Accenture's positive stance on tech progression
By Karamjit Singh March 8, 2017
- Is optimistic responsive, responsible leaders will ensure positive impact of technology
- 79% of survey respondents agree that AI will revolutionize the way they gain information
AMIDST the hand wringing and concern over future job losses because of the powerful merging of automation with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and powerful software, global professional services company Accenture strikes an optimistic tone in its annual Accenture Technology Vision 2017 report.
“As technology transforms the way we work and live, it raises important societal challenges and creates new opportunities. Ultimately, people are in control of creating the changes that will affect our lives, and we’re optimistic that responsive and responsible leaders will ensure the positive impact of new technologies,” says Paul Daugherty (pic), Accenture’s chief technology & innovation officer.
This year’s report, themed “Technology for People,” is a call to action for business and technology leaders to actively design and direct technology to augment and amplify human capabilities.
The Technology Vision details how — with advances in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics — humans can now design technology that’s capable of learning to think more like people and to constantly align to and help advance their wants and needs. This human-centered technology approach pays off for businesses, as leading companies will transform relationships from provider to partner — simultaneously transforming internally.
The Technology Vision identifies five emerging technology trends that are essential to business success in today’s digital economy. Looking to add some Southeast Asian perspective to the report, DNA spoke to a venture capitalist in Singapore, the CEO of a Malaysian listed broadband provider and the Singapore based CEO of a global Indian software company for their thoughts on the various trends.
AI is the new UI
Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming of age, tackling problems both big and small by making interactions simple and smart. AI is becoming the new user interface (UI), underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents agree that AI will revolutionise the way they gain information from and interact with customers.
Time dotcom Bhd CEO Afzal Rahim of is circumspect over this trend, believing that AI is nothing without UI. “It doesn’t matter what you have in the back end – if it’s not intuitive people won’t use it. So I think that’s somewhat overplayed,” he says.
ICT Fund I managing partner Brijesh Pande, one of six funds selected by Singapore’s National Research Foundation as part of the Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF) II scheme feels that no technology can be deployed today without some form of self-learning or analytics built in. At the same time he is also cautious about the hype around AI.
“It’s an extremely hackneyed term as true deep learning (or AI) is still under development. When it comes to problem solving, we are still far from developing cognitive intelligence which could be on par with humans.”
Insofar as his fund is concerned, he believes that Natural Language Processing, a subset of AI, is becoming more mature for specific applications. “We are closely evaluating companies in this area,” he says.
Meanwhile Ramco Systems CEO, Virender Aggrawal, sees AI coming of age already, not so much from the UI perspective but from the potential applications on the enterprise side, “especially when it comes to chatbots”.
“At Ramco, we are developing bots in the HR, aviation, logistics and manufacturing sectors. Our aviation bots can check part availability, aircraft on-ground situations, stock status and more – and they can obtain all this data in real time, based on a simple conversation,” he says.
Acknowledging advances in cognitive computing, he points out that “chatbots will eventually automate all administrative tasks and play a major role in workplace productivity.” And while some labour economists will seize on this as proof that jobs will disappear to automation, Virender takes the optimistic view that end-users will move on to “perform deeper strategic analysis and more meaningful work”.
Design for humans
Technology design decisions are being made by humans, for humans. Technology adapts to how we behave and learns from us to enhance our lives, making them richer and more fulfilling. Eighty percent of executives surveyed agree that organizations need to understand not only where people are today, but also where they want to be — and shape technology to act as their guide to realize desired outcomes.
Ecosystems as macrocosms
Platform companies that provide a single point of access to multiple services have completely broken the rules for how companies operate and compete. Companies don’t just need a platform strategy, they need a rich and robust ecosystem approach to lead in this new era of intelligence. Already, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of executives surveyed reported that digital ecosystems are transforming the way their organisations deliver value.
Ramco System’s Virender is excited about this particular trend. “We are entering an era of interconnected systems where applications’ ability to ‘talk’ to each other and ‘pull’ data will become the norm.” He feels that it is not enough to have a connected enterprise; organisations today need platforms that can create a connected ecosystem where a user will no longer need to search or ask for details, but will be immediately presented with pertinent data.
All Ramco applications are built as ‘services’ on the server side, allowing users to access them on desktop, mobile or as web services. For example, “In aviation, we have built an ecosystem of APIs to interface with third-party applications like FedEx to auto-populate part availability, stock, cost and so on.”
Virender feels that the future is promising for platforms that can publish such APIs and, “encourage an ecosystem to be built around their services.”
The number of on-demand labor platforms and online work-management solutions is surging. As a result, leading companies are dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces, which in turn is driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Case in point: Eighty-five percent of executives surveyed said they plan to increase their organization’s use of independent freelance workers over the next year.
Afzal agrees somewhat with this and pins the cause, with some sarcasm, at the feet of millenials. “These millenials don’t want real jobs. They want to wake up and do something ‘fulfilling’ which ensures ‘they reach their potential’ like their parents have told them growing up. So not being ‘defined’ by any particular job will likely become usual business. This is very much a supply side led trend,” he says.
Brijesh however feels this trend is becoming a reality thanks to advances in technology, specifically, cloud computing, security and video. “With such technology developments, organisations are able to hire expertise from around the world to collaborate with the best talent for a specific task. I expect that tomorrow’s businesses will rely less on strict hierarchical structures and the expertise of full-timers within the company.”
To succeed in today’s ecosystem-driven digital economy, businesses must delve into uncharted territory. Instead of focusing solely on introducing new products and services, they should think much bigger — seizing opportunities to establish rules and standards for entirely new industries. In fact, 74 percent of the executives surveyed said that their organization is entering entirely new digital industries that have yet to be defined.
Yet, in navigating these choppy waters, Accenture hopes that its technology vision over the past 17 years has served as a sort of buoy for corporate players as it looks across the enterprise landscape identify emerging technology trends that hold the greatest potential to disrupt businesses and industries
About the methodology
Accenture’s Technology Vision is developed annually by the Accenture Labs. For the 2017 report, the research process included gathering input from the Technology Vision External Advisory Board, a group comprising more than two dozen experienced individuals from the public and private sectors, academia, venture capital firms and entrepreneurial companies. In addition, the Technology Vision team conducted interviews with technology luminaries and industry experts, as well as with nearly 100 Accenture business leaders.
In parallel, Accenture Research conducted a global online survey of more than 5,400 business and IT executives across 31 countries and 16 industries to capture insights into the adoption of emerging technologies. The survey helped identify the key issues and priorities for technology adoption and investment. Respondents were mostly C-level executives and directors, with some functional and line-of-business leads, at companies with annual revenues of at least US$500 million, with the majority of companies having annual revenues greater than US$6 billion.