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Big companies need to get out of COVID “crisis mode” and acknowledge that business conditions have changed for good, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet said.
Be “brutal with your reality,” Sweet advised fellow executives on Wednesday during Fortune’s online Most Powerful Women Summit. Sweet, who took the top job at the consulting and outsourcing giant just over a year ago, has focused on helping companies rely more on software and automation—or what’s known in the business world as a digital transformation. The pandemic has accelerated the trend, as many white-collar employees work from home and use messaging apps like Slack and Teams to communicate instead of meeting in person.
But Sweet said companies can’t continue to rely on the pandemic to justify the change in how they work. Instead, companies need to focus on shifting back to a more typical business climate. “A lot of what people have done is still relying on being in the crisis mode,” she said. “But if you’re going to move with speed it can’t be a permanent crisis mode.”
“There’s a lot of discussion that we’re in a new reality,” Sweet added. “We don’t know when the vaccine will come and be available or whether it will be effective. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what kind of work is going to stay remote…The pressures will continue, but it’s almost more exhausting to constantly wait for when it’s ending.”
Inside Accenture, Sweet says the company is “turning the page” on the crisis to avoid that exhaustion and get back to business. “We are instead facing the new reality and expecting ourselves to return to pre-COVID growth [rates] over a certain time frame.”
Accenture’s stock has dropped about 4% over the past week, after the company reported quarterly results just short of analyst forecasts. Revenue fell 2% to $10.8 billion, including an 8% drop in lucrative consulting services. Still, the company’s stock is up 7% for the year.
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