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'Masters of Change' will define future as digital gap widens in wake of COVID

Technology has been a lifeline for businesses during the global pandemic – enabling new ways of working and doing business, creating new interactions and experiences, and improving health and safety.

According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2021, technology forever changed expectations and behaviours and created entirely new realities across every industry.

"As companies shift from reacting to the crisis, to reinventing what comes next, the boldest, most visionary leaders – those who use technology to master change – will define the future," Accenture says. 

The report, “Leaders Wanted: Masters of Change at a Moment of Truth,” outlines how leading enterprises are compressing a decade of digital transformation into one or two years. 

Relying on a strong digital core to adapt and innovate at lighting speed, leaders are growing revenues 5x faster than laggards today, versus only 2x faster between 2015 to 2018, according to Accenture research. 

The result is a wave of companies racing to reinvent themselves and use technology innovations to shape the new realities they face. 

“The global pandemic pushed a giant fast forward button to the future," says Ben Morgan, Accenture New Zealand managing director. 

"Many organisations stepped up to use technology in extraordinary ways to keep their businesses and communities running – at a pace they thought previously impossible – while others faced the stark reality of their shortcomings, lacking the digital foundation needed to rapidly pivot,” he says.

“We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn this moment of truth for technology into a moment of trust – embracing the power of exponential technology change to completely reimagine and rebuild the future of business and human experience.”

Accenture surveyed more than 6,200 business and technology leaders for the Technology Vision report, and 92% report that their organisation is innovating with an urgency and call to action this year. And 91% of executives agree capturing tomorrow’s market will require their organisation to define it.

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.

Accenture’s survey of executives found:

  • 89 percent believe that their organisation’s ability to generate business value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their technology architecture.
  • 65 percent expect their organisation’s investment in intelligent digital twins to increase over the next three years.
  • 88 percent believe technology democratisation is becoming critical in their ability to ignite innovation across their organisation.   
  • 81 percent agree that leading organisations in their industry will start shifting from a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ to ‘Bring Your Own Environment’ workforce approach.
  • 90 percent state that multiparty systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation to create new value with their organisation’s partners.

 
The Technology Vision report also identified five key trends that companies will need to address over the next three years to accelerate and master change in all parts of their business:

1. Stack Strategically: Architecting a Better Future – A new era of industry competition is dawning – one where companies compete on their IT systems architecture.

Prior to Covid-19, Skinnies utilised Xero for its accounting services while still using manual processes for inventory count, sales and other customer data. To reduce time and costs, Skinnies increased their scope and technology portfolio. They expanded Xero’s service to incorporate international markets, and diversified their technology stack by adopting Capsule, a customer relationship management system, to track customer communication. The digital presence allows them to reach more people and identify and target viable consumers. Through these technology improvements, Skinnies can work smarter, faster and as a result have increased sales by around 40 percent.

2. 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.

Digital replicas of Auckland Airport’s current and future build assets are currently being developed to support the design and management of their infrastructure. The 3D digital mirror of their international and domestic terminals will encourage greater understanding of the layout and structure of their buildings. Through this, Auckland Airport will enable one centralised digital view of their assets, mitigate risk of information silos, and encourage more accurate information sharing with design and engineering teams.

3. I, Technologist: The Democratisation of Technology – Powerful capabilities are now available to people across business functions, adding a grassroots layer to enterprises’ innovation strategies.

Low code development software enables businesses to harness powerful technology without requiring highly skilled individuals for implementation. Optimation has partnered with low-code platform OutSystems to improve efficiency of development of business applications to their customers. This means their employees with functional rather than highly technical skills can use “drag and drop” type methods to innovate and create solutions, eliminating the need for complex development. This strategy enables Optimation to deliver solutions at a faster pace and lower cost.

4. Anywhere, Everywhere: Bring Your Own Environment – The single biggest workforce shift in living memory has positioned businesses to expand the boundaries of the enterprise.

Remote working has reaped huge benefits, though it has also imposed many challenges. The increasing number of employees working from home has been shown to result in frustration, isolation, and loneliness. Remotely have identified this need and launched an innovative online experience to simulate a meeting space. The online platform offers personalised avatars and audio to simulate real-life situations, encouraging natural communication methods. The meeting rooms simulate 3D environments, designed to create togetherness through shared, immersive experiences, that stimulate employee engagement and fun in the workplace.

5. 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.

One of the biggest changes for New Zealand businesses during the beginning of the pandemic was the rapid increase in adoption of digital technologies. Admin Army, a business support service, implemented cloud solutions to aid in outsourcing business administration activities to virtual assistants and enable seamless communication between different parties and the business. This meant staff could focus on more important tasks and hiring could be focused on specialist skills, rather than generalist administrators, giving a high level of expertise across the business. Enabled by their partnerships, such as Xero for accounting services and Dropbox for data storage, Admin Army are now able to effectively connect various cloud software solutions to sustain an effective service to small businesses.