Rajendra Prasad of Accenture On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level
Simple. If you automate an inefficient or poorly designed process, you’ll just have a faster inefficiency. So at the start, simplify things by eliminating wasteful, inefficient processes. Then you need to figure out where you are on your automation journey. Perform a baselining and benchmarking exercise so you know how you are progressing.
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rajendra Prasad, global lead, Automation, Accenture.
Rajendra T. Prasad (RP) is the Global Automation and Intelligent Assets Lead for Accenture Technology. With his more than 27 years of industry experience, RP focuses on driving the efficiency of Technology Services across the IT application lifecycle and being a part of his clients’ journeys to stay relevant and competitive in our increasingly digital world. He created and leads the team that implements Accenture myWizard, an intelligent automation platform with Artificial Intelligence at its core.
Through his engagement with clients, RP plays a critical role in making automation a key component in optimizing an organization’s applications. He champions a methodical approach to AI and automation adoption using a scalable and sustainable model that helps organizations maximize value from investments. Says RP, “Enterprise-wide automation success can be achieved with a holistic approach of people, process and technology.” To do this, RP leads a team of highly qualified professionals across geographies that create IP and leverage AI, Machine Learning, RPA, DevOps, NLP and Digital. In addition, RP extensively contributed to the strategy for Agile processes, which includes developing the latest applications, Agile capability, automation for Agile and building a transformation approach for IT organizations.
Earlier in his career with Accenture, RP led Quality and Process Excellence for Technology Delivery Centers in India, and established the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and People CMM process across the organization. Within the industry, RP has played various leadership roles across geographies at several Fortune 500 companies, providing clients delivery excellence, project management and strategic process improvement.
He has 31 approved patents to his credit and over 150 patents filed worldwide. In 2020, RP was named the winner of the prestigious IEEE Computer Society/Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute Humphrey Software Process Achievement Award. RP is an experienced conference speaker on automation and AI from creating scalable automation solutions to managing organizational change. He has appeared at industry events such as the O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference, and is a published author of dozens of papers in various international journals and trade publications including IEEE and Harvard Business Review.
RP co-author of “The Automation Advantage” launched in January 2022.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am Rajendra Prasad, and I am the global lead for Automation at Accenture. I focus on driving the efficiency of Accenture’s Technology Services across the IT application lifecycle and helping our clients stay competitive by making automation a key component in optimizing applications and processes. Most people call me RP, and I find it noteworthy that RP + automation = RPA! I am from Bangalore, India, but moved to the U.S. several years ago. I started my IT career in 1994 after earning a degree in the field of engineering and more recently, I co-authored the book, “The Automation Advantage.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful to my mom who is a teacher by profession. She is responsible for encouraging creative thinking and innovative ideas during my childhood. I also remain very influenced by my mathematics teacher in college who taught me how to solve complex mathematics problems using different, innovative methods.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I like watching many sports, and I also play soccer. I have learned many lessons from listening to sports personalities and watching athletes. The famous soccer star Pelé is my inspiration! The importance of skills, hard work, dedication and discipline are all lessons I have learned from sports!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Accenture’s purpose is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. We want to help our clients become the next and best versions of themselves. This becomes personal to each employee as well. We care deeply about what we do and the impact we have with our clients and communities. This means embracing change in order to create new value for our clients at every opportunity.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Intelligent automation is already helping companies become more productive and innovative in countless ways. Companies that deploy AI aren’t just reaping the benefits of automation, they are pioneering new forms of collaboration between humans and machines.
Automation technology proved to be vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked with our clients to leverage automation in order to quickly meet the shifting needs of employees and customers, along with building resilience in systems and operations. For instance, we recently worked with a large retailer that was facing increased operational costs and complexity in IT use cases. Using Accenture myWizard, Accenture’s intelligent automation platform, we helped the retailer automate IT at speed and scale with intelligent automation tools. These ranged from simple bots that scan and heal to a more complex, scalable self-healing framework designed to auto-resolve end user incident tickets and restart failed processes and transactions. With the help of intelligent automation, the company avoided 193,000 incident tickets and reduced operating expenses by $2 million.
We also recently worked with a leading Asia Pacific energy and fuel retail service company, in order to help the company maximize returns from its cloud investments while reducing the cost of managing the cloud infrastructure. Again, Accenture used its myWizard® platform to monitor thousands of network and IoT devices and rapidly transform business processes by delivering automation in the cloud. By using automated, self-healing AI, the company was able to improve fraud service response coverage by nearly 80 percent and reduce the need for human intervention due to process failures by 40% through the use of reliable and efficient bots.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies that are infusing AI into their automation technology are driving change in the way they operate and seeing new opportunities for growth.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Intelligent Automation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Intelligent Automation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in Intelligent Automation?
Intelligent automation is a central focus of a new book I co-authored with my colleagues Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh and Gayathri Pallail called “The Automation Advantage.” In the book, we talk about how the paradigm of automation, which has existed since the industrial revolution, has recently shifted from its traditional focus on cost reduction and quality control to a new emphasis on topline growth, value creation and better decision-making. We call this new era of automation — — driven by technologies like cloud, data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning — — “intelligent automation.”
Many companies were already implementing limited levels of intelligent automation when the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 really hit the fast-forward button. Forty percent of companies have significantly increased their intelligent automation efforts in direct response to the pandemic, and spending on automation software is expected to reach $42.6 billion by 2025.
