Innovative technology-based products and services are changing the way we work and live, while businesses are driving unparalleled societal change. In this year’s Accenture Technology Vision, five emerging trends have been highlighted that will spur this transformation. 

Imagine how the current technological evolution will reshape our lives. Companies are gaining unprecedented knowledge of consumers, blurring the lines between business and personal. In return, people are demanding more personalization and responsibility from them. In our Technology Vision, you will see that expectations among customers, employees, governments and businesses partners are rising fast. Formalized partnerships will surface to accommodate these growing dependencies and needs. Technology will continue to change society as we know it. Become an intelligent enterprise and embrace intelligent technologies.

Every year, Accenture publishes the five most life-changing tech trends. On Valentine's Day, the Accenture Technology Vision 2018 was launched, focusing on trends relating to the Intelligent Enterprise. How will organizations enable human-machine collaboration? How can citizens and companies co-create partnerships to install trust and jointly evolve into an improved society? What can businesses do to offer personalization and ensure responsible AI? Does your infrastructure have what it takes to support essential forays into robotics, AI and immersive experiences? 

Intelligent Enterprise Unleashed

As companies pursue to market the most creative or disruptive product or service, they strive to make their technology an integral and inseparable part of how things get done. New technologies are changing the way we eat, sleep, move, live and work. And businesses reimagine how our society works and communicates. 84 percent of 6,381 business and IT executives surveyed for Accenture's Technology Vision 2018 agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the structure of how we live today.

"It's not a one-way, but a two-way street"

This level of human-machine collaboration is the next great societal evolution. Similar to how cities were built in the vicinity of rivers or crossroads, the world is reshaping itself not only around digital innovation, but also around the enterprises and brands that provide connected products and services. But what makes this transformation unique compared to earlier technological revolutions? It's not a one-way, but a two-way street. People are not only users of products and services, but in return, they give real-time data, feedback and access to enterprises.

Partnerships to Ensure Trust and Act Responsibly

New relationships are needed to set up the right conditions for trust and personalization. It’s not just business; it’s personal. That’s why companies and leaders alike can no longer stand by and watch. They’ll have to define their values, or they will be determined for them.

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - by Accenture

Shifting relationships result in new partnerships and blurring lines between employees, companies, consumers, citizens and governments. There’s no question that individuals and society as a whole will form new collaborations. But what role will companies play? That’s still open to debate. Will they be judged when their secure encryption is broken by advanced quantum technology? Or are companies to blame when a partner discriminates based on malfunctioning AI or privacy breaches?

These emerging trends show that new expectations go together with changing relationships. Setting up a consistent set of principles will help companies meet raised expectations. Organizations and people with similar ideals and goals will become natural partners. It’s vital for creating a fertile foundation for innovation and growth, and setting up successful ecosystems. These “terms and conditions” pave the way for future growth.

The Five Technology Trends

Citizen AI: Raising AI to Benefit Business and Society

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - Citizen AI icon

As artificial intelligence (AI) enlarges its impact on civilization and its citizens, businesses must step up to “educate” their AIs to become a responsible member of society. Now that it has left the school banks, AI is ready to fulfill its potential. What does that mean? Companies are expected to teach it to behave as a responsible business representative.

Just another software program? Many companies still fail to see AI has moved on. Its impact on businesses and people is massive, but the time has come to teach fairness, transparency, and responsibility. As AI’s decisions can severely affect people’s lives, we have to explain its judgments and learn to cooperate with others. But as a new member of the workforce, the technology will become part of a continuous feedback loop, ensuring it will develop into the right direction.

A unique consequence of learning skills is that AI has the ability to achieve the unexpected. Moving from rules-based data analytics programs and statistical regressions to smart neural networks changes the way we’ll have to approach AI. From programmed systems to learning and developing problem-solvers. Responsible AI is here.

Extended Reality: The End of Distance

Image: Technology Vision Trend 2. Extended Reality: The End of Distance

Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) technologies are taking away the distance to people, experience and information, changing how people interact with these topics. The ways people live and work are about to be transformed as the end of distance is near. Extended reality (XR) as a whole is bringing an end to the challenge of “needed here, being there”. Our Technology Vision 2018 survey shows that 36 percent of executives indicate removing distance barriers as an important factor for adopting extended reality solutions.

Think about VR real estate solutions that allow buyers to visit a potential property before visiting the location. Or virtualized education for long-distance teaching. XR-based innovations are growing among the workforce, turning employees into Connected Workers. They can train for potentially hazardous situations without real-world risk. Or receive vital information about an urgent real-life problem while working in the field. Not to mention the advantage of offering memorable, beautiful consumer experiences through XR.

