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Move to intelligent operations key to do well in business: Accenture

Companies able to tap innovative talent, harness insights from large amounts of data and applied intelligence and tap benefits from the cloud and smart partnerships will be in the best…

Companies able to tap innovative talent, harness insights from large amounts of data and applied intelligence and tap benefits from the cloud and smart partnerships will be in the best position to survive disruption and do well in business, a recent global report said.

The report by HfS Research and Accenture said the future belongs to organizations that have transformed themselves into “intelligent operations”, said Accenture Operations Lead in the Philippines Benedict Hernandez in an interview on Tuesday.

“The future is about taking your business processes to become intelligent operations,” he said. “That is really capitalizing on digital disruption, access to phenomenal amounts of data, and the need to disrupt or improve the customer experience.”

Accenture Benedict Hernandez

MOVING TO INTELLIGENT OPERATIONS. Accenture Operations Lead in the Philippines Benedict Hernandez discusses results of a study that showed the importance of turning processes into intelligent operations in a press briefing in Cebu.


Move to intelligent operations

“The move to intelligent operations is fast becoming a make-or-break proposition for organizations, with 80 percent surveyed saying they are concerned with disruption and competitive threats, especially from new digitally savvy entrants.” Accenture said in a report on the study.

“It’s exciting to be looking at what used to be known as BPO (business process outsourcing) or BPS (business process service) and the challenge in front of us is how do we take our clients to an intelligent operations status to actually deliver all these benefits,” Hernandez said.

The research identified 5 essential components of intelligent operations: innovative talent, data-driven backbone, applied intelligence, leveraging the power of the cloud, and a smart partnership ecosystem.

Innovative talent

To move to intelligent operations, businesses need employees skilled in the new IT – data scientists, analysts, and experts on technology such as the cloud, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.

In the case of Accenture operations, Hernandez said “talent is very important to us” and the company has 11,000 business advisors globally. “These are process experts who understand where is it that we can apply digital enhancements so that the client actually benefits.” The company also has 49,000 cloud practitioners and 4,000 data scientists globally.

“Having said that, you also have your current workforce that you continue to invest in so that they can actually be up-trained and re-skilled,” he said. Training workers to a redefined and changed nature of work is the “heavy lifting that companies need to be doing.”

“Because we’ve been automating so much over the past couple of years, what we have done is majority of the cost savings in automation is actually re-invested in up-training and upskilling everybody,” Hernandez said.

Accenture augmented reality

AUGMENTED REALITY. Members of an Accenture team demonstrate the use of augmented reality that allows people to virtually check out automobile models.


Data-driven backbone

Companies accumulate a large volume of data. The challenge for their clients, Hernandez said, is “how are you able to access and harness all of that data and run analytics, whether it’s predictive or prescriptive, so that you can actually improve the way the companies are performing?”

In one of the booths during the internal innovation roadshow at Accenture, a team showed how companies can spot trends in collection of payments by analyzing volumes of historical data.

Applied intelligence

Applied intelligence is using automation, analytics, and AI to improve processes. While many people see cost savings as a big driver for this, Hernandez said automating a process “benefits many other areas.”

“When the process works better, the end-customer experience is better, and there’s less of the routine tasks that people are doing, it allows the employee experience to also be better,” Hernandez said. “Now I don’t have to do all those mundane, repetitive, boring tasks because applied intelligence has already taken care of that. I can now make use of my human talent and skills to do more judgement, creative, problem-solving, more challenging, and more interesting kinds of activities.”

Automation can also eliminate human errors that expose companies to risk and compliance issues.

Leverage the power of the cloud

Companies are already plugging into “what’s available out there and have infrastructure as a service” rather than building their own. This allows them to be agile and flexible in their technology infrastructure.

“Buying and maintaining your own technology infrastructure is very costly and it actually becomes obsolete faster and faster because of just the rate of evolution,” he said.

With cloud companies continuing to evolve their offerings, “you’re able to get to the latest every time, you don’t need to do your own investment for that,” he said.

Accenture innovation roadshow

INNOVATION ROADSHOW. Accenture Operations Lead in the Philippines Benedict Hernandez with employees taking part of the innovation roadshow that highlights new IT like big data analytics, augmented reality, and AI.


