"Accenture operates at the intersection of business and technology"

Accenture Technology Services is one of the five core business verticals for Accenture. Bhaskar Ghosh, Group Chief Executive of Accenture Technology Services, sits in Bangalore.

Accenture Technology Services is one of the five core business verticals for Accenture. Bhaskar Ghosh, Group Chief Executive of Accenture Technology Services, sits in Bangalore. There is a message in this on the role for India and the importance of this space for Accenture globally and it is apparent from the numbers. Consider this: In fiscal 2017 (Accenture follows a fiscal year ended August 31, 2017), revenues from the "New", i.e. digital- cloud- and security-related services, accounted for $18 billion, or approximately 50 per cent of Accenture's total fiscal revenues of $34.9 Billion. Compare this with three years ago -- in fiscal 2015 (year ended August 31, 2015) digital-related services generated revenues of $7 Billion (in Accenture's total  revenues of $31 Billion). India also adds up as an important geography even by number of people. Out of 435,000 people at Accenture globally, around 150,000 are in India. Speaking to Business Today's E. Kumar Sharma, Ghosh, a science graduate with management in marketing and a PhD in management, talks of the importance of India, the talent transformation underway at Accenture with re-skilling and equally important, its new artificial intelligence (AI) testing services. Excepts:

On the changing role of technology:

There is a step jump in terms of technology with AI, IoT (Intenet of Things), Machine Learning everything coming together. How you rely on these will be very different from what has been in the past. The fundamental change with AI is that a machine will learn and act and this is a huge shift from IT programming of the past, where it involved structuring a programme and where we knew exactly how a software will behave. Also, in the past, whenever we talked about technology and innovation, it was all about replacement of human being by a machine but now we are talking about the two working together and for this both the human beings and machines need to change to this new reality. So, we need to be careful how we develop and govern this technology.

On what Accenture is betting big on:

Broadly at a very higher level, we defined three years back digital as an umbrella which included a collection of technologies like cloud and IoT and now it is artificial intelligence and it is digital that we are betting on. Today, about 55 per cent of our revenue comes from this new type of work that is being defined under digital. Three years ago it was about 25 to 30 per cent. If you look for the  precise numbers then in fiscal 2017 (year ended August 31, 2017), revenues from the "New", i.e. digital- cloud- and security-related services accounted for $18 billion, or approximately 50 per cent of Accenture's total fiscal revenues of $34.9 billion as against $7 billion out of  $31 billion in fiscal 2015.

On how it plays out for a company like Accenture:

How it works is that for us, in digital technology, it is not really so much about technology per se but the business transformation through technology, which is how organizations get value. Suppose if we talk about IoT, you could look at it purely as technology, in which case, you come down to a space where you put some sensor, write a code and get data. But then that is not where the actual value resides. It is really when you redesign your business with this new technology that you stand to gain from its true value. So, the way we do it is, we lead this with consulting and first take to our clients the business case on how the technology will bring value to the customer and then we bring the technology. Therefore, we always say Accenture operates at the intersection of business and technology.

On a few specific domains gaining focus:   

We are betting big on security domain/ security consulting, that is a huge opportunity across the globe. We are talking about cloud applications, another opportunity apart from IoT. We are investing more on blockchain and artificial intelligence and machine learning are huge focus areas. But then, artificial intelligence should be seen along with analytics. Large part of our business comes from data and analytics.

On the kind of jobs and newer roles that are getting created:

Globally, Accenture is over 400,000 people organisation. Out of that 200,000 work on technologies across the globe. Of these, over the last 18  months, around 160,000 people have been trained in newer technologies. Every manager across the globe has an app and knows exactly how many people in their group are trained in the new and it creates a friendly competition between various geography leads. We don't push the people into training though we encourage them as it is important to stay relevant. We just make it available because talent rotation into newer technologies is extremely important. As far as new recruits, they will be in the newer technologies. How many we will add in terms of new recruits depends on the business growth per region.

On the extent to which new talent is readily available:

Really available talent in this space will be a challenge but then we continue to get the right talent at the entry level and then we train them. But then, when you look at the recruitment focus, there is a difference now. For example, historically in technology, I recruit primarily engineering graduates in computer science, electronics and so on. But now, I am interested in recruiting also mathematics and statistics graduates, which was not the focus in the past. Why? Because when there is artificial intelligence, it is very statistical based and a person with statistics background will come handy. Again, so that machines do not get confused, it is also important for machines to learn how humans behave and therefore there is need for anthropology graduates too.

On Accenture's new artificial Intelligence testing service:

We have just launched new services for testing AI systems. It is powered by our unique methodology of "teach and test" that is designed to help companies build, monitor and measure reliable AI systems within their own infrastructure or in the cloud. The methodology is really about ensuring that the AI systems are producing the right decisions in two phases. In the 'teach' phase the focus is on the choice of data, models and algorithms that are to be used to train machine learning. This phase experiments and statistically evaluates different models to select the best performing model to be deployed into production, while avoiding gender, ethnic and other biases as well as ethical and compliance risks. The 'test' phase however, is when the AI system outputs are compared to key performance indicators and are assessed for whether the system can explain how a decision or outcome was determined. It uses innovative techniques and cloud-based tools to monitor the system on an ongoing basis for sustained performance.

We have our artificial intelligence group and a lot of people worked on this for the last six months.

We have 1000 clients across 40 industries to whom we provide the normal software testing service. Now, when these clients develop applications with artificial intelligence, they need different testing, creating an additional market.

The theme of Accenture's Technology Vision 2018 report is 'Intelligent Enterprise Unleashed'; this is about how rapid advancements in technologies-including AI, advanced analytics and the cloud-are accelerating the creation of intelligent enterprises and enabling companies to integrate themselves into people's lives, changing the way people work and live.

On where India fits into all of this:

India is a very important geography for us in our global footprint. Even in the new offering, there was participation from India along with teams from other geographies. We have in all around 150,000 people in India. The focus for India earlier was cost, quality and productivity but in the last few years, India is playing a role more in driving innovation and value.

We do not have delivery centres but have advanced technology centres and they are all about innovation, intelligence, industry (differentiation), new IT and new skill.

On his goal over the next 12 months:

There are few things. At the macro level, focus on innovation. I believe the talent transformation has to complete. Now, it is 160,000 ot of the 200,000. The share has to reach 80 to 90 per cent . That is all of them will need to transform to the new technologies. When I say, 55 per cent of revenues from new technology areas, it means 45 per cent that has not rotated to this. Bringing that share down is important.