Just How Pervasive Is Technology in Our Lives?

New Accenture forecast reveals 5 global trends

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Accenture released its Accenture Technology Vision 2018 report this month, the firm’s annual forecast of the technology trends unfolding over the next three years.

In an age where there is little daylight between the office and the living room, where we are always connected to a device, easily accessible through email and Facebook, Twitter and Slack at all hours of the day, the trends that Accenture highlights are playing out at both the personal and professional levels. Indeed, according to the report, 84 percent surveyed “agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of how people live today.” The lines between our separate lives are blurring. Quickly.

So how should brands react to our increasing connectedness to technology?

“As highlighted in our Accenture Technology Vision 2018 report, now, more than ever, we’re seeing people read the labels of companies, wanting to know what they stand for,” said Marc Carrel-Billiard, senior managing director of Accenture Labs. “People are expecting companies to protect their data, to be transparent in their decisions, to uphold their values, and to align with their morals and ethics. This opens the door for CMOs to redefine their brands and work with their customers in even more powerful ways.”

Carrel-Billiard pointed to brands needing a “try before you buy” mentality as AR and VR let consumers view products like cars, home goods and even travel experiences. New technology gives leading brands the chance to bring themselves to life via immersive marketing.

Accenture surveyed 6,381 business and IT executives from 25 countries “to understand the global impact of technology and identify priority technology investments over the next few years,” according to the report.

Through its year-long research, Accenture saw five big trends “shaping the way technology is increasing businesses’ impact across society”:

Citizen AI: Companies need to embrace the role of AI, and as the technology becomes pervasive in our lives, businesses need to be open about their use of it. According to the report, 72 percent of executives said that “their organizations seek to gain customer trust and confidence by being transparent in their AI-based decisions and actions.”

Extended Reality: A catch-all phrase for augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality, extended reality (XR) is poised to be a big business. Worldwide revenue for this market is forecasted to reach nearly $215 billion by 2021, according to research by IDC. The Accenture report states that executives are using XR to help with “workforce training, day-to-day productivity or immersive customer experiences.” The ability to reshape how internal operations are done are now seemingly limitless. All you’ll need is a headset.  

Data Veracity: Data, the report found, is a double-edged sword. It can build businesses (hello, Facebook!), but can also cripple them—and the trust engendered. Equifax. Yahoo. Sony. Data breaches affect the bottom line as well as employees and customers of these companies. And irresponsible use of data, according to the paper, “leads to corrupted business insights and skewed decisions with a major impact on society.”

Frictionless Business: Many businesses rely on technology providers to solve particular solutions. In order to grow, however, companies need to “re-architect” their infrastructures to succeed in the digital age. The report says, “Microservices architectures, blockchain and smart contracts are the cornerstone of technology partnerships. Those that invest in these changes today will lead the way to redefine how businesses transact in the future.” Indeed, 60 percent of executives stated “that blockchain and smart contracts will be critical to their organizations over the next three years.”

Internet of Thinking: With rethinking a company’s infrastructure comes the ancillary, yet powerful, component of using technologies like robotics, AI and connected devices to help both the workforce and the consumer.

These five trends highlight how technology undergirds business. Understanding how it’s changing the relationship between companies and their customers, as well as companies and their employees, is vital to the growth and sustainability of every firm.

Key data points from the report:

  • “Four out of five executives (81 percent) agree within the next two years, AI will work next to humans in their organizations, as a co-worker, collaborator and trusted advisor.”  
  • “Eighty percent of executives believe it will be important to leverage XR solutions to close the gap of physical distance when engaging with employees and customers.”
  • “Eighty-two percent of executives say their organizations are increasingly using data to drive critical and automated decision-making at unprecedented scale.”
  • “Seventy-nine percent of executives agree that organizations are basing their most critical systems and strategies on data, yet many have not invested in the capabilities to verify the truth within it.”
  • “Sixty-three percent of executives believe it will be critical over the next two years to leverage customer hardware and hardware accelerators to meet the computing demands of intelligent environments.”
  • “Eighty-three percent of executives agree that edge architecture will speed the maturity of many technologies.”

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This story first appeared in the Feb. 26, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@joshsternberg Josh Sternberg is the former media and tech editor at Adweek.