Accenture research: How to compete and win in the post-digital era

As the world is rapidly moving toward a post-digital era, and key technologies like artificial intelligence, distributed ledgers, and extended reality, leaders will need to set their sights beyond their ongoing digital transformations. More than nine in 10 business and IT executives view pace of technology innovation in their organizations as either accelerated or significantly accelerated in the past this three years, this according to the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 survey of more than 6,600 global leaders.

Every business must become a digital business. In the era of multiple innovation, where businesses have shifted from exploring emerging technologies to implementations of disruptive technologies like mobile, social, cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT), the digital playing field will eventually even out. According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 research report -- based on a survey of over 6,000 business and IT executives, companies will need to find their competitive edge in this new 'post-digital' era.

Also: What is AI? Everything you need to know

The Accenture Technology Vision 2019 report was written by Paul Daugherty, Accenture's chief technology and innovation officer (CTIO) and leader of the company's Technology Innovation and Ecosystem group, Marc Carrel-Billiard, Accenture's global senior managing director of Accenture Labs, the company's dedicated R&D organization, and Michael Biltz, Managing Director of Accenture's annual Strategic Technology Visioning efforts. Daugherty is also the co-author of 'Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age AI'.  Ray Wang, CEO and founder of Constellation Research and I interviewed Daugherty about his must read book. In the report, the authors identify significant technology trends that will reshape and define the post-digital era, and what businesses need to consider in order best positions themselves for success. 

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Paul Daugherty, CTIO at Accenture, Author of 'Human + Machine' and the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

"A post-digital world doesn't mean that digital is over. On the contrary, we're posing a new question: as all organizations develop their digital competency, what will set you apart?" -- @PaulDaugh, Accenture CTIO

What does 'post-digital' mean for companies? 

According to Accenture: "Doubling down on completing their digital transformations to get the most value from those investments—and at the same time, turning a strategic eye toward what's next. By moving the company's focus to targets of opportunity, finding a place among the ecosystems of the post-digital era, and mastering digital investments with an eye toward the post-digital future, leaders will position themselves for success for years to come. Your digitized organization will be the foundation from which you drive all future innovation."

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The 2019 three-year set of technology trends relating to Accenture's Technology Vision is built upon the 2018 and 2017 trends.

Emerging technology trends in 2019

This year's Accenture Technology Vision highlights five emerging trends that will shape businesses over the next three years. The five trends attempt to illustrate how businesses are looking for new ways to differentiate themselves as the world moves into the post-digital era. Here are the 2019 five tech trends: 

  1. DARQ Power: Understanding the DNA of DARQNew technologies are a catalyst for change. The next set of technologies every company will need to master? DARQ: distributed ledger technology (DLT), artificial intelligence (AI), extended reality (XR) and quantum computing. DARQ technologies will be the next source of differentiation and disruptive technology. As these technologies reach maturity and converge, they will let businesses expand upon their digital capabilities to build intelligent and highly customized, in-the-moment experiences that help shape the lives of their customers, business partners and employees.
  2. Get to Know Me: Unlock unique consumers and unique opportunitiesTech-driven interactions create a tech identity for every consumer. It's the key to understanding the next generation of consumers and delivering individualized, experience-based relationships in the post-digital era.
  3. Human+ Worker: Change the workplace or hinder the workforcePeople are incorporating technology-driven capabilities alongside their existing skills and experience to do new kinds of work, in new ways. Now, companies must adapt their technology strategies to support the realities of working in the post-digital age.
  4. Secure US to Secure ME: Enterprises are not victims, they're vectorsEcosystem-driven business connections increase companies' exposure to risk. Leaders are recognizing that just as they collaborate with entire ecosystems to deliver best-in-class products, services and experiences, security must be part of that effort as well.
  5. MyMarkets: Meet consumers' needs at the speed of nowTechnology is creating a world of intensely customized and on-demand experiences, and companies must reinvent their organizations to find and capture those opportunities as they come.

"In the post-digital world, every moment will represent a potential new market of one. It's where demand is communicated instantly and gratification is expected immediately. What's more, both are constantly changing, creating an infinite and never-ending stream of opportunities to be met through business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) engagement, as well as in the public sector. The post digital world is one where technology is the fabric of reality, and companies can use it to meet people wherever they are, at any moment in time—if they rise to the challenge." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

The Accenture Technology Vision 2019 report advises business leaders to do more than just complete their digital transformation. Digital trailblazers must set new goals, including:

  1. Move your focus to the end -- success will mean carefully choosing the specific opportunities companies want to target—and just as important, the ones not to target
  2. Define what it means for your business to be post-digital as the world moves into an new phase of cooperation
  3. Master SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) as a core competency and foundation to rotate to what's next

Let us take a closer look at these 5 emerging technology trends and their impact on the digital transformation and the post-digital era. 

