Clearly, some companies have embraced the power of technology at pivotal moments – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – to accelerate digital transformation and emerge stronger. Accenture research shows that technology is now more vital than ever to business success as it directly enables companies to not only survive, but even thrive during one of the most disruptive times in history.
By stepping up investments in cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies, some companies took their places as leaders, adopting new technologies across the organization and focusing on innovation to reach for new, non-traditional business goals that create value for multiple stakeholders. Ultimately, these changes have leaders leaping beyond their peers and growing their businesses 5X as fast.
New heights, new priorities
Leading companies further extended the reach of tech-enabled innovations across the company, building the capacity to focus on non-financial and non-traditional business goals.
Vodafone, the U.K.-based multinational telecom company, is a great example of how a company can reach for new ways to create value for multiple stakeholders. The company has embraced big data, automation, and AI to improve productivity and drive business growth—and provided broader access to this technology to ensure that new opportunities are created for the next generation of workers. That includes placing a strong focus on digital and virtual training through a blend of different learning resources that allow employees to move at their own pace and focus on emerging topics of interest.
For Vodafone, this wider set of business priorities also extends to recruitment. Vodafone was one of the first major multinational companies to create education and mentoring programs for university students, digital entrepreneurs, and employees interested in a digital career. It recently pledged €20 million to fund programs aimed at helping people develop skills using digital technologies, particularly in parts of the world with big digital divides.
Reaching beyond traditional business priorities puts Vodafone in a league of its own: It gets high marks from third party firms for its recruitment, employee learning opportunities, and work culture. For instance, it is the only telecom company to feature in the top 10 of the UK’s Best Big Companies to Work For.
When companies replatform to the cloud and democratize access to technology, they build their capability to scale tech across different departments and invest in the workforce by upskilling employees and providing the right work environment and culture.
But this isn’t a case of the rich getting richer. Even companies labeled as Leapfroggers in our research – those that were able to quickly replatform to cloud and shift their IT budgets from operations to innovation – jumped ahead of lagging companies.
Leapfroggers are targeting 2x more business processes within the enterprise for technology transformation, bringing innovative technology access to more departments. In doing so, they close internal innovation gaps between business functions that are “tech-haves” and “tech have-nots.”
Leapfroggers are also well ahead of the pack when it comes to using technologies to deliver better training experiences. For example, 65% of Leapfroggers were already using AI, analytics and machine learning to predict and match training to job requirements before the pandemic. Similarly, 60% implemented experiential training (immersive methods such as gamification and virtual reality) in the past three years.
Putting people first
Leapfroggers are increasingly reimagining their company as a reflection of the society they serve by investing in their workforce. These companies are reskilling at almost twice the rate (1.7x) of their peers, adapting employee skills and roles to meet new business priorities, technologies and ways of working. In doing so, Leapfroggers build resilience and are better prepared to weather future disruptions.
Leaders and Leapfroggers also provide their people with a supportive working environment and work schedules that allow them to succeed. Leaders surveyed are planning to increase the availability of flexible working arrangements (both time and space) at more than twice the rate of lagging companies.
With remote and flexible working arrangements likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future, such investments allow enterprises to create productive and rewarding working environments that are ready for the long haul. Furthermore, 21% of Leaders and 14% of Leapfroggers plan to expand funding for employee mental health initiatives. By committing to the holistic needs of employees, organizations will be better placed to help their people adapt and engage through difficult times.
As businesses move from crisis response to rebuilding for the future, they have a unique opportunity to reflect on how they want to move forward. The pandemic has shown how quickly we are capable of changing when circumstances demand it, and how instrumental technology is driving that change. It has also awakened business leaders to a broader set of priorities, starting with their people.
As organizations work to replatform their core technologies and reframe their strategic priorities, they must also reach further than before. That means scaling tech-enabled innovation not just across IT, but across all enterprise processes. It requires innovation that’s designed not just to improve people’s performance, but also their well-being. Companies who take this holistic approach will find themselves in a position not only to survive uncertainty, but to thrive in a radically new world.
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