IT Leadership

Accenture’s Innovation Hub is all about the ‘Art of Possible’

Mohan Sekhar, Accenture

Accenture, one of the pioneering technology innovation companies, set up its Innovation Hub in India last year. This hub combines its innovation architecture and capabilities across research, ventures, labs, studios, and delivery centres under one roof. The only location globally for the company, Accenture Innovation Hub is where company’s clients experience cutting edge innovations in the latest technologies. This is where the CIOs can ideate, visualise and work on prototype with Accenture’s experts to know the feasibility of technology. Priyanka Bhattacharya of DynamicCIO.com spoke to Mohan Sekhar, Senior Managing Director and Lead – Accenture Advanced Technology Centers in India, on how Accenture is promoting the concept of ‘Art of Possible’ through its Innovation Hub.

Below are the excerpts from the conversation.

DC: Businesses are leveraging the technology advancements to create innovative products and services and drive growth. To begin this conversation, tell us your assessment about the overall scenario where digital meets business? 

MS: In 2013, when we put out our technology vision, we said every business should be digital. That was in 2013. We are in 2018 and almost 22% of the world’s economies are digital. By 2020, we expect that to be above 25%. So, all our clients, while being on different levels of maturity, are on a digital transforming path.

We’re witnessing a significant convergence of industry business models. For example, Google getting into autonomous cars, or Amazon in the grocery business. We live in a world where technology is impacting our day to day lives. A lot of disruption is taking place across our clients’ businesses. The emerging technologies and innovation present a lot of opportunities for the businesses to expand their capabilities and reach. For Accenture, it poses opportunities in the digital journey. That’s translating into our revenues. Over 60% of our revenues are coming from the new digital cloud and security business.

DC: How does Accenture Innovation Hub leverage the strength accumulated over years and delivers/co-creates winning solutions and services to solve the real-world business issues? 

MS: We were innovating in different pockets. For example, Innovation Labs is our premier R&D group focusing on 3-4 core technologies – at this instance we are working on AI, we work with MIT, Stanford. Then we are working on security – a big issue with clients. Globally, Accenture has seven labs in Silicon Valley, CA; Sophia Antipolis, France; Arlington, Virginia; Beijing, China; Bangalore, India; Herzliya, Israel and Dublin, Ireland.

Our Lab in Bangalore focuses on software engineering and tech, while the Labs in Washington and Jerusalem work on security. Innovations Labs incubation centres for new technologies. We also have 25 Liquid Studios as part of these labs. Present across the globe, the customers can come there interact with our experts from both technology and business, understand and ideate and prototype or develop solutions. Liquid Studio is about learning, ideating and developing new things. It is a quick and easy way of helping users to understand and implement innovation.

India came on our roadmap because of availability of great talent pool. And thus the idea of putting it all under one roof. Close to 4000 people work here. These are not the regular delivery guys. Specialised talent in areas of AI, Design Thinking, Blockchain, and other tech architects work here. They are experts in solving the real-world problems.

DC: How does the concept of Innovation Hub fit into this digital transformation mission?

MS: Accenture has a very unique architecture for innovation. We have six components – Accenture Research, Accenture Ventures, Accenture Labs, Accenture Studios, Accenture Innovation Centres and Accenture Delivery Centres. Each of the components was bringing in different parts of our innovation processes separately. At the Innovation Hub, we apply deep industry knowledge, leading technology capabilities and business acumen in over 40 industries, in a live technology delivery environment and enable clients to experience innovation at scale. This is where we co-innovate with our users and really make things happen. It’s all about the art of possible and we take them through their innovation journey.

DC: With Innovation Hub, you are also focussing on what Accenture is terming as New IT, do throw some light on this.

MS: At the Innovation Hub, we bring technology and businesses together. From every corner and pit stop of the hub, we are building industry use cases. It is the intersection of industry and technology. Everything we do here is aimed at creating new intelligent platforms. Today we have developed few of the industry-leading assets and IP. As I said earlier, we understand the issues of customers and then co-innovate – from ideation to POCs.