TREND 1: Distributed ledgers, AI, extended reality, and quantum computing -- DARQ

The Accenture report begins with reminding us about the previous technologies that enabled digital transformation. During the digital revolution, social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) combined to let businesses understand their partners and consumers at unprecedented depth, and together, SMAC helped companies create major differentiators. As we enter the post-digital era, the next set of technologies every company will need to master will be DARQ -- Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Extended Reality (XR) and Quantum Computing.

Also: What a quantum computer is, and why it needs to be more

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DARG -- The next set of technologies every company will need to master? Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Extended Reality (XR) and Quantum Computing.

Accenture
  • 89 percent of businesses are already experimenting with one or more DARQ technologies. 

The reports notes that while quantum computing is the furthest from full maturity and impractical as a current investment for most companies, advances in quantum research are bringing costs down significantly. The report included several company example use-cases of DARQ technologies and business benefits. 

"When asked to rank the technologies, forty-one percent of business and IT leaders report that AI will have the greatest impact on their organizations over the next three years, while 19 percent say their greatest impact during the same time frame will come from distributed ledgers. But to use the technologies to their greatest potential -- now and when all four have matured -- businesses need to think about the value in combining them." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

Is your business ready for DARQ? Here are the key decision points that you need to consider:

  1. Is you digital foundation ready for DARQ?  Early stage DARQ pilots will heavily rely on SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) practices. Prioritize the completion of ongoing digital transformation efforts.
  2. Determine how your organization will access the DARQ technologies that are relevant for your business, keeping in mind their different levels of maturity. Example: " Decide whether you will buy or build your own AI tools, taking AI training and security requirements into account."
  3. How are you adding DARQ skills to your current workforce? Approach hiring, training, and employee retention with DARQ in mind. 
  4. How can you use DARQ to shape the future of your industry?  DARQ technologies have the potential to transform whole industries from the ground up. Start a futurelooking program dedicated to scenario planning. Task the team with exploring different possible futures for your organization, driven by the industrylevel impact of DARQ. 

TREND 2: Get to Know Me - Unlock unique consumers and unique opportunities

"Globally, 1.7 billion adults are "unbanked," with no bank account or access to formal finance.1 They frequently end up in a financial catch-22: without any financial history, they can't qualify for a loan. Without any loans, they have no financial history." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

According to the report: "As the world moves into the post-digital era, companies are beginning to build new products and services that shift the one-off, transactional exchanges between businesses and consumers to an ongoing, customized relationship. They are moving beyond personalized products to individualized experiences, creating a one-to-one relationship with each customer where technology plays the starring and ever-present role."

Also: Capital One AI chief sees path to explainable AI

The shift toward technology driven experiences has already begun. 83 percent of business and IT executives agree that digital demographics give their organizations a new way to identify market opportunities for unmet customer needs. In the post digital era, the customer experience is the product. We are in the age of the connected customer, where the expectations are that companies know and can anticipate our needs. Businesses today must leverage technologies to become trusted partners. To do this, businesses must adopt Trust as their number one core value. By better understanding how customers use technology, companies can delver meaningful experiences, while respecting their stakeholder's privacy and personal needs. 

  • 41 percent of executives strongly agree that understanding consumers' behaviors around technology will be critical for their organization to increase customer loyalty. 

"The key takeaway: tailoring offerings to the individual also means figuring out just how much tailoring to do in the first place. Individual lines will range from "all personalization is creepy to me" through to "personalization is incredibly useful and I don't find it creepy at all," plus everything in between -- and the line will vary for each different offering. The honeymoon of unlimited technological access is over. Businesses need to understand how much technology people want to use, how much access they want to allow into their lives, and how much individualization they want companies to create without stepping over the line." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

TREND 3:  HUMAN+ WORKER -- Change the workplace or hinder the workforce

"The speed and constantly changing nature of human+ career journeys are making it harder for companies to add specific skills to their workforce through traditional hiring approaches. Top candidates are off the job market within 10 days, and a slow hiring process can lead to a new employee whose primary skills are no longer a good match by the time a role is filled." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

  • 43 percent of business and IT executives report more than 60 percent of their workforce will move into new roles within three years requiring substantial reskilling within their organizations due to the impact of technology. 
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The importance of training and employee engagement in the post-digital era -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019

The report strongly emphasized the importance of training and employee engagement.