Smart partnerships

Companies have also realized they “don’t have to be an expert in all areas” and could just tap partners to move to intelligent operations.

“In the case of Accenture, we have about 150 enterprise partners around the world of different technology and services that we work with. In AI alone, we don’t do AI on our own – we do a lot of R&D on AI but we partner a lot with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services,” Hernandez said. “The main thing about the partnership ecosystem is that you can plug in to who are the best enterprises out there in their particular fields.”

This migration to intelligent operation is well underway and the nature of work that the company is getting from its clients have markedly changed.

“A lot of the companies getting into operations partnerships with Accenture is actually to innovate their operations to become more intelligent operations. And this is an example of a smart partnership ecosystem. Because they realize that I can’t do this alone. I don’t have the expertise, I don’t wanna build all that expertise so I can actually transform myself. Why don’t I work with Accenture so they can take my process to become more intelligent,” he said.

Where next opportunity is

From cost arbitrage years back, clients conversations have moved beyond that into “how do I make my process more digital, how do you allow my operations to save me money, to give me insights so I can actually improve my cash flow position, how I can be more competitive?” he said.

He said the move to intelligent operations “is really where the next opportunity for us and our clients.”

“My hope is when you now say BPO or you think about Accenture and intelligent operations, these becomes the example that comes to mind versus traditionally what we think about in BPO terms.” Hernandez added.

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AI can displace workers but it can also triple BPO revenues: Banatao

Artificial intelligence (AI) can displace a large number of workers in the Business Process Outsourcing industry, Filipino tech pioneer Dado Banatao warned, but it can also allow the country to…

Artificial intelligence (AI) can displace a large number of workers in the Business Process Outsourcing industry, Filipino tech pioneer Dado Banatao warned, but it can also allow the country to triple revenues in the sector.

If the country does it right, Banatao said, AI will help the Philippines bring BPO revenues to up to $120 billion in just two to three years.

“AI will affect almost all aspects of our lives,” Banatao said during a press conference on Thursday to inaugurate the startup incubator he started with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

He said that his group built a basic AI solution that’s “not even the best that we know we can do” and yet it was good enough “to replace their agents in the US doing frontend BPO (services).”

Displacement inevitable

“It does displace a lot of workers but we did this in the US, meaning we displaced agents in the US. If we can do that then we will do it here. Because we don’t want to get attacked by other countries with that same expertise,” Banatao said. “We would rather have Filipinos do that displacement because it is inevitable.”

There is no AI if there is no IA (information architecture) and that will generate data science jobs for those who will be displaced from work, said Banatao.

AIM-Dadao Banatao Incubator

AIM-DADO BANATAO INCUBATOR. AIM President and Dean Jikyeong Kang with Diosdado “Dado” Banatao during a press conference to mark the inauguration of their incubator.

“It means is that there has to be an organization of data. The meaning of data is very important. Data science will address those things to help AI,” he said.

But to be employable for these new jobs, people need to be retrained, Banatao stressed. “In most cases they will have to take at least the first two years of engineering that covers the plain and simple calculus and statistics and so on and go on to the more higher-level learning data science.”

New kinds of jobs

“What is important for us to remember is that yes there will be plenty of jobs that will disappear but then there will be new kind of jobs that will be created,” said AIM President and Dean Jikyeong Kang.

“What AIM is trying to do is just like 49 years ago when we were established as the pioneering management school in the region and produced the region’s top CEOs,” she said.

“We want to do the same kind of role and have the same kind of impact so we will not be looking at a time when the BPO industry is no longer viable in this country. We have already trained the right kind of people with the right kind of toolboxes and skillsets so they will be able to take that industry to the next level.”

We can beat them

Banatao said that as a way to shore up on capabilities, he hired 20 AI engineers in the Philippines. He said one of the AI companies he funded has the fastest engine in the world.

“It is competing against the biggest companies out there, the Googles and Amazons and so on. We can beat their engines. And we had started the process of bringing that here by training some of the scientists and engineers at DOST,” he added.

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