Every business is a digital business-that is the central message of the Accenture Technology Vision 2013.

The convergence of social media, mobile computing, analytics and the cloud is transforming the way businesses operate, and companies that adopt available technologies to "go digital" will be better positioned to take advantage of rapidly shifting business opportunities, said Trent A. Mayberry, Managing Director, Technology Growth Platform ASEAN, Accenture.

He was referring to the conclusions of the new report by Accenture, which is developed annually by the Accenture Technology Labs.

According to this report, every business is a digital business because technology has become core to virtually every aspect of a business, and all senior leaders - not just CIOs - must be able to understand, embrace and drive value from new technologies that affect their organisation.

Today's software, for example, has the potential to change the very business model of a company or industry in the future, according to the report.

"Organisations and their leaders need to hit the reset button on how they use technology to drive market differentiation, deepen customer relationships, and deliver growth and profitability," said Paul Daugherty, Accenture's chief technology officer. "Our latest Technology Vision report finds that the technology for accomplishing these business goals is available today, but that adopting a new digital mindset is required to harness the potential. The power and reach of converging IT trends such as mobility and cloud means that business leaders need to understand the implications of a software-driven, 'connected everything' world."

The 7 commandments for CXOs

The Accenture Technology Vision 2013 report looks at the future of enterprise IT and makes recommendations for how companies can take advantage of technology and software to improve their competitiveness, operations and business results. These include:

Relationships at Scale: Companies need to leverage technology to create digital relationships at scale. The report argues that while mobile computing, social networks and context-based services have increased connections with consumers, many companies have lost customer intimacy in the process. These connections have been viewed as another communication or transactional channel rather than opportunities to improve relationships.

"Businesses are at an inflection point enabled by new technologies that can take customer relationships beyond transactions and deliver more personalised interactions," said Mayberry, at a media briefing organised in the Accenture Singapore office today. "Effectively developing meaningful relationships at scale requires a real change in how companies approach these strategies and implement a new unified approach across IT and the business."

Design for Analytics: Most of today's enterprise software applications are designed for a specific function and capture only the data needed to complete that function. "What's needed is a strategy that sees data more as a supply chain than a warehouse," said Mayberry.

It's about asking the questions that need to be answered first and then designing applications for the "right" data. Companies that recognise this and make data a strategic asset that drives business outcomes will have an edge over those that view data merely as an output.

Data "Velocity": The report advises companies to take advantage of data 'velocity'. Why? Because mobility and consumerisation of IT are driving expectations for faster access to data and more insights from that data. As data becomes more widely used and companies see increasing competitive advantage from faster "data to insight," the data and analytical skills in an organisation also become more critical to converting insights to action before opportunities are lost.

Seamless collaboration: The Accenture report advises the CXOs to make work and processes more social because of the Web-based social technologies like Facebook and Twitter and video tools like Skype and Google+ Hangouts. By embedding similar collaborative tools into their business processes, enterprises can take advantage of employees' growing comfort with social networks to gain a new level of productivity. Employees don't necessarily need to become more social for collaboration to work; rather, it's the work and processes that need to be more social.

Software-Defined Networking: While the virtualisation of servers, storage and other parts of IT infrastructure has resulted in unprecedented levels of flexibility, the network has been largely untouched by virtualisation until now. Software-defined networking (SDN), where the network is managed through software instead of through hardware, provides a giant leap forward in enterprise flexibility, the Accenture report points out.

"With SDN, organisations can reconfigure the connectivity of systems without changing the physical characteristics - making it easier for businesses to manage change, integrate cloud services and get more return from their network investments," explained Mayberry.

Active Defence: The report recognises that despite recent advances in security technology, safeguarding the digital business remains a challenge as the entry points for an attack are constantly expanding. "Recognising that attackers will get through, enterprises must stay one step ahead of them," said Mayberry. "IT's core challenge is to not only stay current with the latest in security, but to get smarter about understanding and engaging the enemy and be able to adapt the enterprise's defenses to match the threat."

Go beyond the cloud: The report says that the question for enterprises isn't "why should we use cloud?" - but rather, "how should we use cloud?" Many organisations are already embedding cloud with their legacy systems and traditional software to create "hybrid" environments. This requires a clear understanding of, and approach to, the skills, architecture, governance and security required, whether it's the applications, platforms or IT infrastructure that's in the cloud.

"The challenge for businesses in today's digital landscape is to reimagine themselves in the context of an increasingly software-driven world," said Mayberry. "To succeed, organisations must leverage IT innovations to derive insights that enable them to optimise their enterprise, take advantage of emerging opportunities, strengthen customer loyalty, and deliver better business outcomes."