Key Technology Trends and Skills for the Emerging Business Landscape

Jo Deblaere, COO and Chief Executive Europe of leading global professional services company Accenture, talks about key technology trends and the skills that will make a difference in the emerging business landscape.

Accenture is a global technology services leader; can you share your perspectives on the key technology trends that are shaping the business world?

Accenture publishes its annual Technology Vision report predicting the key technology trends that will shape the business world over the next few years. The major finding of the Accenture Technology Vision 2018, “Intelligent Enterprise Unleashed: Redefine Your Company Based on The Company You Keep,” was that 84% of the 6,381 business and IT executives surveyed agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of how people live today.

The same way cities were built around railroads, or people rebuilt their lives around electricity, the world is reimagining itself not just around digital innovation but, by extension, around the companies that provide those services.

Of course, society has rebuilt itself around technological disruption many times before and will no doubt do so again. But for the first time in a technological transformation, the change is a two-way street. People aren’t just using companies’ products and services, but feeding information and access back to them. To deliver such integrated innovation, companies need a profound level of insight into people’s lives and their partners’ business. Savvy organizations are realizing that this level of connection—and the required level of trust—will require a new type of relationship. It’s not just business; it’s personal. And it is how leaders will redefine their company based on the company they keep.

Increasingly, in exchange for the access people allow companies to have in their lives, they expect partnerships. And these should be based not only on a company’s products but also on its goals and its values. You get to questions about the level of responsibility of a company whose secure encryption is broken because of advances in quantum technology or a company whose business partner uses AI to make decisions in a way that’s biased or invades people’s privacy.

While new expectations driven by a shifting technology landscape can be daunting, pioneering companies have recognized that these new societal expectations can be transformed into an enterprise strength.

Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 highlights five emerging trends shaping the way technology is increasing businesses’ impact across society.

So what are the five technology trends shaping the world around us?

The report has highlighted the following trends:

  • Citizen AI, which is about raising artificial intelligence to benefit business and society.

As AI grows in its capabilities—and its impact on people’s lives—businesses must move to raise their AIs to act as responsible, productive members of society.

  • Extended reality, which is all about the end of distance.

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are removing the distance to people, information and experiences, transforming the ways people live and work. Leaders are using extended reality to address some of the biggest pain points in enterprise (e.g. workforce training, day-to-day productivity or immersive customer experiences).

  • Data veracity and the importance of trust.

Data is the lifeblood of the intelligent enterprise, with the global economy depending on live and accurate information to run. Inaccurate and manipulated information threatens to compromise the insights companies rely on to plan, operate and grow. Unverified data is a new type of vulnerability, one that every business leveraging digital technologies must address.

  • Frictionless business build to partner at scale.

Businesses depend on technology-based partnerships for growth, but their own legacy systems aren’t designed to support partnerships at scale. To fully power the connected Intelligent Enterprise, companies must first re-architect themselves.

  • Internet of thinking: creating intelligent distributed systems.

Businesses are making big bets on intelligent environments via robotics, AI and immersive experiences. But to bring these intelligent environments to life, they must extend their infrastructures into the dynamic, real-world environments they want to reach.

As part of Accenture’s multi-year perspective on technology’s impact on enterprise, these trends reflect the continuously evolving digital culture that creates challenges and opportunities for organizations worldwide. Now we’re at a point of fusion: Businesses are looking to reshape society, and they can’t do it alone. Partnerships with people are the clear path forward for every business and for society as a whole.

Taking into consideration these trends, what are the skills required for this new world and what is the role of businesses in reskilling the workforce of the future?

This is a historic moment. With AI and other exponential technologies, we are seeing the most significant changes in the nature of work since the introduction of personal computing in the 1980s and, before that, the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. In the age of AI, business success will increasingly depend on people and machines working alongside each other.

In recent years, the emphasis has been on investing in STEM education and training programs for young people. While we will still need young people with STEM skills, we will also need creativity, critical problem solving, interpersonal skills and a mindset open to continuous learning. These are typical traits of entrepreneurs. People who can look at things differently, come up with new solutions and approaches, collaborate and adapt to change and evolving situations. These skills will be in high demand, and young people who develop these skills will be better prepared for the new world of work, whether they set-up their own company or are employed within a company.

To succeed, organizations must reimagine work, pivot their workforce to new growth models and new-skill their people to do more valuable work. Success is intricately tied to investment in people. This means reskilling, retraining, reeducating and teaching the workforce how to maximize their creative skills and judgment. It also involves teaching employees how to train, interact and augment their work with smart machines. Organizations that fail to do so will hit roadblocks on their journey to reimagined processes and could encounter a talent crunch within the next few years.

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