ABOUT THIS EPISODE
Manish Sharma, Chief Executive of Operations at Accenture, shares actionable steps companies can take to prepare for the future of work, and why SMBs are best positioned to implement the necessary changes.
Group Chief Executive of Operations at Accenture
Intro [00:00:00] Good question. Something very close to my heart. You know about the topic, and I would say why I say this, smaller businesses when we talk about all the accelerated Congress transformation, right? That is one of the big businesses. Smaller business’s ability to change. Is much, much bigger than the big corporation. All the things that I mentioned probably are not applicable. You know, the smaller businesses, right, because those bigger businesses will take time to really plan out the super complex possible.
Frank Cottle [00:00:57] Manish. Welcome to the Future Work podcast Allwork.Space. Manish Sharma is the Group Chief Executive Officer for Accenture Operations. His role he oversees Accenture is comprehensive portfolio of operations services across business functions such as finance, procurement, supply chain marketing and sales, as well as industry specific services such as banking, insurance, health services. He leads a team of over one hundred and forty-five thousand professionals charged with developing, selling and delivering intelligent operations to drive transformational value and productivity for their client. Maneesh is also a member of Accenture’s Global Management Committee. You’ve been a very busy person for a lot of years with Accenture, so we’re grateful to you for being able to join us today.
Manish Sharma [00:01:49] Thank you, Frank. Thank you. Thanks for having me with you. You know, it’s always fun and you know, you just made me feel very comfortable.
Frank Cottle [00:01:59] Well, that’s my whole. My whole purpose in life is to make people comfortable. So, I’ll start off by working with our audience a little bit and hopefully getting them comfortable with some important information we can share with them. You know, you have seen an awful lot in your career, your tenure and over the last thirty-six months. How would you compare that with the past 20 years?
Manish Sharma [00:02:27] First of all, I think, Frank, I would like to say that it has been a fun journey. You know, I know this is twenty-seven years for me now, and it has been fun, fun journey. You don’t really have all kinds of experiences, you know, like you say, experiences. I see a lot of blue and black marks because of all the experiences that, you know, through the seat with dusty. So, you kind of know this. But I would think that, you know, the navigating the challenges of the pandemic has really expanded our capacity for change. You know what was once expected to take place slowly, like for several years now, is compressed into shorter time frames. The composition of forces, some significant older light, has resulted in some shifts becoming bowl-winning because of hybrid and remote work. And I’ll give you some data points, right? Accenture’s. We did research right, and we found that before the pandemic executed just across the C-suite, estimated 19 percent of their workforce on average was permanently working in a remote fashion.
Manish Sharma [00:03:42] Now that figure sits what we’re closer to one third of the workforce that is one. The second one, I would say, is this has opened a new era which none of us have seen of complex transformation. Supply chains have been restructured work that we assumed required being in office has been reimagined. Productivity, as we know now, drives what really, I don’t talk about right now would be everything in a virtual world. But also, the last point I’d make here is this crisis has also exposed what the heart of the organizational response to the crisis Jo that all systems and processes that is historically, you know, the hot blue that transformed, not accelerated. And we are now at that inflection point where sustaining growth will be defined by those who create value faster and maximize the impact of these investments. So that’s kind of my summary. This transformation is debatable.
Frank Cottle [00:04:50] Well, you only made about 15 very important points there. So, I want to I want to thank you for that because I think that you’re right, that acceleration, it’s sort of like you don’t know how fast you can run and still until you start running. And most of the companies in the world, and particularly government, was just walking slowly, enjoying the view. And suddenly, we started running and we found out how fast we can go. In fact, I don’t think we have found how fast we can go yet. I think we’re just learning that I think we’re just on the beginning of that overall. So, I think that that’s an important point. We deal with a lot of a large global Fortune 500 and even one hundred and fifty companies overall and have for decades. And one of the things that we kind of joke about a little bit is a quick story about the CEO and the CFO in the middle of the pandemic, walking through the. Corporate headquarters together. And they’re walking down the aisle of empty desks and empty offices and. The CEO says while it’s all empty and the CFO looks at him and you’ve been there saying, yeah, but the company’s doing great. And then the CFO, they both start laughing, he said. We don’t need all this stuff anymore. And we realized and take this interaction. You and I have never met before, and yet we’re comfortable meeting virtually. And I know if we did meet in person, we would have a warm greeting. We would instantly be able to do anything we needed and there wouldn’t be any of the typical sizing up those executives do, sometimes the first time they meet in person. Oh yeah. How tall are you? Nothing matters more. And I think that’s the beauty of what we’ve learned and what you have been accomplished and that. You know, you mentioned remote work and you mentioned hybrid offices. These are terms that are bandied about by everybody these days, but very few people can put a good definition to. Why don’t we try right now? You take the lead on what’s your what’s your definition of a hybrid?