Extended reality forces companies to think differently and look for tailored solutions that fit the respective challenge now that distance is no longer a hurdle.

Data Veracity: The Importance of Trust

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - Data Veracity - Michael Teichmann

For many businesses, a new vulnerability has surfaced: manipulated, inaccurate and biased data can lead to false business insights and decisions that can severely harm society. While companies are increasingly depending on, and trusting, the data they receive, using the wrong data is a critical risk to their operations. To whom? To every business using digital technologies. A mere 82 percent of executives responding to our Technology Vision 2018 survey acknowledge their organizations are increasingly relying on data to perform essential and automated decision-making.

Leaving data unchecked is not an option. Looking at the importance of data for companies’ decision-making, they will have to focus on establishing the veracity, or accuracy, of that data. The industries at risk are sometimes easily identifiable. IDC forecasted, for instance, global revenues of nearly $151 billion for big data and analytics practices in 2017, a 12 percent increase compared to the previous year. Despite that, a Harvard Business Review Study estimated that 97 percent of business decisions are based on data that are of unacceptable quality, managers say about their own company.  

What can businesses do? They can address three key data-focused features: provenance, context and integrity. Meaning: verifying the history of data throughout its lifecycle, examining the circumstances around its use, and securing data. To secure a trustworthy data process, every business must build a data intelligence practice, using existing data science and cybersecurity capabilities.

Frictionless Business: Built to Partner at Scale

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - Trend 4 - Frictionless Business - Accenture

Technology-based, strategic partnerships are vital for outsmarting the competition. The importance of these partnerships is growing: our survey shows 36 percent of responding companies already collaborate with double or more partners than they were two years ago. These technology-based partnerships can amplify the partner networks at a faster pace and convert into more ecosystems.

What’s hindering most companies are faltering and outdated legacy systems, designed for operating with the business, not with partners in an ecosystem. Companies must first restructure themselves before taking advantage of partnerships. Adopting microservices architectures is key to scaling and integrating partnerships, fostering agility as applications become more modular, and enabling rapid integration with new partners.

Blockchain then comes into play, offering a trusted and secure manner for managing and operating partnerships. As more partnerships need to be curated without sacrificing security and integrity, blockchain addresses this complexity by acting as a central technology for trusted relationships, holding partners accountable. It is time to unleash the frictionless business.

Internet of Thinking: Creating Intelligent Distributed Systems

Image: <p>Technology Vision 2018 - Trend 5: Internet of Thinking - by Accenture</p><p> </p>

Bringing robotics, AI, the Internet of Things and immersive experiences to life, organizations will have to focus on setting up dynamic infrastructures. To accommodate the development and adoption of these technologies, an overhaul of existing infrastructures and a renewed focus on hardware is needed. In existing infrastructures, a balance of cloud and edge compute is required. Moreover, 83 percent of our surveyed executives believe that edge architecture will speed the maturity of many technologies. An architectural transformation is needed. Welcome to the Internet of Thinking.

The Internet of Thinking will be powered by extended infrastructures. Having enough computer power to facilitate the adopting of new technologies requires a renewed focus on hardware. Storage is essential, with companies differentiating between storage of essential data assets and data that can be discarded quickly. The cloud will continue to play a vital role in company infrastructures.

To drive AI, robotics, connected devices and other revolutionary technologies to their full potential, enterprises must invest in overhauling business processes and strategy. Whether it’s infrastructure transformation, hardware consideration or service design, the end result will be truly intelligent environments that meet people where they are.

Completing the Technological Picture

This year’s emerging trends are not stand-alone events. They are a culmination of continuously evolving events, as highlighted in Accenture’s multi-year vision on technology. We track how technologies mature over the years and have an ever-changing impact on how companies master digital growth. Learning you how to attribute resources, define responsibilities, and seize opportunities in the years to come, our Technology Vision 2018 serves as your personal guide. These technologies will collectively form the foundation on which you build your organization, creating paths toward future growth.

Moving away from the “People First“ approach, companies are looking for strong partnerships in this fractured world. Meaningful collaborations that will bridge the gap between people and businesses, reshaping society to prepare for the future.

Find out how the Accenture Technology Vision 2018 forms a continuing story on digital and technology trends as discussed in our reports from 2017 and 2016.

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Do you want to experience at first hand what the Technology Vision 2018 trends can mean for your future business? Book an inspiring and meaningful workshop at Accenture’s NanoLab in Heerlen. Please contact Kelly Claessens for more info.

This year’s Technology Vision 2018 research report is all about technologies bridging the gap between businesses and people. The five IT trends and innovations in the report will move people and companies alike to form new partnerships and think about human-machine collaboration in the era of the intelligent enterprise. Download the full report here.