Five Important Trends in 2019 for AI and Intelligent Process Automation

Expect more focus on business solutions that can deliver tangible ROI and less focus on technology and data science

Indico CEO Tom Wilde sees five important trends in 2019 as enterprises look to get beyond the hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and apply the technology to gain real ROI for their organizations. Some of the major themes Wilde is tracking in 2019 include: increased collaboration between data scientists and the business; greater transparency in how the technology works; more focus on automating back office operations and business processes with lots of unstructured content; and the rise of intelligent process automation as a bridge between robotic process automation (RPA) and AI.  

  1. AI and Data Science Meet the Line of Business
    One of AI’s biggest obstacles has been the disconnect between data science teams and subject matter experts (SMEs) in the business. SMEs play a critical role but the complexity of the underlying tech typically requires a lot of data science expertise. Wilde sees enterprises putting increasing pressure on their teams to collaborate more closely to close this gap so that they can get more value from their AI initiatives.
  2. The Rise of Explainable AI
    As AI becomes embedded in more and more processes, Wilde is seeing enterprises demanding more transparency in how it works and makes decisions on the company’s behalf. Users want real-world, plain English examples and explanations. This will also make it easier for data science and SMEs to collaborate on improving AI’s contribution to the business.
  3. More Focus on Mid / Back Office Applications/Use Cases
    A lot of the attention in AI to date has been on the front office applications – those involving customer service interactions via bots.  As companies look for ways to drive more profitable growth, Wilde see’s users looking at more opportunities to use AI and machine learning in their back-office operations – especially those manual, document-based workflows that drive many of their core business processes.  
  4. AI is No Longer “What.” It’s “How.”
    In his meetings with leading enterprises, Wilde is seeing fewer and fewer discussions focused on AI solutions on their own. While that was common 6-12 months ago, he reports that companies are now looking for AI to power tangible business solutions – to improve the customer experience, accelerate cycle time, increase business efficiency, and/or expand capacity and productivity. He expects to see fewer AI-only solutions coming to market, and fewer pure-AI startups being funded in 2019.  
  5. Filling the Gap Between RPA and AI (IPA)
    RPA has been one of the hottest areas of tech in the last two years because of its simple, easy-to-understand value prop – process automation, efficiency; freeing resources up to focus on higher value activities, etc.  But It has fundamental limits – it’s only effective with rote, repetitive processes and it cannot impact workflows involving unstructured content which makes up over 80% of the data in most enterprises.  At the same time, AI and machine learning are seen as too esoteric; requiring too much data science expertise, too much hand-holding, too much uncertainty and risk about ROI. Wilde anticipates companies looking to bridge the gap in 2019 – between the horsepower of RPA and the intellect of AI/machine learning through what may experts are calling “intelligent process automation.”

“I think we’re already starting to see a shift in how the market views AI and what they expect from their investments in it,” said Wilde. “Enterprises are doing less experimentation for the sake of the technology and focusing more on identifying real business problems that can be addressed and processes that can be streamlined. Projects without clear business outcomes and ROI will likely have a more difficult time getting funded in 2019.”


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