Manish Sharma [00:07:28] So let me kind of put it like I think at Accenture, right? Flexible and hybrid work forces. Don’t just relate to location. That’s point number one. Right. We truly believe that skills are an important part of any hybrid force. So, what this enable is for employers to be truly flexible and work envirozºnments was conducive to their needs while building their skill sets for more opportunities in the future. Right, and I think in this, the leaders really need to ask their employees they are most comfortable with inflexible models while prioritizing a continuous learning and the new skills development because, you know, it is so important that we ask what works for them. I think what truly organizations be addressing, I think organizations must also address how the blend of new wealth and technology has dramatically changed certain rules and will continue to do so in the future. And we’re already seeing this happening because I want to bring it to life with some examples which are commonly, you know, related retail associates. Once serving clients in a brick-and-mortar stores are now struggling online and offline responsibility that the store is now a hub for groups like pick up responsibilities have changed, their skills have evolved, and business leaders must think about the implications of this new role. You’re also working with a telecom leader like on a rule-based model. Functions of each job dictates if they are on site at home or hybrid with the ability to flex and adapt. And as the situations didn’t strike, so you might think really, it is very flexible when you talk about hybrid work force, flexible workflows. It is not related to location. Breaking the link, it’s from location will be, I think, the real forward on this frank.
Frank Cottle [00:09:56] Well, you know, in the past. And this gets into great resignation issues as well, but in the past, all these decisions and definitions. We’re from the top down. And today, I think an awful lot of what’s happening in remote work and in how we look at all our job functions is really being driven from the bottom up. And it’s a recognition by managers and an empowerment by managers, of course. But I think that the people, if you will, if you can use that term from the bottom up of every organization are saying, here’s how I can be most productive. And they’re creating these new models, I think even more than management.
Manish Sharma [00:10:52] Completely, completely agree with that. It is an empowered, you know, I would say, organization empowered folks deciding how what works best for them. And I think the point of retreat. You know, frankly, this is that continuous learning and skill development must be an integral part of what it would be. If you lose that, it is just the current look that people are doing in the delivery of fatigue, which will set it like, and that is why this important of hybrid work force, flexible work force for continuous development, but they’ve just learned has got to be a team as we go into the future of work.
Frank Cottle [00:11:37] How do you think the hybrid work? Certainly, it changes the physical space where people work and how they work overall. How do you see? I guess I’ll say in the past, all corporations seem to have built monuments to themselves in the form of giant edifices with their names on it, where people congregated and strove to move up the elevator to the executive suite. How do you see that model working in the future? Or do you think that’s even important anymore?
Manish Sharma [00:12:15] So I think the big AI devices that you are mentioning, probably, you know, they will have to be looked at. I personally believe that all the monuments and everything as they will become innovation centers, they will become incubation centers where people will come together to ideas about new things. They will become where learning is important. So rather than offices, I think all of this, what you’re going to see is conversion of offices in innovation centers, you know, incubation centers, reskilling centers rather than people sitting in their offices and trying to do something. What are you going to do in those one, which is important? And I think that is where I think it is for incubation innovation, which will force the piece of this one, which I no, I
Frank Cottle [00:13:06] I couldn’t agree more. I think the purpose of bringing people together is not to work, but it is to create and that way, offices and the way buildings and the way H.R. departments will have to work in the future is going to deal with that. But using H.R. as an example, H.R. departments have been slow to come up with any sort of good, a group wide or system wide enterprise-wide technology to help manage this structure. And I would position, I would say, if I were that they already have one, they just aren’t using it. Well, we are. None of us are occupiers anymore. I I’m going to assume that you’re in your residence, but I’m in my residence today. We are not office occupiers and I’ll use you and I as good examples. We are travelers. Everybody is a traveler today, whether it’s global, regional, local, within their own city, we office in three or four or five different facility types and doing different types of work in the ocean. So, I would say that the travel management systems that companies are used to using are really the ideal systems, with some of them used by the department to manage all the flexibility needed in remote work. And yet nobody is doing that. They’re all trying to reinvent something, and yet they have something that manages this. Process manages all the contracts, all the people, all the expense management priorities. What’s your thought of that migration?
