Over the last one year or so, technology has emerged as the cornerstone of business leadership. It has served as a lifeline, redefining our way of working and doing business, creating new interactions and experiences, and improving health and safety. In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Mahesh Zurale, Senior Managing Director, Lead – Accenture’s Advanced Technology Centers in India (ATCI), observes that one of the key learnings from this massive world health crisis is that those who use technology to master change will define the future.
He believes, companies that want to succeed must speed up digital transformation and reimagine everything from people to data to architectures and ecosystems. Zurale also explains the key areas enterprises must look at now to architect a better future. Excerpts.
How has the pandemic redefined business leadership? What role does technology play in this scenario?
The huge disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to compressed transformation, with organization using technology in extraordinary ways to keep their businesses and communities running – at a pace some previously thought impossible. We’ve seen that tech leaders who embraced change, pivoting quickly to adapt to new environments, were able to completely reimagine and rebuild the future of business and the human experience during a truly unprecedented time. And those who had postponed digital transformation or were pursuing it in a more piecemeal fashion quickly realized the necessity of a strong, digital foundation.
According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021 survey, 91% of executives agree that capturing tomorrow’s market will require their organization to define it. This underscores the reality that big changes today require bold leadership—and prioritizing tech. And as companies shift from reacting to the crisis, to reinventing what comes next, those who use technology to master change are best set up to define the future.
What are the key tech trends organizations must embrace to forge a better future?
Our most recent Technology Vision report clearly identifies five key trends that companies—and their people—must incorporate over the next three years to accelerate and master change:
- Architect a Better Future – We see a new era of industry competition emerging—one where companies compete on their IT systems architecture. However, building and using the most competitive technology stack means thinking about technology differently, and making business and technology strategies indistinguishable.
- The Power of Massive, Intelligent, Digital Twins – Leaders are already building intelligent digital twins to represent the physical world in a digital space. By adding data and intelligence to thiswill unlock new opportunities to operate, collaborate, and innovate.
- The Democratization of Technology – Powerful capabilities are now available to people across business functions, adding a grassroots layer to enterprises’ innovation strategies. Now, every employee can be an innovator, optimizing their work, fixing pain points, and keeping the business in lockstep with new and changing needs.
- Bring Your Own Environment – When people can “bring your own environment,” they have the freedom to seamlessly work from anywhere. This allows leaders to rethink the purpose of working at each location and lean into the opportunity to reimagine their business in this new world.
- A Multiparty System’s Path Through Chaos – As the demand for contact tracing, frictionless payments and new ways of building trust is increasingly becoming important, businesses need to leverage multiparty systems to gain greater resilience and adaptability; unlock new ways to approach the market; and set new, ecosystem-forward standards for their industries.
Why is technology architecture becoming critical to the success of organizations? In developing a data architecture strategy, what should be the key considerations of business leaders?
Rapid digital transformation and the sudden influx of new technologies have ignited a new era of business- one in which architecture matters more than ever. In fact, 77% of respondents to our Tech Vision 2021 survey stated that their technology architecture is becoming critical to their overall business success.
These days, the abundance of “as a service” solutions, improvements in technology standards and growing cloud foundation throughout the enterprise has made taking advantage of smart data architecture more feasible than ever.Accordingly, leading businesses will be decided not just on the success of their business plans, but by the ingenuity of their technology choices.
To build a competitive technology stack, enterprises first need to invest in a strong foundation. They need to build technical wealth by establishing a clear path to move away from static, unadaptable legacy systems and develop an adaptive, reusable approach to technology.
What is the importance of digital twin technologies and how can organizations use it effectively? Can you give a recent example where CXOs are using digital twins to innovate?
When digital twins were initially adopted, they were championed for their ability to monitor, simulate and streamline the data of discrete devices. More recently, however, the scale of the models, layering in of AI and increase in adoption have transformed the equation. Leading organizations are starting to connect massive networks of intelligent twins, linking many together to create living models of whole factories, product lifecycle, supply chains, ports,cities and more.This trend holds immense promise: as more of the physical world is represented in a digital space, the more enterprise leaders will be able to bring data and intelligence together and experiment in a risk-free environment – thereby reimagining how they operate, collaborate and innovate.However, to reap the benefits of intelligent twins and the mirrored world, enterprises must build comprehensive and trusted data practices to turn data into actionable insights.
For example, Unilever collaborated with Microsoft to develop intelligent twins of its factories. Unilever’s pilot twin in Brazil has saved millions of dollars by cutting energy use and increasing productivity by one to three percent. How? The company used data streaming from connected machines to track conditions within the factories and combined this with machine learning and AI techniques to test operational changes to improve production efficiency and flexibility.
As companies move towards democratization of technology, how can employees become innovators to create technology-driven solutions on their own?
Technology democratization adds a grassroots layer that was often previously missing from enterprise innovation. In many cases, IT departments or technologists work in silos, building or buying a new tool and then rolling it out and training specific business units on the new technology.
With technology democratization, everyone can be an innovator. This is every enterprise’s opportunity to make their employees a core part of their digital transformation effort. To do so successfully, leaders need to extend the innovation imperative across every business unit and actively teach all of their people to think like technologists. This doesn’t mean turning everyone into an engineer, but rather enabling them to solve problems with technology. With every employee empowered to contribute technological solutions to business needs, enterprises will have an innovation advantage for years to come.
What is your advice to organizations looking to make the most of these future trends?
Companies are no longer strictly competing for market share; they are competing to build their vision of the future faster than the competition. Success will depend on their ability to accelerate and master change in all parts of their business, which in turn will be a direct function of the technology decisions they make today. Transforming the enterprise into a technology leader cannot be contained to the oversight of the CIO or CTO alone. To be successful, a digital-first approach must be fostered by the entire C-suite and manifested across all areas of the organization.