Etheredge Property Management
Etheredge Property Management – The pandemic has disrupted so much of the way business is conducted that there is little reason to believe things will go back to the way they were, according to Accenture’s North America CEO Jimmy Etheredge.
“A lot of the discussions I have with clients are around collaboration technologies and cybersecurity, because they expect they’re going to have people working remotely to a degree that they’ve never had before,” says Accenture’s Jimmy Etheredge.
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Do you remember March? For many people it will feel like centuries ago, and for others it will feel like it is still going on. In the US, the pandemic has continued to drag on over the summer, and businesses have had to rethink their long-term strategies for our new reality, as it’s not clear when life will begin to return to normal – or even if it ever will.
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Since May, Accenture has surveyed close to 1,000 CEOs about their feelings about the financial impact of the pandemic. In its first survey, many CEOs were optimistic about a quick recovery, but in Accenture’s latest survey from late July, nearly half of the executives surveyed said they believed the economic recovery will be U-shaped rather than V-shaped. Many CEOs are starting to shift investments to areas they hope will set them up for long-term success, or push ahead with things they were just thinking about trying before the pandemic, according to Jimmy Etheredge, Accenture’s North American managing director.
Recently spoke with Etheredge about how the pandemic has changed how CEOs think about the future of work, the role of cloud and automation in the recovery, and what the new normal will look like.
In your new survey, several CEOs believe the economic recovery from the pandemic is more likely to be U-shaped rather than V-shaped. How does this affect how CEOs plan for the future?
The CEOs that we surveyed and those that I talk to are certainly more pessimistic now than they were in May about what the shape of the recovery will be. They are leaning much more towards investment and shifting a little bit from what had just been day-to-day crisis management to recognizing that the recovery will be slower and this is an opportunity to accelerate investment in digital transformation.
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It feels like we’ve moved from this moment where we’re all running around with our hair on fire to trying to live with this now. Do the investments CEOs are now making reflect this?
From what we see, it’s cloudy, cloudy, cloudy. And I think what companies are looking for are ways to make investments in innovation that will be at the heart of their strategy. And cloud is where they see the ability to be thoughtful about cash. Because in periods of slow growth, cash is king, so everyone is becoming very aware of that, and they’re looking at cloud as a way to leverage the technology of some of the big ecosystem players, the hyperscalers, to be able to accelerate that innovation. If you look at the survey results, there was a 26-point jump in two months of companies saying they would accelerate their investments with an emphasis on cloud.
Is it an acknowledgment that they want to invest in the future or that they already are? I have to believe that kind of work is difficult now, given the world we live in.
The migration to the cloud will be fundamentally accelerated by what has happened with COVID. I see this in every conversation I have with the CEOs of our clients, and we also saw this in our research. So some of that is stuff that our customers before COVID were talking about doing, and they’ve just rapidly accelerated. One of the areas I see in particular is around the implementation of change. Many of our customers, both B2C and B2B, have seen the customer experience and the way they interact with their customers become completely disrupted, and they have leveraged technology to respond to that.
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A very large big-box consumer electronics retailer, right before COVID, planned an 18-month rollout of store pickup, which we got off the ground in a matter of weeks. We helped a few of the major grocery chains in North America set up dark operations so they could have employees pull products to fulfill orders from customers. Again, this is something that customers thought to try in a few stores for a quarter and then thought to roll out. All of a sudden it was, “How quickly can we get these changes in place?” So some of these were ideas that they had pre-COVID that were accelerated, but I think some of it is also a fundamental change where the C-suite stops, looks and considers, “What does this mean for our business and how do we accelerate?”
With the pandemic, it seems that many things have already come to light for B2C companies and how they have changed the way they interact with their customers. But for B2B companies, how are they currently thinking about customer management in this socially distant world?
On the B2B front, they really try to borrow ideas that they see working on the B2C side. It has been very disruptive on the sales and marketing front. It is obviously moving more towards online relationships and interactions. Before it was much more client entertainment and use of trade promotion, that sort of thing. It’s honestly one of the reasons that at the start of COVID we made an acquisition of a marketing services company, Yesler, which is completely focused on B2B and provides full-service digital marketing. We saw that our B2B customers were already looking for more of that.
Two weeks ago we announced our acquisition of CreativeDrive, a content production player. We’re seeing a strong interest from B2B to look at how to reinvent content creation and use it for digital and commerce channels that didn’t get as much attention or investment before. Typically they had a face-to-face salesperson with some security, who wanted to talk about the products and services, and now they recognize that they really need to borrow some of these ideas that have worked for B2C.
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In the survey, CEOs’ responses have changed over time. Do you feel like CEOs are kind of stuck in this position of having to prepare for what’s coming next, but also not knowing when what we’re in is going to end?
I definitely think no one feels safe with their crystal ball when this is going to end. Most managers believe that the next six months will be quite a headwind around growth. Our survey said that only 20% felt they would have growth of 5% or more, but if you look at North America, the outlook is that Q2, Q3 next year is really expecting that growth to come back. So I think some of it is what they feel they need to be able to drive that growth, and some of it is a recognition that the way they work is basically never going to go back to the way it was. Before.
Many discussions I have with clients are about collaboration technologies and cybersecurity because they expect they will have people working remotely to a degree that they never had before. They were already a little anxious, dealing with the cybersecurity challenges you have when you have so many people working from home. But I haven’t talked to a single leader who thinks that when we come out the other side of this, we’re not going to be talking about a new normal or next normal.
I think that for many of those, including ourselves, who take advantage of apprenticeships and internships, in terms of the hiring process, it would all have to go virtual. Taking an internship and looking at how it would work, I think generally they’re trying to look at how people work and what kind of culture and mindset you need to be successful. This was something we asked about in the survey, and three-quarters of companies said we’re going to have to fundamentally redesign this.
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There is also a lot of discussion about the role of automation. I’m seeing increased interest in artificial intelligence and automation, and I’m really thinking about the impact it will have on some roles. In some cases, some roles may disappear; in several cases, the way the role works would change. And what does that mean for the skills and abilities that you want for the people in these roles?
Having these conversations that you’ve had and the surveys affected the way that Accenture thinks about its own business going forward?
Yes. The main reason many of our people travel is to be at customer sites to provide services. So I always ask my clients, “When do you think you’ll be back
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