Accenture has been on a journey of continuous evolution to drive further value for our company and our people, and as a role model to our clients.
Today, our strategy focuses on reimagining processes and investing in technology to streamline traditional tasks and provide insights to the business. To help enable this, our Global IT organization is investing in the development of analytical solutions that use statistical algorithms, predictive models, machine learning and artificial intelligence. These solutions are intended to empower our corporate functions to make better use of data and gain insights quickly and more efficiently in their activities. They need to respond effectively to our business, which is increasingly complex, dynamic and agile.
When tech meets human ingenuity
Our Global IT organization started with defining several principles and strategies around data and how Accenture as an organization needs to structure and govern it. Accenture views data as a strategic asset to optimize operational efficiencies and to transform our business. This positioning requires making security and data quality foundational requirements as well as enforcing architectural standards, among other measures.
Creating the foundation
One of the first steps is getting data in order so as to be able to use it effectively. The challenge for Accenture, as it is for many enterprises, is in creating the proper foundation. At its essence, such a foundation needs to encompass universal data concepts, data governance and physical data strategy. The data strategy includes robust systems of record for key data and analytics platforms that allow integration to support analysis.
Our Global IT organization and many corporate functions are working through an analysis of how we manage our data, what our architecture should look like and how we govern data—a complex undertaking given Accenture’s technology ecosystem of multiple platforms.
Related to the data strategy work was the establishment of governance setting up clear data ownership. This entailed recommending additional data governance, for example, in the form of a data governance office (DGO) to enforce data strategies and processes. We also established a comprehensive set of universal data concepts that reflect Accenture’s evolving reality.
Our data architecture needs to be flexible and agile so that Accenture can expand to include new offerings. Our plan entails expanding our enterprise platform that enables integrations across different systems so that we can make use of the data from them. As part of our team’s strategizing, we need to define how all the concepts should work across platforms and domains so that Accenture can achieve its desired transformational use cases.
Establishing such a foundation Accenture-wide is underway, an initiative with a multi-year road map. What we are establishing is intended to provide the source for data integrity because the basis for any analytics is reliable data. Our core platforms provide a single source of the truth that enable artificial intelligence. We will be opening the door further for our corporate functions to use algorithms, artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop analytic solutions.
One reporting concept we’re introducing is what we are calling “self-enabled analytics.” It’s a new way that we would surface data so that groups of power users in the corporate functions can perform their own data analytics to create specific reports and insights. They would be provided access to necessary datasets. To enable users to find and request those datasets, we’re building a data catalog. It is intended to provide a “front door” and get data into a state that’s easy to use. Accenture’s existing core global reporting solutions would remain, but self-enabled analytics would give groups the flexibility to do their own different types of analytics, as needed.
Data solutions delivering value today
Here are some of the exciting data solutions Accenture is using today:
Intelligent cash. Intelligent Cash optimizes cash using a predictive forecasting tool and a cash inventory optimizer that treats cash as if it were inventory and optimizes it. A cash position dashboard uses descriptive analytics to show real-time cash positions across the globe. Our Treasury organization now supports daily cash decisions in near real-time and minimizes financial risks and costs. We estimate freeing 20% of cash previously required for operational liquidity, adding additional cash to Accenture’s centralized in-house bank structure.
SAP HANA® data mart in the public cloud is a platform that provides real-time analytics from our SAP enterprise system. The solution built on that platform accesses live data and delivers analytics capabilities previously unavailable in the finance domain. The data mart facilitates the data modeling from various sources in an agile way that can easily display key financial operational insights.
SAP Cash Application. Accenture is co-developing SAP Cash Application with SAP to address the needs of a large, complex, global organization. Accenture is also among the first companies to test SAP’s next generation of machine learning model, deep learning. We co-developed country localizations and enhanced capabilities. SAP Cash Application is now helping Accenture automate the application of cash to open invoices and make the matching process faster and more efficient with fewer errors. Auto-clearing has been enabled, attaining 54% of automatic matching without human intervention, and if one-click confirmations on proposals are added, 67% automation is achieved.