Manish Sharma [00:15:03] So I would say that, you know, all the regulations that create strong relationships between technology and people, right and enabled by new skills and ways of working are better positioned for future. And I repeat a strong relationship between technology and people, enable by new skills and ways of working. Well, practically speaking, the intuitive of skills is different than it once was. Yesterday, the lifespan of a skill was 15 or 20 years. Yeah. Today, in a digital what skill? I asked only for three to five years at max. Yeah, exactly. And the futility organizations that you could lose this by creating a culture of continuous learning. You know what, to help their employees and right to kind of not just to keep them in the new rules but keeping pace as the work evolves. Right. And we must also ensure that they improve their skills, equip some employees, particularly those who are focused on contractual task. We need to be differently skilled to either succeed in their workforce or in the community at large. I think Typekit opponents like Blue heard 70 percent roughly of workers. They agree a culture of continuous love. Whether it is training skills, education helps them their potential. And I think one example is our future skills pilot that you know we are doing with Unilever and Walmart that builds reskilling and redeployment pathways to ensure workers are productive and employable. As you know, we are looking at the labor market task forming around that right. The program, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, is rooted in the idea that no one company can fully mandate the scope of workforce transformation in today’s post digital era. I think in addition, I think we are seeing changes to the ways of looking is a significant expansion to the current Heidi. All right. But remote working, some of the employer potential employees are open to opportunities that they may never have considered in the past. They would have never done that right. But your talent is available from any part of the country, even the world in some respects and it’s not departments. We need to find the balance between hiring current available talent and building it all to develop a very strong hybrid workforce culture. Really support transformation, Frank.
Frank Cottle [00:18:00] Well, you know, it’s interesting. I completely agree with you, by the way, that Andrew recognized that skills learning in the past used to be very job specific, and now skills is very individualistic the way that we need to learn, and we need to learn things beyond our pure job skills. A lot of interaction going on, but also today. Orders don’t matter as much, we can hire anyone, anywhere, any time that has the skill in the world. And the beauty of that is not only to the company, but it’s less disruptive to the individual. We have people scattered all over the world as you do, and we don’t tell someone, oh, for you to do this job, you need to move to New York City, uproot your family, do this, do that, and we must have all these expenses. Only we just say, oh, what time zone are you in? OK, well, here’s the four other time zones you’re going to work in. And that’s it. And then we’re all connected, and we all work on the same set. You guys do a lot of the same thing on this is one of the beauties of the technologies that we’re able to use today, but it’s also part of the mindset. Culturally, you don’t have to look at somebody or be sitting next to them or have them in the corporate headquarters to have meaningful, productive environment for them to work. I think that a critical change that all of us are getting is and some of the leadership overall. I think as you investigate the future of work, what do you think 20, 25, 20, 30 is going to look like? We have a big conference going on in Glasgow with a lot of 2030 2050 a different date that are telling us all the changes that the politicians of the world think we should be making for our own good, they believe. How do you think the future of work will look in those same time periods considering some of those changes?
