The hype around process intelligence kicked into overdrive in 2020. From investments to acquisitions to products, it was an exciting year by any measure. But 2021 promises to be filled with even more hype – and confusion – in the market as vendors look to capitalize on the growing interest from major companies.
Fueling this interest in enterprise process intelligence is the continuing focus on digital transformations. The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to rapidly modernize how their businesses operated. As early as April, the massive shift to remote work and education turned previously manual processes into digital efforts. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said that the company saw “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” But that transformation obviously didn’t end in April. And, now that managers and executives have experienced this level of speed and flexibility from their teams, there is no way they’ll move backwards once offices reopen in 2021.
But it’s not just digital transformation that’s going to drive process intelligence in the new year. Enterprises are finding more process automation opportunities to accelerate the shift from low- to high-value tasks for their workforce. Cybersecurity teams are putting suppliers under the microscope, especially as the number of vendors claiming process intelligence capabilities continues to grow and data privacy concerns increase. That growth is driven by market demand too, as more business functions seek process automation solutions and more innovative technologies are appearing in the market.
To help distinguish the 2021 signals from the noise, here are five predictions for process intelligence in the coming year.
- Process intelligence growth rate will exceed that of RPA.
For the past three years, RPA has been the fastest growing software category in the enterprise market. It exploded from $518M in 2017 to $1.6B in 2020, and is expected to hit $1.9 billion next year, according to Gartner. While the spending arrow will continue to trend upward and the overall market size will dwarf process intelligence, the new king of enterprise software growth in 2021 promises to be process intelligence. Companies are quickly realizing that RPA without process intelligence limits the value, blocks sustainable benefits, and typically requires rework. Process intelligence will become the natural prerequisite to RPA, and the annual growth rate will approach 50% next year with the overall market size exceeding RPA in 2025.
- Data privacy concerns will influence vendor selection.
As the market transitions from point process intelligence deployments within a specific business unit to wider adoption across an enterprise, the issue of data security and privacy will become a bigger issue. CISOs and security teams will be involved in more evaluations and suppliers will face greater scrutiny. It will not be enough to simply offer allow and deny lists of applications. Suppliers will be required to mask sensitive corporate data and personally identifiable information (PII) to meet requirements.
- Big enterprise software vendors will jump into the process intelligence market.
One of the major enterprise software leaders, such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft or Salesforce, will begin adding process intelligence technology natively into their platforms. This past year witnessed substantial interest from these companies in RPA technology, and 2021 promises a similar response in process intelligence. Their major customers are looking to address the process gap that exists in their own organizations, and the leading software vendors will look to fill the need as they have done in the past with ERP, CRM and RPA.
- Process intelligence will converge with complementary tools.
As process intelligence is essentially a diagnostic solution, it requires connections to other solutions to deliver the expected outcomes. Companies are looking to piggyback on the excitement in the software category with complementary solutions to drive exponential results. Each product can deliver value, but more total value is achieved when the solutions are used together. Workflow and AI/ML providers are the most logical partners as companies look to accelerate strategic initiatives with process intelligence. RPA is the most logical connection, and we already see solutions like Power Automate and Blue Prism establish connections. Valuable integrations will be made with customer experience and compliance technologies as well starting in 2021. Companies now have a unique and previously inaccessible data set of operational activity to search for patterns and streamline tasks across a variety of initiatives.
- Enterprises will move beyond financial and accounting opportunities.
Nearly every process mining demonstration or case study available is centered around financial and accounting services. Whether it is Order to Case (O2C), Procure to Pay (P2P) or Record to Report (R2R), process intelligence vendors seem unable or unwilling to expand their vision. What’s more likely is their technology struggles to address less structured business activities. To truly support the enterprise and grow the market, vendors will need to provide benefits for both front-office and back-office activities. This coming year will see more examples of process intelligence in new and novel areas of the business, such as talent management and data analytics.
What Do You Think?
That’s what we think is going to happen in the new year. We’ve put a lot of thought into these but would love to hear what you think. Do you disagree with any of our predictions? Are there others we missed? Don’t be afraid to let us know what you think 2021 has in store for process intelligence. Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and we’ll be sure to respond, or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy New Year!