Managing Technology for the Post-Digital Era

Businesses are adopting digital technologies at an unprecedented pace, with spending on digital transformation expected to reach a staggering $1.25 trillion in 2019( As a result of these efforts, digital technologies are increasingly powering core business operations. In fact, 79% of the more than 6,600 business and IT executives worldwide that Accenture surveyed for its 2019 report, “The Post-Digital Era Is Upon Us,”( say that digital technologies — specifically social, mobile, analytics, and cloud, which we refer to as SMAC — have now moved beyond adoption silos to become part of the technology foundation for their organizations.

So now that many global organizations have completed this first wave of transformation to become digital businesses, what’s next?

In this fast-approaching post-digital era, becoming digital is no longer a competitive advantage but rather the table stakes for doing business. With digital saturation and a level playing field, companies will face the challenge of meeting rapidly evolving and increasing demands from customers, employees, and partners. In the post-digital world, successful companies will be those that build upon foundational SMAC capabilities and apply a new generation of technologies and innovations to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by delivering the right experience to customers at just the right time.

We forecast four key technologies will drive the next wave of innovation and growth: distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, extended reality, and quantum computing — what we at Accenture collectively call the DARQ stack. For organizations, each technology may be at a different point on the adoption curve, but investments across the stack are steadily rising. Forward-looking leaders are already starting to capitalize on their potential, so it may be time to evaluate your organization’s strategic plans.

Distributed ledger technology (DLT). This refers to a category of technologies that includes blockchain, which uses cryptography and a distributed messaging protocol to create shared ledgers, enabling multiple parties to share access to the same data, at virtually the same time, with an unprecedented level of transparency. Initially developed for the financial services industry to increase trading efficiency, improve regulatory control, and eliminate unnecessary intermediaries, DLT has expanded to other industries, including supply chain and logistics, and helps companies hard wire trust into a variety of transactions.

Artificial intelligence. Maybe the most familiar of the group, referring to an evolving set of technologies that sense, comprehend, act, and learn — AI is also the most widely used of the DARQ stack. AI is already optimizing processes in companies across numerous industries and can improve decision-making by bolstering human skills with intelligent technologies. For instance, Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecom provider, implemented an AI-powered “Ask the Brain” solution from Starmind, through which workers can pose questions to identify relevant experts across the company. The knowledge of each employee is easily accessible to others, with more than half of questions now answered in less than two hours — enabling people to spend more time putting the answers to use. When we asked executives which DARQ technology will have the greatest impact on their organization over the next three years, the greatest number (41%) cited AI. Forty-two percent reported that their organizations have already adopted AI in at least one business ...