PETAR TORNEFF: EXPLORING THE METAVERSE
The director of Accenture Technology Center in Bulgaria on the endless possibilities of the modern digital experience
How will technology develop and how will it affect the way we live and do business? This is a tough question that has engaged the brightest minds of our time. Accenture is an organization that does not only consider the subject, but takes active action in implementing the future of technology now. Its concept for the Metaverse Continuum is a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models that will revolutionize life and enterprise in the next decade. It covers all aspects of businesses and stakeholders, jumps between reality and virtual reality, and blends cloud, AI, extended reality, digital twins, edge technologies.
Does it sound too ambitious to be true? Accenture is more than ready and prepared for the challenge. As a leading international company, it provides a wide range of strategic, consulting, technological and operational services in digital technology, cloud space and security in over 120 countries and over 40 industries. It contributes to the overall transformation of businesses, in the conditions of adaptability to change and skillful establishment of innovations. Behind the promises of global teams of over 699,000 people are technology and human ingenuity.
To understand more about Accenture's Metaverse, we talked to Petar Torneff, director of the company's Technology Center in Bulgaria. He has been working in the IT field for over 15 years and is a graduate in Computer Systems and Technologies at the Technical University of Varna, the Leadership Development Program at Harvard Business School and EMBA at the American University in Bulgaria.
Accenture recently published its annual technology report for 2022 – Meet Me in the Metaverse. What exactly is Metaverse and how will it change companies and people's lives?
Metaverse is being used more and more in different contexts. It might still sound abstract to many, but what Accenture puts behind the term Metaverse Continuum is the way we redefine how the world works, operates and interacts.
We live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, and businesses are facing a very different future from the usual business context. We already live in the future, and it impacts and reshapes the way we all live and work – starting from technologies to our human experiences. Companies find themselves at the intersection of many new worlds, from building new physical and virtual realities to providing services in environments created by others.
As the line between people's physical and digital lives becomes thinner, organizations have the opportunity and obligation to build a responsible Metaverse – addressing issues like trust, sustainability, personal safety, privacy, responsible access and use, diversity, and more.
However, many businesses are still not ready for this, or do not know where to start from. As an early leader in Metaverse-related capabilities, Accenture helps businesses find tailor-made solutions, define and work on a blend of actions we need to consider and take today, in order to set the stage they want to see themselves in the future.
How does Accenture plan to be a part of this transformation and to benefit people and organizations? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Metaverse?
We should not be afraid of the future, but rather plan for it timely and strategically. This is why we need to consider Metaverse as an advantage – the endless possibilities for personalization and diversification of the user experience.
We are already implementing our own Metaverse – after all, our own people need to be prepared for it. So we have built the Nth floor – a place where our people are invited to participate, for example, in new hire orientation and immersive learning or meet and socialize as teams. This fiscal year, the company expects 150,000 or more new hires to work in the Metaverse on their first day.
Accenture has decades of expertise in a wide range of industries and capabilities. Our solutions are tailored to the most complex business needs of customers. Even before the report Meet Me in the Metaverse we have referred to topics like extended reality, blockchain and quantum computing.
We support companies in their digital transformation, market and potential assessment, digital productivity improvement, and international expansion strategies. Our Metaverse Continuum covers a wide spectrum of services such as, but not limited to, learning experiences, designing a responsible Metaverse approach, setting the strategic direction, and technology. We also define operating model strategies, design, build and operate the Metaverse capabilities.
Accenture works with global clients, while also supporting the digital transformation of local companies. How do you ensure the local team's capabilities to offer the same high standards?
We offer the same high standards regardless our geographical location. Our advantage is that we benefit from Accenture's expertise in over 40 industries globally. The Bulgarian team delivers multiple projects across e-commerce and retail, TelCo, automotive, finance, insurance, pharmaceuticals, sustainability, and more. We help businesses in their overall transformation by being more forward-looking and adaptable to change – for example, helping them with digital transformation, sustainability, cloud solutions, and security.
As our mission is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity, we constantly invest in our people. We expand and challenge their competence by providing them first with a safe environment where they could apply and experiment with everything they learn. This is how they are prepared to provide more innovative solutions for our clients and simultaneously advance their careers.
Sustainability is a key component of successful businesses but often has a vague meaning. What does it mean for Accenture, as it pays special attention to it?
Indeed, sustainability is multi-dimensional, and so is our approach. We are making sustainability a force for change through technology and human ingenuity.
It is not just the digital revolution that would transform our lives. There are numerous environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – from transitioning to a zero-carbon economy to human rights to inclusion and diversity. This is why we have made sustainability one of our greatest responsibilities – not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because we believe that it will create one of the most powerful forces for change in our generation.
Accenture is committed to delivering 360˚ value to all our stakeholders. This is strongly linked to our Sustainability Value Promise – to embed sustainability into everything we do, with everyone we work with, creating both business value and sustainable impact.
How do you "translate" this promise in your daily work?
We invest all our expertise in our business projects, and in our socially-responsible initiatives locally.
An interesting example from our business practice is a joint project with a global partner for the development of the circular economy through Responsible Design and Production. We have implemented it in support of the largest business players in the packaged goods industry, in reducing waste and in circulating products and materials. This is a step forward in fulfilling our mission to create a sustainable circular economy.
We are also committed to many socially-responsible projects, and supporting non-governmental organizations. It is not only about financial support, but also about engaging our employees. Just for the last year, our team has invested over BGN 500,000 in donated funds and pro-bono activities. In addition to the financial contribution, the company participates in the development of the programs, engaging its employees in their development and implementation.
A good example is the Cultural Perspectives Foundation, where we built the digital platform Culturama, in order to raise awareness of the opportunities for young talents motivated to develop in the field of art. It is an excellent example of how business and technology can elevate NGO business, and vice-versa – NGOs have taught us many things too.
We have other good examples in the field of education and our mission to develop the IT industry and talents in Bulgaria, Jump2IT. Every year, along with our partner ITCE, we commit to providing the foundations to people with no tech background, and subsequently, support them in finding a job in the IT sector. We are also involved in assisting social entrepreneurs in building long-standing, sustainable projects, such as Dar Pazar and our partnership with BCNL.
The shortage of talents is among the key challenges in the IT field. What does Accenture Bulgaria do to offset this trend?
The tech sector is growing exponentially – and Bulgaria makes no exception. Companies' demand is already exceeding what the market can supply as IT talents. That is why, IT businesses need to work together on all fronts, including government and educational institutions.
My belief is that we should go beyond training our own people and making academies for young professionals. We need to start investing in people with no IT background. There is a widespread belief that technology is just about programming, but in fact, it has so many faces, and constantly brings new opportunities. We have good examples in our own company – people with chemical, physical, and natural sciences, with humanitarian and legal backgrounds, who have been trained and empowered by us to elevate their careers.
Accenture heavily invests in training its people – in 2021 alone, the company has dedicated over $900 million worldwide to training programs. Our Technology Center in Bulgaria is no exception – we step on the global platforms we have, and we provide tailor-made programs to the needs of our people.
In such a dynamic business environment, what are Accenture's plans for longer-term development, as part of the strategy for growth in the country?
Accenture has ambitious plans to develop its Technology Center in Bulgaria. We have already announced that we would open new jobs not only in Sofia and Plovdiv, but also in Varna, Ruse and Burgas. By 2024, we plan to have more than 500 employees, while expanding our capabilities and key projects globally. At the same time, we will continue working actively on training and developing our people's talents and opportunities for development, so that we help businesses innovate and grow.
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