Technology changes are all around us, and coming faster than ever. Today, every business is a digital business, and people are engaging with and relying on technology more than before. “While technology has long been developed to serve specific business needs, we are now in an era where people are central to the design and development of technologies,” says Bhaskar Ghosh, group chief executive, Accenture Technology Services. In an interview with Sudhir Chowdhary, he discusses Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017 report and some of the tech trends and innovations essential to business success in the digital economy. Excerpts:
Accenture’s Tech Vision for 2017 stresses on ‘technology for people’ as the core theme. What is driving this finding?
It’s an exciting and unprecedented time in technology. If we look around, we notice the enormous impact that technology innovations have on people, business and society; and the possibilities get re-defined with each technology innovation.
Today, every business is a digital business, and people are engaging and relying on technology more than before. While technology has long been developed to serve specific business needs, we are now in an era where people are central to the design and development of technologies. When technology is designed for people and by people, experiences become hyper-personalised and get transformed. When businesses develop technology with a human-centric approach, they are transforming their relationship with the customer from being a provider to a partner, significantly changing the business dynamics and re-setting customer expectations. This is the reason why people have the power and influence to shape technology, and that can have a profound impact in creating positive change and transforming society and business.
What factors are key for AI to being seen as the user interface, as your report suggests?
The growth we are seeing in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) domain today is not by chance. Several key progresses in the technology world over a number of years have made this happen—advances in machine learning and natural language processing, for example, are making technology more intuitive to use. Many of the core technologies are available for free, and open source AI tools like Google’s TensorFlow and Intel’s Trusted Analytics Platform are proliferating. This combination of factors—intuitive and natural interactions and the easy availability of open source tools—has enabled more research and development of AI and paved the way for disruptive changes.
With more maturity in AI, many problems that hindered its adoption in the past are disappearing quickly. AI is growing pervasively and is consistently used to add a frictionless intelligence and experience to people’s interaction with technology. The outcome is that AI is poised to enable enterprises to improve the customer’s experience in every key interaction with the business, playing a variety of roles throughout the user experience.
What degree of adoption of AI is Accenture seeing in the enterprise landscape?
Advancements in the AI domain are creating new opportunities to make any interface simple and smart, thereby driving a faster pace of adoption and generating better outcomes for enterprises and people. AI is playing a variety of roles today in user experience alone. A simple example here is that of music apps or news aggregators which curate content for people based on browsing and usage history. Then we have virtual chatbots or assistants, which are now seen in customer-facing verticals like banking, insurance, online retail and travel. In more significant roles, AI applies machine learning to guide actions towards achieving better outcomes and driving smart experiences for customers; we are seeing this in verticals like smart agriculture, auto insurance, and oil and gas to name a few.
In our global Accenture Technology Vision 2017 Survey of more than 5,400 IT and business executives, 79% agree that AI will help accelerate technology adoption throughout their organisations. As AI matures with more people-technology collaboration, it will become a key factor of distinction and competition for enterprises. In future, AI will act as the face of a company’s digital brand and become a key differentiator and core competency, demanding greater C-level investment and strategy.
How are advances in technologies such as AI, Internet of Things, or Big Data analytics impacting the role of technology for enterprises in future?
We need to first recognise that technology has moved to the front-end of driving and enabling a business from the earlier role it used to play in supporting the business. On top of that, technologies like AI, automation, robotics, IoT, and Big Data analytics are driving a new transition wave in the industry. These technologies have upended not only established businesses but entire industries. Armed with some or all of these disruptive technologies, and lean and nimble business models, new entrants are posing serious challenges to traditional companies. When these technologies play out in tandem, we will see an innovation wave resulting in huge transitions and new capabilities in various industries.
To what extent are impacting customer expectations and businesses?
Digital has disrupted the linear purchase journey and customer expectations today are evolving more rapidly than the industry ever imagined. Not only are the service expectations increasing, but they are also becoming more complex at every stage of the engagement and purchase journey. Customers are looking for faster and more personalised services, delivered anytime and anywhere. This outcome of the digital revolution is a perfect storm of opportunities and threats for all industries. It’s an opportunity for companies that can ride the wave and transform their offerings and business models. But slow movers will find themselves left behind by nimble footed competitors. In the digital age, it’s the speed that matters, much more than size or value. As clients turn to their IT partners for solutions to quickly transform into digital organisations, the opportunity is huge as well as immediate.
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What is Accenture’s key counsel to clients to navigate this complex and disruptive technology era successfully?
We see three key takeaways from our Technology Vision 2017 report:
We are currently in an unprecedented time in technology, fueled by rapid advances that raise important societal challenges that require leaders to be responsive and act responsibly. Accenture believes that the impact of these innovations will be positive—driving the biggest transformation since the Information Age – because the power lies with people.
We are in control and we can shape technology so that it adapts to us. ‘Technology for People’ shows the way to an exciting future where technology is designed by humans, for humans to create positive change, improve lives, and transform business and society. This human-centered technology approach pays off for businesses, as leading companies will transform relationships with customer and employees by moving from provider to partner.