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Navigating the future

A transformative tide is sweeping through the enterprise, fueled by the unyielding demand for labor, an insatiable quest for productivity, and the promise of AI solutions. With a tumultuous backdrop of geopolitical upheaval, organizations find themselves in an exhilarating race toward digital transformation, where survival requires adaptation and success requires innovation.

Hybrid work is an example of the need for both adaptation and innovation. This new reality is propelling a surge in demand for digital solutions and changing how we’ve previously optimized and automated enterprise processes. It also ushers in a paradigm shift in how we engage with technology and sets the stage for generative AI to bridge the gaps in processes and technologies to create a seamless, integrated experience.

With the transformative AI-driven technology shifts we’ve experienced in 2023, with ChatGPT and Midjourney being the most renowned, it is clear that the rate of innovation is showing no signs of slowing. So, what does this mean as we glide into 2024? How will these and other yet-to-be-announced innovations affect enterprises? Join me on a journey into the future as I unveil five—some of which you will find surprising—predictions for enterprise automation in the upcoming year.

My predictions at a glance:

  1. Automation and AI will drive billions of dollars in enterprise value, rapidly.
  2. The Chief AI Officer will disappear.
  3. Bad actors will use AI to influence critical events, with immediate effects.
  4. Governments will fail to define effective AI governance and security guidelines.
  5. AI’s hype will increase the vaporware.

Prediction 1: Automation and AI will drive billions of dollars in enterprise value, rapidly.

Enterprises are poised to realize substantial benefits from the adoption of AI and automation. However, it will only be at organizations that see the combination of AI and automation as an integral pillar of enterprise architecture rather than just a cost-cutting tool. Leading companies are no longer tinkering around the edges; they're making automation the starting point for any project or process. And the results are nothing short of remarkable.

Consider Petrobras, which expects to save a jaw-dropping $1 billion in just a few years. But Petrobras isn't alone in this financial quest—numerous enterprises are investing big, armed with specific financial or productivity objectives. Here's the secret to reaching such massive levels of value:

  • Embrace AI boldly: Don't tiptoe into AI; embrace it wholeheartedly, leaving hesitant competitors in the dust.
  • Make AI integral to transformation: Build AI into every automated process.
  • Democratize AI: Give every employee AI-based tools to be comfortable with them and use AI daily.
  • View data as the new frontier: Elevate data privacy and ownership as data becomes your primary intellectual property and defensive moat.
  • Expedite the savings: This isn't a marathon; it's a sprint: Petrobras found $120 million in savings in just three weeks.

Prediction 2: The Chief AI Officer will disappear.

Even now, the concept of the Chief AI Officer is gaining prominence and capturing imaginations. The notion of a dedicated executive solely focused on AI strategy is a must-have for progressive organizations. But not for long. The reality will reveal a more nuanced role as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) emerges as the natural choice for steering AI strategy. This is not a deprioritization of AI but rather an acknowledgment that AI requires a more cohesive integration to broader technological and business strategies.

In 2024, R&D teams will also gear up for a deeper dive into generative AI, signaling a commitment to exploiting its transformative potential. On the frontline, product managers will find themselves at a crossroads, contemplating how AI can shape, challenge, or revolutionize their roles and the customer’s perspective. The CTO will educate and guide the rest of the c-suite on the value of AI, a strategic shift that places AI at the heart of more business decisions.

Prediction 3: Bad actors will use AI to influence critical events, with immediate effects.

Yes, that includes the upcoming 2024 US presidential election. The concern intensifies as we contemplate an AI disaster scenario—where AI is used for manipulation, hacking, and unethical interference. It is easy to picture a scenario where AI is used to influence voters through deepfakes featuring presidential candidates. The creation of highly realistic, AI-generated photos and videos makes fiction indistinguishable from truth, posing a significant threat to the integrity of democratic processes, especially when this content is targeted and spread through social media networks.

Now consider how bad actors, disgruntled employees, and outright criminals can use the same tactics to impact your business. The power to create deepfakes is no longer confined to experts alone. Now, anyone and everyone possesses the capability to craft convincing AI-generated content. This amplifies the potential for widespread misinformation and manipulation, amplifying the challenges in safeguarding the integrity of critical events or simple business transactions.

