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Accenture is one of the biggest names in the tech space globally. With AI changing the business landscape, Accenture has geared up and taken a leading role in integrating AI to build better solutions. Applied Intelligence is the part of Accenture’s business that leads the data and AI engagements. Jayant Swamy, the Managing Director, Lead – Institute of Applied Intelligence, Accenture, talks about Accenture’s AI strategy, how analytics and AI will shape up in 2022, the tech talent pool of the future and many more critical areas.
The exponential growth of data
Swamy feels that we notice a paradigm shift for products, services and automation at scale. One may ask, why is AI usage achieving critical mass today?
Swamy adds, “It’s because of the exponential growth of data and the maturity of other innovations in computing power and cloud processing with a large-scale digital adaptation that AI is gaining scale. Companies now have access to an unprecedented amount of data they didn’t even recognise they had until now. These knowledge repositories prove beneficial to the growth of AI. Unlike before today, we see a lot of instances of ML, Cognitive and Robotics-driven systems.”
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There is a progression from human-led to autonomous-led processes at the process level. There’s a big shift from automation to augmentation, amplification, and autonomy AI is a C-suite conversation as executives understand that AI-powered organisations can significantly add to their competitive advantage.
AI and Analytics in 2022 and beyond
According to Gartner, AI and machine learning will be used in over 80 per cent of IoT activities in enterprises by 2022. Swamy feels that in the next phase of AI, a data fabric will be created where different programs, websites, and data products will be interconnected and tied to set business goals. These will form a crucial part of the company and help analyse and provide relevant insights for business growth.
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The AI and analytics industry is expected to grow by more than 25 per cent by 2025, according to MarketWatch, and will aid in enhancing the return on technology investments and cutting operational costs. In addition, hyper-automation will be another aspect that will grow and help in increasing accuracy and efficiency.
Accenture’s AI strategy
Applied Intelligence is the part of Accenture’s business that leads the data and AI engagements.
Applied Intelligence underpins Accenture’s offerings and how the company goes to market with clients. The team comprises data scientists, data engineers, AI specialists with deep industry and domain expertise, machine learning engineers, business visualisation experts and machine learning operations engineers focused on helping clients scale AI across their businesses.
Accenture’s Applied Intelligence vertical rests on three key pillars.
- Solutions.AI is Accenture’s collection of AI solutions designed to unlock new efficiencies and growth, enable new ways of working, and facilitate game-changing innovation—3x faster than the typical product lifecycle. Built and delivered on the foundation of Accenture’s unparalleled AI expertise, data services, IP and ecosystem partners, our scalable, modular solutions minimise time to market and maximise business impact.
- Data-led Transformation is about connecting data and people, ideas and outcomes, unlike traditional data and analytics initiatives that live in a technical silo. It requires aligning the data strategy to business goals, adapting business-wide systems to support data-driven decision making, and nurturing the talent and data culture to drive adoption on a large scale.
- Responsible AI is the practice of designing, developing, and deploying AI with good intentions to empower employees and businesses and fairly impact customers and society, allowing companies to engender trust and scale AI with confidence.
How does Accenture’s Applied Intelligence add value to its clients?
Swamy says that across the C-suite, Accenture is:
- Partnering with the front office to build and deliver the best experiences via personalised services and channels.
- Working with Supply Chain and Operations leadership to transform the supply chain into a flexible, sustainable, resilient growth engine.
It has worked with a fast-growing global fashion retailer to improve pre-season forecasting accuracy and end excessive overstocking and season-end markdowns. Advanced analytics, machine learning, and optimisation techniques have helped reduce forecasting errors by over one half and streamline production scheduling and goods flows. Altogether, it’s helping their teams bring over $175 million in benefits to the bottom line.
- Collaborating with talent and organisation leadership to make the best use of their workforce and empower their employees with the support and skills required to work in the digital age
- Finance and risk leadership have increased efficiencies, improved compliance, and identified opportunities for future growth.
Successful client stories
Accenture is helping governments with critical public service projects. For example, it has worked with the Government of India to proactively help its 1.3 billion citizens find accurate information that would better prepare them for the COVID-19 crisis and empower them to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Partnering with Microsoft, it stood up MyGov Saathi (meaning “companion” in Hindi), a low-code solution that provides accurate and useful information on the pandemic. The agent can handle up to 300,000 users per day and 20,000 concurrent users per minute and was embedded on the Government’s “self4society” website. It automatically manages interactions, freeing human experts to focus on the most urgent complex situations.
