Celebrated author Philip Pullman imagined a world in which every human being had a “Daemon” companion. Here, Ron Tolido, Capgemini’s global chief innovation officer, Insights & Data, helps us understand why this is the perfect metaphor to describe the converging relationship between business and technology.
They are the physical manifestation of our inner selves. They take the form of the animal that best reflects our personality – crow, monkey, panther, or any other. They communicate with us almost telepathically. They are joined to us for life.
They are Daemons.
Welcome to the fantasy world of Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Of all the features of his rich, engrossing novels, Daemons are among the most distinctive and memorable.
However, Daemons can be interpreted as a powerful metaphor that goes beyond the world of fiction, according to Ron.
A metaphor for technology convergence
“In Philip Pullman’s books, humans and Daemons are inseparably bonded together. They live, think, evolve, and experience life together,” says Ron. “For me, this is the perfect metaphor for the relationship between business and technology in today’s digital world. We used to talk about ‘alignment.’ This implies two entities that are close, but separate. However, today, that relationship is so deeply entwined and interdependent that you can’t imagine the one without the other. There is no ‘separate’ any longer – technology is inseparable from business life.”
The implication of this trend is a broader and deeper application of technology in all areas – from data, apps and infrastructure, to AI, process automation, and collaboration. “This inevitably brings about more complexity,” says Ron. “And yet, the more people who need to use technology, the simpler it has to be.”
At the heart of this, therefore, is a paradox. “To counteract the increasing complexity, we see a pressing need for greater simplicity – the most important dynamic for technology businesses today, and the reason we chose to focus on it in our TechnoVision 2020 report,” says Ron.
A quest for simplicity
Patrick Nicolet, Capgemini’s executive board member and Group CTO, explains that TechnoVision 2020’s focus on simplicity reflects “a recognition that a key goal of technology is to make the lives of consumers, colleagues, and citizens easier in a world where we can be inundated by data.” Succeeding, he says, “requires mastery of complex and fast-changing innovations, to make the right technology choices, and an understanding of the underlying implications and complications.”
For Ron, these complications are often tensions between ease of use on the one hand, and oversimplification on the other. “For example, we’re seeing the first signs of ‘psychic’ technology that fulfills our preferences without our having to express them, while automated processes are increasingly able to operate independently from human control. But we must be able to trust these technologies, and that means trusting the highly complex thinking that went into them,” says Ron.
At a human level, the demand for simplicity is the natural consequence of a world in which consumers are used to seamless technology interfaces. “Today, we won’t accept technology unless it fits us like a glove,” says Ron. “We expect simple messages, instant action, and zero friction. Business technology must be usable for anyone, whatever their level of technical competence.”
The workplace in a time of crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has underlined just how much we rely on technology, Ron believes. “Many of us are working from home, connecting to our workplaces through all-but seamless virtual tools that were just a dream only a few years ago. Without these, business would literally be unthinkable right now. Even our relationships with our family and friends now hinge on technology. Admittedly, these dynamics were already in play – but the current situation has fitted them with a rocket booster.”
Also, in the current context, where preventing viral transmission is paramount, frictionless contact-free experiences are more important than ever. “Where simplicity would initially have aimed to create a comfortable experience, the same technologies and approaches will now aim to create a safe experience, too. That’s very quickly become a prerequisite for us to feel comfortable using technology.”
Our personal relationship with technology has become so close that we can turn to Philip Pullman once again. “The human-Daemon metaphor works in this way too,” says Ron. “Technology–business and people-technology – these are different facets of the same dynamic. We’re all seeking a simple way of working and interacting with technology. That’s our reality today.”
The TechnoVision 2020 report introduces a set of 37 technology business trends across seven key areas, tackling the theme of simplicity and mapped onto different categories of enterprise system. The report is geared around real-life stories of how businesses infuse themselves with technology for better outcomes.