Corporate real estate. The large size, diversity, rate of change, and complexity of Accenture’s real estate portfolio have driven an IT transformation using SAP to manage our global portfolio. Our Corporate Real Estate, Finance, Procurement, and Global IT organizations collaborated to implement the SAP Flexible Real Estate Management (RE-FX) module on our SAP S/4HANA system as our foundation. We implemented the Lease Administration capability, bringing all of Accenture’s leases into one source, as well as Lease Accounting and Lease Payments.
Other initiatives in progress include corporate real estate portfolio planning and optimization, corporate insights, and integration with overhead cost forecasting. The custom planning and optimization tool provides one source of the truth of information about property costs and other factors. Using analytics, it enables real-time projection, what-if scenario planning and the ability to dynamically answer questions. The work-in-progress capabilities are expected to save time, improve agility and eliminate human errors.
Client business projection.Client account teams use Client Business Projection to bring sales and revenue data together to facilitate an online, automated and forward-looking forecasting capability. For Finance and business unit leads, it improves forecast quality and provides instant visibility and consolidation. Finance is continuing to build on this solution, including adding automated commentary using natural language generation to create narratives for our teams explaining month-end variances to plan. This sort of advancement allows our leadership to spend more time focused on actions.
Controllership reporting. Controllership has a new suite of reports using SAP HANA Studio for local country controllers that centralizes reporting and removes manual effort. The reports significantly improve the user experience when analyzing the Profit & Loss (P&L) statement and balance sheet. Reporting delivers interactive and dynamic functionality that provides summary-level data and allows users to drill down into transactional-level detail. Examples of reports include intercompany, revenue and payroll.
Automated commentary. In the Controllership reporting space, we are moving away from manual downloads and report production to centralized reporting with automated commentary. This reporting uses business intelligence platforms that harness natural language generation and anomaly detection tools to pre-populate variance commentary during Controllership’s critical pre-close period. The change eliminates effort spent on routine explanations and helps free Controllership’s time to focus on other activities.
Quality & Risk. Accenture is shifting from a fit-for-purpose approach of assessing client opportunity and project delivery quality and risk to a more precise, analytics-driven model. Our Integrated Dynamic Risk Assessment (IDRA) is an AI-based, automated contract delivery risk assessment tool embedded in our opportunity and contract risk management process. Key individuals use IDRA to verify a risk profile and define mitigating actions during the sales and delivery stages. It is designed to support leadership’s risk management decisions to sustain or improve client satisfaction and support a superior client experience. Quality Assurance reviews will focus on material and higher-risk contracts or critical client situations.
Accenture Legal Intelligent Contract Exploration (ALICE). ALICE is a robust contract search tool that enables the search for a specific keyword and for specific clauses across contracts within Accenture’s contract records system. For the latter, a clause extraction solution based off finding keywords identifies passages in a contract document that reference particular clauses. A word embedding model built on Accenture’s contracts finds keywords with the greatest similarity to the different clause types. Users can search for any kind of text in a contract document and search for clauses within a document.
A valuable difference
Harnessing the power of data and the insights it can generate improves decision making through the use of trusted data and helps drive Accenture’s business direction. It also opens possibilities to answer new questions in new ways based on insights gleaned from data analysis.
With these current tools, Accenture’s corporate functions are getting better insights. Advanced analytics and business intelligence capabilities driven by high-quality data hold the potential to increase revenue for Accenture and improve client outcomes.
Through the pervasive use of advanced analytics and AI-driven decision support, Accenture aims to change the focus of our analytics. The focus will move from understanding what has occurred in the past to providing better insights into the future of our business and our clients’ needs.
Benefit highlights we are experiencing or aspiring to include:
Increase revenue and improve client outcomes.
Lower cost of business operations.
Manage security, regulatory and business risks through a combination of our own and external third-party data sources.
Predict pivotal industry trends and adapt capabilities and service offerings to meet changing needs.
Meet the team
Managing Director – Global IT, Chief Data Architect