DC: What is the state of readiness that you see among those who come to the Hub for solutions in the new IT?

MS: Customers have multiple things in their mind when they come here. A lot of innovations are already present at the hub, which we have created for other clients. Our visiting clients can therefore see those in live environment and not in theory. This is the huge differentiation that we offer. We co-create and that’s why we organise a lot of design thinking workshops. We take an issue, we ideate and then we go through the stages of rapid prototyping, POC and finally implementation.

Today, digital and technology is the new normal and game changers. E.g. new age apartments have Amazon lockers where the deliveries can be made even in your absence. The world is moving towards centralised data. Business models are evolving fast. There will be a lot of custom technology solutions for individual business processes in future.

DC: Can you share some interesting use cases developed at Accenture Innovation Hub that have made a difference?

MS: This Hub offers unique solutions for unique situations. We have a separate area for every service where we showcase the use cases.

In financial services segment, you will see insurance use cases. There is an app, with a car driver, which is actually a real car where one can sit and drive. Depending on how you drive, you score points. The app checks how you drive. It will check the record and based on that you will get to know how much insurance you have to pay. That is how auto insurance works. So, this app can be put in your car and will collect data throughout the year on your driving behaviour. Based on the analytics, the insurance company determines how much insurance to be paid. It also creates your risk profile. This is a simple example of how AI can be used.

Clients who come to the Hub can witness use cases from diverse industries. We had created an asset for launching retail product. Last year an Australian communication company came here. They were looking to launch iPhone 7. They actually took our retail solution and customised it for the Australian market. It was a product for the retail which was tweaked to suit the communications industry. We had payment solutions for the banking industry which is suitable for retail. We had a banking and a retail client, for whom we did a joint co-innovation. Based on design thinking, we created a payment solution bringing both of them together, which was quite unique. Lot of cross industry solutions are come up this way. We have done over 150 workshops with our clients on blockchain in the last six months.

DC: The Innovation Hub consists of six key elements: Research, Ventures, Labs, Studios, Innovation Center and Deliver Center. Can you briefly tell the criticality of them all and how can they be leveraged in parts or together for fuelling growth? 

MS: At Accenture, we try to create and demonstrate innovation at scale. So far, our innovations have been in parts for local needs. But after the Hub came up, we have brought innovation at scale.

On every floor, we cover different industries. On the financial services floor, we have capital market use case, there is banking co-payments. There at least 50 to 100 use cases running on each floor for a specific industry itself. Similar to financial services, there are other verticals like energy, utilities, natural resources, and communication & media, manufacturing etc.

We keep a close watch on all the new things happening in technology space and deliver interesting use cases to our customers based on the new tech. We work with technology OEMs to create solutions using their platforms.

Today everybody wants to see what AI is capable of doing for their industry. Accenture has a huge AI shop where we work with different clients to develop various use cases. Basis the needs of customers, we are co-creating a lot of assets based on AI.

DC: What is your take on the hype around artificial intelligence?

MS: I look at it in a simplistic way. The clients that have the data, those that are investing in data are the ones creating the ground, the base infrastructure for AI.  If you don’t have data you don’t need AI. The industries that have lots of data like healthcare, insurance, banking, retail, utilities are the once which should go for an AI push. For these industries data is vital to be able to sell more. These industries are the early adopters of AI. They have invested a lot in data. Simple analytics is graduating to AI-driven analytics. Machine learning algorithm – sitting on top of data – makes it even more predictive. In the past it was all analytics driven, but now they have algorithms which can predict, which can self-heal, self-correct etc. So, that’s where I find maturity in AI. The initial hype is settling down. Organisations are witnessing AI in real world.

It is true that we are still in the early stages of AI deployment. In the next 5 years, it is going to mature. Right now, no one can foresee what shape it will take.

DC: What are some of the technologies that Accenture is working on at hub right now?

MS: We are developing prototypes and POCs on New IT including artificial intelligence, intelligent automation, quantum computing, machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things, data and analytics, intelligent applications, intelligent platforms, liquid applications management, and experience-led transformation, among others.

 

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