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January 26, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 9:38am

Rise of the robots, or does the human workforce still matter in digital transformation?

News: New Accenture report lays out trends for 2016.

By Charlotte Henry

The global digital economy accounted for 22% economic activity in 2015, according to a new report from Accenture.

In its Technology Vision 2016 it identified five key trends of intelligent automation, a liquid workforce, the platform economy, predictable disruption and digital trust.

The report says that the automation goes beyond the "simple transfer of tasks from man to machine." It says "machines will offer skills that are complimentary to humans so that people and their new digital co-workers can together do things differently. And do different things."

It points to an increase in investment in artificial intelligence with 70% of executives "making significantly more investments in artificial intelligence" compared with back in 2013 saying $19.6bn worth of sales in professional service robots is forecast between 2015 and 2018.

The report also highlighted the impact on human workforces, with technology "not just a disrupter, but also an enabler" of transformation. "Business leaders are realizing their new liquid workforce can become their new competitive advantage."

Accenture predicts that in the future workforces will have a more data driven structure, be organised into "project-oriented working groups", include more external talent, have continuous training, and be more innovative.

It cited examples of Amazon, Google, and Alibaba as firms that "are born digital" and so understand digital means. It says that many of these companies’ most groundbreaking innovations are not products or services; they are the platforms on which these products and services are built, and the business models that these platforms enable."

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The importance of becoming a platform is increasingly recognised, with 82% believing that "platforms will be the "glue" that brings organisations together in the digital economy", and 40% believing that "adopting a platform based model and engaging in ecosystems of digital partners [is] very critical" to success.

Accenture believes that fast emerging digital ecosystems such as "precision agriculture, the industrial internet or smart cities" will be what the future of enterprise disruption will be based on. It found that "82% of executives say industry boundaries are being erased, and new paradigms are emerging for every industry."

It says too that leaders need to start working on these digital systems early to unlock the growth opportunities offered, but that there is now a clear path to follow.

The final trend Accenture identified was digital trust. It refers to trust as the "cornerstone of the digital economy" and says that if firms do not have it, they are unable to share the key data their operations are based on.

The sentiment is backed by 83%, showing increasing awareness in the wake of major leaks and data breaches. Trust is build on both digital ethics, and security, and 82% understand that a failure to deliver this could see them excluded from involvement in digital platforms and ecosystems.


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