Artificial Intelligence just made it to the workplace

artificial intelligence
Accenture's Virtual Savant is here to stay

2016 could be the year that the robots invaded the workplace. Amid all the hubbub about robots invading the workplace, the first tech programmes are already trickling in. Accenture, the management consulting company, has announced the global rollout of an automation platform driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

In short, a bunch of accounting consultants just got eerie robot colleagues, who can work faster than they do and deliver better results. They’re working next to – and interacting with – these office Siris and Jarvises.

Titled Accenture myWizard, the programme has been rolled out to more than 100 clients around the world over the past six months. The company is now training approximately 3,000 professionals to use the programme and hopes to have more than 200 clients using it by August.

In a statement, Accenture says the programme enables smarter, more advanced and more efficient services consisting of systems integration and application development and management. The platform combines the company’s industry and technology assets and business knowledge across 40 industries with intelligent automation, by putting artificial intelligence at its core.

Step forward, artificial intelligence

Consultancies such as McKinsey & Co estimate that 45 per cent of today’s workplace activities could be done by robots, AI or some other already demonstrated technology. The myWizard programme is just one way this is already taking place.

The application reportedly supports productivity improvement for clients by using a team of virtual agents powered by artificial intelligence. They analyse data and identify patterns, so human workers can make better informed decisions, the statement says, thus delivering improved application quality, cost reduction and speed to market.

“I can instantly mine Accenture’s repository of seventy-eight thousand test cases to find those most relevant for your application and industry,” a virtual testing savant, as yet unnamed, says in an introductory video. “I can almost-instantly identify defects that are the same or similar to past ones and recommend solutions based on past defect fixes—something that takes my human co-workers several hours or even days to do.”

60 per cent improvement

The myWizard app can help organisations achieve a 60-per-cent leap in productivity, by automating task-related work and enabling them to focus on more strategic work, the statement says.

“By bringing leading technology together in an automation platform and enabling it with artificial intelligence, we are poised to dramatically impact productivity, decision making and cost and operational improvements for our clients,” says Omar Boulos, regional managing director of Accenture in the Middle East and North Africa.

The programme is hosted on Microsoft Azure and its liquid, plug-and-play architecture features the ability to add in new capabilities as artificial intelligence matures.

“IT organizations and leaders are under intense pressure to operate with greater speed and manage increasing complexity – challenges that cannot be sustainably addressed by simply increasing headcount,” Boulos added. “We need to enable people to do more with technology, to achieve greater speed and scale. That’s why we believe intelligent automation is the essential co-worker for the digital age. Accenture myWizard supports our people-first automation strategy by helping humans do more complex and creative problem-solving.”

What does that mean for the rest of us? Like it or not, we’re all going to have robots on our teams. If that sounds creepy, well, look at it this way – at least we don’t have to deal with all the tantrums and excuses human colleagues bring with them. Unfortunately, that brings its own set of challenges.

Meet the robots

Here’s how the virtual agents break down:

  1. Intelligent Data Scientist: This app finds data patterns and mines program information so users can make more insight-based decisions.
  2. Virtual Testing Savant: This app provides advice to human testers on a wide range of judgement-based tasks, such as test planning, test coverage, prioritisation and even staffing.
  3. Virtual Scrum Master: This app monitors numerous aspects of development projects, including requirements, releases, metrics and resources – alerting the project manager to potential issues and offering possible solutions.

Watch the virtual testing savant here.