Accenture: Unleashing the Power of Digital

“The world isn’t 100 percent digital and our clients probably don’t think 100 percent digital.”

“The world isn’t 100 percent digital,” admits David Maunsell, Digital Lead A/NZ, Accenture, “and our clients probably don’t think 100 percent digital.”

But what the world is thinking, according to Maunsell, is that data is King - Judge, Jury and Executioner wrapped up into one.

From the rugby field, to the race track, to the open seas, an increasing reliance on data, science and technology is reshaping the sport and the battles fought within it, more so than ever before.

As innovation in technology continues to improve performance, closer to home in New Zealand, in sailing, data analytics and visualisation tools are shaving precious seconds from crew’s performances; providing mission critical advantages in the cut-throat world of competitive sport.

In this year’s Volvo Ocean Race, where all teams are racing with identical boats for the first time, Maunsell believes the impact of data is now reaching a peak, as rival teams fight for that elusive extra margin, margins that arise from data-driven performance insights.

“We’re living in a day and age where people, sports teams and organisations are finding ways of extracting value from their data,” adds Maunsell, speaking to Computerworld New Zealand moments before the all women crew of Team SCA clinched an eye-opening victory during the in-port harbour race in Auckland on Saturday.

But with the yachts now negotiating the longest leg of the race to Itajai, Brazil, Maunsell explains how Accenture’s comprehensive range of capabilities help provide Team SCA’s crew with a distinctive digital edge – both online and offline.

“The three core areas of our work with Team SCA all focus around analytics,” says Maunsell, explaining how the Volvo Ocean Race is a “logical extension” of the company’s long-term partnership with Team SCA.

Taking sensor and GPS data from the boats every ten seconds, before feeding the information back to the captain, Accenture’s digital invention helps Team SCA make near real-time decisions on information that will help drive additional performance during live competition.

In aiding Team SCA with live data analytics and visualisation to help with boat speed calibration and routing decisions, as well as sail decisions, Maunsell says that through unleashing the power of digital and a host of Accenture’s concepts, crew can digest data from sporting assets, in this instance a boat, and immediately make informed decisions on the next strategic moves of that particular asset.

“Secondly,” continues Maunsell, “we’re providing predictive weather analytics.”

In offering routing decisions based on live sensor data and historical weather data that is displayed via data visualisations as the race unfolds live, Maunsell says Accenture’s ability to harness Team SCA’s streams of data is critical in advising the crew where to direct the boat to achieve the best result from the approaching conditions.

The final piece in the digital jigsaw centres around design, a new brand of designer taking a prominent role in the ever-changing world of analytics.

For Maunsell, working from a broad knowledge of business and technology innovation, this designer uses data as their medium, representing the next era of in-demand ICT roles - the Data Scientists, accompanied by the Data Artists.

“From an asset performance perspective, the final part of our work is bringing all that data together, collating the streams of information and visually presenting it to the crew,” he explains.

“We have Data Scientists bringing it together, while the Data Artists are the ones visually making sense of what comes out of the data feeds.”

Page Break

To achieve this, and in-keeping with Accenture’s approach to digitalisation, Maunsell says both parties place the person consuming the data at the heart of the experience, presenting statistical stack loads in a way that can be immediately interpreted and acted upon.

Speaking as the leader tasked with driving Accenture’s digital go-to-market activities across both Australia and New Zealand, Maunsell however is quick to remind that this is not simply arts and crafts - for data artistry is a challenging profession requiring the most comprehensive of skill sets.

“If sports teams or organisations are going to do this well,” he reminds, “the data artistry cannot be an after thought. It needs to be baked into the process of the decision to get the data to a point where the fans, captain or coach can say… ‘Yes, that means that and I’m going to do this as a result’.”

Digital demands of enterprise

Away from the high seas and high drama of competitive sport however, and back in the boardroom of large enterprise organisations across Australia and New Zealand, Maunsell understands that simply having more information does not always lead to better decision making.

The knock on effect being that the significant increase in the amount of data generated from the rising levels of applications being deployed across enterprises means simple business analytics solutions of yesteryear no longer cut it at a business level.

Consequently, Maunsell’s voice is one of many experienced industry figures shouting from the rooftops that business and technology are converging, transforming every aspect of organisations meaning that for enterprises to compete effectively, they must become a digital business.

Utilising the expertise of around 4,000 local Accenture staff across Australia and New Zealand, of which the digital division accounts for roughly 10 percent of the headcount, Maunsell’s team helps organisations harness social, mobile, analytics, and cloud technologies.

The result? Enabling greater interactions with digital customers, channels and markets that create new value and galvanise higher performance across entire organisations.

