Top 2020 AI Trends: Why People Actually Want More Machines in the Workplace

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will soon be everywhere, and we will learn to love them for all the right reasons. That is my prediction after seeing the latest research about these fast-evolving technologies. Read on for a quick update on 2020 AI trends from leading industry analysts.

Expect Booming Growth for AI and Machine Learning

Begin with the big picture: Gartner analysts said that AI — with a particular emphasis on machine learning — will eventually infiltrate just about every existing technology. IDC predicted companies will invest over $265 billion worldwide in new intelligence technologies by 2023.

Slightly further out, IDC researchers predicted that AI will be inescapable by 2025. These analysts saw AI as a “key ingredient” in 90 percent of business software applications. They also said that over 50 percent of user interface interactions will incorporate AI into computer vision, speech, natural language processing, and augmented and virtual reality. Forrester analysts called automation “a force-multiplier that will disrupt economic opportunity for many… a dynamic already underway that will pick up substantial speed and scope and requires attention now.”

AI: Fastest Route to Victory

One pervasive theme in 2020 AI trends was speed, or as many analysts called it, “hyper-automation.” Gartner analysts predicted that hyper-automation will spread big-time, notably into more traditional knowledge worker tasks. By 2024, IDC said AI-fueled enterprises with “proactive, hyper-speed operational changes and market reactions, will respond to customers, competitors, regulators, and partners 50 percent faster than their peers.”

Regarding customer experience (CX), Forrester researchers saw near-real-time experiences becoming table stakes for most industries as companies were pressured to build matching real-time customer experience signals. Forrester researchers predicted that CX leaders will manage a “portfolio of automation experiences, from the building and testing of data to the delivery and perceived value (or lack of value) of those experiences.”

Humans Plus Machines: The New Norm

Here is the kicker, and it’s heartening to us humans: Gartner researchers said that AI and machine learning will not completely replace people because “AI-driven autonomous capabilities… cannot match the human brain’s breadth of intelligence and dynamic general-purpose learning. Instead, they focus on well-scoped purposes, particularly for automating routine human activities.”

Forrester analysts picked up the human-machine thread, predicting that work will depend on “a symbiotic relationship between [hu]man and machine. This is not a [hu]man-led, machine-do structure; instead it will match leadership, decisioning, and executive tasks across robots and machines that best deliver the desired outcome.”

Additionally, about those 90 percent of enterprise applications that IDC predicted will be chock-full of AI, the same researchers said most will “deliver incremental improvements to automate processes and replace heuristic or rule-based techniques to make applications smarter and more dynamic.”

How Machine Learning Benefits Daily Business

There are many places in the business where a strategic dose of AI and machine learning will quietly, yet dramatically change how people work and companies operate. These include order to cash, design to operate, customer experience, and procurement.

In this video demonstration at the SAP TechEd event, I saw how image-based recognition helped automate the procurement experience. It showed how a buyer ordering everyday equipment – such as a laptop, keyboard, or mobile device – would not need to type in product names or model numbers. The buyer could simply take a picture of the product on their mobile device and the algorithm would quickly find the exact product or suggested comparable items from the supplier catalog.

“This just one example of how we’re applying machine learning in small steps in hundreds of places across SAP solutions,” said Jana Richter, chief product owner of SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Applications. “It doesn’t completely change procurement, but brings automation and convenience where it counts — in this instance, to image-based purchasing.”

What the AI Future Holds

In Gartner’s latest surveys, respondents who wanted AI to help with tasks outnumbered those who wanted AI to completely take over tasks three to one. That is likely because the same respondents ranked, in order of importance, their top-three reasons for using AI as: automating repetitive or manual tasks, improving customer experience, and reducing costs.

As for where people come in, Forrester analysts advised workers to learn core skills, adapt to new working models, and “understand what it means to be ready and fit for the future, maximizing their ‘Robotics Quotient (RQ).’” For the uninitiated, Forrester coined the term RQ, which scores someone’s ability to work with machines.

Naturally, analysts have caveats about AI’s growing prevalence, but that’s for another article.


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