AI, Automation Predictions for 2022: More Big Changes Ahead

After two years of rapid change, what's next for enterprises? Forrester Research offers their top 5 predictions for AI and also for automation in 2022.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

November 9, 2021

5 Min Read
Olekcii Mach via Alamy Stock

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to normal -- are you ready for round two?

“There are big changes ahead,” says Forrester VP Brandon Purcell. “There are a lot of changes that have been brought about by what happened over the last 2 years. The pace of change is very rapid. There are pretty big things happening.”

Purcell spoke with InformationWeek about the predictions for AI in 2022 and beyond.

One of the big changes coming is that the market for responsible AI solutions will double in 2022, according to Forrester. Purcell says this includes technology that helps ensure that AI meets ethical requirements, that it is explainable, fair, and privacy compliant.

Regulations are part of what is driving this change. Public opinion is also a factor. Consumers are paying attention to the headlines, according to Purcell.

Work in this area can dovetail with efforts in AI governance, he says, and organizations will be looking to MLOps and modelOps to help govern, monitor, and manage artificial intelligence systems over time.

“What accelerated adoption of these technologies is when the pandemic happened people’s behaviors changed overnight,” Purcell says. "Any models that had been built on previous behavior were no longer any good. MLOps is a discipline that helps determine when models are no longer effective.” Several vendors have already built this capability into their technology, including Microsoft, Google, and DataRobot, according to Purcell.

The following are a few of Forrester’s other predictions around AI in the next year and beyond:

One in five organizations will double-down on “AI inside” to boost real-time readiness. Forrester defines this “AI inside” as AI that’s embedded at the core of everything from architecture to operations. Traditional businesses will relaunch themselves as platform companies. Forrester said in its report that these capabilities will enable offerings such as virtual care by CVS and Walgreens, and digital baristas from Nestle Nespresso.

A full 15% of non-technology companies will include design and testing talent in AI teams. Forrester said that more brands will turn to this kind of well-grounded software engineering and experience design practices to create AI-infused products and applications.

3D computer vision will make the enterprise metaverse a reality in over five deployments. Forrester said the metaverse -- the convergence of physical and digital -- is fast becoming the next fad in tech. The firm notes that Facebook, Roblox, and Tencent have already made big bets in the arena. Microsoft also announced a metaverse component to its Teams collaboration software at the recent Ignite conference. Forrester said it expects the consumer metaverse bubble to burst in 2022 due to regulations in cryptocurrency and gaming, insufficient connectivity for real time experience, and other limitations. Meanwhile, enterprise metaverse solutions will move on a path toward successful early deployments, helping hybrid and distributed workforces connect, according to Forrester.

Creative AI systems will win dozens of patents. Forrester noted that South Africa granted the first patent to a creative AI system known as DABUS, although the US and EU rejected the same application on the grounds that only humans can receive patents. However, Forrester said it believes that this is the first step and that in 2022 there will be dozens of patents granted to creative machines.

On the automation side, the top prediction is a response to what many are calling “The Great Resignation” and a shortage of workers, according to Forrester VP Craig Le Clair, who spoke with InformationWeek in an interview. In response to this, Forrester expects 35% of service companies will introduce physical robot workers. Specifically, investment in service worker automation for customer self-service, grounds maintenance, delivery robots, food preparation, surveillance, and janitorial support will accelerate greatly in 2022, altering the low-end service worker landscape.

The following are Forrester’s other automation predictions for 2022 and beyond:

A full 5% of the Fortune 500 will adopt automation fabric to fuel innovation. “Companies with advanced automation programs will obliterate -- not merely beat -- the competition,” Forrester analysts wrote in the predictions report. “To reach this state, enterprises must define an automation fabric -- a framework to build, orchestrate, and govern a hybrid workforce of human and digital workers -- that links AI-based and traditional automation components, along with a proactive program for innovation.” Forrester pointed out that companies such as Unilever and Amazon already have long-running, sustained automation programs that provide for innovation, not just cost cutting.

Advancing automation will push 15% of enterprises to monitor employee psychology. Forrester warned that automation innovators need to be sensitive to the psychological impact of automation on employees. Ignoring this impact can hamper or derail automation efforts, the firm said.

New entrants and platform convergence will inhibit RPA growth by 10%. These markets have enjoyed healthy growth over the past several years, but there are many tools available now both from pure-play companies like UiPath and AA, and Tibco’s Blue Prism, as well as enterprise application cloud providers such as Salesforce and ServiceNow that have added RPA to their offerings. New AI-led vendors such as Arago and Amelia will encroach on the process automation market in 2022, taking at least 10% of new market share, according to Forrester. For the first time, enterprises will be able to buy end-to-end business automation platforms that embrace task and process mining, RPA, DPA, a decisioning engine, low-code/no code, capabilities, and automation testing features, Forrester stated in its report.

A full 15% of automation COEs will broaden their scope to include AI-led initiatives. Forrester noted that the first generation of automation centers of excellence was tactical and built around RPA. The next generation will require firms to be adaptive, creative, and resilient, with a balanced focus on tactical and strategic technologies. Organizations will need to prune their portfolios of redundancy, technical debt, and non-strategic capabilities.

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About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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