Technology and business have always had an uneasy relationship, especially now that the internet investment boom is over. Technology drives innovation but, when it comes to paying for it, the bean counters want to go back to basics. Sitting in the middle of this and juggling both sides is Glover Ferguson, chief scientist of the global consulting company Accenture. His brief is to see how emerging technologies can be used in real business situations. He does not create the new technology - that is left to others to do - but he takes what is newly available and tries to see if there is a business case for it. 'The lab's mission is to understand emerging technologies. My guys wander around with soldering irons trying to build things,' he said. The job sounds like fun, but it is a serious one as well. The only way to stay ahead of the competition is to understand what the next big technological innovation is going to be and implement it before anyone else. That, however, costs money. And if you get it wrong, heads will roll and some companies may even go out of business. The only way to maintain a balance is to make certain the technology and business goals merge. This means being quick to show how a new technology can benefit a business and, hopefully, save it money. 'We spend about 40 per cent of our time in market-facing. We are interested in the grand prizes,' Mr Ferguson said. By 'market-facing' he means keeping up with the forces driving the market, to put new technologies into context and define where there may be a business need. The biggest topic now is web services and, from a purely technical standpoint, it is an easy win; who could deny that many businesses will benefit if web services succeed? However, the problem is not simply a technological one. Mr Ferguson refuses to take sides on technology battles such as that between the Microsoft-driven .Net architecture for Web Services and the Sun Microsystems J2EE. His lab at Accenture looks at creating solutions using both technologies. What matters is what can be shown to work, irrespective of its origins, because that is what most executives care about. Technologists tend to see the world in terms of what is 'cool', recognising possibilities that others cannot grasp. But turning a 'cool' technology into a business benefit can take a lot of time and money. If Accenture gets it right, it can show people just how valuable technology can be to a business. In many ways, Mr Ferguson is an evangelist for technology in business. He is upbeat about how technology can help businesses. Although he avoids discussing technical issues of security and any individual companies, he is happy to talk about trust and how it will affect future businesses. 'No one will make money on privacy but they will on trust,' he said. If a stranger accosted you on your way to work with a 'great offer', you would almost certainly ignore him. But if you got a similar offer from someone you knew and trusted, you would be far more likely to look at it. 'If you are a company and you have personal data, think of ways of adding value. Turn your product into a service. This is difficult but not impossible,' he said. When one considers the amount of spam being generated, the time may come when we have no desire to look at anything unsolicited. 'There is no such thing as a trusted third party,' Mr Ferguson said. The idea that IT is becoming a commodity does not bother him. He said it was only a commodity if one was not being innovative.