Last year I wrote a LinkedIn post titled “how not to train an employee”. Some of it was a little tongue-in-cheek, but I touched on the need for a framework to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly—finishing by saying “it’s the right thing to do.”  There’s no doubt, getting ready for AI isn’t the same as deploying it fully across the business. Accenture research shows that many executives know that it’s scaling AI that’s going to make the difference, not only to how they compete, but also how effective AI is within the organization.

In practice, companies still find it difficult to think about AI a critical source of business value rather than “shiny new tech.” But our latest research “AI: Built to scale” finds that there are sound economic reasons why they should take it seriously. Companies in our study that are strategically scaling AI report nearly three times the return from AI investments compared to companies pursuing pockets of proof of concepts. For those of you who’d rather see that in terms of real-world numbers, successful scaling could see an average lift of 32 percent on Enterprise Value/Revenue Ratio, Price/Earnings Ratio, and Price/Sales Ratio.

It’s a convincing argument and one that is not lost on the leadership of my own company. I thought it might be helpful for us to take a look at some of the findings from our scaling AI research and how we’re addressing them in our own back yard:

Create value with the right AI strategy

AI is a key part of our overall strategy to transform Accenture into an intelligent enterprise—we’ve written helpful guides and even books on how companies can make that happen. In our own organization, we have:

  • a unique and dynamic philosophy—involving design thinking, storytelling and analytics—powered by decades of consulting experience, to drive innovation. 
  • My team, the CIO Applied Intelligence Studio, a dedicated team of expert Data Scientists, Technical Architects and Engineers, UX Designers, and Business Analysts partner with all areas of our business to unlock value from data.
  • active collaboration with our global center for innovation, The Dock in Dublin to share and learn from new ideas.

Rethink AI talent in the workplace

We can see that as businesses extend their robotic capabilities into the open world, they will have to hire new talent and work with the public to ensure a smooth transition. We are doing this through:

  • a focus on analytics talent; we have a clear strategy to develop people with analytics skills and support their professional career growth.
  • a refined talent model that sets out the skills sets needed for next-gene n IT.  As described in the book written by Accenture leaders Human + Machine, humans can complement the work of machines, while machines can give humans superpowers to amplify their skills—and these research findings are influencing our approach.
  • an Accenture NOW mobile app that can improve the employee experience—a gateway to personalized content and services for our employees.

Scale with AI ethics in mind

Regulation and ethics are top of mind for an organization of nearly half a million people. We stick closely to the European-initiated General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and have mandatory privacy and security reviews on all projects. We have ethics in mind though our use of:

  • the Accenture Conscientious Innovation methodologies that include consequences mapping, developing a strategic approach to responsible business, and an ethics triage workshop.
  • people on point to support enquiries and keep us on the right path—our CIO Applied Intelligence Studio has a dedicated Ethics Lead and closely collaborates with the community of practice on AI.

Develop a roadmap to optimize AI value

Through our CIO Applied Intelligence Studio, every project is value assessed and we use metrics, not only to assess return on investment, but also to track progress through the lifetime of the project. We help to make companies’ AI vision a reality using Applied Intelligence (AI plus data, analytics and automation) and we steer our own path through:

  • our Community of Practice and Guilds (focused on areas such as data science, big data, and data visualization) that support practitioners and “share the learnings love” across the organization.
  • production capabilities to support the delivery of AI at scale. We focus on solution delivery and prod-ops so that we can quickly move forward after proof of concept.

Now is the time to scale your AI.  I hope my walk through of what Accenture is doing to scale AI has given you some ideas to move forward with your own AI journey.

Stephen Redmond

Senior Manager – Global IT, CIO Applied Intelligence

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