Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Accenture, accelerated: Three years of transformation in three months

Accenture is driving massive digital and cultural transformation at unprecedented speed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CEO/CTO Paul Daugherty shares the leadership traits most needed during a crisis, and how companies can leverage technology to outmaneuver during times of uncertainty.

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In February of this year, I wrote an article asking: Can your enterprise survive the tech clash? The title was inspired by the Accenture's annual Technology Vision Report.  According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2020 Report, companies needed to balance 'value' with their stakeholder 'values' to successfully compete in the digital economy. To achieve this balanced approach, companies needed to develop a new mindset and the ability to managing the clash between business and technology models that are incongruous with stakeholder's needs and expectations. 

According to an Accenture Technology Vision 2020 report, of 60,000 business and IT executives worldwide that Accenture surveyed, 83% of respondents acknowledge that technology has become an inextricable part of the human experience. The report also noted: Seventy-six percent of executives agree that organizations need to dramatically re-engineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more human-centric manner. All of these findings were before theCOVID-19 pandemic had hit the US. 

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Five technology trends in 2020 - Technology Vision Report, Accenture 

The report had identified 5 key findings, including Innovative DNA. Enterprises have access to an unprecedented amount of disruptive technology, such as distributed ledgers, AI, extended reality, and quantum computing. To manage it all -- and evolve at the speed demanded by the market today -- organizations will need to establish their own unique innovation DNA. "To truly bring a human touch to the next decade, the new models that enterprises build must be rooted in collaboration. As technology's level of impact grows ever higher throughout society, successful businesses will be those that use new models to invite people -- customers, employees, partners or the public -- to co-create their new course for the future," this according to Accenture. I believe the importance of this report and its recommendations are even more relevant at times of crisis. 

A very important portion of the Accenture Technology Vision 2020 report was a strong emphasis on companies building a foundation of trust. Every business must hold itself accountable for its role across society. Trust must be the number one core value of your company -- this is true for my company, Salesforce

Paul Daugherty is co-author of Accenture's Technology and Vision report. Paul Daugherty is Accenture's group chief executive and technology and chief technology officer. Paul oversees all aspects of developing and delivering Technology's capabilities, bringing innovation, intelligence, and deep industry experience together with leading technologies from ecosystem partners to help clients reinvent their businesses as intelligent enterprises and innovate at scale. As chief technology officer, Paul is responsible for driving innovation through research and development (R&D) activities in Accenture Labs and leveraging emerging technologies to bring the newest innovations to clients globally. He founded and oversees Accenture Ventures, which is focused on strategic equity investments and open innovation to accelerate growth. Paul is also responsible for managing Accenture's alliances, partnerships. Paul is co-author of Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI

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Paul Daugherty is Accenture's Group Chief Executive – Technology & Chief Technology Officer. 

To learn more about what companies are doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ray Wang, CEO of Silicon Valley-based research and advisory firm Constellation Research, and I invited Paul Daugherty to our weekly video podcast DisrupTV. Wang and I have interviewed nearly 600 guests since 2016 and Daugherty is one of our favorite returned guests -- this was his fourth appearance on our show. You can view our 25-minute interview with Daugherty in the video below: 

Here are 10 takeaways of our interview with Paul Daugherty at Accenture: 

  1.  COVID-19 pandemic is different than any other crisis we've ever seen. There are two reasons behind this: 1. COVID-19 has created the largest ever massive change in human behavior at scale - a couple of billion people changed behavior instantaneously. 2. This crisis is happening during exponential technology change driving a whole new way of how we do business. The combination of these two factors leads to a crisis that is not about cutting costs, but rather a crisis about change, acceleration, and pivoting to somewhere new. Daugherty notes that companies are looking to optimize processes and be efficient, but they also aware of the need for re-invention. 
  2. COVID-19 has increased the gap between digital laggards and leaders. Daugherty spoke about a 2020 survey of 8,300 executives that highlighted that companies are not getting the value from their technology investments. The top 10% that were getting the value from their technology investments had doubled the performance of the rest. What COVID-19 has highlighted and increased the gap between the high performers' digital-savvy companies and the under-performers.
  3.  A digital foundation is a requirement for adaptability and crisis management. You can be a large company and still move at the speed of need. Accenture is a 500,000 person company and yet they were able to quickly mobilize their company during the pandemic. Daugherty spoke about the fact that Accenture was monitoring the globe and the impact of the pandemic. When the shutdowns came, Accenture was able to move its workforce to a remote model because 95% of Accenture was already in the cloud. Accenture had a strong digital foundation and that is the reason they could quickly respond to the pandemic. Accenture audio and video usage is staggering. 
  4. Accenture does not believe in social distancing -- it believes physical distancing but bring people together socially. Accenture's Together More Than Ever program was structured to bring Accenture employees and their customers even more closer than before. Accenture enabled its employees to use technology to better connect with their stakeholders in a meaningful and purposeful way. 
  5. Success in a crisis starts with building and growing your ecosystem. Daugherty spoke about how Accenture is working with Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, and various governments including the US, India, UK, and others to help customers stabilize and reopen during the crisis. Companies need to show up, listen to their stakeholders and add value. Execution velocity and relevance are key new currencies at times of massive disruption and uncertainty. 
  6.  We are seeing three years of digital and culture transformation in three months. The digital and culture transformations are both work and personal levels. What do you need to do to get things done? Companies are realizing that if you strip it all back, you can get things done fast. You can make decisions more quickly. Daugherty doesn't believe that we will work from home permanently. Work office and campuses will look differently. People will content physically when they want to, not when they need to. 
  7. Cloud adoption is key to business relevance. Daugherty talked about how organizations that led through the crisis and were able to pivot quickly were cloud adopters. Accelerating the adoption of cloud is key to business resiliency. Accenture will aggressively accelerate cloud adoption. 
  8. COVID-19 is a driver of developing better tools for our people. The idea of augmenting our people with better tools to better respond and make more informed decisions is a byproduct of the required response in the pandemic. According to CIOs, COVID-19 is a new business case for developing a technology investment thesis. 
  9. Human + Machine is our future of work - and the human will always matter most. As companies focus on building a data culture, improve speed, improve the ability to anticipate, and deliver personalized and relevant solutions that improve stakeholder success, there is an opportunity to introduce automation and autonomous solutions. What we have learned most during this pandemic is that our future success depends on mostly on the health and safety of our people. 
  10. New leadership skills and traits for digital business trailblazers include empathy and vision. Daugherty references three must-have skills:
  • Vision and hands-on leadership from the top. Every CEO is becoming a technology CEO. 
  • Deep empathy and personal connection. Giving people a sense of importance. 
  • Ability to grow and leverage the ecosystem of partners to co-create value at the speed of need
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Technology Vision Report - Accenture 2020

Daugherty was our first guest on episode 190 of DisrupTV. We also had an amazing conversation with Stacey Epstein, CMO and chief experience officer and ServiceMax, about will COVID-19 crisis allow more women to become leaders? "No one, regardless of gender, should ever be made to feel they have to choose between pursuing a big career and being a good and present parent," said Epstein. 

Our final guest was Steve Wilson, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, spoke about the privacy-safety trade-off in the coronavirus crisis  Please watch these amazing interviews with Epstein and Wilson who further expanded on Daugherty's recommendations to businesses as the fight through the tough economic conditions during this crisis. 

Accenture is working on updates to their 2020 Technology and Vision Report in the upcoming weeks. I will summarize the updates in a future article.