Manish Sharma [00:20:30] So I think. You know, I spent a lot of time kind of thinking as to what and how it would look like, so a great question, frankly. Now we all know that technology science the brightest when it is augmenting or elevating human ability. And I think as this happens, the future, really, organizations will see that blueprint expand and shift into equal box. And when I say equal parts, one third, one third, one third, and I think it is going to be the specialist. Deep expertise, right, 32%, having robotic solutions for about 33 percent and transactional work still being about 33 percent. In other words, businesses will typically need more people, not less. But the type of work being done will change. The goal should be to equip existing people with the skills they need to move into the future. We are already seeing new rules emerging as digital transformation is accelerated, and we anticipate these rules not only becoming more common but becoming even more nuanced as they evolve in the future. I’ll give you some examples, right? We are seeing a growing demand from business advisors who can find ways to optimize inventory and working capital. We are seeing use demand for data scientists who analyze data and find new ways to extract that continues II cloud security, who continue to scale and advanced the mixture of with most capabilities. For example, this diverse team working together will create an algorithm to predict which vendor will be and. So, the future of work from current wherever you are, I think it looks between a mix and I think probably an equal mix of specialist robotics, some mutual and context with talent buying to deliver immense and very differentiated value and experience. You know, in the coming quarters back.
Frank Cottle [00:23:00] Well, you know, we see a lot of change, it’s funny that you mentioned as it relates to people equal thirds, we have an equal thirds formula as well. We say that everything to do with remote work is a combination of people place in technology and that the only thing that ever changes is the ratios that you use those things in. And so, we liken it to making bread, you know, flour, water, and salt. OK. You can make a thousand 10000 types of bread with only two or three or four ingredients. And so, we look at our industry and we look at what the future of work issues as being very simple, just adjusting of the ratios and the timing that we apply those things. So, I think that you and I would be very much aligned in where things are going. But I’m curious, how do you see the physical side of this? We talked a lot about the people side. We’ve talked a lot about what’s important to the individuals, to the group, to the enterprise people lives. We’ve talked a bit about technology as a driver for change and all of that, but we haven’t talked a lot about the place and maybe how those things worked together. Other changes in facilities, aside from the initial discussion about innovation centers place being an innovation center. We think that we’ll be dealing in the virtual reality environment. I’ve been working with the headset and Oculus and so on and off last month with a group over in Germany where we meet and we do all our business in a virtual environment very, very indeed. It looks like we’re not a total game world and a good one about it’s not terrible avatar, is it? So, I think that we’re going to be changing the way we work, where you and I would be in the same room virtually with you and I would be whether it’s holographic or whether it’s using the power structure, and we would be much more immersive. And the technology that we would create plays as opposed to going that way. What’s your thoughts on that?
Manish Sharma [00:25:37] Well, I completely agree with you, Frank. I think, you know, when you talk about the physical fights and everything else, I think we will have the virtual reality absolutely coming into the play. You would look at it from an employee lifecycle. Right. Whether it is reaching out to the candidates, you know, having your first initial discussions and the interviews. How were you on board them whole reaching them? How do we get them on the job training? How do we ensure that the work gets delivered all this life cycle? That experiences will change, and you’ll see a lot more work was being done in a physical way, being done remotely. And we are already leading the way. You would have been an Accenture, right, Mr. We’ve got kind of defining some of the stuff around the employee life lifecycle or the experiences of the customer, how we all would be on board if we were having such a massive exercise of taking over some of the centers. And some people in different locations. We take virtual onboarding of 7000 people. Oh yeah. Incoming onboarding and everything else, everything through technology, through the virtual stuff and all the different stacks of technology being deployed. And it was a flawless experience. You know, from it from an Android perspective and employee experience is important as we go in this journey from.
Frank Cottle [00:27:15] No, I think it’s the critical driver again, I think everything is driven needs wise from the bottom up and that our only job leading enterprises is to provide resources and services to that group. That’s our job is to make this part there. They’re smarter than we are generally. All we must do is make sure they have all the tools, right? And I think that’s where a lot of companies fail. They don’t get with their team at the creative price to individually make decisions about that. And I think that one of the explosive things is that individuals make decisions at this early stage, and I must do this. I must do this right now. I’m working remotely. There’s nobody else to talk to. Look, here’s what I’m going to do. And what that does. Incumbent celery, every time you must ask. So, now I decide every time you make your own decision. And I think that something that we’re learning right now
Manish Sharma [00:28:43] You know, is I will say, you know, if I’m ever going to summarize what you just made sure life is a fact that. I think employees become more empowered, employees probably have what’s more of, I would say, bigger picture around a process review rather than a task view until they were given tasks to accomplish and tasks to be completed. Now they’re looking at the process and they’re able to control the different variables of the process and the offender take charge of that. So, I think it is a lot of goodness in some of the stuff around this with the view that probably they feel much more empowered, defeated what accomplished. They feel accountable for the process rather than the tasks that were being thrown at them on the air.
