CIO upfront: Technology rapidly reshaping what is possible for NZ companies

For the first time, the change is a two-way street. People aren’t just using products and services, but feeding information and access back to them, writes Mary-Anne McCarthy of Accenture.

Technology is now embedded in most of the things we do in New Zealand, improving the way we live, work, play and grow.

New Zealanders have embraced services powered by the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain – from checking-in luggage using self-service options, to banking online.

Accenture believes a profound transformation in technology is at play where boundaries between business and people are dissolving and the enterprise is moving closer to the centre of people’s lives.

In this first thought piece of a two-part series, we will explore the major IT trends powering this transformation and rapidly reshaping not just daily life, but the whole of society. We’ll identify the opportunities for companies to use technology at every level – from strategy to operations – to become digitally successful enterprises.

Accenture’s 2018 Tech Vision revealed 84 per cent of respondents agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves into the fabric of how people live.

In fact, four out of five executives surveyed (81 per cent) think within the next two years, AI will work next to humans in their organisations as a co-worker and trusted advisor.

Just look at Amazon’s efforts to embed itself into consumer households. Globally, through Echo and its AI assistant, Alexa, Amazon is managing not just shopping needs, but the daily demands of busy lives. It will be interesting to see what impact the Echo will have on New Zealand households, following its market launch last month.

Disruption courtesy of emerging technologies is nothing new, but the latest transformation identified in the report is unique. For the first time, the change is a two-way street. People aren’t just using products and services, but feeding information and access back to them.

Savvy organisations understand these new societal expectations can be transformed into an enterprise strength. They’re using their increased interactions to build partnerships with customers, employees, government and the public. And this extends beyond the consumer or retail arena.

Air New Zealand, for instance, is looking at blockchain technology to connect its suppliers and sellers in the travel industry through a single marketplace. This has resulted in improved customer experience, streamlining of products and reduced costs for customers and the airline.

Citizen Artificial Intelligence (AI)

As AI grows in its capabilities, so does its impact on people’s lives.

Accenture’s report calls this Citizen AI, an opportunity for businesses to allow AI to act as responsible representatives of their business.

Moving beyond a back-end tool for the enterprise, AI is taking on more sophisticated roles within technology interfaces.

Many banks in New Zealand are planning to use chatbots to provide robo-advisors to customers and New Zealand’s largest companies, such as Air New Zealand and Orion Health, are developing innovative products using AI to meet customer’s expectations.

The Government’s Department of Internal Affairs is also transforming its approach to public service delivery through its Service Integration Work Program. In doing so, the team is identifying potentially reusable components of functions that could enable other services.

For example, an Application Programmable Interface (API) enabled set of entitlement business rules, which would be used by several “life event” services, such as having a baby, or enrolling in tertiary education.

Thirdparties could leverage these public APIs to enable transactions between citizen, business, and government, such as having a rebate transacted into a person’s bank account, or having a citizen pay for their driver licence renewal via an AI interface.

Extended Reality (XR)

This is how virtual and augmented reality technologies are transforming the way people live and work by removing the distance to people, information and experiences.

Of those executives Accenture surveyed, 80 per cent believe it will be important to leverage XR solutions to close the gap of physical distance when engaging with employees and customers.

A great example of this is Fulton Hogan’s Virtual Reality Training program, which uses graphics and sound to recreate a construction environment where employees can train to decontaminate bitumen sprayers and tankers where water has been present. The program virtualises this high-risk procedure before employees handle the equipment, delivering cost and safety benefits to Fulton Hogan.

This is just the beginning of what XR can accomplish for business.

In the second part of our series we continue to explore the major IT trends impacting on enterprise in New Zealand.

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Mary-Anne McCarthy leads Accenture’s technology business within New Zealand.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories