Accenture's report explains what successful Future Systems look like: humans and robots working side by side and blurring boundaries within the IT stack.
It's easy to understand why so few executives made it into the top category of Accenture's new "Legacy or Legend" report.
The Accenture report sets business goals that seem almost unattainable. For example, executives must make the bold decsions to ensure pilot projects are built to scale across all business units. They also must consider all of the business processes that could benefit from one tech investment.
These ideal "Future Systems," according to Accenture, must be boundaryless, adaptable, and radically human.
In the report, only 8% of the 885 CEOs across 20 industries represented companies in the Leaders group. These CEOs (AKA Leaders) who make these dramatic changes see a significant payoff: Revenue growth that is 50% faster than the Middlers (most of the survey respondents landed in this category).
The real problem, however, is for the Laggards (the bottom 25% of respondents). Those companies left 15% of their potential annual revenue behind in 2018. Laggards choose easy fixes or fail to decide at all. The report authors found that Middlers settle for good-enough results in the short term, which is risky in the long-term.
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"Companies that wait to build future systems will find it increasingly difficult to catch up as technologies evolve," said report authors Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer, Accenture Technology Services; Bhaskar Ghosh, group chief executive of Accenture Technology Services;, and James Wilson, the global managing director of IT and business research, Accenture Technology Services.
Who is in the 8%?
In the report, the Accenture authors shared several examples of companies that move quickly and make bold technology decisions.
In 2019, McDonald's acquired two tech companies to modernize customer interactions. One company, Dynamic Yield, has a machine learning platform for customization. McDonald's can now use the platform to change the drive-through menu based on time of day or weather.
CVS is creating a "human + machine workforce" to help employees adapt to new technology while at the same time providing personalized care to customers. Pharmacy techs get personalized digital training and real-world simulations to help them become more tech savvy and data literate.
In response to the success of AirBnB, Marriott Hotels launched an incubator to select the best ideas to test and implement. One hundred and sixty startups applied and seven teams went from idea to implementation in nine months. These changes resulted in new partnerships and operational processes.
Wilson said that collaboration is becoming a differentiator.
"A majority of Leaders in our study are employing platforms or teams to connect with competitors and ecosystem partners, i.e. with plug-and-play integration and APIs to external platforms," he said.
What does a future system look like?
Companies need to build a "human + machine workforce," like CVS, to succeed with advanced technology, according to the report. Wilson said that human + machine systems are more flexible and scalable than any human worker alone.
He continued that BMW has found these combined teams are much more productive than in factories with industrial robots on one side of a factory, and people working on an automated assembly line on the other.
"When they got rid of that set up and started bringing people and collaborative robots to work together, they really started to see those big productivity improvements that just weren't possible through the old way of thinking about automation," Wilson said.
Wilson said that in radically human systems, every aspect of the IT solution is designed to meet both expressed and unstated human needs. Personalization is one example of what this looks like in practice.
"One organic grocer we've been looking at now uses voice recognition AI, data, and AR to personalize shopping around a customer's diet habits and goals," he said. "If you're now eating more Paleo, the store will use AR to highlight certain items on the shelf; a low-sodium, Mediterranean diet shopper will have a very different experience."
Accenture's study included C-level executives at more than 8,300 companies across 20 industries in 20 countries. Half of the respondents were in IT roles, half were not, and 885 were CEOs.
Accenture measured the companies on technology adoption, the penetration of those technologies, and related culture changes, such as changes in attitudes about experimentation and collaboration.
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