“Our advice is enterprises will need to be in charge of their data to compete in the future,” adds Maunsell, who before joining Accenture, worked at equities exchanges in Australia and the UK.

“There is data pouring off the public right now, what customers think, what competition thinks etc. Organisations must access these insights because they are going to inform some important perspectives for marketing teams in particular when the time comes to surprise and delight customers.”

Then, of course, is operation. “The more digital assets businesses place in the wild,” he explains, “the more things that generate data can connect to an organisation’s operation.

“It means companies are going to be generating a lot of data that they should be able to ingest and analyse, meaning they can tune their products and experience to the customer.”

But for those organisations questioning the relevance of it all, looking at the hype and thinking it’s best to wait for the Internet of Things to explode - if it hasn’t already - and assess the aftermath, Maunsell shakes his head; “don’t wait.”

“There’s enough things out in the market now to capitalise on, and in some respects, embracing the digital age is similar to embracing cloud,” he speculates.

“Businesses should start to develop their capabilities now because believe it or not but already customers are generating a tonne of data out in the wild, it’s pouring out of their devices.”

On the flip side, the region’s early adopters and fast followers are taking Accenture true to their word, initiating practical approaches to digital that are growing their businesses in entirely new ways.

Page Break

“A lot of our clients are using data not just for reporting purposes but to predict things that are likely to happen as a consequence of a series of things going on,” adds Maunsell, offering yet another digital dimension for organisations on both sides of the Tasman to potentially exploit.

While it doesn’t take a Gartner analyst or industry expert to document that CIOs and key decision makers within organisations understand the value and importance of data to a business, in New Zealand specifically, with a strong make-up of small and medium sized businesses, as well as a host of emerging start-up companies, Maunsell says of Accenture’s offerings, Analytics-as-a-Service has proven to be most popular.

“It’s a short sharp way of getting results for clients and is perfect for lowering the level of entry for smaller sized businesses,” he advises.

With both Kiwi and Australian businesses utilising Accenture’s Analytics-as-a-Service offering in the market, Maunsell believes if businesses are generating data from their operations, irrespective of how many heads they have; “they will find value.”

The Digital Age

Imagine this, hypothesises Maunsell; “if you sat down with a client ten years ago and imagined their needs in 2015, and painted that vision - wouldn’t that be exceptional information for your company to work towards?

“You might be a little bit wrong, or even a whole bit wrong, but at least you’re on a path.”

So with digital, Maunsell, who also oversees the company’s Auckland and Wellington offices from a digital perspective, advises organisations to place the customer at the end of the experience, and think, for example, what does Fonterra’s customer look like in 2030? Or Tower Insurance? Or Westpac?

“Paint their needs,” he adds, “not just the brand that they supply but other needs then ask yourself whether you have the capabilities to service that customer and if you don’t, develop a targeting operating model to head towards, because that’s the only way a business will be able to service that customer.”

As the Data Lake bubble away, and the analytics becomes the new black, Maunsell appreciate that not every business is, in the word’s of Gartner, a digital business, they don’t all embrace data and they don’t all see the value.

“But my advice for those who don’t necessarily know where to start, and require some organisation alignment is to seek a quick win,” he claims.

“Businesses need to do something with their data now, to prove its worth to the entire organisation. So for the key decision makers out their looking for a business case, use the data you’re sitting on now and chase those easy early victories.

“Even the businesses who are adamant they possess no data, chances are, they are still probably sitting on a stack of data.”

Instead of spending countless board meetings and endless presentations trying to convince the non-believers about the merits of data, those who go out into the wild and chase an easy target can return to the boardroom and say; ‘Hey, look what we’ve just achieved through data.’

“It creates serious momentum in an organisation and the great thing about utilising data is that unlike before, businesses don’t aren’t required to place procurement requests before waiting for a piece of hardware to be delivered,” Maunsell adds.

“The tools are available and can be sourced from the cloud.”

Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, and taking a leaf out of the Team SCA line of thinking, wouldn’t it be valuable to use the data of today to predict the data of tomorrow?

But let’s remember, cautions Maunsell, while macro trends may dominate industry chit chat, customers are not macro trends, they are the here and now, the present and the focus.

“It’s important to gain a sense for where things are heading but you need to be aware that it’s not every nine months you’ll be providing your customers with new capabilities,” he adds.

“What we advise is that when businesses are in positions to constantly ingest data, constant refinement is the only way to guarantee relevance.”

While a strong dependance on data is widely regarded as matter of fact, to truly reshape performance, captured numbers must make sense, analysed in a way that generates distinct advantage in a competitive market, and that then is truly the art of unleashing the power of digital.