How to unlock the value trapped inside your own business
Using robotics and blockchain to make the back-office more efficient may be one way in today’s business environment
We live in a world of abundant economic opportunities – many stemming from the promise created by new technologies, including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and biotechnology.
But even as the opportunities for successful new products, services, and solutions powered by technology emerge, they aren’t always utilised.
This is what we call trapped value – any economic opportunity that has not been realised.
This trapped value needs to be unlocked, and management 101 advice allows you to do this, by looking at inefficient processes, for instance, re-evaluating long-term contracts or under-utilised assets, and recognising losses.
Using robotics and blockchain to make the back-office more efficient may be one way of unlocking trapped value in today’s business.
Value can be trapped in the industry itself. For instance, with the expected shift to electric vehicles by major auto manufacturers, we need a large network of charging stations to stimulate and sustain demand, otherwise the industry won’t take off.
This has already proven a challenge in Hong Kong where electric cars abound but charging stations are limited.
It’s up to the industry to identify the problem and make available more services otherwise customers won’t buy electronic cars if they don’t think they are going to be able to charge them and make them run.
Value can also be trapped in the consumer market. Consider the existence of demand for more convenient ways to travel locally.
In cities where taxis have proven difficult to hail, in the rain or during rush hour particularly, car-sharing services have sprang up. Online car companies – such as Grab – in many Asean member states have been able to unlock new sources of value, for themselves, the drivers, and the consumers.
Value can also be trapped in society at large. When companies create solutions that help bigger societal issues, they are unlocking value.
Consider how nearly one sixth of the global population, 1.1 billion individuals, currently live without proof of identity.
These individuals are marginalised by society, vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking, and struggle to access the critical services and social benefits designed to provide support.
Accenture formed the public-private partnership, ID2020 Alliance, with Microsoft and Avanade and worked with the UNHCR to help solve this identity-verification problem.
It uses biometrics, including fingerprints, voice, face and/or iris scan, captured at an enrolment station.
A secure, unique identifier was created – that is what is recorded on the blockchain – and this identifier acts as an index, linking all applicable data. No personal data is stored on the blockchain with the ID2020 solution; the user is in control of his or her own personal data and determines who sees what, where, when and for how long.
It’s a technological solution to a serious social problem.
In financial services, blockchain could provide greater transparency into the origins and underlying risks of any investment, regardless of its complexity, to regulators, banks, investors, and other key stakeholders.
This would have a society benefit and could have proven useful during the recent financial crisis where in the case of mortgage-backed securities, the loans bundled into each security could have been traced all the way back to the original loan documentation, making the true credit profile of the product apparent to anyone who looked.
We have since seen a host of financial technology start-ups develop businesses designed to improve risk assessment.
In the new year, when executives consider how to further streamline their businesses or identify new revenue streams, they should ask themselves: is there trapped value I can unlock?
Gianfranco Casati is the group chief executive of growth markets for Accenture