, leadership demands technology leadership. The era of the fast follower is over—perpetual change is permanent. Tomorrow’s leaders will be those that put technology at the forefront of their business strategy. Second, leaders won’t wait for a new normal, they’ll reinvent, building new realities using radically different mindsets and models. Finally, leaders will embrace a broader responsibility as global citizens, deliberately designing and applying technology to create positive impacts far beyond the enterprise to create a more sustainable and inclusive world.
“Technology and innovation were bound to change the world,” says Willie Schoeman, Managing Director for Accenture Technology in Africa. “The COVID-10 pandemic accelerated the urgency for change and South African business across a variety of industries had to adapt to first survive the storm. Now, true business leadership will come from companies who are willing to embrace radically different mindsets and business models. They will not only adapt their business to the new reality, while rebuilding the South African economy post the pandemic. Leading businesses will shape the new future by harnessing the power of innovative new technologies,” he says.
The Technology Vision identifies five key trends that companies will need to address over next three years to accelerate and master change in all parts of the business:
- Stack Strategically: Architecting a Better Future – A new era of industry competition is dawning – one where companies compete on their IT systems architecture. But building and wielding the most competitive technology stack means thinking about technology differently, making business and technology strategies indistinguishable. Ninety-four percent of South African executives believe that their organisation’s ability to generate business value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their technology architecture.
- Mirrored World: The Power of Massive, Intelligent, Digital Twins – Leaders are building intelligent digital twins to create living models of factories, supply chains, product lifecycles, and more. Bringing together data and intelligence to represent the physical world in a digital space will unlock new opportunities to operate, collaborate, and innovate. Seventy-five percent of South African executives surveyed expect their organisation’s investment in intelligent digital twins to increase over the next three years.
- I, Technologist: The Democratisation of Technology – Powerful capabilities are now available to people across business functions, adding a grassroots layer to enterprises’ innovation strategies. Now, every employee can be an innovator, optimising their work, fixing pain points, and keeping the business in lockstep with new and changing needs. Ninety-three percent of South African executives believe technology democratisation is becoming critical in their ability to ignite innovation across their organisation.
- Anywhere, Everywhere: Bring Your Own Environment – The single biggest workforce shift in living memory has positioned businesses to expand the boundaries of the enterprise. When people can “bring your own environment” they have the freedom to seamlessly work from anywhere – whether that’s at home, the office, the airport, partners’ offices, or somewhere else. In this model, leaders can rethink the purpose of working at each location and lean into the opportunity to reimagine their business in this new world. Ninety-one percent of South African executives agree that leading organisations in their industry will start shifting from a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ to ‘Bring Your Own Environment’ workforce approach.
- From Me to We: A Multiparty System’s Path Through Chaos – The demand for contact tracing, frictionless payments, and new ways of building trust brought into sharp focus what had been left undone with enterprises’ existing ecosystems. Multiparty systems can help businesses gain greater resilience and adaptability; unlock new ways to approach the market; and set new, ecosystem-forward standards for their industries. Eighty-nine percent of executives surveyed state that multiparty systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient, adaptable foundation and create new value with their organisation’s partners.
Prioritising technology innovation in response to a rapidly changing world has never been more important. Consider the restaurant industry: 60% of restaurants listed as ‘temporarily closed’ on Yelp in July were permanently out of business by September. Through the chaos, Starbucks emerged as a leader, using technology as a vital airbag. By August, three million new users downloaded its app, and mobile ordering and drive-thru pick up accounted for 90 percent of sales. As demand surged, it deployed an integrated ticket management system to combine orders from its app, UberEats and drive-thru customers into a single workflow for baristas. Starbucks also introduced a new espresso machine with sensors to track how much coffee was being poured and predict necessary maintenance. This is a powerful illustration of technology as the core enabler of a company’s agile, resilient and successful response to change.
For 21 years, Accenture has taken a systematic look across the enterprise landscape to identify emerging technology trends that hold the greatest potential to disrupt businesses and industries. For more information on this year’s report, visit www.accenture.com/technologyvision or follow the conversation on Twitter with #TechVision2021
About the methodology
For the 2021 report, the research process included gathering input from the Technology Vision External Advisory Board, a group comprising more than two dozen experienced individuals from the public and private sectors, academia, venture capital firms and entrepreneurial companies. In addition, the Technology Vision team conducted interviews with technology luminaries and industry experts, as well as with nearly 100 Accenture business leaders. In parallel, Accenture Research conducted a global online survey of 6,241 business and IT executives to capture insights into the adoption of emerging technologies. The survey helped identify the key issues and priorities for technology adoption and investment. Respondents were C-level executives and directors at companies across 31 countries and 14 industries.
Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services—all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 506,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at www.accenture.com.
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