The Future of Systems: Q&A with Accenture's Bhaskar Ghosh

Today, it is well-accepted that technology is changing faster than ever. In a report, titled “Future Systems,” Accenture explored the way in which applications, data, and infrastructure are evolving. Accenture’s Bhaskar Ghosh recently reflected on how systems have and will change and the forces driving this transformation. “Boundaries between applications and infrastructure are blurring to the point they’re nearly indistinguishable,” noted Ghosh.

As a services company that interacts with a wide range of companies, what are the consistent challenges you see?

Bhaskar Ghosh: As technology evolves, so must systems. Just when companies thought they had a handle on their systems, applications are now growing into full systems of their own. Machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence are being operationalized, powered by the endless amounts of data now available. Computing power is ubiquitous and seemingly limitless. And data is being shared within and between companies with greater levels of trust and security. This means that boundaries between applications and infrastructure are blurring to the point that they’re nearly indistinguishable. It now makes little sense to think of applications, infrastructure, employees, and even customers as standalone entities. Rather, they are elements of complex and dynamic “living” systems that will evolve further just as our needs as humans evolve.

The report on “Future Systems” from Accenture identified three fundamental characteristics of successful systems. What does each represent?

BG: To overcome challenges and seize new market opportunities, companies need to understand the characteristics of thriving future systems. At Accenture, we believe there are three core characteristics to these future systems. One is boundary-less—systems are breaking down barriers—within the IT stack, between companies, and between humans and machines. This enables a near-infinite number of ways for businesses to improve their business models and operations. To prepare for this, businesses must decouple the IT stack. Companies must also design for interoperability and disruption and take full advantage of flexible cloud services.

What else?

BG: Another is being adaptable. Companies will drive value by enabling true human-machine collaboration. This combines advances in trusted data and intelligent technologies with human skills to make better decisions, faster. This means leveraging new ways to protect and nurture valuable data and taking a transparent, responsible approach to AI.

And the third?

BG: Being radically human. Technology is becoming increasingly human-centric. Interfaces can now be designed to be intuitive and elegantly simple, enabling machines to adapt to humans rather than humans to machines. Companies should reimagine systems to empower human experiences with natural conversation, simple touches, and abundant personalization.

The report points out that companies are facing an achievement gap when it comes to innovation. Where are they falling short?

BG: As technology evolves at a relentless speed, companies face significant challenges in keeping up. Many companies are held back by patchwork ways of working and systems that were built for the business needs of 10 years ago. Companies are increasingly dependent on older technology that may not be reliable in helping them achieve dynamic business goals.

What is needed?

BG: The key is to be able to innovate at scale. Companies must be able to move from legacy to new systems, while still unlocking maximum value from the former. Now is the time for every company to start scaling innovation in the new by building the flexible, human-centric systems necessary for continued success.

In what areas is talent lacking?

BG: The most important investment a company can make is in its talent. Many companies are hindered by talent trained for yesterday’s technology. Yet, human talent is ultimately what separates one company from another, which makes it even more important to leap to a new era of learning and to continuously evolve the IT workforce.

What do companies have to do to be successful in these areas?

BG: To ready themselves for the future, businesses must completely overhaul their talent strategies and help create a new generation of systems engineers capable of bridging infrastructure, development tools, programming languages, and machine learning, while also being deeply immersed in the core business. It is also time for companies to put their business culture and talent management processes under close scrutiny to ensure they are not hindering the speed and accountability needed to benefit from agile, adaptable, and boundary-less systems. Companies will also need to develop hybrid IT roles, supported by both talent and technology, which will, in turn, drive innovation and profitability.

What is holding them back?

BG: Currently, IT systems are not positioned to adapt and update with change. Companies need to make a conscious decision to adopt a technology approach that is experimental, agile, and resistant. This requires new ways of collaborating to help workforces adapt to innovation and technology quickly and appropriately. Companies need to think of applications, infrastructure, and employees as interconnected systems, operating as a whole. As technology continues to evolve, companies must prioritize training that is up-to-date. In order to stay current and competitive, they must continuously educate and provide ongoing learning opportunities for their employees.

Looking to the future, what do you think will be different 5 years from now in how companies embrace change and new technologies?

BG: We expect to see companies continue to rapidly transform as they put specific systems and processes in place that support innovation at scale, complex partner ecosystems, and intelligent operations. Further, by investing in their talent, companies will be prepared to adopt new technology on a continual basis and help their business thrive.


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