Could you tell us about your journey in technology and how you started at Accenture?
I actually started off as an Electrical Engineer before joining Accenture. I’ve spent time in various positions across Accenture, and I now lead Accenture Technology in North America. This means I drive Accenture Technology’s business, helping clients achieve Digital Transformation using the latest emerging technologies across Cloud, Mobility, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Security and others. With the disruptions taking place, our clients are not patient about transformation. They see opportunities to adopt new technology but have trouble scaling it.
Could you tell us about your daily interaction with new-age enterprise-level technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Robotics?
Our clients see the potential of new technologies and want to bring these capabilities in-house at a breakneck speed. We help clients navigate a more strategic use of technologies, both new and old, quickly. Thanks to the seemingly endless supply of data, computing resources and intelligent technology, enterprise IT models are moving to a future based on highly-interconnected ‘living’ systems of people, machines and applications. This is a future where technology will allow us to do more than ever and intelligent systems will become an integral part of our daily lives. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning promise great benefits for users and consumers – it’s my job to help clients use these technologies in a way that makes sense for their business.
In the report, you compare how Leaders fare against Laggards. Tell us how leaders have managed to bridge the “Innovation Achievement Gap”.
First, we define the innovation achievement gap as the difference between potential and actual value realized from technology investments. Our latest Future Systems research study, one of the largest ever undertaken by Accenture, highlights the scale of this challenge. We found that Leaders – companies that are more strategic in their approach to technology – are performing much better financially than Laggards. In fact, they are achieving more than twice the average revenue growth of Laggards. What sets Leaders apart is that they don’t think in terms of one-off technology solutions – they work towards holistic technology systems and cultivating a culture that encourages continuous innovation across the enterprise. Leaders strive to build systems that can take advantage of the blurring of boundaries between data, infrastructure and applications, and humans and machines. According to our research, on average, Leaders are two and a half times more likely to have adopted new technologies and apply those technologies across three times more business processes than Laggards.
Leaders also have a carefully calibrated strategy toward technology adoption and a clear vision for what their companies’ future systems should look like. Future systems are boundaryless, breaking down barriers within the IT stack, between companies, and between humans and machines. These disappearing boundaries are allowing companies to reach even deeper across their networks of customer and partner ecosystems to reduce friction in their operations and customer interactions. These future systems are adaptable, using Automation and AI to dynamically adapt and scale in response to real-time events associated with a particular product, customer, or salesperson. Finally, future systems interact seamlessly with people on human terms using AI and natural interfaces. Leaders’ technology methods are different, too: they adopt earlier, reinvest more frequently and acquire technology in a more deliberate manner, ensuring it is pervasive across the enterprise.
What technologies are leaders adopting and promoting to build an ecosystem of “Future Systems”?
One key technology that Leaders almost universally embrace is Cloud. Leaders are far ahead when it comes to adopting Cloud technologies as a way to effectively leverage other technologies, including AI and Analytics. Our research shows that an overwhelming 95% of Leaders see the cloud as a catalyst to innovation, compared to just 30% of Laggards.
Leaders are also adopting powerful technologies, such as AI, at a rate of 98% compared to just 42% of Laggards. Perhaps more importantly, before implementing AI, Leaders set up complementary technologies such as data lakes (a system or repository of data stored in its raw format) and Cloud services (any service made available to users on-demand via a Cloud Computing provider’s servers).
Data is another key asset for Leaders. They don’t rely on unverified or biased data to make decisions instead, they use AI or other technologies to detect biased algorithms. 90% of Leaders ensure data quality versus only 40% of Laggards. As a result, 94% of Leaders believe that the data at their disposal is reliable enough to drive business change, compared with 64% of Laggards.
That said, Leaders know that data and technology are not, by themselves, the solution to every problem. To stay ahead of rapid disruption, Leaders are turning to human-centric design to better connect with customers and find a competitive advantage. Designing successful customer experiences ultimately comes down to empathy—truly understanding the needs of the people using the system. This often translates to using customer-centric design and continuous feedback to define and solve the most important customer pain points in a way that is data-driven, repeatable, and agile. Finally, removing organization and cultural barriers to fast movement and scaling will encourage experimenting and non-traditional ideas – crucial to continuous innovation.
How can Laggards catch up to Leaders?
Closing the innovation achievement gap will require a significant cultural change within businesses. Historically, Laggards have followed the latest trends in technology without a vision for how technologies will complement each other, and without a plan for cultivating enterprise systems. As a result, when a potentially game-changing innovation comes along, they cannot effectively scale it. But this isn’t an impossible task. Laggards need to change their focus and evolve future systems by cultivating the mindset and methods of Leaders.
The strategies deployed by Leaders take into account how new technologies will interact with the people and processes already in place in their organization, and how technology can nurture talent in creative ways. Being a Leader is just as much about culture as it is about technology. Those that use technology to build future systems that are boundaryless, adaptable and radically human – combined with new approaches to how employees’ access and use technology – will be best positioned to scale innovation and gain competitive advantage.
Thank you, Annette! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Annette leads Accenture Technology in North America. She is responsible for driving the growth of Accenture Technology’s largest market by helping clients achieve digital transformation, anticipate technology trends, transform through technology, and innovate at scale. Annette is accountable for defining the Technology growth and innovation strategy, shaping key offerings, and leading Accenture’s growing team of technology professionals across North America.
With a continuous focus on innovation, Annette leads programs across technology which include a complex ecosystem of businesses such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, Amazon, and Workday. Annette is a frequent speaker on topics of technology, innovation, and leadership, and is passionate about championing women in tech and STEM education. She is a member of the North America Leadership team, Accenture Global Leadership Council, as well as Accenture’s Technology Executive Council.
Prior to this role, Annette has held leadership positions across Accenture in the Communications, Media and Technology operating group and in Accenture Federal Services. These roles have included responsibility for top-level client relationships, innovation, investment strategies, alliance partnerships, market positioning and talent development, as well as sales, delivery, client satisfaction and business performance.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions—underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network—Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With more than 450,000 people serving clients in over 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.