How is one of the largest companies in the world, with more than 730,000 employees, transforming its business with AI? For one, by making large investments. Last year, the professional services giant Accenture announced it was pouring $3 billion into AI over the next three years and increasing the number of its data and AI staff to 80,000 people.  

In this episode, chair and CEO Julie Sweet explains why Accenture is laser-focused on AI, how she’s training her people, and why leaders need to be using AI if they want to uplevel their business. Sweet joined Accenture as general counsel after a long career in law. In 2019, she became the first female CEO in its 35-year history.  

Three big takeaways from the conversation: 

  1. We’re in a “PC moment,” Sweet says. Generative AI’s impact on individual productivity is akin to how the personal computer took us away from typewriters entirely. “It really is a rewiring of the way we work.” For business leaders, though, there is a bigger opportunity: reinventing business processes. “In the past 30 years, there is no single technology except for AI that I have been able to stand up in front of CEOs and credibly and authentically say that it will have a material positive impact on every part of their enterprise,” she says. 

  2. Sweet is an advocate of “compressed transformation,” a term Accenture coined to describe the accelerated process of enterprise-wide change as a response to an evolving working world. She says it’s what all businesses must now do with generative AI. And leaders can’t achieve compressed transformation simply by adopting technology—they need “to understand the technology at a much deeper level than other elements of the tech revolution, like cloud.” And most importantly, they need to use it themselves. 

  3. Accenture receives roughly 6 million resumes a year and hires about 100,000 people. Even at times when most companies struggle to find talent, as in 2020 to 2022, Accenture managed to add 200,000 employees to its staff. Sweet attributes its success to the “high-tech, high-touch capabilities of generative AI”—to review and identify strong resumes, and then get those resumes to the right highly trained deciders. “AI doesn’t make any hiring decisions for us, but it really helps,” she says. The top two skills Accenture looks for? Enthusiasm for learning and great communication skills. 

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or opinions. 

Follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Here’s a transcript of the conversation. 

MOLLY WOOD: This is WorkLab, the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Molly Wood. On WorkLab we hear from experts about the future of work, from how to use generative AI effectively to what it takes to thrive in our new world of work.   

JULIE SWEET: I actually started with my most senior leaders, because in order to make the right decisions as a CEO or in the C-suite, you have to understand the technology at a much deeper level than you did other elements of the revolution of technology, like cloud. And we know that it’s not enough to simply tell people and try to train them, but they need to actually use it.