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I’ve been with SAP for just over a decade now and during this time I’ve seen the ebbs and flows of all things enterprise tech. In my current role, focused on innovation in cloud technology, the last year has been an exciting one when it comes to exploring the promise of advanced technologies, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI).  

Now more than ever it seems like growth in AI is coming to the forefront in terms of prioritization. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, AI will be a top five investment priority for more than 30 percent of CIOs.

On that note, as we look to 2018, I see AI playing an increasing role for enterprises in moving from ideation to reality in shaping business applications and processes and ERP processes and applications. With this in mind, I’ve outlined the three areas I predict AI and advanced analytics will have the biggest impact as we move into 2018:

  1. AI Will Begin Demonstrating ROI.

AI helps power essential business processes by making sense of the complex, sometimes overwhelming, real-world data. In the next year, AI will be increasingly leveraged in the enterprise to automate processes, identify pain points, and predict when technologies might fail or require maintenance. IDC says that by 2019, 40 percent of digital transformation initiatives will use AI services. In the coming year, businesses will begin to truly reap the benefits as AI automates more monotonous tasks, enabling employees to focus on developing innovations that create the most value for a business.

From automating individual functional tasks right through to end-to-end process automation and ultimately autonomy, the aim is to free up resources, enabling employees to spend their time on the tasks that create the most value for customers. AI can augment and even completely remove human-machine interaction, in both cases vastly improving organizations’ ability to deliver this additional value.

  1. Voice-activated Assistants will be the New Normal.

Voice-activated digital assistants will become popular in the business environment, as IDC also found in its study that almost 50 percent of new mobile apps use voice as a primary interface. These digital assistants will allow employees to conversationally interact with key applications and data insights. Intelligent enterprises will leverage the capabilities of natural language processing and machine learning to offer a cognitive and conversational user experience. Based on their role and the specific business context, users will be guided through complex workflows, with the digital assistants recognizing and learning from situations and providing insights and suggestions for next steps. Indeed, so great is the expected impact that Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30 percent of web-browsing sessions will be done without a screen.

Alexa for Business, which has just been announced by Amazon, is one early example of this trend – demonstrating the fast impact that this technology will have. Now employees can make calls, manage their calendars, run to-do lists, and schedule reminders without lifting a finger. This will inevitably save employees time, again freeing them up to take on more strategic and mindful tasks instead of focusing on mundane day-to-day activities.

  1. Big Data and Analytics Investment Will Grow.

A recent study conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics found that 94 percent of leaders in business technology are investing in big data and analytics technology, fueling more access to real-time data. This will continue to be a top priority in 2018 for companies on their digital transformation journey, letting them turn insights into actions, for real-time results. Whether it’s data from an internal or external source, structured or unstructured, companies need the tools to manage, govern, analyze, and gain insights from their data as and when they need them.

What else will come from this trend? Forrester is expecting that 50 percent of enterprises are going to adapt a public-cloud-first policy in 2018 to handle the influx in data, big data, and analytics. This will ensure that they are continuing to drive down costs and ensure flexibility within their applications, accomplishing primary top financial and operational goals.

Explore the promise of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) – and how they will shape business strategy going forward.

It’s clear that the upcoming year is going to bring some impactful changes to the world of technology. What are your thoughts on 2018 priorities and predictions? Share your thoughts with me here, or on Twitter @SDenecken.