Sramana Mitra: There’re a lot of things you said there that are worth double-clicking down on. Let me start pulling some of it out and explore further. One thing you said is that we are in a continuously evolving industry and we have to practice continuous innovation.
One of the ways you do that is through grassroots innovation across your 440,000 employee base. What is the structure of that? How do you engage this very large base of talent in the innovation philosophy or innovation agenda?
Paul Daugherty: Accenture is defined by a set of businesses that we have. We’ve got a strategy business. It’s like a management consulting house. We have the consulting part, digital business, technology, and operations. It varies a little bit based on the part of the organization because each one of those has a different purpose. Broadly speaking, what we try to do is harness the best ideas from people.
What we try to do is collect the best innovation. For example, one thing we do is, we have something called the Greater Than Awards, which is a recognition program where we award the best innovators at any level of the organization. We have a rigorous and very large awards program moderated by our Chief Executive Officer.
Sramana Mitra: We work with a bunch of product companies that have that kind of process. One Million by One Million has a program called Incubator-In-A-Box, which some of our partners are using to run their own internal innovation programs. For a product company, the idea is to come up with new product ideas that are innovative. What is the agenda for a services organization like yours when it comes to innovation?
Paul Daugherty: Broadly speaking, there are two different forms of innovation. One is somebody coming up with an innovation to do our business. An example of that is several years ago, we had some very interesting innovation that came out of one of our teams. It was a new way to do devops and continuous integration.
It came out of a team that had a very challenging situation they were working with. It wasn’t top-down research. It was a team innovating and bringing in some new tools. It allowed us to deliver better. We said, “We can take that and apply that to a lot of other work we do.” It was an innovation that we then spread across Accenture. So much innovation we see is innovation in the way we work.
Another type of innovation is innovative applications of technology for our clients. A good example is a team working in Asia that came up with a very innovative idea for an agricultural producer in Indonesia using drones to analyze soil conditions with video analytics and other AI technologies. The team itself came up with the idea. We took the idea and worked on that in our research lab and took that back out to the client. That’s more innovation on the product side as opposed to process.
Sramana Mitra: That gives me a segue into, what I’m sure is, a big part of your innovation process – to keep track of what is happening in terms of new technology in the outside world in terms of the startups and the people who are coming up with new technologies.
This example that you gave in Indonesia is to put together a whole lot of different technologies to deliver such a solution. I imagine you have a process to vet startups and decide which ones you want to work with. What is that process?
Paul Daugherty: It’s part of the innovation architecture. I’ll come back and talk more broadly about this. One step in our innovation architecture is Accenture Ventures. Accenture Ventures has two parts. It’s a corporate VC capability. We invest through it as a strategic investor in startups in innovation in incubators and accelerators.