By Greg Douglass, Global Lead for Technology Strategy & Advisory, Accenture
2021 is underway, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. With COVID-19 vaccinations coming down the line, we can hope to return to some degree of normality soon. And when that happens the economic recovery can get started in earnest.
We all know that technology transformation was featured in a big way in 2020 as companies responded to the disruption of the pandemic. But for the year ahead, CIOs, CTOs and CDOs are rightly looking to what comes next and how to make the most of the recovery. We have identified four key areas that these technology leaders will need to focus on this year.
1. Build resilience through the cloud
During the pandemic, cloud-first businesses found it easier to pivot rapidly to new working models and digital service delivery.
Now, 78% of CxOs are committed to accelerating their digital transformation in the cloud. Urgently needing to boost growth, tech leaders see the cloud playing a critical a role in helping their business better respond to customer demand and build business resilience and agility for future needs.
For many companies, embracing cloud at the core of the business is a big change. And each company’s cloud agenda no longer falls solely on the shoulders of IT team. It requires C-level orchestration and agreement to optimize cloud investments for greater resource efficiency, lower operational costs, and maximum value realization.
Tech leaders can lead by helping their companies set a joint cloud plan that integrates a variety of solutions and align them to industry imperatives and new market realities. By working closely with their C-suite counterparts, they can get their companies to agreement on critical areas like cloud governance, operating model, value case, and application development in the cloud. They also should ensure their companies are taking into consideration how ecosystem partnerships can help boost the company’s digital transformation and achieve next-level resilience.
2. Enhance agility with a collaborative working environment
The success with which businesses adapted to home working and workplace virtualization means that both will likely play a bigger role moving forward. Technology leaders will need to increase productivity by redefining elements of the employee experience, including incorporating more virtual workrooms and collaboration tools, and adding more videoconferencing and messaging tools.
Once people start returning to offices, tech leaders will need to blend a safe return with continued remote working options. It’s likely that the workplace will become a mix of virtual and physical components tied together by collaborative technologies. Tech leaders will need to ensure not only that the technology is viable and resilient, but that people are trained to use it optimally.
Our advice for the short-term is for CIOs and CTOs to join forces with CHROs to define a personal enablement program for workers that can improve engagement, experience, and service delivery by using bots, AI, document transfer, and more. Concurrently, IT leaders and their teams should look to maximize cloud usage to leverage ready-to-use data, AI, and other advanced collaboration tools, such as augmented Virtual Reality (VR) working sessions to spark insights and innovation.
3. Engage with customers in new ways
Once cutting-edge, channels such as e-commerce and social media are now just table stakes. In the post-COVID world, technology leaders will need to adapt to help their companies meet new customer demands and provide more digital products and services, real-time channel integration capabilities, and next-generation digital customer experiences.
Virtual reality (VR) is a great example. While the pandemic remains a threat, VR can provide a safe way for people to have an immersive shopping experience. But even after the pandemic, the convenience of VR means it will likely prove popular. It will also likely gain further traction with businesses as a safe way to train employees in otherwise hazardous tasks.
The cloud will also help companies adjust to demand for richer digital experiences. Immediate priorities should include reinforcing digital interactions through omnichannel integration and more personalized products and services. Technology leaders should also focus on what’s changing in the customer journey based on new behaviors and the emerging business environment.
4. Revisit digital transformation
To truly achieve resilience, the technology agenda should be the foundation for continued survival and growth. And that requires going back to the fundamentals of digital transformation.
In practice that means recognizing that there is no final state for enterprise architecture. Rather, CIOs, CTOs and CDOs should aim to create a capability for continuous change and agile adaptation so that the business can keep pace with constantly changing events. It also means giving IT talent the skills and tools they need to advance the company’s agenda. And finally, there needs to be a cost transformation which embraces automation to create a more variable cost structure.
As we welcome in 2021, we do so in the hope that it will be a much better business environment than last year. Technology leaders should seize the initiative and champion the tech-led business transformation their companies need to thrive in the year ahead.
Frédéric Brunier, managing director, Accenture Strategy and Tobias Hirsch, managing director, Accenture contributed to this article.