In the last decade, the arrival of AI and automation in the workplace hasn’t always been a positive story

Despite the benefits these technologies brought to businesses – and to workers themselves – the fear of job losses and lack of education around automation has marred the impact of these new innovations in the working world.

In 2020, that will all change. A new model of partnership between humans and machines is emerging, focused on the value automation and humans working together can bring: augmented intelligence. In fact, Gartner believes that this will create up to $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally by 2021. Businesses who don’t take advantage of AI while keeping employee satisfaction front-of-mind are likely to fall far behind in the global race for productivity and business value in uncertain economic times.

As IDC forecasts that the intelligent process automation software market, including content intelligence and RPA, will grow by more than half to $20.7 billion by 2023, the adoption of these technologies is set to define whether augmented intelligence can achieve its aim: to make AI and humans work in harmony together once and for all. Here’s how we predict this will take shape in 2020.

Contribution of digital workers will grow by 50%

75% of organisations are struggling to recruit digital skills, making room for a boom in the number of digital workers in businesses. These workers can augment automation efforts with AI and machine learning, working in harmony alongside humans. In fact, we found that the contribution of digital workers will grow by 50% in the next two years, illustrating a real shift to a future built on human-machine collaboration.

Automation can and should be human-centric – humans and machines, not human versus machines. Only then can human workers focus on higher-level, creative and socially responsible tasks, and give customers better experiences and faster service. In 2020, businesses that are quick to incorporate digital workers with content intelligence skills within their automation platforms will gain a significant competitive edge.

Overhauling processes will become a necessity, not a nice-to-have

With the process mining market set to triple by 2023, and as more complex deployments of digital transformation technologies ramp up, the ability to monitor a business’ processes will become critically important. However, individual technologies like RPA and BPM only have visibility over the steps they control – so new technology is needed to provide visibility of the process end-to-end. 

To get the insights needed to improve customer service and operational efficiency, and ultimately boost profits, organisations will need to take advantage of process intelligence tools that go beyond more simple process mining. Process intelligence provides a comprehensive view of running processes, giving businesses the ability to act on what they find and improve processes in real-time. While we expect to see large enterprises leading the way, some smaller businesses in process-intensive industries like customer service or finance will begin to transform their processes too in the coming year.

RPA adoption will boom in the UK as businesses see rapid ROI

Currently, less than a quarter of UK businesses are investing in RPA. With more than 4 in 5 of those who have invested in RPA having seen a return on their investment within just a year, with a majority seeing improvements in efficiency, market share, and revenue growth, we expect to see adoption of RPA in the UK boom in 2020. We predict that adoption will be particularly strong in the banking and financial services sector, which is already leading the way with 38% adoption. By the end of 2020, we can expect this to have increased to two-thirds of businesses in this sector. Indeed, Forrester predicts in 2020 that more than a million knowledge worker jobs worldwide will be replaced by RPA bots thereby allowing staff to focus on more complex tasks.

Going beyond just RPA, businesses are seeing even greater benefits when investing in RPA alongside process or content automation technologies – with 71% having grown their revenue, compared to 37% of those using RPA alone. Again, we’re likely to see banking and financial services businesses leading the charge, to enhance efficiency and productivity in an uncertain economy.

CIOs will put AI ethics at the top of their agenda

The new challenge for CIOs adopting AI technologies comes down to one thing: ethics. It has now become paramount that CIOs know what uses of AI could cause problems – whether bad, biased or unethical – and what they can do to make sure their business remains on the right side. In 2020, we’ll see CIOs begin to question their AI deployments: are the AI applications they are building are moral, safe, and right? Is the data behind your AI technology good, or does it have algorithmic bias? 

With augmented intelligence set to the become the new normal, no CIO wants to be known for bad and biased use of AI – especially since the legal ramifications of such actions will ramp up significantly in 2020. This will be the year that AI ethics hits the agenda of every CIO, and businesses, workers, and the public will all benefit from it.

If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that we never know what’s around the corner when it comes to automation technologies – there will always be things that are impossible to predict. To ensure businesses are ready to tackle whatever comes next, moving towards the model of augmented intelligence will be crucial. Those adopting process and content intelligence RPA, AI, and machine learning, must enable human workers to work in harmony with their digital counterparts. In 2020, we should see this become a reality for businesses across the UK and beyond.

About the Author

Neil Murphy is Global VP at ABBYY. ABBYY is a global leader in Content IQ for the Enterprise. We are a global company that sets the standard for content capture with innovative language-based technologies that integrate across the information lifecycle. ABBYY solutions optimize business processes to mitigate risk, accelerate decision-making and drive revenue.

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