Give your business some tech vision

Technology can change what you offer customers, how your staff work, and your relationship with customers and business partners

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 7:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 7:23pm

Rapid advancements in technologies – including artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and the cloud – are enabling companies to create innovative products and services, as well as change the way people work and live. This, in turn, is changing companies’ relationships with their customers and business partners.

As part of our annual report, Technology Vision, Accenture surveyed more than 6,300 business and IT executives worldwide. More than four in five respondents (84 per cent) agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of how people live today.

For example, Amazon – through not only its tremendous online presence but also its Echo device and AI assistant Alexa – has integrated itself into people’s everyday lives to such an extent that developers are building dedicated Amazon lockers into new apartment complexes and people are granting the company physical access to their homes via its smart lock system to let couriers make deliveries when no one is around.

What’s interesting about this development is that the change is a two-way street; people aren’t just using companies’ products and services, but feeding information and access back to them. This level of “integrated innovation” and degree of trust requires a deeper relationship – a true partnership based not only on a company’s products, but also its goals and values. And with this two-way partnership come new responsibilities – to consumers, business partners and society at large – requiring leadership and commitment from the top.

Smart management teams understand that these new societal expectations can become a business strength. They’re using their increased interactions to build partnerships with customers, employees and the government. And this isn’t just for companies in retail.

Tesla, for instance, is partnering with governments to accelerate the development of guidelines needed for autonomous vehicles. And Siemens, by offering its MindSphere operating system for internet of things that can be used for various types of assets such as manufacturing devices, smart grid components or power generation equipment, is creating new partnerships and embedding itself into its business partners’ architectures.

The common denominator here is that AI is becoming much more than just a technological tool. It is no longer just about training it to perform a given task. It’s about “raising” it to act as a responsible representative of the business, and a contributing member of society.

Already, AI-based solutions help fashion stylists at San Francisco-based Stitch Fix curate customers’ outfits, and assist claims adjusters at Ant Financial Insurance in China in making insurance payout decisions. An AI system even has a position on the leadership team at the Nordic software maker, Tieto, where the company looks to its AI, called “Alicia T,” to help the team become more data driven. For some organisations, AI is already the public face of the business, handling everything from initial interactions via chat, voice, and email, through to filling vital customer service roles.

Our Technology Vision report, which is in its 18th year, identifies five emerging technology trends that companies must address if they are to build the partnerships needed to succeed in today’s digital economy:

Citizen AI: Raising AI to benefit business and society

As AI grows in its capabilities, so does its impact on people’s lives.

Extended Reality: The End of Distance

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are transforming the ways people live and work by removing the distance to people, information and experiences.

Data Veracity: The Importance of Trust

By transforming themselves to run on data, businesses now face a new kind of vulnerability: inaccurate, manipulated and biased data that leads to corrupted business insights and skewed decisions. To address this challenge, companies must follow a dual mandate to maximise veracity and minimise incentives for data manipulation.

Frictionless Business: Built to Partner at Scale

Businesses depend on technology-based partnerships for growth, but their own legacy systems aren’t designed to support partnerships at scale. To fully power the connected intelligent enterprise, companies must first re-design themselves.

Internet of Thinking: Creating Intelligent Distributed Systems

Businesses are making big bets on intelligent environments via robotics, AI and immersive experiences, but bringing these intelligent environments to life will require not only adding key skills and workforce capabilities, but also modernising current enterprise technology infrastructures.

Smart executives will forge new partnerships with customers, employees and business collaborators to build trust and further integrate themselves into peoples’ everyday lives. The bottom line is that tomorrow’s leading businesses will be those that enable partnerships through technology today.

Gianfranco Casati is Accenture group chief executive of growth markets