Swamy cites another example. He adds, “Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), the third-largest bank in Thailand by asset size, wanted to unlock the value of its data to enhance experiences for consumers, optimise operations and fuel future growth. So SCB partnered with Accenture to develop and deliver an award-winning digital transformation strategy. The approach combined advanced data and analytics capabilities with people-focused processes and tools. The team shored up the data lake and also made data and analytics easier to access and use by deploying Microsoft Power BI to create interactive dashboards for several business areas.”
Now, marketers can access insights from this data on interactive Power BI dashboards to identify and craft personalised marketing messages for prospects based on their lifestyles, interests and financial needs. As a result, the data-driven digital marketing generated 10 per cent more campaign responses and a 3x improvement on the model. In addition, automation reduced manual processes by 40 per cent, improved accuracy and accelerated loan approvals and processing, securing higher customer satisfaction while effectively managing risks.
Accenture has also worked with Vodafone UK to deliver consistently outstanding customer service in the best channel for the customer, no matter the issue they are inquiring about. By analysing customer contact patterns (including both proactive and reactive comms), they created a cross-channel view of a customer’s journey and built an intelligent system that is powered by data and AI to route incoming calls to the best channels. As this solution used past behaviour patterns, it could also predict when customers were most likely to reach out and send them proactive messages before they needed to get in touch. As a result, less than a year after Intelligent Care’s launch, inbound calls were down by 1.5 million, digital channel use increased by 26%, and customer satisfaction went up.
Swamy adds, “As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly interwoven into the fabric of our lives—from Alexa providing a daily weather forecast to applying machine learning to better diagnose and treat diseases—there is a growing appetite to harness its power for good. Artificial intelligence is everywhere, growing in its reach throughout society. As a result, our people have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and help shape how AI solves real-world problems.”
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Bridging the talent gap
Swamy states, “As a brand, we want the best AI talent at Accenture, given that our clients across industries are headed that way. But, as I said a moment ago, the future of AI will be around autonomous, not just automated systems built and powered by people—this is the talent which is hard to come by and highly intellectual.”
There is an exponential increase in market demand for AI talent due to the tipping point in AI adoption. Talent scarcity leads to the increased need to recruit, retain and upskill talent. Accenture is competing for talent with its competitors, mags etc. Employees are looking to work for organisations where they can make a difference.
Highly intellectual talent is motivated to create positive, long-lasting value
Swamy adds, “This highly intellectual talent knows that they can get high compensation anywhere. What they want is to become valuable to an organisation by creating value. They may have some initial ideas to solve a common client challenge, but they don’t have the resources, support, or the environment to test their ideas with a community of peers.
Institute of Applied Intelligence
To give this highly-skilled talent the right platform, Accenture has built iAI—that is, the Institute of Applied Intelligence. The tech leader wants to be known as the torchbearer in building a scalable talent ecosystem. The Institute of Applied Intelligence (iAI) aims to nurture the persona of AI professionals and create a playground where they have all the freedom to create value that meets their expectations.
Next-generation of AI talent
The iAi is the future of learning for one Accenture, with all its service groups such as strategy and consulting, technology, interactive and operations coming together to deliver on the promise of growing the next generation of AI talent. It will house the best of the Accenture ecosystem- world-renowned academic partners, startups and innovators, leading tech partners and top AI luminaries all in one place.
The iAi institute focuses on building future-ready talent with several next-gen skills (that will address the next wave of disruption)- including AI & ML, cloud technologies, connected technologies, FinTech, Automation (IT, SLDC etc.), NLP, parallel computing, data Security & governance and quantum computing.
Swamy adds, “Our modular approach to learning will run through ‘user-centred’ learning journeys for data scientists, data engineering, business consultants, etc. iAi is set to provide a unique, exciting, playable experience for our people to Learn from the best leaders in the industry, Apply learnings to real-world business use cases and Solve problems through competition and collaboration.
Through iAi, Accenture will nurture and grow next-gen AI talent through continuous innovation at the intersection of industry, science, engineering and human ingenuity.”
The iAi is catering to the needs of different segments of professionals at Accenture – from client-facing business executives and AI practitioners to AI architects. And all this in a fun and playable learning environment. Accenture wants to make everyone AI ready for first-level AI conversations. It invests in scaling the AI talent in-depth and building talent at the intersection of data science, data engineering, business transformation and other AI disciplines. It is building the talent for interdisciplinary skills because it sees a maximum opportunity for growth in the future.
