Applying artificial intelligence allowed Accenture to allocate staff elsewhere

17,000 people had their jobs given to automation, so the consultancy giant gave them something else to do.

Global consultancy giant Accenture believes the technologies that fall under the artificial intelligence (AI) banner will transform the relationship between people and technology, with its official position being "the future of AI promises a new era of disruption and productivity, where human ingenuity is enhanced by speed and precision".

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With the concern of AI replacing humans still rampant, Accenture's managing director, analytics delivery lead APAC, and AI deliver leader Amit Bansal detailed a few initiatives his company has undertaken to ensure the job loss isn't nearly as severe as many are making out.

"We've got 450,000 people around the globe that deliver -- we are a very people-intensive organisation -- we're applying AI into our business because our clients are demanding it," Bansal told ZDNet's Next Big Thing event in Sydney last week.

Accenture's India operations are responsible for, among other things, a very large majority of credit card and mortgage application processing.

"What we've done is applied a lot of AI technology, computer vision, virtual agents, et cetera to automate that process," he continued.

According to Bansal, applying AI in the form of automation to these tasks has resulted in a welcome side effect of staff with new capabilities.

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"We have 110,000 people who [perform that task] -- it meant 17,000 people were no longer required because we automated what they were doing," he explained.

"But those 17,000 people we actually re-trained because it gave us more capacity -- we didn't have to go and hire a whole bunch of people ...  these automated processes gave us more scale."

Bensal also discussed another in-house AI initiative it worked on with Verizon in the US.

"What we found if you do a chatbot and you do it well, the volume actually goes up, the customer satisfaction goes up, and what we did in that scenario was the people that were taking phone calls, we trained them in AI and what they do is when the chatbot can't answer a question, it deflects to that individual, that individual then solves the problem talking to a human," he explained.

"Jobs are changing, you're not necessarily losing jobs -- there's just a big shift in re-training."

SEE ALSO: Microsoft reaffirms AI will augment the human experience rather than replace it

Offering up advice to enterprises looking to AI, Bansal said any initiative needs to be approached from the perspective of solving a problem.

"You've got to look at it from the perspective of, yes it's AI, but what problem is it solving, is it actually going to deliver any value to the business? It really has to come down to what are you trying to achieve because just doing it for technology's sake -- there's no point doing it," he said.

He said the best thing to do is market research, and lots of it.

"You need to think about why you're doing a [proof of concept]. If you don't have an end game in mind and you don't have value in mind, don't do it, you're just going to waste a lot of money -- you'll just make consultants like myself a lot of money," he said.

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