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The role of data in the ‘tech clash’

Sanjeev Vohra, Global Lead for Accenture’s Data Business Group


Business leaders need to rethink core assumptions about how an enterprise works and redefine the relationship between people and technology.

According to the recently launched Technology Vision 2020 report report from Accenture, 52% of consumers say that technology plays a prominent role or is ingrained into almost all aspects of their day-to-day lives. In fact, people spend an average of 6.4 hours online daily across the globe. However, despite this intertwined relationship, businesses’ attempts to meet the needs and expectations of their employees and consumers with technology is increasingly falling short.

This environment is often characterized as a ‘tech-lash’ or backlash against technology. But that fails to account for the fact that people still love technology and they’re using and benefiting from it more than ever. What we’re actually seeing is a ‘tech-clash’ – a clash between business and technology models that don’t align with people’s expectations and values.

Indeed, many organizations today are still developing and deploying technology using the playbooks of decades past, from the days before tech had such a meaningful impact on our lives. To navigate the ‘tech-clash’ business leaders need to rethink core assumptions about how an enterprise works and redefine the relationship between people and technology.

Taking data into account when making these changes is essential in order to enhance companies’ ability to elevate the human experience, adapting to the world they’ve created. There are two key areas where data can make all the difference:

1. Democratizing data

Historically, businesses have focused on augmenting one small team of data specialists, rather than equipping the whole workforce with the capability and skills needed to use and analyze data. The result? Individuals across all business functions have increasingly been expected to become self-sufficient with data and when making data-driven decisions.

In a world where digital technology is now everywhere, a new model is needed to move from data experts in an ivory tower, to universal data literacy.

This need is highlighted in another recent piece of research from Accenture, conducted in collaboration with Qlik and on behalf of the Data Literacy Project. The Human Impact of Data Literacy, which surveyed over 9,000 employees worldwide, found that a lack of data literacy can lead to billions in lost productivity. In the US alone, this lost productivity equates to $109.4bn annually.

With technology evolving so quickly, it’s not surprising that three-quarters (74%) of employees therefore reported feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, affecting their overall performance. When delving deeper, the research found that just 25%  of surveyed employees believed they were fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 21% reported being confident in their data literacy skills  i.e. their ability to read, understand, question and work with data.

This lack of data literacy presents a real barrier to businesses. A workforce comfortable with data is a powerful asset. Only by unlocking the potential of people within the organization and becoming fully data-driven, will leaders realize the true benefits from data – both for their business and their customers.

2. Creating next generation customer experiences

As we discuss in the ‘I in Experience’ chapter of Accenture’s Technology Vision 2020 report, one of the ways in which businesses can overcome the challenges of the ‘tech-clash’ is to give their consumers more agency when it comes to personal data and the experiences it enables. Our research suggests that two-way, cooperative experiences will form the next generation of business offerings. These will see enterprises become collaborative partners in experience creation, in the process transforming their relationships with customers.

But to enable such experiences, employees must be data literate. As such collaborative experiences start to use more data in increasingly complex ways, workers will need to acquire deeper levels of data literacy.

Consumers will also be expected to improve their data literacy. People are growing wary of opaque data handling within businesses and concerned by high-profile data breaches. And as awareness of data privacy issues grows, consumers will want to be data partners with the brands they use, exercising greater agency over how their data is used and the benefits they receive in return. Business will give up this power to consumers in order to realize two-way, enriching experiences. But the success of these experience will to some extent come down to data literacy.


Act now to solve the “tech-clash”

The message is clear. Leaders must arm their employees with the right tools and education, providing them with the confidence and skills to understand and effectively use data and new technologies. They must also help their customers keep up with a complex and proactive data-centric experiences. Without this, organizations won’t realize the full potential of what being a digital and data-driven business has to offer – and neither will their customers.

Improving data literacy is critical to creating a culture of co-innovation driven by data. Ultimately, businesses that don’t act now stand to fall behind and potentially lose out to competitors that do take advantage of the opportunities they have at their fingertips.

More information on closing the data literacy gap can be found in Qlik and Accenture’s report on The Human Impact of Data Literacy here

For more details on how to redefine the intersection between people and technology, access the Accenture Technology Vision 2020 report here