Key skill-building opportunities possible through iAi
Swamy says, “We believe that delivering on the promise of AI will take more than just technical skills. Human ingenuity and practical know-how are needed to apply technology and deliver meaningful value across industries and functions. A one-stop shop, the iAi will bring together world-renowned academic partners, startups and innovators, leading tech partners and top AI luminaries to curate an engaging community experience where future AI pioneers can learn and play and solve real-world challenges.”
Accenture is creating a similar experience for your AI career through iAi Playground—your do it zone! This is not just wishful thinking; it is happening now at Accenture! The iAi offers well-structured, well-curated programs and experiences across numerous AI capabilities. One can get to learn from the best in the industry and access the iAi Playground, where one can apply learnings to real-world business use cases and solve problems through collaboration in a gamified, fun manner.
iAi Playground will be guided by three key principles:
- Collaboration and competition in a safe and fun environment: iAi learners can watch, be inspired, discover, explore, try out, challenge themselves and learn by competing in these challenges or collaborating to scale tougher challenges.
- Highly rewarding experience: iAi learners can apply learning to datasets and solve problems, driving greater adoption & engagement.
- The best ecosystem of services: iAi will bring gamified services from Accenture and third parties to enable unique and compelling experiences on the Playground for scholars.
Accenture is also tapping into the power of gaming.
- Games are engaging: Few people get excited about a worksheet. Most people enjoy playing games, even if they don’t know them. They tap into our emotions through pleasure, reward, competition, surprise, etc. They give us a sense of autonomy, competency, and relatedness, which are the cornerstones of intrinsic motivation.
- Games work: Although relatively few organisations have adopted games as a part of their training curriculum, research shows the benefits of game-based learning. A meta-analysis by the UC-Denver Business School concluded that those who played learning games ended up with 11 per cent higher factual knowledge, 14 per cent higher skill-based knowledge, and a 9% higher retention rate than those who used other methods.
- Games provide a safe environment to fail: Transported to a virtual environment, learners are free to make decisions that lead them to fail, followed by instructions to correct their mistakes. Unlike other forms of learning, such as worksheets, videos, and quizzes, games allow learners to practice the content. Rather than sitting back and watching someone else explain how something is done, players perform all the tasks themselves.
- Failure also promotes better learning opportunities in games than in other teaching methods. In a game, replaying a level reinforces the content, and you just can’t move on in the game without demonstrating that you understand each concept.
Games tap into the affective (values, feelings, motivations, attitude, stereotypes) and cognitive (synthesis, recollection, comprehension, evaluation, analysis) domains. Moreover, engaging, immersive experiences foster intrinsic learning motivations for participants.
Swamy adds, “We will provide you with the best possible playable experience to grow your AI skills. Your journey will not end once you complete a program and gain expertise in one or more domains. iAi will provide you with plenty of highly rewarding opportunities to challenge yourself further in live client projects, help scale the iAi Playground ecosystem, and serve as mentors and role models to other aspiring iAi scholars.”
Future skills that will help talent stay relevant
There are five skill vectors where we look to hire, learn and engage:
- Core to the Analytics discipline is the knowledge of Statistics/Econometrics alongside critical technical skills such as Python/ R/ Spark. Industrialisation with Data Engineering requires candidates with expertise in Cloud Platforms, Data Lake, and Automation.
- Industry-lens is critical to building solutions catering to the client’s specific business requirements, and hence we are keen for candidates with deep industry knowledge.
- Multi-disciplinary skills such as visualisation, data storytelling, and behavioural sciences to deliver global transformations are also highly sought after.
- There is incremental work in Machine Learning, Predictive Analytics, Computer Vision, NLP, and ChatBots, and Accenture is also looking to hire that space.
- Swamy believes that a new-age space like Applied Intelligence demands inquisitive candidates seeking challenges and a thirst for innovation.
Transforming organisations and people with the power of AI
Swamy concludes, “Move from experimentation to scaling-up business with the power of Data+AI”. The payoff from AI-driven transformation is the kind of scale, scope, and organisational learning that allows such companies to surge ahead of competitors.”
A 2021 Accenture survey of 4,300 executives in 20 industries found that a majority (59 per cent) of top-performing firms accelerated investment in AI as the pandemic intensified. This starts with being “People First”. Accenture understands that people are central to the success of any technology transformation. The global team of experts brings the cross-functional skills to deliver business outcomes and facilitate cultural change, empowering the clients’ workforce to use data and AI responsibly.
Accenture Applied Intelligence always looks for the brightest data scientists, advanced analytics experts and problem solvers.
To view the opportunities and apply, click here.
The future will be AI-driven, and Accenture is taking all the right steps to tap into the best talent and seize the opportunities that will come in the future.