As we find ourselves in what we at Accenture refer to as the post-digital era in our latest Tech Vision 2020 report, we foresee radical transformation over the next five years, as businesses will have to continuously embed technology to reshape the way people live, work and play. Kiara Chinniah, AI and Robotics Specialist, Accenture, South Africa, explains…

As we find ourselves in a digital marketplace that is more intimate than ever imaginable, the models for data ownership and experience that define that world has remained the same. As a result, businesses across the globe will experience a “tech-clash” to realign these old systems and services to better reflect people’s needs and values.

South African businesses on the other hand find themselves in a greenfield environment where we are not only ready and hungry to adopt emerging technologies, but it is also quick, easy and cost-effective to do so.

For us, the challenge lies in the fact that pioneering products and services are being produced at a historically unprecedented pace, and customers are increasingly being engaged in completely novel ways, which raises the bar in terms of their expectations at an unparalleled scale. Businesses could literally be here today and gone tomorrow.

To unlock sustainable growth, businesses need fit-for-purpose, human-centric technology strategies that yield short-term business results, while enabling them to be scalable enough to be efficient, cost-effective and capable of rapidly adapting to the ever-changing market demands.

Threats of not getting with the times

Quite simply put, frequently emerging evidence proves that businesses who do not get on board with digitalisation, lose both money and clients, and in turn, their employees lose their jobs. Most importantly, they lose the opportunity to tap into a staggering quota of growth potential.

At the start of 2019, Accenture published the results of a completed study titled Unlocking Digital Value for Business and Society in South Africa, which is based on a ground-breaking value-at-stake framework developed in collaboration between Accenture and the World Economic Forum (WEF) as part of WEF’s multi-year Digital Transformation Initiative (DTI).

This study, which covers nine industry sectors and five government services, indicates that by implementing key digital initiatives across government services and key industry sectors, South Africa could create around four million jobs and unlock five trillion in value over the next decade.

The study also reveals that adoption of digital technologies can help businesses in the consumer industry to effectively address these challenges, enter new markets, and make their operations and value chain more efficient and competitive. Ultimately this could unlock R411 billion in value for the sector, consumer and society, by 2026.

The six digital initiatives that were identified to deliver the most value, are e-commerce, data as an asset, smart supply chain, physical store transformation, digital fulfilment chain and digitised support functions.

Steps to develop a future-proof technology-driven business strategy

Set your goals, but keep them fluid

Clearly articulate your long-term business goals but schedule milestones along the way so you can continuously reassess whether you are on track and realign your strategy quickly if not. Remember that the business tides are always changing, and you have to be able to adjust your sails to make it through every storm.

Make data your alpha and omega

Everything begins and ends with data. You need to have a complete, true view of every aspect of your business at any time. Adopting Lean Six Sigma methodologies and tools will assist in continuous improvement, identifying milestones and ultimately, end milestones.

By leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of machine learning (ML) and applied intelligence to collect, clean, sort and interpret data exponentially quicker than any human can we can help organisations mature more sustainably and efficiently than ever before.

Metrics and value tracking software will also help you understand how every aspect of your business performs and what the value is of every activity that you embark on. The simple truth is, if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it or manage it.

Place people and planet at your core

This planet we’re on, the society we move in, the people who make our businesses work, and the people who make use of our products and services are the very reason for our existence.

It is essential for us to leverage the advanced technologies to our avail to harness the full potential of our natural resources, ensure the longevity of our planet and give back as much as we take. Apart from lessening our burden on Mother Earth, we must unleash the power of technology to improve our people’s quality of life.

Never go in blind

Modern project approaches make it possible for you to test your new ideas extensively and rapidly, before you take them to market. Move beyond developing a proof-of-concept (POC) to determining proof-of-value (PoV). PoVs will empower you to foresee exactly what the solution in question means for your business and how and if it will add value.

Create innovation DNA

Every organisation is unique and has key factors that make them successful and special in their own way. It is important to make sure that innovation, out of the mould thinking and emerging technologies are an integral part of those key factors.

Emerging technologies such as AI and ML can assist to rapidly eliminate blindspots and reinforce these capabilities to improve the overall resilience of those key factors to ensure that your organisation is continuously evolving and embracing the new and always performing at the optimum level for sustainable and scalable success.

Be ready to develop new products, yesterday

The speed at which new concepts arise on the market lately, also implies that you have to be able to develop new products and services faster than ever before to gain or maintain a competitive advantage. At Accenture Liquid Studio we utilise a progressive group of techniques called rapid prototyping to swiftly fabricate a scale model of a physical component and construct the component through 3D printing or “additive layer manufacturing” technology.

Use your tech to the max

Considering that we now basically have no choice but to adopt an ever state of transformation, it is critical to keep your technology infrastructure lean and mean. Be relentless in your pursuit of new, money-sensible ways to adapt your current technology or adopt the most fit-for-purpose new technology.

Look at your business through a trio of lenses

At Accenture we deploy a simple, yet powerful practise to determine success which is built on three cornerstones: viability, feasibility and desirability. Basically, you will know your business is on track when you can respond “yes” to these three questions:

  • Does my product or service add real value for my business?
  • Is it possible to produce it and to produce it cost-effectively?
  • Will people want and love it?

Engage for impact, not for time

Today, it is not necessarily the length of your engagement with technology experts that counts, but the impact it makes on your business.

Accenture Liquid Studio is a one-of-its-kind business unit of Accenture that is purposefully dedicated to the rapid development of technology to help your business embrace new technologies, skillsets and ways of working, within an average of six to twelve weeks from engagement to development of the solution.

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