News & Analysis

Navigating ‘Tech Clash’ – A Key Challenge for CXOs

By Sohini Bagchi

A lot has been written and said about “techlash” a phenomenon that often refers to a growing opposition to modern technology itself, particularly innovations driven by information technology. Some years ago, tech pundits like Elon Musk made headlines by calling Artificial Intelligence a “demon” that posed an existential threat to the human race and more recently Bill Gates’ sparked a new debate asby suggesting that governments should impose tax on robots in order to slow down the rapid automation. This brings us to the oft-asked question, “Does technology solve problems and make our lives easier, allowing us to do more with less?” Or “does it introduce additional complexity to our lives, isolate us from each other, threaten privacy, destroy jobs, and generate an array of other harms?”

According to Accenture’s Technology Vision Consumer Survey, the question is not about a ‘tech lash’; rather it’s a ‘tech clash’ – that is a matter of concern today.  In other words, people are not against technology; they remain excited and intrigued by it. But businesses are developing and deploying that technology using the playbooks of decades past, from the days before tech had such a major, meaningful impact in people’s lives. Closed ecosystems can make experiences disjointed, shows the research paper based on the survey.

For example, AI solutions are applied to decision-making without transparency, leaving people out of the loop on decisions that directly affect their lives. Concerns about security, privacy and ethical issues keep people wary of companies’ evolving digital technology innovations.

Navigating tech-clash is a key challenge for C-suite leaders in the next decade. Up until now, businesses have largely benefited from following the technology roadmap laid out by digital pioneers. Now, digital technology is evolving from an advantage to a basic expectation—and yesterday’s best practices are turning into today’s shortcomings. Therefore, organizations must deliver more human-focused experiences, along the lines of what people have come to expect.

The new models that organizations must build to overcome ‘tech-clash’ share one thing: They are based on collaboration. Successful business leaders will invite customers, employees, partners and the public to build their new course for the future together.

According to the survey, the following five tech trends illustrate this:

#1. Collaborative digital experience

The traditional relationship between businesses and people is changing. Successful organizations are bringing a human focus to their digital interactions, designing a truly collaborative digital experience. This shift reflects a person’s evolving expectations. It’s clear that people want rich, customized digital experiences. But they have grown disillusioned by the legacy methods used by most organizations to deliver them. Models that served businesses well in the early days of the digital age have led them to inadvertently take more and more control away from individuals. Existing customization methods based on robust data gathering and analytics are failing to provide the transparency, or the agency, that consumers want. And it’s not just customers. Cooperative digital experiences are also helping organizations re-imagine their partnerships with employees and other stakeholder groups.

Organizations that take the right actions today with cooperative digital experiences are setting themselves up for future success. As 5G and Augmented Reality (AR) become widespread, their significant impact on experience delivery will make balancing customization and user agency even more critical. Together, 5G and AR will enable businesses to tailor people’s digital journeys throughout their lives, anywhere and anytime. With this omnipresence comes even greater responsibility to get it right; for the organizations that do, there will be huge opportunities.

#2. Enabling better human machine interactions

Leaders have successfully adopted AI tools and practices that speed up the automation of basic tasks in existing workflows. But this is now table stakes. The true potential of AI in the enterprise lies in using it as a collaboration tool with humans: To not only efficiently execute tasks but also transform what businesses actually do.

It means smart chatbots interacting with customers as they do now, but being able to better understand the nuances and underlying possibilities of a customer’s request. Meanwhile, based on the information the chatbot can gather, human agents are better prepared to offer assistance and improve the experience. Hence, effective communication is the key. Because of advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP), machines are beginning to better understand the context of language, instead of just the content.

Understanding physical context is also game-changing for AI’s ability to work with humans in Extended Reality (XR) environments. Image recognition and machine learning allow AI to not just see its surroundings, but understand them.

Researchers deduce that ultimately, better human machine interactions will lead to businesses being able to reinvent and constantly improve the offerings and experiences their customers want. When steps are taken to improve communication between machines and humans, the result is that AI becomes much more than just another tech tool. It’s an agent of change in the business.

#3. The Dilemma of Smart Things

In the digital era, everything is connected. The Internet of Things (IoT) market is expected to grow to 75.44 billion connected devices by 2025, with a projected market value of USD 1.1 trillion by 2026.

To unlock the full value of this opportunity, businesses need to confront the constant conflict that occurs around smart technologies or smart products, and the experiences they contain. Organizations can now change the functionality of smart products or reconfigure their ecosystem over time. But they have to ensure that the customer experience remains consistent and supported throughout all these changes, the research report notes.

Organizations that can respond to changing customer demands and expectations in real-time become true partners. The value of the product then grows. But in the flurry of constant updates and changes, customers can get left behind and frustrated. Organizations must update their understanding of what product ownership means in the post-digital era and change their practices as a result. Oftentimes, applying more flexible processes and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) help, but the C-suite leaders need to bring this mindset into every aspect of the enterprise, from sales, to customer support, development, design and more. Doing so will help retain customer loyalty going forward by ensuring smooth transitions from one generation of smart products to the other, it says.

#4. Robots and the open world

Organizations have already realized the benefits of robotics in controlled spaces, from lower production costs to higher productivity and increased capacity for analytics. Now, businesses are looking at the next frontier for robot technology: The open world. Advances in sensors, speech recognition and computer vision are combining with lower hardware costs to make robot technology more accessible for organizations in every industry, and the rollout of 5G networks is set to unlock new opportunities outside of controlled environments. But finding the right way to introduce robots into the world includes challenges around talent, questions of human-computer interaction and a test-bed that consists of the entire world.

As the research says, a massive robotic migration will demand a combined approach to development and testing. Experimentation will be the key as technology is introduced to city streets, university campuses, construction sites, and other uncontrolled environments. It will also require a commitment to continuous data collection and refinement after the devices have been deployed.

#5. Innovation DNA

Businesses can transform how they innovate by focusing on three key building blocks of their company’s innovation DNA. Maturing digital technologies, scientific advancements, and emerging technologies including distributed ledger tech, AI XR and quantum computing, can constantly inject new skills, tech and ideas to the organization. Leaders are weaving these technological building blocks together to set a course for their company’s future, shows the research paper.

In conclusion, the study notes that the way forward for organizations can be guided by people’s expectations, but there is no one roadmap. Success will rest on companies’ ability to elevate the human experience, recommend researchers. However, for C-level executives, it’s a continuous journey focused on building connections, delivering experiences and earning trust. Creating customer journeys with an emotional “human-centric” experience can help shape successful brands, and in turn, lead to considerable financial benefits.

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