Start-ups give way to big business in digital technologies

Hilary O'Meara, technology lead, Accenture Ireland (Source: Accenture)



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7 March 2014 | 0

Disruptive technology adoption and use is no longer the preserve of small, agile start-ups, but is now being seen in large enterprises, with deep pockets and huge resources.

According to the 2014 Accenture technology Vision Report, “The days of innovative, technology-focused start-ups being the only market disrupters and growing faster than their larger, more established competitors may be coming to an end”.

The report states that large enterprises are starting to take advantage of their size, skills and scale to transform into truly digital businesses through the use of technologies such as mobility, analytics, and cloud that improve business processes, take advantage of real-time intelligence, expand the boundaries of traditional workforces, and transform the way data is managed and used.

“More mainstream organisations,” said Hilary O’Meara, technology lead, Accenture Ireland, “that grew up as ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses are starting to become disruptive in their own right with these new technologies. There are enough examples of high performing organisations to show that they are really starting to get into this game and really leverage technology to become the new innovators.”

The report identifies six key trends, some of which are more immediate, while others are on a longer time frame, that are influencing the way that businesses use digital technologies.

The first trend is the digital-physical blur. This is where the boundaries between the physical and the digital world are becoming indistinct due to the prevalence of smart objects, from mobile devices to sensor-equipped devices, machinery and the networks to support them. Wearable devices and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) are also contributing to the trend. The report cites the use of Google Glass in healthcare, where Koninklijke Philips N.V. is piloting an application that allows physicians to simultaneously monitor a patient’s vital signs and react to surgical procedural developments, without needing to turn away from the patient or procedure. This is characteristic, says the report, of real-time intelligence being brought into processes and operations to allow more informed, information led decision making.

The next trend is the development from workforce to crowd-source. The report contends that the workforce for many organisations will “extends beyond its employees” to consist of “any willing individual connected to the Internet.” While this may sound somewhat optimistic, there are already examples in the world of open source software, education and the sciences where meaningful contributions have been made from crowd-sourcing. Lego too has very successfully employed this method. However, there are issues to be aware of, warns O’Meara.

“You can’t do this lightly,” said O’Meara. “You are going to need to think about the steps you go through to set up a crowd-source community that is an extension of your organisation, but as long as it is thought through and delivered in a practical way, it can be very successful.”

The third trend builds on the idea of information lifecycle management, but in terms of usage of the data as opposed to its management only, “changing the way data is handled to put information into broader circulation”.

“Data technologies are evolving rapidly, but most have been adopted in a piecemeal fashion,” the report states. “As a result, enterprise data is vastly underutilised. Currently, just one in five organisations integrates data across the enterprise,” citing Accenture analytics research from 2013.

The report says that to truly unlock data’s potential value, organisations must start treating it more as a supply chain, enabling its easy and useful flow through their entire organisations, and eventually throughout their ecosystems, too. Companies such as Google Inc. and Walgreens Co. are cited as having adopted this approach by opening up application programming interfaces (API). More than 800,000 web sites now use Google Maps data, and third-party developers are able to include the ability to scan barcodes from Walgreens’ prescription bottles into their apps to make it easier for people to refill prescriptions, says the report.

The next trend highlights the strides made in hardware development enabling hyperscale computing that is accessible for evermore organisations.  Advances in areas such as power consumption, processers, solid state memory, and infrastructure architectures are giving enterprises new opportunities to massively scale, increase efficiency, drive down costs, and enable their systems to perform at higher levels than ever before, says the report. As companies digitise their businesses, more and more will see hardware as essential to enabling their next wave of growth.

“We are starting to see real innovation in hardware again that is seeing choice for CIOs,” said O’Meara.

“To truly unlock data’s potential value, organisations must start treating it more as a supply chain, enabling its easy and useful flow through their entire organisations, and eventually throughout their ecosystems, too”

The fifth trend is around business applications and how they will increasingly reflect the way that consumer applications are developed and delivered.

“As consumers,” said O’Meara, “we’ve gotten used to small, nimble apps that may not be perfect in the first iteration, but improve with the next version in a few weeks. This is starting to leak into enterprise. Users and customers are expecting more and more.” According to the report, enterprises will increasingly adopt the app factory approach of fast, agile development with quick delivery and rapid iterations to address any issues and capability changes.

The last trend is around the architecture of resilience. “Built to survive failure” is the mantra of the non-stop business, the report asserts. In the digital era, businesses are expected to support the non-stop demands placed on their processes, services and systems. This has ripple effects throughout an organisation, especially in the CIO’s office where the need for ‘always on’ infrastructure can mean the difference between business as usual and the erosion of brand value, says the report.

This theme was apparent in the 2013 report, said O’Meara, and was more evident this year. But the convergence of security and continuity has also included other changing attitudes in security thinking.

“We need to move away from an attitude of ‘keep them out at all costs’, to recognising that someone will get through someday. The thing is to make sure that systems are design internally so that in the event of a breach, the entire business does not go down,” said O’Meara.

Quick failover, quick recovery and quick mitigation of the threat, while providing as close to business usual as possible is the new agenda for IT security argues O’Meara.

“This year, we see more and more large organisations, outside of the IT industry, actively riding the surge, even fuelling it, instead of being pressured by it,” says the report in conclusion.

“These organisations understand that it is still early in this initial big wave, but they see just how much opportunity it gives them. They are beginning to leverage their vast resources and capital not just to react to technology disruption but rather to embrace and interweave digital technologies throughout their companies to drive the disruptions themselves—and to their advantage. This shift in strategies marks a significant inflection point. The last decade of change and opportunity was driven by digital start-ups. The coming decade will see the traditional companies become the next set of digital giants. Big is the next big thing.”


TechCentral Reporters

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