Accenture: How to succeed at scaling AI investments
Strategic scalers achieve nearly triple the return from artificial intelligence (AI) investments than companies in the proof of concept stage, reveals a global study from Accenture.
According to the survey of 1,500 C-suite executives across 16 industries - generating between US$1 to US$30 billion a year - it was found that size is not a factor to success – but 76% of executives are struggling to scale AI across their organisations.
“When we grouped the surveyed companies by size, we found no significant differences in scaling success rate or return on AI investments. So, size is not a factor. It’s all about instilling the right AI capabilities and mindset in the organisation,” reveals the Accenture study.
A total of 84% C-suite executives believe they must leverage AI to achieve their growth objectives and fear if they don’t scale this technology in the next five years, they risk going out of business.
Nail it, then scale it
Accenture’s report; AI: Built to Scale, aims to help companies progress on their AI journey, from a one-off AI experimentation to gaining a robust capability.
Three distinct company groups emerged from the research. These included:
Proof of concept
- Analytics buried deep
- Siloed operating model typically IT-led
- Unable to extract value from their data
- Struggle to scale due to unrealistic time expectations
- Significant under investment
Accenture report, 80-85% of companies are at this stage.
- CEO focused with advanced analytics and data team
- Multi-disciplinary teams of 200+ specialists
- Able to tune out data noise
- Intelligent automation and predictive reporting
- Catch up on digital/AI/data asset debt
- Experimental mindset achieving scale and returns
Accenture report 15-20% of companies have progressed to this vital stage.
According to the study less than 5% of companies have evolved to being industrialised for growth which includes:
- Digital platform and enterprise culture of AI democratising real-time insights to drive business decisions
- Clear enterprise vision and accountability breaking down silos
How to succeed at scaling
The research revealed three critical success factors separate the strategic scalers from organisations at the proof of concept stage.
- Drive ‘intentional’ AI
According to the survey scalers pilot more initiatives than those at the proof of concept stage and set longer timelines. They are 65% more likely to report a timeline of one to two years to move from pilot to scale and achieve more by spending less.
“At first glance it may seem paradoxical. But the data indicate that these leaders are more intentional, with a more realistic expectation in terms of time to scale.”
To successfully scale, companies need structure and governance in place. A total of 71% say they have a defined strategy and operating model while only half of the companies in proof of concept report the same. Owners with clear accountability and established leadership support with dedicated AI champions is also critical for success.
2.Tune out data noise
The survey shows strategic scalers can tune out data noise and are able to focus on financial, marketing, consumer and master data as priority domains.
Strategic scalers are also better at managing data. The Accenture research shows they have an accurate data set (61% versus 38% of respondents in proof of concept) and use the correct AI tools such as cloud-based data lakes to manage the data for their applications
“From creation to custodianship to consumption. Strategic scalers understand the importance of using more diverse datasets to support initiatives,” reveals the report.
- Treat AI as a team sport
The introduction of multi-disciplinary teams throughout an organisation is adopted by 92% of strategic scalers.
“Embedding them across the organisation is not only a powerful signal about the strategic intent of the scaling effort, it also enables faster culture and behaviour changes,” concludes the report.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”