Intelligent Automation: Five Key Trends for 2021

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Eric Musser, general manager, intelligent automation, Pegasystems

Businesses continue to digitally transform at speed, and competition is intensifying. To thrive in 2021, simplifying business complexity, driving workforce agility and increasing efficiency is imperative. Intelligent automation is a key tool available to help enterprises over the next 12 months. But what can we expect from the technology in the year ahead?

Real low-code platforms will come to the fore in Intelligent Automation

‘Low-code washing’, whereby companies claim to offer low-code, but are just trying to capitalise on the technology hype, was commonplace last year and will continue in 2021. For example, one might claim a spreadsheet-like app is low code, when real low code is an enterprise-wide solution that enables IT teams and citizen developers to collaborate effectively and build great applications quickly and easily. This year, however, there will be more distinction made between true low code and knock-off versions. This will help organisations make sure what they invest in is a real solution that fully meets their needs.

Seamless technology integration will improve client-centric journeys in the intelligent automation sector

Organisational ability to seamlessly integrate technology with existing legacy systems will be vital in 2021, as smooth integration can boost customer experience. Indeed, Pega research found that for 58% of C-suite executives, integration of automation will be a big challenge over the next five years, and compatibility with third-party technologies will be too for 40% of them.

This year customers will shy away from highly disjointed online interactions, a problem that will be exacerbated should systems not be easy to integrate. Enterprises that will maintain customer loyalty will be ones that seamlessly integrate systems with the customer in the centre of the equation. This means regardless of the channel, customers experience outstanding service throughout a transaction and their unique journey.

Case management will be the cornerstone of intelligent automation

The fundamental principles of case management will be core to intelligent automation this year, as multichannel customer experiences and fast application development become standard. When thinking about customer, partner and employee journeys, businesses need to be smarter in their approach, and will realise they must apply case management with a focus on orchestration to be successful.

In this way, case management will offer the visibility and clarity leaders need on the status and execution of front and back-office work. As the pandemic continues to impact business operations, case-based automation will emerge as the golden standard. Pega’s study found over half (52%) of organisations were forced to look into operational and transactional use cases that rely on increased automation. Case management will keep evolving, and so too should organisations that leverage it.

Robotic Process Automation will fully lose its shine

Over the coming year we will see robotic process automation vendors struggling and having to carefully look at their strategy for growth. RPA has simply not lived up to the hype, and with businesses are realising this, standalone vendors will rebrand themselves, diversifying their solutions and expanding into other markets.

The age of hyper-automation will emerge

The last five years have fostered huge growth in AI, machine learning, low code and other advanced automation. In 2021, we will see the emergence of the age of hyper-automation, whereby these technologies start to coalesce and work seamlessly together. This will lead to the opportunity to roll out intelligent automation across the whole of the enterprise more quickly and easily than ever before.

Our research indicates half of C-level executives agree hyper-automation will impact their business’s customer service operations over the next five years, up from 37% today. It also shows leaders expect hyper-automation will become increasingly influential in areas such as supply and distribution chain (38% increase over the next five years), workflow and case management processes (29% growth over five years), and risk management (a 22% rise over five years).

Few people could have expected 2020 to play out as it did or the extent of the impact on businesses. In 2021, business leaders have an opportunity to examine room for improvement in how businesses prepare and react to change, and how they can drive competitive advantage with intelligent automation solutions. Those that invest in true, robust intelligent automation will be best placed to thrive.

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Eric Musser

A highly visible and well respected technical software executive, Eric Musser joined Pegasystems as part of the acquisition of OpenSpan in Aril 2016. Over the past 20 years he has build a successful track record of working closely with customers to drive technology solutions that are impactful to their business. This tenacious focus on customer results has proven to be a successful formula that he has repeated at multiple multinational technology companies resulting in value creation for shareholders and career growth for employees.

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