The onset of a new wave of innovation and technology can induce a mix of reactions amongst C-level decision-makers in any business. For every CEO, CIO, or CFO who chases the latest technological ‘shiny thing’ and plans to implement meaningful change within their organization, there are countless others who would prefer to take little or no action regarding new technological advances.
Don Schuerman is CTO and Vice President of Product Marketing at Pegasystems.
Here’s the thing – as much as some senior leaders might prefer to stick their heads in the sand, new technology trends are like seasons of the year; they are inevitable. In fact, the biggest risk far too many organizations run is that by either implementing innovations half-heartedly or ignoring them completely, they can lose ground to more progressive competitors who are harnessing new technologies to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive advantage.
The key to avoiding this is to emphasize accountability. This is more than a ‘buck stops here’, one-size-fits-all approach. Accountability can come in many forms – through integration, innovation adoption, or even governance.
The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) in modern organizations is a great example of where effective governance is needed. While it’s now more widely accepted as an emerging technology that can help to drive meaningful change and add value to consumers, AI regulation is still something of a grey area. In a recent global study amongst C-level executives, three quarters (65%) felt that the current level of external AI governance isn’t sufficient to manage the growth of the technology.
To that end, 78% advocated for an equal share of responsibility for regulation between government and the private sector as their ideal scenario. However, when asked what they felt the balance would actually look like in five years’ time, 75% expected the government to be largely or fully responsible for AI governance. Why? Because only 27% said they currently have no designated AI governance leader within their organization and only 25% are managing a formal policy at the C-suite level. All of this suggests a failure at C-level within organizations to step up and take accountability for AI governance themselves. For companies to become leaders in AI governance, business leaders must make sure that they are kept in the loop of any internal processes that are made more autonomous through the use of AI. If not, these findings suggest that the private sector will lose control of regulating the technology entirely. If business leaders implement a strategy that is based on technical expertise and outcomes, it can help keep their governance responsive to new challenges.
Another way in which accountability can be important is in ensuring that businesses are able to successfully integrate new technologies, such as hyperautomation, which helps reduce costs and increase efficiencies in areas like case management. However, many see hyperautomation having a longer-term impact as well. Our study found that 32% are using it to help their business improve workflow and case management today, and this number almost doubles to 61% when respondents were asked to look five years ahead.
However, for hyperautomation to have the impact many hope and expect it to, it is important that businesses have accountability for successfully integrating it. At present, significant concerns exist around the ability to do so at present, with 58% of respondents citing integration with existing legacy systems as their biggest automation challenge, while 40% point to compatibility with third party technologies as their biggest concern. The success of hyperautomation deployments also depends on keeping operations and processes consistent, even when situations such as the coronavirus pandemic arise, and organizations are required to develop new automated solutions quickly.
It’s just as important to ensure that business leaders take accountability for recognizing technologies that are still at the early stages of emerging on their radar. After all, innovation is only innovative as long as it’s new. Once a technology has become mainstream, businesses can quickly find themselves playing catchup in terms of fully understanding how it can be used effectively within their organizations.
Take extended reality (XR). Virtual Reality headsets and augmented reality have long been emerging technologies for consumers, but when asked how business leaders were using it to interact with customers, just 35% said it was changing the customer experience. This might be expected for such relatively new technology, but when asked about the outlook five years from now, a different picture emerges – almost a third (30%) of C-suite respondents say XR will become essential to customer engagement. In fact, more than half (52%) believe XR will become a competitive differentiator. The takeaway is that even though a technology may not be in the here and now in terms of widespread adoption, there’s no excuse not to be prepared. It’s never too early to hold oneself accountable for innovation. As XR begins to take shape, business leaders can also score early wins through a market-focused strategy that does not wait for such technology to mature before identifying early, valuable opportunities.
The same can be said when it comes to investing in IT infrastructure that can support emerging technologies. For example, it’s no surprise that 73% of survey respondents said that current remote and mobile work trends have made cloud deployments a priority, nor that over half (51%) said mobile and remote functionality will continue to be one of the drivers of extended edge technology. However, if these technologies are to be effective, organizations need to adopt and help complementary technologies along the way. 41% of C-level respondents said the maturation of AI, automation, and machine learning are necessary for the cloud and extended edge to achieve deeper success. Today, only 22% rated their distributed cloud technology as ‘intelligent’ or ‘mature’ while 18% said the same of extended edge technology, demonstrating the extent of the challenge ahead.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that technology accountability requires more than just standing up and taking ownership. It’s a process of proactive investigation, preparation, and study into what’s best for an organization. One thing’s for sure - technology will continue to evolve and new trends will continue to emerge. If businesses aren’t ready to maximize its value by embracing accountability, they could be left behind.
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