The Indomitable Pathfinders of Accenture – A look at Accenture’s Analytics Practice in Singapore

There is huge money in big data. But you will have to know where to look before you can unlock it. Accenture reveals the hidden opportunities behind data analytics, and shows how its analytics centre is helping organisations create a new competitive advantage.

Organisations have always known that there is an enormous goldmine of information embedded in the data they have collected. The trick has always been in getting to it. Accenture believes that with modern data analytics and programming techniques, combined with astute business insights, we now hold the key to unlocking the secrets in these vaults.

With the right elements – a complete database, a skilful analyst, a correct hypothesis to interpret the causal relationship among interacting factors and a savvy business manager to apply the insights – organisations will have the ability to create compelling, and possibly, disruptive competitive advantage from the new knowledge.

However, a lingering challenge remains where the demonstrable benefits of data analytics fell short of the business managers’ expectation. “This could be due to anything from not defining the right question to be answered, an inexperienced analyst and unclean datasets to incorrect application of insights to the business problem at hand,” explained Manik Bhandari, Director of the Accenture Analytics Innovation Centre (AAIC) in Singapore and an IIM Ahmedabad alumnus.

“Even the most optimistic managers will become sceptical after a while, and shy away from the stuff they do not understand,” said Manik, “And analytics falls easily into this category with its complicated statistics and algorithms.”

This is where analytics centres, like the AAIC, comes in. They are able to help bridge this gap by providing data analysis and consultancy as a service to help business managers discover the potential of data analytics, by helping them focus on the outcomes, and not worry about the analytics.

The AAIC is jointly set up by Accenture and the Singapore Economic Development Board in 2011. Since then, it has developed innovative data analytics applications in education, health, procurement, public safety, transportation and workforce effectiveness.

“We see ourselves as value architects who are able to help clients quantify results to demonstrate the power and application of data analytics in their organisations,” Manik said. The AAIC team will guide the clients through the entire analytics project – educating, encouraging and reassuring them along the way.

“We typically start an engagement by doing a thorough research on the organisation and its business. From there, a hypothesis and a tentative model are proposed. The causal relations between the variables are rigorously and jointly reviewed in what we call ‘Discovery Workshops’ with the client who has the intimate knowledge of the operations, culture and other organisational dynamics,” Manik elaborated.

Numerous organisations have benefitted from the real-time, actionable insights that AAIC has provided from its intervention. The centre has enabled decision-makers to make better and informed business decisions, improve service delivery capabilities and deliver better services for their customers.

An example is a law enforcement organisation AAIC is currently working with to pilot an innovative project that deploys surveillance technology to reduce crime rate. Advanced analytic capabilities are integrated into the CCTV systems to monitor and improve response times of law enforcement officers to public safety incidents. The software and algorithms are able to determine the significance and nature of an incident and send an alert to the appropriate government agency for immediate assistance.

“The range of data analytics application is extremely wide,” commented Manik, “In a way, the potential of data analytics is limited only by the enthusiasm of the business manager and the resourcefulness of the analyst.”

It is therefore crucial for Manik to maintain a diverse team in AAIC that comprises experts from different disciplines and with varied industry experience. However, he worried that there would still be insufficient analysts talent to meet the growing demands for analytics. By 2015, Singapore will require over 7,000 analysts to support six key industries spanning analytics services, banking, communications technology, insurance, oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals.

The greatest demand will be for Analytics Specialists. Some 4,000 of them will be required to support organisations to generate insights and decisions from model outputs. This is followed by Analytics Experts and Analytics Scientists. 1,500 Analytics Experts will be needed to guide organisations in analytics application that will improve business decisions. Another 800 Analytics Scientists are required to construct complex models to extract business insights.

To address the shortfall, AAIC is tapping on Accenture’s international network of innovation centres to augment its talent resource. Within the analytics community, different centres are honing their practice in specific areas. The Milan analytics centre, for instance, is working on customer insights, Barcelona on supply chain and Singapore, the public sector. This concerted approach allows Accenture to amplify its global talent pool and accelerate the build-up of case evidence, models and software to support data analytics.

To Accenture, Singapore represents a unique value proposition for data analytics. “The country is well-connected and organised. We are able to collaborate effectively with policymakers who have a clear interest to improve public services and citizen engagement. It presents us with an invaluable opportunity to create scalable models using real-time data which we can then replicate for application in other cities,” said Manik.

In addition, there is a large and accessible scientific community for consultation and recruitment. The public sector is progressive and prepared to invest in cutting-edge innovation. The centre is also able to acquire clients who are keen to pilot and apply data analytics in their operations.

AAIC hopes that its efforts together with client organisations will eventually generate breakthrough solutions that will positively impact the lives of Singaporeans and global citizens. “It’s just a matter of time,” promised Manik.



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