As a crucial part of digital transformation, how will IA technologies facilitate business survival and recovery next year?  

With the raging focus on digitalization, what trends can enterprises expect in terms of intelligent automation (IA) next year? Here are eight predictions:

  1. The next place for RPA to go?
    Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has caught on like wildfire, because it has made automating routine/mundane tasks fast, easy and dare I say, fun. It made motivation-killing work like monotonous, cut-and-paste data entry, a drudgery of the past.

    Where does RPA go from here?  It is all about workflow. To create streamlined, frictionless experiences that delight customers and employees, organizations are increasingly bridging their RPA expertise to higher-value initiatives: business workflow transformation.

    Workflows are the ‘secret sauce’ of organizations’ because they allow things to be done smarter, faster, better, cheaper.

    For savvy companies, 2021 is about harnessing RPA automation expertise and leveraging it with complementary technologies like process orchestration and document intelligence to automate mission-critical business workflows.
  2. The DNA of high-value workflows
    Not all workflows are created equally. In 2021 organizations will need to prioritize automations that will yield the most value, the soonest. Those are workflows whose ‘DNA’ has the following characteristics:

    Document intelligence: Workflows that apply cognitive capture and artificial intelligence to unstructured data in order to automate and extract information and unlock data insights

    Process orchestration: Workflows involving orchestration of digital workflows in collaboration with users, systems and data

    Connected systems: Workflows involving multiple critical business systems: enterprise applications, legacy systems, mobile, chatbots and more—across internal and external business processes
  3. Goodbye open floorplans, latte machines and bean bags
    Before the pandemic, organizations were obsessed with driving efficiency, collaboration and innovation through analog strategies like smart office equipment and innovative office design.  Open floorplans, bean bag chairs, latte machines and electronic whiteboards were just some of the perks that supported employees in generating more agile and competitive ways of working and thinking.

    Fast forward to 2021 when employees and customers are virtual. There is now a premium on DX as the vehicle for driving employee productivity and customer experience. Organizations mastering the digital landscape using collaboration tools and automation tools (intelligent automation, financial process automation and enterprise output management) are thriving.  Companies stuck in analog business models are falling farther behind. This trend will accelerate in 2021 and will continue even after offices open up again.

    Digital workflow transformation is here to stay.
  4. Digital workers save humanity in 2021 
    In the drive to become more efficient and productive, organizations have been pushing employees to the breaking point. People are working faster, harder and more efficiently than ever before, and it is still not enough in rapidly-changing markets.

    Enter the bots: long feared as replacing human workers. In 2021 ‘digital workers’ will come to be more fully-understood as the savior of work-life balance. As human productive capacity reaches its limit, employees will be provided with digital workforce support to increase productive capacity while relieving humans of dull, repetitive overwork.

    Harnessing digital capacity at scale will drive the agility needed for competitive advantages in 2021. Digital capacity becomes the new differentiator.
  5. Citizen developers will accelerate DX momentum
    Past automation efforts were driven largely by IT as technology initiatives. As more intuitive IA platforms emerge, business line leaders are becoming empowered to focus automation efforts to drive specific strategic business outcomes.

    These ‘citizen developers’ will increasingly partner with IT in a federated model, harnessing IA to transform information-intensive business workflows. Many companies excelling in the pandemic are doing so through automations inspired by citizen developers in partnership with IT.

    This new model creates agility, reduces technical debt and accelerates time-to-value. Other organizations seeking to accelerate their DX efforts will emulate this model.
  6. Companies will buy business outcomes through ecosystems 
    In 2020, integrated IA platforms emerged as the preferred method of driving digital workflow transformation results. These one-stop-shop platforms provided all the capabilities and AI needed to automate quickly, drive rapid results and reduce technical debt.

    However, the 80-20 rule still applies, meaning organizations will always have unique requirements that would require customizations.

    In 2021, ecosystems will emerge as the go-to resource for filling that gap. Platform providers have developed vast networks of technologies, applications and services operating within their open, dynamic and integrated architectures to provide access to a network of services, pre-built connectors, templates and solutions. Companies next year will increasingly rely on these ecosystems to buy the automation outcomes they desire.
  7. 5G will require IA to convert data to intelligence  
    5G is here, and along with it, a massive wave of data.

    In 2021 5G will enable companies to transmit, collect and analyze more data than ever before to fuel business strategy and decision-making. Organizations with the capacity and ability to ingest this surge of data and transform it into good business insights will be riding high. Those that are unprepared will be inundated by a tsunami of unusable information.   

    It all starts with having document and data intelligence technology necessary to convert unstructured data locked in 5G transmissions into structured data assets. AI and Cognitive Capture will be key to achieve document/data classification, sentiment analysis and content extraction from key documents such as financial records.
  8. Embedded AI will accelerate automation success, reduce technical debt
    In 2021, AI finds its winning use case.

    No longer the sole domain of data scientists within large organizations, AI use in 2021 will spread to the masses. Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Intelligent Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Image Recognition embedded in IA platforms will empower citizen developers to achieve digital workflow transformation—dramatically elevating productivity levels and accelerating work throughout the enterprise.