The Digital Messiah: Inside Accenture's Innovation Hub

by Sohini Bagchi    Jun 19, 2018

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Digital technologies are changing the world like never before. Companies that have undergone a transformation to become more digital, more disruptive, more innovative and more diverse in order to remain relevant, could differentiate themselves in the competitive market place. Those that couldn’t ride the digital waves go bust. Among global companies that have been successful in their digital efforts to help clients make better and more intelligent decisions, Accenture’s name certainly rings a bell.

With an expertise in global outsourcing practice over the last decades, Accenture could be a great example of a how a service provider has made a transformation from the labor arbitrage model to the digital model, a transition companies often struggle with. In fact, a walk down the company’s  4,40,000 sq ft Innovation Center in Bengaluru, dedicated to showcasing the innovations it has created to global clients is a treat to the eye, as the IT giant looks at growing its footprint in digital offerings.

“Today, about 55% of its revenues come from the new digital, cloud, and security services spaces, and this space is growing at strong double digits,” said Mohan Sekhar, senior managing director, Accenture Technology Services.

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The Center has a capacity to house 4,000 employees and houses Accenture Labs, its prototyping Liquid Studio, automation offerings and even a few Indian startups. In other words, it is designed to provide the whole range of Accenture’s innovation endeavours including research, ventures, labs, studios, innovation and delivery centres - all under the same roof.

“Innovation is a huge part of of the agenda for us. The concept of the center is that any innovation from here would be made available to all our clients globally,” said Sekhar, adding that the facility closely work with its clients to come up with an idea and then take them through the process of implementation.

For example, the company has developed an augmented reality-virtual reality (AR-VR) solution for cricket for an Australian sporting company for coaches to understand the strength and weaknesses of the players. The solution was created in less than a week and the hub houses a virtual reality cricket pitch to showcase the innovation. The company said models such as the virtual cricket could also be replicated in various industries for better decision making.

The Lab also showcases Baxter, an industrial robot who plays the Xylophone with a human orchestra. Baxter is a collaborative robot – who has already performed successfully at the Sydney Opera House.

Another team at the Bengaluru innovation hub developed a model using virtual reality to change booking experience for a 5-star hotel across India, which led to a substantial revenue growth for the hospitality firm in the first year of digital transformation.

Yet another thought-provoking innovation is the “design thinking bus”, launched in February. Popularly called “innovation on wheels”, it is designed to facilitate meetings and presentations to global clients on the way to its innovation hub to save traveling time.

With a strong focus on its internal IT strategy, the company has reskilled a large proportion of its employees who are working at the innovation center on these and many more project. As Sekhar explained, “We have hired automation masters, ethical hackers, neural scientists, data scientists, alongside people with deep industry and technology skills.”

The company has also made 37 acquisitions since the beginning of 2016, buying out several specialist companies globally. The acquisition spree has helped Accenture strengthen its capabilities in the new digital areas, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, internet of things and big data and analytics, to name a few.

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Bengaluru Innovation Hub [source: Accenture]

Many of its peers, including the big Indian IT services companies, appear to be making the transition far more slowly, and for some, their overall growth rates are slowing. This is especially true in the area of artificial intelligence, where the company has made major strides in the last 12 months.

It is little wonder then that Accenture has been named to the ‘Winner’s Circle’ and positioned as the overall leader in innovation, ahead of 17 other competitors, in the HfS Research Enterprise Artificial Intelligence (AI) Services 2018 blueprint report.

 “Accenture is leading the market for enterprise AI services as a result of its strong innovation and execution capabilities,” said Tom Reuner, senior vice president of intelligent automation & IT services at HfS Research and the report’s author. “Its clients have told us that ‘Accenture makes AI easy for us,’ which is testament to the firm’s extensive AI skills, capabilities and resources. We are impressed by the company’s vision for and investments in the evolution of AI; by its expanding service delivery toward AI; and by its tool and platform strategy for intelligent automation delivery.”

The report mentions how Accenture leverages its AI Navigator – “a ‘menu’ of AI solutions that are readily available to clients and accessed through the Accenture Intelligent Automation Platform” – to deliver process transformation at scale, across industries and functional areas. As Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology & innovation officer, clarified in the report, “AI isn’t a future notion – it’s here now, changing the rules of how companies operate,” and it shows the company’s capabilities to help clients leverage the power of AI to transform into intelligent enterprises for success in the rapidly evolving digital world.

That’s exactly the mantra of the Accenture Innovation Hub, where Accenture is using both talent and tools to work in the most happening digital areas, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, security, automation, cloud, as also in a variety of industry areas, such as banking, telecom, industrial and healthcare, among others.

“All of this makes for a great innovation environment. But the key to the facility, is its ability to showcase the best of technologies to a customer-conceptualize, develop and deliver mature solutions to their problems in a speedy, accurate and cost-effective manner,” concluded Sekhar.