Accenture had a good week.  Their stock hit a 16 year high, as they boosted their forecast for both revenues and profits.  Go A-C-N.   While looking for their quarterly investor presentation, I stumbled on something entirely more interesting.

Digital Business Era: Stretch Your Boundaries here.  This report is thought-provoking and relevant to all management consultants.  They surveyed 2,000 business and technology executives and divided the 120 page report into 5 major themes:

  1. Internet of Me
  2. Outcome Economy
  3. Platform (R)evolution
  4. Intelligent Enterprise
  5. Workforce Reimagined

All of us feel the intellectual curiosity of how the next digital revolution is changing business.  Some of it we understand, most of it, we don’t.  Our clients struggle with these issues daily – especially if they are CIO, CMO, or CTOs.  As consultants, we need to understand the context, and preferably have a point of view on it.  I took the 29,000 words in the report, took out the most mundane 10 words (like business, company, data) and came up with this word cloud:

ACN Tech Vision Wordle

This is a time of enormous excitement, speed and disruption.  Accenture notes that 52% of companies from the Fortune 500 have gone bankrupt in large part because of digital disruption (remember Circuit City, Blockbuster etc. . ?)

For those even mildly interested, this is a readable report.  For those who work in Strategy, IT, marketing, enterprise risk, or R&D – r.e.a.d this report, it’s free here.

In the introduction of this massive report, there are 13 “takeaways” which make up an executive summary.  The words in blue color are my commentary, not Accenture’s.  Open to all comments, feedback.

1. Beyond the cloud: stop talking about cloud—the value is in using it.  Amen. This is so true, and sadly, most business people refer to “the cloud” as if it was a mystical place where problems solve themselves.  No, it just has enormous computing power, and storage in a remote location . . .with real-time connectivity.  It’s a ultra-powerful utility. The question is now, what will you do with it?

2. Design for analytics: formulate the questions, and design for the answers.  For all the talk of “big data”, honestly, even “small” data is difficult to gather and analyze.  Most companies have the hardest time getting legacy systems to spit out structured data in usable ways.  Last week, I spoke with a director who spends 2 hours every month, just putting together 1 report because the data is not extracted with a mind for reporting.

3. Relationships at scale: moving beyond transactions to digital relationships.  This touches on CRM (customer relationship management) which is not my area of specialization, but ACN’s argument is simple.  All this SOMOLO (social, mobile, local) data is useful for commerce and marketing, but what is it doing to drive loyalty and life-time-value-of-customer decisions?  Are you gaining real loyalty or just selling better?

4. Seamless collaboration: right channel, right worker, right job. As Peter Drucker said so famously 40+ years ago, “The knowledge worker cannot be supervised.”  This applies now more than ever, as companies rely on their employees, working in teams to collaborate, and create ways of working smarter, harder, and closer-to-the-customer.

5. Active defense: adapting cyber security defenses to the threat.  Accenture argues that even though this field is constantly changing – with the bad guys getting ever craftier – companies need to start with the basics and implement today’s best practices immediately.  The average company is woefully behind-the-times in security.

6. Data velocity: matching the speed of decision to the speed of action.  I found this point to be oddly liberating. There is a flood of data – but in reality – the data which will be acted upon is just a fraction of the total.  This means that the velocity of data analysis is constrained or filtered by the reaction / implementation time of the client.  Put another way, there is no reason to freak-out of all data. . .when in reality, there is a finite (and much smaller) sets of data which will drive management action.

7.Software-defined networking: virtualization’s last mile.  Dude. Gonna skip this one.

8. Digital-physical blur: extending intelligence to the edge. The Internet of Things (IoT), where connected devices are everywhere, allowing consumers to better shape their experience (if they want), Later in the report, they talk of Mercedes linking up your car to your NEST thermostat at home, so it warms / cools your house on your way home. Likewise, with a Los Angeles parking app which tells you which of the 7,000 smart parking spaces are available in real-time. M2M (machine-to-machine) communications is getting cheaper and communication protocols are maturing.

9. From workforce to crowdsource: rise of the borderless enterprise.  Extending collaboration beyond the 4 walls of your company – embracing consumers, suppliers, and even competitors.  Not a new idea, but ACN calls API (applications programming interfaces) the “secret sauce of the digital economy”

10. Data supply chain: putting information into circulation. Enterprise data is woefully under-utilized because it sits in silos. ACN poetically describes the need to better coordinate the supply chain of data from one system to another.  Frankly, if clients could systematically do this, consulting revenues would drop by a third.

11. Harnessing hyperscale: hardware is back (and never really went away).  Skipping.

12. Business of applications: software as a core competency in the digital world. ACN puts this very well, “there is a sharp shift towards simpler, more modular apps.”

13. Architecting resilience: built to survive failure, the mantra of the nonstop business. With the need for systems to be on 24/7, there is a level of robustness and redundancy. They describe it as, systems need to be “designed for failure, not designed to spec.”  

Consultants love buckets. Accenture does too.  This is the evolution of their digitial trends over the last few years.   Very graphical, and shows how ideas flow, flux, and adapt.  Good for Accenture to see this as an organic evolution.

Evolution of Technology

This report shows consultants at their best.  Accenture (disclosure, don’t work there) takes a super broad topic, distills it into easily understood elements, provides real-life examples, and even provides videos, podcasts, and multiple ways to interact with the content.  Complete 360 experience – which just reinforces the message that technology is ubiquitous, and not a separate discipline, but the underpinning of everything.  Whew.

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