Companies have got to get digital

The cloud is where many new opportunities are emerging in business

Paul Daugherty, global CTO for Accenture: “Businesses need to reboot their relationship with consumers. The best way to do this is through enabling digital technologies”

Paul Daugherty, global CTO for Accenture: “Businesses need to reboot their relationship with consumers. The best way to do this is through enabling digital technologies”

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 05:00

A truly digital age, embedded social media in all companies and an ever increasing Cloud are just some of the technological realities we can look forward to, according to Paul Daugherty, Global Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Accenture. John Holden reports.

DOES your company have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)? If it doesn't, it should. Digital considerations should no longer be a side project for any company says Paul Daugherty, Global CTO for Accenture, who was in Dublin recently. Your digital expert needs to share the front office with the CFO and CEO. Even this very publication recently created the post of Communities editor, a CDO of sorts for the newspaper industry.

Daugherty has been central in a variety of initiatives Accenture have established to keep their technology up to speed. Across the globe, Accenture Technology Labs focus on finding new innovations to create new opportunities. Cloud and Mobility business are also top priorities, as are incubation groups for emerging technologies.

Daugherty also also founded the company's practices in key areas such as social media, open source and big data. But it is the cloud where many new opportunities are emerging in business.

According to a 2012 report from the analyst Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the total cloud market is expected to grow from around $40 billion in 2012 to $98 billion in 2016.

"The last time I was here in Ireland in 2009 I spoke at length about the cloud and how this new phenomenon would radically transform business," says Daugherty. "But four years ago we were really just talking about what the cloud was and trying to define it. Now it's a real material part of any business. We have over 6,700 staff devoted to working in this area." Accenture have also just announced €400 million investment in cloud-based technologies in the expectation that they can further assist their clients introduce new digital technologies.

The company have already worked on 4000 cloud-based solutions for clients who require both public and private applications. So they're well beyond the stage of simply talking about the cloud's potential. "We're doing interesting work with companies like Amazon on their public cloud model," he says. "The private cloud is also moving very fast, that is companies using the cloud within their own computing estates to drive efficiency and elasticity. Government agencies also use private cloud platforms frequently. We have one example where an agency is processing more than $100 million worth of transactions annually using a private cloud."

The concern now is controlling the exponential growth of cloud technology.

"Our big challenge is managing the complexity," says Daugherty. "Very often it's used by companies not to replace old systems but as an add on to existing capabilities. They can struggle to manage it efficiently."

In the Accenture Technology Vision 2013 report, the theme is very much "digital". "Companies should be using technology in every part of their business," he stresses.

"While it is common to have a CTO now, it is also becoming the norm to have a CDO. There are currently 15 billion devices connected to the internet right now, more than double the number of people even connected. Despite this reality, we see so many of our clients grappling with the era of digital business."

Some have embraced it. General Motors have begun a partnership with Relay Rides, a peer to peer car sharing service run predominantly through mobile applications. Social ride sharing is a very different business model than selling a car but it's a good example of GM thinking about other ways their customers can interact with them.

Likewise, American Express now offer peer to peer financial transactions through Amex Serve on mobile devices.

"Cathay Pacific have a very clever campaign where they offer access to their airline's club, usually reserved for those travelling in first or business class, based on customer's social score, as in those flyers who are frequent communicators and high social influencers. It's a great branding strategy.

"These kinds of initiatives start blurring the lines between industries and changing the nature in which companies compete," he says. "That's good. Businesses need to reboot their relationship with consumers. The best way to do this is through enabling digital technologies."

Beyond digital transformation, an ever-increasing cloud and the more formal establishment of social media as marketing and sales tools, Daugherty sees other technology trends coming down the line. "Data is obviously a huge area now and it'll be interesting to see how it all converges, such as data within an enterprise with data outside.

Accenture are also experimenting with drones that can perform tasks, such as pipeline inspections, and other things difficult or dangerous for humans to do themselves. "You can use visual recognition technology with drones in a very specific way and feed that data back into analytics systems that can then do preventative maintenance."