Accenture artificial intelligence reskilling

Anxiety about artificial intelligence taking over jobs can provide great fodder for the headlines. But don’t banish workers to a dystopian future just yet.

Accenture artificial intelligence reskilling

by Team

Posted on 04-08-2018

Anxiety about artificial intelligence taking over jobs can provide great fodder for the headlines. But don’t banish workers to a dystopian future just yet. In fact, it’s quite the opposite at Accenture’s delivery-centre operation in India, where 17,000 employees have not only kept their jobs, but have been reskilled as part of AI-driven transformation.  

“Anybody who looks at artificial intelligence thinks that it’s going to replace jobs, right? It’s the most common thing that everyone talks about,” says Amit Bansal, Accenture’s APAC analytics and artificial intelligence delivery lead. “We don’t see it replacing jobs–we see it replacing tasks.”

Bansal, who has been with the global professional services company for two-and-a-half years, has played a key part in spearheading Accenture’s rebrand as an applied intelligence business, both in its client services and internal operations. Giving employees new skills has been a key part of this effort.

“Not everything can be automated,” Bansal told “Think through what you want to automate, then think about the human side. It’s not about changing Fred’s job. It’s what does Fred do that you can take out and make more efficient? Once you’ve figured that out, then you just think about what is the new skill you need to give Fred so he can do something else for you in that situation.”

Replacing The Task

It’s perhaps not surprising to see positive AI stories coming out of countries such as India: In a 2016 Accenture research report, for example, managers in emerging economies appeared far more likely to embrace artificial intelligence than their counterparts in developed economies.

The 17,000 reskilled employees in India work for Accenture’s BPO division, a resource for companies looking for a cost-effective way to outsource some of their more rudimentary tasks–in this instance, mortgage-form processing from different banks around the world.

“When you or I are applying for a bank loan, we fill out a form. Whether it’s an online or a handwritten form, it gets sent to whoever is doing process apps for the bank–usually somebody sitting in India or the Philippines reading what you’ve written and typing it into a system so it can be processed,” Bansal said.

Accenture recognised that for these employees, data entry was a repetitive and mundane task that consequently increased the likelihood of human error. That’s where AI has helped, Bansal said.

“Having people do that data-entry work is not really fulfilling for them, so we automate that process with image technology or robotic technology that actually reads those documents and fills the steps out,” he explained. “Then these people can do the next layer of the process, which is actually assessing the document.”

Employee reaction has been positive, Bansal said. Employees are comfortable in the knowledge that their jobs aren’t going to disappear. Rather, they’ll just have other things to do.

The Value Of Reskilling

Despite how heavily we’ve come to rely on technology in the workplace, you’d be hard-pressed to find executives who’d say that people don’t remain at the core of their business. And for good reason. A business that focuses on building strong internal teams and fosters great client relationships is more likely to succeed in a competitive landscape, Bansal said.

“I actually advise our clients that when you are thinking about automation, don’t think about cost takeout. It’s not about that,” he said. You need to think through … how are you going to retrain people? Reskill them because suddenly now you can do more with the same number of people.”

That, in turn, “will give my clients a better and more efficient service,” Bansal said.

If there’s something to be learned from the Accenture experience, it’s not to be afraid of responsible AI, he added. It’s about making sure what you’re building is compatible with the people who make your business thrive.

Transforming workplaces with responsible AI will be a hot topic of conversation at this year’s India Symposium, April 26 in Mumbai. Click here to view the agenda and register .

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