Frank Cottle [00:29:30] I think what makes it more fun, too? I mean, a practical point of view, you know, being empowered is important in making your decisions, and the feeling that you must compromise is important. But if it’s not fun. Forget it, who would do that?
Frank Cottle [00:29:50] Who wants that? So, I think this is something that we all must be watching for is to keep the joy in work, not just the changes and driving and striving, but we all must find a certain level of joy in one.
Manish Sharma [00:30:10] I think I give a comment on that one, right? I want these Typekit on this big journey right around automation and all the other stuff, and it connects politically during the pandemic. But our philosophy is right. Remove anything or remove or eliminate anything that is measurable, repeatable, predictable or can’t. Nature should not be done by human beings. They should only do interesting work with robots cannot do right. And that is one of the big shifts to frank, to your point about, you know, changing the orientation towards fun. Joy. Interesting work, you know, and I think that is kind of in place as well.
Frank Cottle [00:30:53] You know, it’s a I don’t know if this makes the point or not that you’re working for, but we we’re working with the company and they must do a lot of machining work, a lot of milling and machining work. And they’re replacing the machine operators on the floor with some with some robotic machining structures. And what they came to us for was to set up virtual offices for the people that were running the C n C software to make the robots work. And those people could be anywhere in the world. They have the talent, and those people had a much better skillset and a much better compensation structure overall. And most of the people that they were choosing, though initially was to hurt other people that were being retrained to run the team in the city, the golf robot rather than stand there all day long, feeding the metal through the lake. So, they’re upskilling was very strong and they were able to do it remotely, and they were able to get rid of some of the tedium of the work and the physical aspect of the work, and they were able to do it from multiple locations 24 seven instead of eight-hour shifts. So, this is to your point. More jobs upskilling higher quality work environment, better compensation, robotically manage all those things coming together in that one example. You know, so I think that that is a driver. The oil you mentioned, and I think that’s critical is that we have a mantra around data. It’s gotten the data becomes information which transforms the knowledge, which allows action to get the data. So, if we are all data driven to your point of things that are duplicate, well, reputable, be process driven. If we are all very focused on data as of more math, as a process to drive many of these things and every individual within the chain of effort, I think of it as effort as a work, then everybody’s involved in that data and contribute to it. You really can accelerate the process overall.
Manish Sharma [00:33:44] I think, you know, I cannot agree more with you, right? I think data is a competitive advantage that, you know, we organize. It’s just not right. The importance of having actionable data at your fingertips cannot be overstated, and real time data supporting decisions is the only way for data to translate into and drive productivity for better business outcomes. So that is completely, you know, aligned on that front.
Frank Cottle [00:34:21] Yeah, no, I really think we’re there. How do you think in the sort of we’re running out of time here, but as we address the last question, how do you think enterprises should address and prepare themselves for the future of work and what changes in the how they deal with people should they be considering to not get left behind?
Manish Sharma [00:34:45] So I think of the we feel that we are already at the beginning of our future workforce, one we anticipate it would take place over years, but now we just can’t afford to wait for it to be right. I think that those few workforces of the future are being decided right now is different across industries. But as more hybrid work benefits are the life across them and to improving the bottom line and reaching the work, this trend is bottleneck that is one. Now, what are the things that they should be doing like? I always have my, you know, famous final this like first think back and be willing to go beyond incremental change. Leaders must aim high, like then map out the future skills, processes, and technology they need to close the gap. So that is one thing. Second, put cloud at the core of knowledge. Workers can only succeed if they have seamless flow of information to work with. Leaders who are cloud first can explore new areas to scale and maximize value. So that is to part one, right? And we discussed make data a competitive advantage. So, I believe at this point because we discussed the market, but data must be at the center of everything you hold on to it to augment. And I think I mentioned it’s very important when looking at the bigger picture to scale automation, ERP and integrated solutions with healing practices just don’t do it for the sake of productivity. It is around quality, consistency, customer experience, employee experience. Like today, only 20 percent of what can be automated is getting to miss an important, you know, opportunity to drive new sources of value. Finally, you’ll create a dying workforce and all that complimentary ecosystem relationships to enable your organization to flex and adapt to demand changes and market disruption. So those are my, you know, the five things frank, as you go into this, into this journey, your future.
