Software is getting smarter, thanks to predictive analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). Whereas the current generation of software is about enabling smarter decision-making for humans, we’re starting to see “invisible software" capable of performing tasks without human intervention. 

One such example is, a software-based personal assistant that schedules meetings for you. With no user interface, you simply cc “Amy” on an email thread and she goes to work engaging with the recipient to find a date and optimal place to meet.

It’s not a perfectly automated system. AI trainers oversee Amy’s interactions and make adjustments on the fly. But over time, she becomes a great personal assistant who is sensitive to your meeting and communication preferences. 

One can imagine Amy extending into new domains — taking on parts of sales/customer service operations or business processes like expense management and DevOps. Indeed, we’ll see a new generation of AI-powered apps, as predicted here.

Software automating jobs has been widely debated by economists and academics. This past fall, my colleague John McCarthy and I threw our hats in the ring, predicting that nearly one-third of US service-based jobs would be disrupted by the end of the decade. This year, Andy Hoar and JP Gownder will each be taking a closer look at automation in customer-facing business processes.

CIOs and business leaders thinking about how technology changes the workplace should pay particular attention to developments toward UI-less “invisible software.” With a higher level of abstraction, this new generation of software will have a greater impact on human jobs than ever seen before.

Special thanks to Dennis R. Mortensen and Matt Turck for contributing their thoughts.