Tech savvy enterprises used COVID-19 pandemic to widen lead over laggards, says Accenture

Some companies have been able to flip the IT budget script and allocate most of their dollars to innovation.

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Technology savvy companies used the COVID-19 pandemic to widen their leads over rivals as they invested heavily in artificial intelligence, automation, Internet of Things, cloud, and data management, according to an Accenture survey.

The survey, which polled 4,300 decision-makers is a follow-up to a 2019 study. In the original survey, Accenture found that technology leaders grew at twice the rate of laggards. The COVID-19 pandemic just widened that lead, according to Accenture. Now tech leaders grow at 5x the rate of laggards.

Accenture's survey isn't that surprising given that digital transformation accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply put, the companies that had digitization efforts underway were in far better shape to navigate the pandemic.

Also: Deloitte: Digitally mature businesses more resilient, profitable during COVID-19

Here's a look at how tech leaders used the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate innovation.

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A few defining characteristics of these leaders include:

  1. Leaders had enterprise IT architecture and systems that were strong in the first place. The biggest lesson here is that CIOs need to take care of their technology debt.
  2. Leaders committed to the cloud via replatforming.
  3. Leaders reframed strategy to focus on innovation, speeding up development cycles, and prioritizing progress and collaboration with continual improvement.
  4. Leaders expanded technology access to multiple functions and departments.

What's interesting about Accenture's report is that it highlighted leading companies that were able to use the COVID-19 to flip the script of IT budgeting. Enterprises typically spend 60% to 70% of IT budgets on operations with the remainder focused on innovation. Leaders were able to use technologies such as automation and cloud computing to focus 60% of the budget on innovation with 30% on operations with 10% in savings.

Accenture also found that half of the leaders increased investment in key areas such as hybrid cloud, cloud security, IoT, and AI.

  • 72% of leaders accelerated investments in cloud security.
  • 68% accelerated hybrid cloud investments.
  • 70% invested more in IoT.
  • 59% accelerated AI and machine learning investments.
  • 60% accelerated robotic process automation investments.

The COVID-19 pandemic also forced laggards to accelerate spending, but the goal was more about surviving instead of thriving, said Accenture.

Add it up and leaders are poised to expand their leads more. These leaders are also focusing on long-term wins including employee training and reskilling, employee and customer experiences, data privacy, partnerships, and access to innovation.