Frank Cottle [00:37:11] Well, that’s a pretty darn good list, but I’ll ask one final question that relates to that. A lot of what you said, a lot of what we discussed about really relate to larger enterprises. Yet business is of all sizes, and we know that a massive amount of every economy comes from small companies, mom, and pop shops, as we call them. Do you think that the changes that we’re talking about apply equally or maybe even more to the smaller organizations, and that the smaller organizations who are able to move faster in with change will be the leaders into the future of work? Or do you think it will be a top-down structure where the larger enterprises make the investment that defines how things can be done? Create technologies with a trickle-down theory that will help the smaller company?
Manish Sharma [00:38:16] So good question. Something very close to my heart. You know about the topic, and I would say why I say these smaller businesses. When have we talked about all the accelerated concrete transformation, right? That is one of the big businesses. Smaller business’s ability to change. Is much, much bigger than the big corporations that we have got silos, functions, consensus building and everything else like whereas when you were small business is this, I think the Congress transformation becomes super complex transformation for that, and I think they should not wait for the big companies to change. They should lead the way because for them, it is much easier, much easier to really make a difference and see the tangible outcomes in mums in bees. Whereas, you know, the big corporations might take some time to kind of get themselves organized, structured and everything else. So, I think the ability to disrupt and small businesses, even what’s more, rank in the smaller businesses, look at all the things that I mentioned, what we had, what applicant will you know, the smaller businesses, like those bigger businesses, will take time to really plan out the super complex operation.
Frank Cottle [00:39:44] Well, I think you’re right. I was chatting with the strategic, the head of strategic planning for a major global 50 company the other day who just happens to be an old friend from years ago. And he was indicating that it would take them five years to make this migration. And I was saying, gosh, we made this migration between January of 2020 and February of 2020. What? What’s wrong with you? You know, and it is. It’s a turning a big ship takes time. If you’re in a speedboat, you can do a lot of things. But if you’re on a tanker, but it does take a lot of time. So, we’re going to see, I think, a lot of the innovation. Again, I’m going to go from back to my Bottom-Up theory. I think the innovation that large companies will see in that large consulting groups and that drive many of the decisions in large companies will be discovered at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak. Size wise and those things, those discoveries will migrate upward, as opposed to the trickle-down theory that we generally see in critical mass manufacturing and things of that nature.
Manish Sharma [00:41:11] So I completely like Frank, you know, I like, you know, I tell you about this conversation, some of the examples that Gore used. You know, I think the really collaborated with the way we are thinking.
Frank Cottle [00:41:29] We’ll hop on a plane and come on over for dinner
Manish Sharma [00:41:32] I will do that next time!
Frank Cottle [00:41:35] Well, we’re running out of time. Manish I’m sorry to have to end this conversation. But if people should want to know more about what you do at Accenture or what Accenture is doing, that might be beneficial to them, how should they reach out and where can they go to find this information and to reach out to your team or to the correct team inside of it center?
Manish Sharma [00:42:03] Yeah. So, I think, you know, we have a great, you know, a place to go to our website for the very attractive, i.e., educate. In fact, it is fun to go through the stuff and what we are doing, how we do, and a lot is explained in docs. I would sort of be, you know, encourage folks to go to Accenture dot com and I think kind of look at this thing and reach out to, you know, we might deem any time right. We’re very available to discuss, to brainstorm ideas, to innovate, to deliver in whatever form. You know, people, folks need help. So available Frank.
Frank Cottle [00:42:43] Manish, it’s been great chatting with you. I hope to meet you soon. The dinner invitation is always open. And if we can meet in Chicago or Newport Beach, maybe we can meet in Mumbai.
Manish Sharma [00:42:55] I would be delighted and join the discussion. Thank you.
Frank Cottle [00:43:00] We’ll look forward to it. Thank you so much.