Here are some of the key recommendations: 

  1. "In an era of high employee velocity and constantly shifting skills needs, training and continuous learning are more important than ever. Seventy-eight percent of business and IT executives agree that increasing employee velocity has increased the need for reskilling in their organization. To lead in the human+ era, companies must invest in their workforces through learning and reskilling strategies that prepare employees for changing roles."
  2. "As human+ workers continue to move more rapidly throughout and across organizations, companies must address the reality of increasingly distributed knowledge. Both the workforce and the organization as a whole rely on quick access to information to be agile and efficient. But current knowledge management strategies rely on workers themselves to act as stable sources of institutional and industry knowledge—and the high velocity of the human+ worker defies that approach."
  3. " New investments in training and reskilling will better prepare workers for changing roles. Innovations in AI and XR, coupled with integrated learning platforms, will empower workers to participate in self-directed learning, while also giving businesses better insight into the needs and goals of their workforce. 

TREND 4:  Secure Us to Secure Me -- Enterprises are not victims, they're vectors

"If enterprises hope to collaborate on security across their ecosystem, the first step is reframing their understanding of threats and the subsequent risk those threats pose. In a recent Accenture survey, 71 percent of IT and business executives felt that cyberattacks were a "black box" and did not know how they would affect the organization. If leaders cannot assess the impact of an attack on their own organization, how will they understand the risk posed to their ecosystem partners—or the risks they are accepting through those partnerships?" -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

The report advises business leaders to better understand the risks they and their ecosystems face in the post digital era. 

"In ecosystem-driven business, enterprises must understand the challenges faced by every participating company. Reframing risk to account for ecosystem relationships and proactively making security a part of business discussions will help companies begin to view their own business the way attackers do, leading to better preparation overall. But reconsidering what constitutes risks for the ecosystem is just the beginning. Security and IT operations teams can spend days fighting the wrong fires if they do not understand the business impact." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

To better understand and manage security threats to the ecosystem, businesses must adopt a distributed responsibility model with a security from the inside out mindset and operational practices. 

Also: Are enterprise app users growing more security savvy?

"To combat this ever-growing challenge, businesses will need to spread responsibility for and ownership of security throughout their organization, giving security teams the agility to address the biggest challenges. By being more strategic with how they position security internally, companies can make it a business enabler rather than a catch-all." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

  • 87 percent of business and IT executives believe that to be truly resilient, organizations must rethink their approach to security in a way that defends not just themselves, but their ecosystems.

TREND 5: My Markets -- Meet consumers' needs at the speed of now

"With companies, workforces, consumers, and industries now inextricably connected, being digital is no longer enough for a business to differentiate itself. But it does give organizations a foothold for their next big opportunity: capturing moments." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

  • 85 percent of executives agree the integration of customization and real/near time delivery is the next big wave of competitive advantage.

By levering customer analytics, companies can identify moments of truth and deliver real-time experiences to delight customers.

"Mastering momentary markets will be both an art and a science. Delivering for every moment is impractical and unnecessary; the art lies in picking the right opportunities to be both effective and welcomed by consumers. The science is in building a company that can create context-aware, customized products and services on demand." -- Accenture Technology Vision 2019 Report

Searches for "same-day shipping" have grown 120 percent since 2015, and there are high expectations around personalization as well, with 71 percent of consumers expressing frustration when shopping experiences are impersonal. In the post digital era, the new business currencies are speed, personalization and intelligence -- all powered by DARQ technologies. 

"Before companies can deliver for a given moment, they have to know that the opportunity exists. That means identifying customer needs before their competitors do—and potentially before customers themselves do," according to Accenture. This is a very important concept -- building your company's anticipatory muscles, so that you can proactively identify ways to add value to your customers before others. This is why companies must invest in AI technologies -- mass personalization at scale and speed, cannot be achieved without AI. Consider the size and scale of networks that will ultimately redefine the age of the connected customer: 

  • By 2020, there will be 31 billion connected devices in the world, and that number will more than double to 75 billion by 2025. Each device is a new channel, a new source of data, and a new way to identify and reach a momentary market. 
  • Sixty-two percent of business and IT executives believe 5G will have a significant impact on their industries within the next three years. 
  • Mobile data traffic is expected to increase nearly eight times by 2024, at which point 5G networks will carry more data than the combined traffic of 4G, 3G, and 2G networks today.

The Accenture Technology Vision 2019 report is a must read for all business leaders. Every business is a digital business. In a post-digital era, only the businesses that focus on these five technology trends can positions themselves for sustainable and meaningful growth. Unlocking your company's full potential will depend on a combination of factors including the multiplicative use of DARQ technologies and a commitment to stakeholder (employees, customers, partners and ecosystems) success. 

To learn more about the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 report, visit here.  

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