As businesses start to recognise that mobile, cloud, social media, virtualisation and big data are more than buzz words and hot topics, it is now the time to adopt work processes that leverage digital technologies to add business value. However, many companies are still not truly digital on the inside. For example, a company may have begun to use social media to interact with customers, but have not truly explored the how social media can drive differentiation, business growth and innovation.

As Accenture has indicated in its Technology Vision reports, every business is a digital business and those who understand and leverage the benefits will have the most success. As vendors continue to mature key digital workforce technologies, Accenture has seen that those technologies uniting into intelligent digital processes (IDPs), can support a digital workforce that is smarter and more connected, efficient, utilised and engaged. As well as supporting more effective execution of existing work processes, IDPs can also enable a deeper transformation of work processes, making a range of new work design options feasible.

IDPs are designed to generate insightful information, and to allow businesses to leverage that information so it is useful to the workforce. Digital technologies, operating on rich digital models, are used to make smarter decisions, to better coordinate with each colleague, more quickly react to changing conditions, and more effectively manage complexity.

Accenture has identified seven digital technologies that play key roles in creating IDPs:

  1. Enterprise social collaboration technologies: including enterprise social networking, as well as tools for collaborative authoring, content sharing and coordination of distributed teams
  2. Digital process management tools (such as BPM, CRM and other workflow and task-management tools): to automate processes, making them more systematic while eliminating paper and manual emails
  3. Real-time collaboration technologies: for a richer remote presence using tools such as audio and video conferencing at various bandwidths, as well as telepresence robots
  4. Analytics and intelligent assistants: to turn data into insights about internal processes and the external ecosystem. Digital assistants are starting to take on physical form, such as robots that take part in the physical workflow and information flow
  5. Crowdsourcing platforms: to provide alternate ways to source labour, either from within or outside the enterprise
  6. Gamification and digital behaviour-shaping tools: engaging and helping employees to track progress toward objectives, build new skills and create a portfolio of achievements
  7. Mobile and wearable interfaces: the ability to work in combination with all of the tools to make information and applications available when and where needed

Building intelligent processes that operate on digital models, with support from some of these tools, can amplify the cognitive, collaborative and even physical capabilities of the workforce, thereby enabling new work designs that can have significant cost and quality benefits.

The opportunity to advance the digital workforce is here. Companies have the ability to master the seven individual technologies outlined by Accenture and determine how to effectively weave them into day-to-day applications and processes.

However, there are still obstacles that companies will need to overcome including gaps in the technology stack and putting the available technologies together to improve their processes. As the existing products are not generally designed to explicitly support the process re-design options, companies are wholly responsible to manage their own toward transformational change. As a result, organisations may shy away from investing in this area, or limit their effort to incremental digitization of existing processes rather than deeper transformation.

The C-Suite need to ensure that they take advantage of the opportunities that digital technologies offer and ensure they manage and implement them to recreate and redefine their business to create competitive advantage. The potential for growth is limited only by the creativity of the enterprise itself.

Posted by Alex Kass, senior research manager at Accenture Technology Labs