On a practical level, intelligent automation is taking many forms — creating new business models, reinventing industries that have been disrupted and vastly improving customer relationships.
For example, a digital bank in China applies intelligent automation to make loans to small and medium sized businesses that have no collateral securities. Most applicants are first-time borrowers. The bank’s application process takes three minutes to complete, and its intelligent automation technology checks the application across 2,000 data points and is able approve loans in just 30 seconds. The system is so effective that the bank’s non-performing asset ratio is one-third that of its peer group.
Which companies can most benefit from Intelligent Automation?
Nearly any company can benefit from automation at some level. We give numerous examples in our book, spanning from multinational oil and gas companies and insurers to telcos and media companies to retailers and fashion brands.
Take for instance one of the world’s fastest-growing fashion companies. It embraced intelligent automation to give wings to their designers’ imaginations by combining their creative art with the science of tracking trending products. The company uses an AI application capable of breaking down its fashion product offerings into their various elements and then recombining those elements to suggest and design new concepts that are trending in popularity. The algorithm can take the attributes of the most trending styles, colors and patterns, and generate new designs leveraging enhanced AI techniques such as deep neural networks.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Intelligent Automation. In your experience, how has Intelligent Automation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
A few years ago, a leading European newspaper faced serious challenges. They realized they needed to find new ways to produce cost-effective, high-quality journalism to increase digital traffic, reader loyalty, and company revenues. The solution? A virtual assistant built using AI-infused software, designed to leverage human talents and streamline the process of producing digital content. Beyond merely checking text for data consistency, spelling and syntax, the assistant offers journalists prompts to other content that it thinks will be relevant, providing a completely new way to check sources, develop background understanding, and add extra content they might have otherwise missed.
Far from feeling threatened by their new, virtual colleague, workers in the newsroom welcomed the support. In six months, every journalist on staff was using the technology. As a result, the company has found more abundant, high-quality content provides more opportunities to attract advertising, and to grow revenues with digital subscriptions.
Has integrating Intelligent Automation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
Businesses leaders shouldn’t let common barriers and myths about automation — for instance, that a shortage of talent exists or that customers prefer to work with real people — deter them from gaining tremendous business value. First, companies must build the right backbone for data and ensure that data from different parts of the organization talk to each other. That is an integral part of scaling up. Second, you need to conduct a comprehensive assessment of where your company is on its automation journey.
There are five different stages of automation: the adoption of tools; automating inefficient processes; robotic process automation (RPA), which involves automating any repeatable manual labor; predictive, which is automation driven by an organizational data backbone; and AI.
Crucially, you need to remember that intelligent automation is more than just technology implementation. It requires changes in the mindset of an organization. If a company implements automation without changing its culture, people will not adopt. You need to take your people along with you. Reskilling and upskilling are integral to this.
An example of how to do this is a method being employed by a global energy company in Asia. They have implemented intelligent automation and want to ensure that employees, from the oil fields to the shop floors, are using it. Every day, all the employees receive a video on their phones. The videos, which are no more than five minutes long, feature front-line employees talking about how they are using technology in their daily jobs and how it empowers them to do their jobs better. These videos are helping people embrace change.
Automation is nothing new; the automated teller machine has been around since 1967. Automation lets us focus our human attention on the most important things — like creativity, empathy and critical thinking. It’s an invaluable tool for helping us reimagine our world in the post-pandemic era. Automation is not just about technology either. It’s about what technology enables. It’s about empowering people. Unlike before, today’s automation initiatives must have a people-first mentality. They should leverage human strengths and be supported by investments in skills, experience, organization and culture.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Four Ways a Company Can Use Intelligent Automation to Take it to the Next Level”?
There are a lot of companies who are trying to adopt AI and automation successfully today and reach the highest level of the ladder for intelligent automation. This needs to be a holistic effort with a structured approach that makes sure their intelligent automation efforts match up with the overall business strategy. To guide decisions along the way, executives should keep in mind what we call “The Four S Model”:
- Simple. If you automate an inefficient or poorly designed process, you’ll just have a faster inefficiency. So at the start, simplify things by eliminating wasteful, inefficient processes. Then you need to figure out where you are on your automation journey. Perform a baselining and benchmarking exercise so you know how you are progressing.
- Seamless. You need seamlessness between the existing technology ecosystem and the automation layer. The goal should be to provide a seamless automated experience for your end user, ensuring you can introduce new innovations to your tech and tooling landscape without causing a wave of disruption.
- Scaled. Automation can’t just be one team’s responsibility. It should be everyone’s job. Because of that, investing in the skills of all employees and building expertise is a crucial step toward company-wide success.
- Sustained. You need a sustainable way to harvest new ideas and continuously invest in automation. You also need a way to monitor business value and track every dollar of investment and saving.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Coming from family of teachers, one word that was always emphasized was discipline, I believe that discipline provides excellent direction for moving my life in the right direction. I apply principles of discipline as a rule for all actions in my personal life as well as professional life.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Our new book, The Automation Advantage, can be ordered at most major bookstores. And you can always find our latest thinking at Accenture.com. Some of our key annual research and viewpoints include Fjord Trends, Business Futures and Tech Vision. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Rajendra Prasad of Accenture On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.