These scenarios underscore the urgent need for responsible AI practices, robust governance frameworks, and heightened security measures. It is a call to action for governments, industry groups, and corporations to fortify their defenses and ensure the responsible use of AI by alerting users to the risks of unverified online content.

Prediction 4: Governments will fail to define effective AI governance and security guidelines.

Governments, recognizing the imperative to regulate AI for companies, are already working to define governance and security guidelines. The ambition is commendable, acknowledging the urgency to establish a regulatory framework. However, the road ahead for AI guardrails is arduous, and success is not imminent. It's a worthy effort, a necessary undertaking, but one that will unfold over an extended timeline, with no breakthroughs in 2024.

As an early step in this endeavor, the current US administration's executive order on AI and the EU’s AI Act, among others, are a positive start. However, it's essential to underscore that this is just the beginning. Here are just a few things making AI governance such a challenge:

  • The dynamic and adaptive nature of AI. Driven by highly technical concepts, AI is difficult for regulatory bodies to understand, let alone regulate.
  • Challenges arise in determining ownership of AI-generated content. Establishing legal distinctions in the face of subtle alterations in images, code, or other elements breaks new ground for regulators.
  • Governments face technological, funding, and resource constraints. The rapid evolution of AI will quickly lead to outdated regulations that languish and serve as obstacles to innovation.

These challenges don't diminish the importance of regulation. Instead, it underscores the challenge regulators face. The intricacies in defining effective governance and security guidelines for AI demand a thorough and measured approach, which won't soon happen. But regulators have effectively governed other industries, such as ensuring food products list potential allergens, automobiles have proper seat belts, and airline pilots don't exceed flight time limitations. We can do the same for AI, too, but it may take several years.

Prediction 5: AI’s hype will increase the vaporware.

The combination of AI’s potential impact and its attractiveness to investors (AI-related startups claimed 25% of all venture funding in 2023) means more and more solution providers will enter the market. That choice is great for enterprises, especially for Intelligent Automation, but it also forces decision-makers to see through any smoke and mirrors and align themselves with proven, tested technologies and teams. Here are a few things enterprises must be wary of in 2024:

  • Model proliferation. Startups, established vendors, researchers, and others will release models galore, each optimized for different, niche, broad, overlapping, or indeterminate domains, and sowing confusion in the market as proprietors make big claims that become difficult to evaluate.
  • Too much choice, not enough proof. There will be a plethora of new AI offerings that either work badly or don't work at all, which will brew frustration as technical, data science, and AI-specific due diligence become a critical, slow, and expensive component of the buying process.
  • Trust over splash. Smarter enterprises will avoid placing too many chips on the “peak of inflated expectations” yet continue to invest in trusted, proven platforms that allow experimentation, innovation, and customization.

Successful companies stay on technology’s leading edge by overweighting on proven solutions while accepting the healthy risk of experimenting with and learning from envelope-pushing innovations. This maximizes the impact today and positions enterprises to act quickly when tomorrow’s promise becomes a reality. Those who can see through the hype are already far ahead of the pack.

Create your Automation + AI future

AI is poised to deliver massive value to enterprises, but only for those that can see through the hype: generative AI just hit the Peak of Inflated Expectations on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2023. But, just as all new technologies—the cloud, video conferencing, virtual assistants, the internet itself—cycle through peaks and troughs, leading enterprises quickly recognize the value and use these innovations to their advantage and well before their competitors. AI is no different.

The above predictions are just a glimpse into how I believe Intelligent Automation, AI, and generative AI will shape our world and your organization in 2024 and into the future. AI is here to stay; that is one thing we know. Whether your organization adapts, innovates, and seizes the opportunities that come your way or waits, lags, and watches as competitors race ahead is up to you. Remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it.

About Prince Kohli

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Prince Kohli serves as chief technology officer with experience building products and teams spanning cloud computing, enterprise software, network transport, systems, and security.

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