Accenture makes $3 billion move on AI consulting market

14 June 2023 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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Global professional services powerhouse Accenture has announced its plans to pump a whopping $3 billion into developing its AI capabilities, trumping a string of recent investments among its peers.

As numerous experts express their concerns and governments scramble to regulate, the consulting industry is going all in on artificial intelligence technology; Accenture being the latest to signal its clear intentions – in this case, via a massive $3 billion investment over three years.

The consulting and technology powerhouse also aims to double its global AI workforce to 80,000 over that time, through a mix of training, recruitment and further acquisitions.

Accenture to invest $3 billion in AI over next 3 years

“There is unprecedented interest in all areas of AI, and the substantial investment we are making in our Data & AI practice will help our clients move from interest to action to value,” commented Accenture chief executive Julie Sweet. “Companies that build a strong foundation of AI by adopting and scaling it now, where the technology is mature and delivers clear value, will be better positioned to reinvent, compete and achieve new levels of performance.”

The stated acquisition component of the investment should come as no surprise. While not exactly one to shy away from expanding its capabilities through M&A, the last time Accenture announced a cash-splash of a similar scale – the $3 billion it continues to pour into cloud – the firm promptly went on a global buying spree, sucking countless cloud consultancies across the planet into its powerful orbit.

Indeed, the ink is barely dry on this month’s purchase of Bourne Digital.

Still, in addition to a buy-and-build strategy, Accenture said that the $3 billion reserve would also be put toward investments in other assets, industry solutions, ecosystem partnerships and ventures in the areas of diagnostic, predictive and generative AI, while adding 40,000 new jobs to its existing AI talent pool via recruitment and training. Notably, around half of that figure equates to the number of back-office job cuts the firm announced earlier this year.

Paul Daugherty, head of Accenture Technology, also touched upon AI’s future impact on employment: “Over the next decade, AI will be a mega-trend, transforming industries, companies, and the way we live and work, as generative AI transforms 40 percent of all working hours,” he stated. “Our expanded Data & AI practice brings together the full power and breadth of Accenture in creating industry-specific solutions that will help our clients harness AI’s full potential.”

In conjunction with the announcement, Accenture has now launched a new generative AI-based platform dubbed AI Navigator for Enterprise, which it says will help guide AI strategy and assist clients in defining their business cases and making decisions. The firm’s Center for Advanced AI will meanwhile conduct extensive research & development to “reimagine service delivery” through the use of generative AI and the technology’s other emerging capabilities.

Ongoing concerns

Naturally, amid much ongoing public discussion and several ominous warnings from leading AI researchers, Accenture was careful to note that it will continue to take a responsible approach to the development of the technology – the word appearing no less than eight times in its four paragraph press release. The firm says that its “responsible AI framework”, which is included in its company code of ethics, “underlies its rigorous responsible AI compliance program.”

Such statements however don’t readily accord with the perception of a rapidly escalating AI arms-race among the world’s biggest and most influential consulting firms. PwC – which is currently battling serious ethical failings within its Australian practice – last month announced its own $1 billion investment into generative AI, while EY is splashing out $2.5 billion across the board.

Strategy consulting firm Bain & Company is among the many others to have also recently upped the ante.