We’re already in a post-digital era, so what comes next?

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Right at the end of last year something quite remarkable happened that slipped relatively under the radar. For the first time ever, over half of the world’s population was online. That’s more than 4.2 billion people. That growth in the relative blink of an eye has been phenomenal, so it might sound somewhat counterintuitive to suggest that we’re on the verge of a post-digital world.

But it’s true. Just as over half of the world’s consumers have gone online, businesses are no longer looking out to see transformation on the horizon. They’ve done it, or they’re at least in the middle of it. Technology that was ‘new’ a few years ago is now closer and closer to their core. To normal.

What we’re starting to see is less allure for technology for the sake of it…the real focus now is on the trust and experience that’s created by it.

In 2013 Accenture’s Technology Vision declared that every business is a digital business. Very quickly companies went from skeptics to pariahs.

But in just a few short years, the infatuation with technology had led some to forget why we wanted it in the first place: to help people – at work, at home, or elsewhere in their lives. That has created crucial discussions about responsibility.

Now that the 2019 Technology Vision is launching, we’re describing another point of change. When companies get to the end of their digital transformation, we don’t want them to be surprised by what’s waiting for them: a chance to re-define what their company actually is. They should be ready.

De-Faanging technology

Last September we saw S&P go through a ‘de-faanging’ process. It re-categorised a number of technology companies, including Facebook and Alphabet, into other categories (predominantly communications).

We’re past the point where companies can simply ride the investment wave by buying technology.

In turn, companies are starting to realise that just buying technology isn’t the whole answer. But it is the means to changing the world around them. They should approach each new project with a plan built around people: what do they want, how do I create that, how do I protect their interests?

The data privacy and security scandals from the past year or so have however caused a rising scepticism of technology. People have a starting position of distrust, at a point in time where trust has never been more important. We’re seeing tremendous strides being taken around what technology can do, and that will become more creative and more impactful in this new post-digital era. But people need to be more reassured than ever that it’s going to benefit them.

Now is the time to capitalise on new technologies, but businesses can only do this by making sure that their customers and people are front of mind.

We have a tendency to focus on the negatives. But when you hear about case like Heidelberg University Hospital, who are using digital twins in surgery so that the electrodes on pacemakers can be precisely placed for each individual patient, you can’t help but appreciate how technology can help to make our world that bit better.

So, what’s next?

The next wave of technology-powered change will look a bit different. The social and mobile booms that characterised a lot of the last ten years are now table stakes. The next wave of technologies are now set to go through this same process. We’ll see distributed ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain help to secure bigger networks and sensitive data. We’ll see AI and Quantum computing give us more knowledge at our fingertips. And more sophisticated extended reality will show us new ways to look at the world. Most new phenomena will be made possible by at least one of these technologies.

What’s more we’ll see more personalised services from more attentive businesses. We’ll benefit from better security and more interesting work spread across broad ecosystems of companies and technologies. When we start to trust technology again, we’ll know that we’re in a post-digital world: where businesses aren’t infatuated with technology, but are dedicated to people.

As we move into this future, business will move beyond trying to deliver individual moments with a customer or an employee. They will try to aggregate of all of those moments, and become more valuable, more transparent and more trustworthy along the way.

Zahra Bahrololoumi, Head of Technology for Accenture UK

Zahra Bahrololoumi

Zahra Bahrololoumi is a senior managing director and leads Accenture Technology for the UK and Ireland, which provides Application & Platform services to clients across all industry groups. She is responsible for developing the technology that powers innovation and transformation for Accenture’s clients. With a focus on artificial intelligence, cloud computing and platforms underpinning new applications, Zahra is passionate about technology’s potential to change people’s lives for the better.

She is very focused on improving diversity within the tech industry and currently lead inclusion & diversity initiatives for Accenture's European Technology business.