Takeaways from Gartner 2024: Charting the Path to Intelligent Automation

28 May, 2024
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Last week, Gartner hosted CXOs, thought leaders, analysts, and solutions providers at its annual Application Innovation & Business Solutions Summit in Las Vegas. After three packed days of learning, listening, and networking, the Xebia team is ready to return to their clients and colleagues to share their insights. 

Top analysts from Gartner and executives from leading companies including PwC, Shazam, Sephora, Service Now, and the Coca-Cola Company converged at Gartner 2024 to share their approach to AI. Between last year’s conference and now, much of the fears around Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) have been quelled and confusion eased. Instead of debating what a possible AI-driven future might look like, this year’s conference was about charting the map to get there. 

Early adopters have found success and came ready to share with participants what they’d tried—and sometimes failed at—and the approaches that were making an impact. Across our team, we attended dozens of sessions, spoke to hundreds of business leaders, and even hosted a fireside chat with executives from Sephora, AT&T, and Corporate One Federal Credit Union. 

At Xebia, we’re contextualizing our learnings into four core areas that we believe are central to the next phase of digital transformation: Intelligent Automation, Applied and Generative AI, Cloud and Data Modernization, and Digital Products and Platforms. Together, these four buckets make up what we call, “Industry Digitalization,” or the engine powering digital transformation in every organization, regardless of size. Based on our learnings at Gartner, the path forward looks like this:

Intelligent Automation

In their opening keynote, Gartner analysts Howard Dodd and Anthony Mullen shared that more than half of AI projects never make it to production. “Why?” they pondered. Turns out, the answer is complicated. GenAI is not a bandaid for innovation, but rather a partner. In the case of the keynote, a dance partner. Building an AI strategy takes a careful combination of solutions and the right people to execute them. 

“AI isn’t a thing to buy, it’s a thing to do,” Mullen and Dodd said. Creating true intelligent automation requires human and technical strength. Humans are excellent at making complex decisions using intuition, creativity, empathy, and connection. AI on the other hand excels at automation and speed. Together, teams can move through three distinct phases of innovation: the AI partner executing with limits, full collaboration with the AI partner and seamless handoffs, and finally, fully autonomous AI. Automation becomes intelligent automation when you combine the strength of budding technology with years of human experience.

Applied and Generative AI

The next question we must ask ourselves is, “What are GenAI solutions for?” The Gartner team, known for its hype cycle tool to evaluate and analyze technology innovation life cycles, saved ample time over the three days to discuss where GenAI sits in the four-part journey.

According to Gartner, GenAI is at the peak of inflated expectations and still climbing. The impact the technology will have on enterprise expectations is indisputable, but we’re not there yet. The challenge for enterprise leaders is navigating the next cycle’s next phase, the trough of disillusionment, without losing momentum. 

All attendees wondered how to find the true value of GenAI and repeat it at scale. While no one can say for sure, yet, Gartner provided some clarity on the cases where GenAI is most valuable:

  • GenAI’s value is closely tied to industry and role. It won’t be applicable in every role at all times. 
  • GenAI’s value increases when humans and AI collaborate. Versus either alone. 
  • Text-only GenAI is less transformative than multi-modal. 
  • GenAI alone is less transformative than GenAI plus other AI capabilities, also known as composite AI. 

Finally, leaders across the conference agreed that the more people across the organization who have access to your data, the more valuable it is. If you aren’t building solutions designed to democratize your data, now is the time. 

Cloud and Data Modernization

For many, cloud migration was part of phase one of digital transformation. For those who haven’t embraced it, cloud migration is a significant step in successful data democratization. 

Prashanta Pradhan, CIO at Corporate One Federal Credit Union, shared that it is a key advantage for the mid-sized banks he serves. Without a robust cloud infrastructure, it is nearly impossible for smaller financial institutions to keep up with behemoths like JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America and the tools they can offer their customers. 

Much of the summit also focused on upskilling developers and training general business users to function as developers. PwC, in partnership with Microsoft, embraced a 1/10/100 model, where 1% of the firm acts as pure technologists, 10% is eager to adopt new technology and prototype use cases, and 100% recognizes the value of those use cases. Together, using the Microsoft Power platform, PwC has seen 55% faster project delivery and 45% cost reduction. Since its implementation in 2017, more than 75% of the firm has engaged with “MyAI” content. 

At PwC, transformation starts with people, encouraging support across the organization. 

Digital Products and Platforms 

Successful product implementation also starts with people. At Sephora, customers are at the center of the transformation journey according to Manbir Paul, VP of Engineering Data Insights & Marketing and guest panelist at Xebia’s fireside chat. Understanding and executing customer-driven solutions, like a robust e-commerce website with virtual try-on components, relies on data from across the organization. It is critical to their business to dissolve silos to unlock relevant experiences, boosting the lifetime value of each customer. 

Paul was clear about the importance of technology and people working together to improve customer experience. “Technology doesn’t unlock this,” he said. “It’s about how technology enables cross-functional teams to come together to create a better experience. This is a human-centric approach to personalization.”

What’s next?

After three days in Las Vegas at Gartner 2024, one thing is clear: technology alone is not the answer. Success is a combination of compassion, empathy, human experience, and technology. For maximum adoption, let people’s needs, both employees and customers, guide this phase of digital transformation. And finally, as guest keynote speaker Diana Nyad—the only person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage—reminded us: innovation is a team sport.


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