Technology only ever becomes more central to our lives and, today, when most of us carry (at least) one computer with us at all times, the commercial opportunities presented by mobile computing are too tempting for businesses to ignore. Accenture's growing Mobility practice uses its up-to-the-minute expertise to help clients capitalise on new technologies as they appear. I spoke to Jonathan Tipper and Alex Brentnall, who have been with Accenture just over a year, to see what it's like working with emerging technologies on a daily basis.
"Our work used to be all about working with laptops and netbooks," Jonathan begins, as if those devices are ancient history. "Now the biggest thing for us is accessing smartphones and tablets. It's exciting because these devices also let us reach new parts of the world - a major trend we're seeing at the moment in India, China and South America is "leapfrogging", where people who've never owned a desktop or laptop skip straight to smartphones and tablets. It opens up lots of new markets overseas.
"But that's just right now," he continues. "Next year it could be internet-connected accessories, 'smart' devices in people's homes, or something we've not even heard of yet. Mobility is growing all the time and we have clients across industries including retail, finance and manufacturing; any business that wants to better reach their clients or improve their productivity with mobile computing is a potential client for us."
It's an obvious draw; working with high-calibre clients and flexing Accenture's global reach. Jonathan says: "I applied for the job here first and foremost because I'm a bit of a geeky guy and love technology. I like that part of my job is staying abreast of new technology, and learning all of the latest developments - every six months we see changes that completely alter our way of working, and it's exciting being able to adapt to this constant change. It's also a big plus for me that our products are tangible: you can see our apps and solutions being used by lots of people."
"I like how fast-moving the area is," chimes in Alex. "I don't think there are many areas of business or organisations that are this dynamic. And working with mobile computers is becoming such an integral part of a company's business strategy."
It seems that working in such a fast-paced industry feeds in to all aspects of Jonathan and Alex's work, which sees them working on a high volume of projects with quick turnarounds. "We can stay in really close touch with our clients throughout," says Alex. "If you have a smartphone, you'll realise how often apps update and are improved - that means our working life has to tap into that same timeframe. In other teams, projects have lengthier build-ups and finite deployment dates - for us it is about a more agile way of working."
Day-to-day life at Accenture on these projects is, they tell me, an ever-changing medley of tasks. Jonathan tells me: "I've done a whole range of jobs across the projects I've worked on, including early stage work, like researching possible solutions for our clients, intermediate phases such as rigorously testing our products - all aspects from data quality to user experience - and latter-stage steps like deploying the end result of our work across a host of different countries."
Get the most out of yourself
Perhaps surprisingly for such a tech-savvy career, this isn't the sort of job that requires many "hard" technical skills, like coding. "I've not coded a thing while I've been here," Jonathan, who studied architecture at university, tells me. "While we do employ coders to make our products, for the consulting side it's much more important to have a broad interest in technology and to be able to work with people and manage projects."
"It's good to keep up with technology trends - I read mashable.com and [industry publication] Gartner - which are obvious fits," says Alex. "There's also lots of great information on the Accenture website.
"A career at Accenture is well worth finding out about,"he adds, "as I've had an absolutely fantastic time working here. As well as getting to work with the latest technology, I've learnt a huge amount every day. I'm often challenged - in a good way - but there's also a great support network, since everyone wants you to get the most out of yourself. Anyone who cares about how technology can change people's lives and businesses could thrive here."
Case study: RBS Six Nations App
Accenture is the Official Technology Partner for the 2012 and 2013 Six Nations Rugby Championship, and putting together the hugely popular 2012 iPhone companion app to the tournament was the Mobility practice's contribution to the sporting action.
This year, the 2013 app has now been further developed for the Android and Kindle Fire markets and its many enhancements include French and Italian language versions and increased social media links.
Downloaded over a quarter of a million times in its first month, the app provides news, statistics, live commentary and videos throughout the tournament. It's an example of how business enterprises can bring consumers closer to the events they love using the technology expertise of a company like Accenture.