Watch the videocast, here
“Gen AI is a catalyst for a new level of reinvention over the next decade” – Julie Sweet
As part of our GenAI Leaders Series, we got time with Accenture CEO Julie Sweet to talk about how the $64 Billion dollar corporation is approaching GenAI. With the services industry experiencing feverish excitement over AI and anxiety surrounding the demise of legacy labor arbitrage models and reduced technology expenditure, who better to listen to than the provider leading growth from the front and reinventing itself ahead of the market, with its formation of Accenture Digital in 2013, then Cloud First in 2020… and now its aggressive pivot to drive GenAI at scale.
Accenture’s Total Reinvention… can enterprises embrace change?
Just when you thought you couldn’t bear to hear the phrase “digital transformation” one more time, a fresh view of changing business dynamics is being ushered in by Accenture CEO Julie Sweet under the moniker “Total Enterprise Reinvention.”
Accenture claims this reinvention is fueled by technology, data, and AI and is already impacting how people work. While highlighting the responsibilities leaders must take to be successful during the next decade. As Sweet says, “Accenture clients are embracing change more than ever, and GenAI is the catalyst for embracing that change at a more rapid pace than we’ve ever seen.”
While enterprises are under pressure to innovate and cut costs at the same time, many service firms have been caught flat-footed when it comes to understanding the potentially revolutionary capabilities of LLMs and generative AI tools. And while others are defining their vision, Accenture is putting its money where its mouth is by declaring a $3bn investment in AI. Their goal is to embrace the workforce changes enabled by GenAI and proactively train thousands of staff, develop assets, and build solutions to help their enterprise clients adopt GenAI faster. Their big bet promises a big payoff for the $64bn services juggernaut, which announced in June it had secured $100m in GenAI projects, a number that’s surely climbing further since, claiming 40 of its enterprise clients are now experiencing GenAI at scale.
In our latest interview with Accenture’s top brass (see last month’s summary of Paul Daugherty’s insights here), Sweet describes the transformative potential of GenAI on the enterprise and the future of work. Here’s what we learned, and HFS’s take:
- Spending constraints must not slow down innovation in the digital dichotomy of 2023. The economic climate this year is forcing companies to hunker down and cut costs, focusing on efficiencies, and making them do more with less. But at the same time, they are being tasked with increasing their innovation efforts critical to differentiation and growth. Accenture’s “total enterprise re-invention” is aimed at helping clients figure out where and when to invest. As Sweet says, “There’s going to be a significant amount of enterprise spend that’s unavoidable, and Accenture aims to help clients do that in the smartest way possible.” As enterprises add in the opportunities and risks inherent with GenAI, Accenture is bullish on helping clients embrace GenAI to drive the next decade of change.
- GenAI is playing a role in the re-invention of the workforce and society at large. GenAI is leading to fundamental changes in how organizations operate and impacting how every part of the organization will have to work differently to compete and succeed. Mainstream discussions have mainly circled around whose jobs are in jeopardy and whether or not education is being stunted by the use of GenAI to “cheat.” (Sweet points out her teens have taught her that’s not happening – too many tools out there to detect when GenAI’s been used to cut corners!) For now, it seems the workforce is being augmented, and students are becoming savvy with GenAI to learn faster and, to improve the learning process rather than avoid it.
- Knowledge workers will be affected most by GenAI-fueled re-invention. All knowledge workers will be using some form of GenAI to do their jobs better within the next five years. Just look at HFS Research’s own use of LLMs to transform our web search tool and allow greater access to research for our clients. In fact, we used GenAI tools on this blog itself to transcribe and summarize this interview and organize some of the key points. As knowledge workers, we must embrace the opportunity to use these tools to help us work more effectively. What remains to be seen is what parts of knowledge work jobs will be displaced versus those that will be augmented – there will be both in our future. It’s clear that (for now) the creative and provocative idea-focused tasks are still firmly in the human realm (though the return on the request below wasn’t terrible).
For Accenture, the evolution of GenAI in their workforce is underway as they are educating their workforce on prompt engineering, AI-centric risk assessment, and ongoing training for their global workforce. Under Sweet, Accenture is taking a stand that GenAI isn’t the enemy of knowledge workers; rather, it’s an infusion of capabilities as GenAI assists in how people get their job done more efficiently.
- Responsible AI isn’t just a priority; it must be part of the foundation of your firm’s GenAI journey. You will put your company at risk by not thinking through the pitfalls of AI; companies must promptly establish a systemic foundation for responsible AI practices. Accenture is establishing a first-of-its-kind formal compliance program for responsible AI, including a framework providing guidelines for its teams and their customers on implementing AI projects. As it has been building AI solutions for over a decade, Accenture provides diagnostic tools to aid in the evaluation of risk levels related to implementing AI-based projects. This tool helps categorize AI applications into different levels of risk, allowing organizations to understand where they might be using high-risk AI. HFS agrees with Accenture that it is critical that while investment is going into GenAI, matters of bias, fairness, privacy, and security be addressed and protected from the start.
- Adopting GenAI to augment how we work, its impact on people, processes, and tech will mean every part of the enterprise will work differently. As companies and employees apply data and AI into their everyday lives every part of how they work is going to change. If you only combine this seismic shift with what we know now, you’ll miss great opportunities during this change. For instance, people aren’t talking about how GenAI, combined with advancements in quantum computing will bring significant changes in fields like material sciences, security, and biotech. With this in mind, it is critical for organizations to adapt and work differently and do this with further change just on the horizon.
The Bottom-Line: GenAI’s potential is positive, but proceed with caution, education, and responsibility
We are at the tipping point of one of the most significant enterprise technology shifts ever. GenAI is maturing quickly, and whether it’s within two years or five years, our workforce and business environment will be completely different, and the services industry will be re-invented.
It is still early days, but it is clear that it is critical to invest in GenAI now to create future value; services firms must go all in on understanding and finding examples of effective use cases for GenAI. By doing so their enterprise clients will seek them out for guidance and collaboration as these investments in GenAI shape their generative enterprise aspirations. “When you embrace the shift, you win,” says Sweet, about each of the technology shifts she’s seen Accenture embrace in its past. GenAI promises to be a seismic shift, but moving forward carefully is necessary to avoid risk while maximizing value creation.
Posted in : Artificial Intelligence, Buyers' Sourcing Best Practices, ChatGPT, GenAI, GenAI Leaders Series, Generative Enterprise, GPT-4, Sourcing Best Practises, Sourcing Change Management, The Generative Enterprise