Digital transformation is probably the most used and sort of abused enterprise technology jargon today especially in the context of emerging economies like India. Although digital is a very important part of how enterprises are looking at creating the differentiating factors, it is also going to become redundant in the coming future where every enterprise will be a digital one. In conversation with Marc Carrel-Billiard, Global Senior MD, Accenture Labs, we discuss how the post-digital era will look like and what are the key ingredients that the technology leaders should keep handy in the transition phase.
Robin Chatterjee (RC): In India, most of the companies are either in a phase of digital transformation or still thinking about digital transformation. So, where does the post-digital era come and how do you see that especially in our context?
Marc Carrel-Billiard (Marc): We publish the technology vision every year and we have been doing that for 19 years now. I remember having an interview back then and people said, ‘Marc tell me why Accenture believes every business is a digital business?’ Nobody wanted to believe that, even our clients were very skeptical. But now they realize that we were right because every business was a digital business and is still a digital business. What we see today is that some companies have started to look at how they want to deploy these digital capabilities to bring out the next version of their businesses in the post-digital era, what is going to happen when every company has gone digital and what is going to be the next differentiation factor. The post-digital era is more about creating those differentiating factors.
RC: What will be those differentiating factors?
Marc: First, companies will need to understand their client better in order to personalize their service and their products. We see that there is a shift going to happen in hyper-personalization. People will be more understood by the technology they are using. By understanding what consumers are doing, companies can recommend stuff with more hyper-personalized ideas. Second, today people want everything on-demand, immediate delivery, and instant gratification. Look at Amazon, first a retailer, then things used to come in one week and then in two days, now it is two hours in San Francisco, people want everything now. Here is another good example, there is a startup in India called SlicePay, which is trying to understand the customer (student) based on the technology footprint they leave behind them. Every time they connect to social media, they know it, every time that someone posts that they went to some restaurant they know it. With all this information, they can figure out the profile of the person and eventually try to assess exactly how to give the customer a credit solution. Building the credit profile based on the technology footprint that consumers leave behind is the differentiating factor.
RC: Let us talk about the tech vision report, it starts with the DARQ, so can we go one by one in this DARQ chain.
Marc: DARQ stands for Distributed Ledgers, Artificial Intelligence, Extended Reality, and Quantum Computing. We believe that these technologies used in the combinatorial effect will have a ripple effect in terms of product and service you are going to deliver, to provide this hyper-personalized on-demand delivery. Zozotown is using AI and ML to design custom clothing, providing the best options for you based on your own measurements. If you look at artificial intelligence, it is going to play a role in absolutely everything that we do. Every machine that we leverage today will be more intelligent, they would be fully connected and will always have a lot of information to deliver something better. Another good example is Cancer Care; the detection of a tumor using MRI in coming 10 years or 20 years could be completely different because we must have harvested countless samples of tumor in different patients, and the knowledge will help the machines detect those tumors with absolute accuracy. The second thing is that we will be able to use quantum computing to hyper-personalize the chemotherapy that we are going to give to you and we will be able to basically compute everything faster than we have ever been able to do, almost instantaneously, at the moment, and that’s what exactly is going to happen.
RC: When we are dealing with such sensitive data, the security is of prime importance. On one hand, we have futuristic tools in form of AI and ML which need data to give the output we seek and on the other hand we have privacy norms. How can these two coexist?
Marc: The elements of privacy, legality, ethical behavior are going to be at the center of everything. I would also say all this innovation need to turn, what we call responsible innovation, or purposeful innovation. So, we cannot make a business a successful business without anyway building a partnership. One of the trends we have in the tech vision is related to ‘secure us to secure me’. It is all about the fact that now companies are building new business using an ecosystem of other companies. They are starting to be not the victim of security threat but the vector of a security threat because through them we can touch other companies and we can breach their security. So, companies are starting to put together a new model of thinking together on how they can regulate their standards, their policies and how basically they are going to fight against security threats.
RC: In the report, the term Human+ worker has been used. What are the skill sets that make a Human+ worker and how do you see this evolving in the next five years?
Marc: Human+ worker means that technology has provided so much capability to humans or workers, so they can do much more things, much faster, much more efficiently and safely. Every year for our Tech Vision report, we survey executives and this year we surveyed over 6600 IT and business executives. We found that there is a disconnect between the organization and the workforce, in terms of how they are related to technology. So, what this means is that organizations need to change the way they are recruiting people, the way they manage their career and the way they manage their training. That’s very important. I think companies have started to realize that more than looking at the skill sets that people have today, it is more to look at the potential of the people. There are two levels of potential, the IQ path which is what you know of, it is about how fast you know things and you can learn and then there is the emotional path which is more about how you collaborate with your team and how you work together. Look at our labs, we work with mathematicians, doctors, for quantum computing or when we do drug discovery, you need to work with chemists, etc. I think that probably in five years’ time people will learn differently, there will be more gaming experience or immersive experience to learning.
RC: How should business leaders like CIOs and CISOs perceive post-digital era and go about preparing themselves?
Marc: Organizations need to be very agile and very curious about technologies that are coming into the fold. In the end, it is all about the customer and it is all about your own workforce that you need to support as much as you can to lead them into these new upcoming technologies. I would say that the pace of technology today is the slowest ever because tomorrow it will be faster and the day after it will be faster than it was yesterday and technology never stops, innovation never stops, so it never stays still. You need to be always on your toes, always learning, always connecting. More opportunity means more responsibility and trust is going to be paramount. Hence, technology, talent, and trust are the three Ts to look at.