Technology is shrinking the gap between effective human and machine cooperation. This means business leaders who can mandate and deploy systems that account for unique human behaviour expand not only the quality of the experience they offer clients and staff but also the effectiveness of the technology solutions they have deployed.

This shift is transforming traditional personalised relationships into something much more valuable – genuine partnerships – according to global professional services company Accenture in its Technology Vision 2017 report, Technology for People: The Era of the Intelligent Enterprise.

Many organisations today have the data to adapt to human behaviour and offer mass customisation, more effective customer journeys and enhanced staff experiences and behaviour.

Zahra Bahrololoumi, Managing Director, Accenture Technology UK and Ireland says, “By combining rich data from IoT with technologies like artificial intelligence, we are able to augment human capabilities. This is enabling people to achieve more, while simultaneously creating a totally different worker or consumer relationship than we could have ever achieved in the past.”

These technologies are allowing companies to delve more deeply and broadly into data to understand how people think, what they want and how they react, and deliver services based on that knowledge.

Bahrololoumi says this approach is an extension of the ‘People First’ message that has run through the last two annual reports. “By considering and responding to human behaviour, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create rich, responsive journeys with customers and employees,” she explains, and this can transform relationships into “something much more valuable – partnerships”.

The executives surveyed by Accenture for its 2017 report understand the need to move in this direction. Some 80 percent agreed that businesses need to understand not only where people are today but also where they want to be, and shape technology to act as their guide to achieve the desired outcomes.

Some 31 percent revealed their company is already planning to make extensive use of human behaviour to guide the development of new customer experiences and relationships in the next three years.

The report contains some diverse and inspiring examples of how a focus on human behaviour can transform relationships. Auto giant Toyota’s Customer 360 Insights team, for example, uses Apache Spark to uncover salient customer feedback from social media streams, with far more speed and sophistication than traditional social media monitoring and analysis tools allow.

The team has reduced the time spent analysing customer feedback from more than six days to just four hours. This lets Toyota offer customers the most relevant advice, and identify larger trends that may have safety implications for drivers. Just as significant, it gives the firm a platform for the rapidly developing era of the connected car, raising the possibility of the company giving individualised feedback to each driver and car.

Airline Virgin Atlantic used technology-enabled adaptive frameworks to conduct an experiment to track and attempt to lower the fuel consumption habits of their pilots. This has saved $5.4 million in fuel costs and raised pilot job satisfaction rates by 6.5 percent.

In another example, financial company Betterment is helping investors reach their long-term goals by understanding and reacting to their customers’ online behaviour, with significant benefit to its clients.

Accenture’s argument to ‘design for humans’, as with the rest of Technology Vision 2017, is in essence a call to fundamentally redesign the enterprise, its architecture and its systems, and the report offers 100- and 365-day plans to make a start.

The 100-day plan begins with customer journey mapping and identifying behaviour that contributes to positive and negative outcomes during interactions. This should be augmented by a data audit, cataloguing information the organisation already collects, could collect but doesn’t, and cannot currently collect but which offers insight into customer behaviour and decision-making.

Using existing client behaviour insights, Accenture recommends planning a pilot to offer a behaviour-personalised experience with an existing product or service. It also warns of the need to establish an ethics framework.

The 365-day plan involves drawing up business cases for minimising human actions that undermine positive outcomes in products and services, and using your customer journey information to work with strategy and product teams to improve outcomes.

This customer journey information should also be used to identify key businesses that engage with your clients or employees before and after your organisation’s role on each journey, and establish data sharing agreements with them to enrich your understanding of behaviour across a journey. With this and your code of ethics in place, you can begin behavioural studies to understand and improve the ways your technology elicits, or fails to elicit, specific human behaviour.

Get it right and your organisation – the sum of its many and varied stakeholders – can genuinely transform itself. Get it wrong and you could be in trouble. Looking five years ahead, alongside the many positives Accenture identifies in its ‘design for humans’ trend, is a warning that, “Within five years, a Global 2000 company will lose significant market share due to a behaviour-manipulation scandal.”

For more on Design for Humans and Accenture’s broader tech vision, download the full report below: