Accenture CTO & the Business Value of Innovation

The term “innovation” has become so overused it the tech space -- along with “disruptive,” “game changer” “synergy” and “free sushi” -- that’s it’s all but a cliche.

Still, this interview from ZDNet with Accenture’s CTO Paul Daugherty is worth a read (or a watch -- you can choose to read a full transcript of the interview or an edited version of the interview, or watch a video of the interview), if for no other reason than Accenture is a $32 billion Fortune 500 company, pushing it’s way into new opportunities, and anybody who’s running tech at a consultancy that size deserves a listen.

Daughety’s worked his way up inside Accenture. Before reaching the CTO position, he was best known as chairman of Avanade, a co-venture between Accenture and Microsoft. So he’s obviously an Establishment guy. That said, the Establishment seems increasingly aware that they’ve got to innovate or get steamrolled.

ZDNet writes glowingly about Accenture's focus on linking technology to business results as a core business strategy, saying tech provides value best when it solves business problems through practical use cases.

This translates into a professional philosophy that should be embraced by all CTOs: Technology must address the needs of ongoing, present-day client work while anticipating future business and technology shifts. A melding of present and future, action and vision.

Over the course of the interview, Daughety gives props to Blockchain, lists the different pillars of Accenture’s innovation culture (research, labs, venture, studios), and explains how the company connects innovations to ROI and practical use.

He also touches on a couple things near to 7CTOs heart: the diminishing importance being placed on top-down, multi-year strategies and fixed, rigid organizational structures.

“People work differently,” he says. “The pace of change is so extreme; you need an organization that can adapt quickly and accept change as a new normal, rather than something you just do once in a while.”

Which, in closing, brings us to one of our favorite passages from one of our favorite novels, Earnest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Our hero, irreparably damaged in the first World War (which was the only world war when the book was published in 1926), is talking to another damaged man, one who has lost his fortune.

“How did you go bankrupt?” the hero asks.

“Two ways,” the man replies. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

That, in a nutshell, is where we are now. The pace of change, which has seemed gradual for many years, continues to advance with increasing suddenness and relentlessness. It is literally overwhelming long Established norms, and is (one of) the reason(s) the world feels increasingly chaotic.

As this chaos is driven, at least partially, by technology, the urgency for a new kind of technology leader is needed, one that brings empathy to the machine and never forgets the human. That’s why 7CTOs is here, to help cultivate and evolve that kind of leader. Thanks for reading.