Accenture chairman: Don’t expect stability

TORONTO — Globalization can no longer be viewed as inevitable, Accenture’s U.K-based international chairman, Vernon Ellis told an Empire Club audience Wednesday, and IT leaders will need to stop acting like the industry environment

will be stable and predictable.

In the past, Ellis said the impact of information and communications technologies (ICT) has been a driving force of globalization in corporations. But the ICT industry, which has lived in its own bubble, will need to re-think many of its assumptions, he said.

Drawing on a new study by Accenture called Business in a Fragile World, Ellis warned of the impact of anti-globalization movement, which has been quietly on the rise for some time, and can be “sometimes messy, sometimes violent.”

Other worries are the widening divide between rich and poor (of the world’s six billion people, Ellis said four billion are poor), the continuing general economic slowdown and the growing power of corporations, many of whom are perceived as “remote and unaccountable.”

Ellis said the most striking conclusion of the study was there is a need for a new type of leadership and decision-making in light of this uncertainty.

And while history suggests the response to great shocks such as the events of Sept. 11 is to take a highly conservative and defensive approach including cutting costs and focussing on core markets, he called the industry to instead act in a more resolute and positive manner. This includes changing the way the IT industry relates to the world around it.

Companies, it’s suggested, need to create an organizational antenna to better understanding of the force around then. Of course, there will be shocks that are beyond our control, he said, but we should not underestimate our ability to influence much of what happens.

“You can’t afford to wait and see,” said Ellis. “The future is a hump of clay and we can shape it.”

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