Automation will be central to the next phase of digital transformation, driving new levels of customer value such as faster delivery of products, higher quality and dependability, deeper personalization, and greater convenience. Last year, Forrester predicted that automation would reach a tipping point — altering the workforce, augmenting employees, and driving new levels of customer value. Since then, we’ve seen RPA vendors soar in value; UiPath reached $3 billion valuation in September. Physical robotics leader ABB announced plans to have robots build other robots in its production process. And MIT announced a $1 billion initiative for a new college focused on AI.

As CIOs and other technology and business leaders move to take advantage of this automation tipping point, they must navigate between hype and pragmatism. This week, Forrester released our 2019 predictions report on the automation world, focusing on how automation will drive new business value. Among other predictions, three stand out:

  • Ten percent of jobs will be lost, but 3% will be created. Since 2015, Forrester has tracked the impact that automation technologies are having on employment. While popular assessments insist that nearly half of jobs will be destroyed, Forrester’s viewpoint has been that humans and machines will collaborate in many workflows and that the automation economy will create new jobs. In 2019, we’ll see more creation than in 2018 (2%), as CIOs hire bot masters to manage RPA bots, creatives and designers to improve user interfaces of chatbots and voice skills, and process experts to solve business problems. As for jobs lost, they won’t necessarily drive up the unemployment rate if labor participation rates remain relatively low. The end result of this growth in automation will be a benefit in employee experience as rote tasks get handed off to able bots.
  • Organizations will invest in structures and frameworks. By the end of 2019, we predict that 40% of enterprises will have automation centers and frameworks in place. Proliferating automation platforms (from RPA to DPA to BPM to ML and beyond) make aligning the right solution to the right use case challenging. In response, companies will invest in centralized coordination centers — automation centers or centers of excellence — designed based on unifying frameworks. These automation centers will determine how to apply different automation technologies to various business problems while driving base practices and technical compatibility and integration.
  • One in 10 startups will begin life with more digital workers than human ones. Today’s most successful companies generally operate with fewer employees than those of the past. Consider that Kodak at its peak in 1973 employed 120,000, but when Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, the photo-sharing site employed only 13 workers. In 2019, we predict that one in 10 startups — operating in a more agile, lean, and scalable fashion — will look at the world through the lens of tasks, not jobs, and will build business models around automation-first principles.

These and other developments in automation will continue to reshape how we do business. While hype remains a concern, there are so many practical, real-world use cases that the automation revolution will only accelerate in 2019. We invite clients to read the full predictions report for more insights.

Download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide to understand the 14 major dynamics that will impact firms next year. 

Several Forrester analysts, researchers, and research associates contributed to this year’s automation predictions, including: Glenn O’Donnell, Craig Le Clair, Chris Gardner, Bill Martorelli, Christopher Condo, and Jenny Thai.