The artificial intelligence zeitgeist today is filled with grand vision, pragmatism, hope, fear, success, failure, and everything in between. As with any megatrend, AI has captured the imagination and envy of many corporate leaders. Our data shows that many groups across the enterprise (software developers, B2C marketers, data and analytics decision makers, mobility decision makers, etc.) have already tiptoed into some form of AI.

In 2020, 25% of the Fortune 500 will ramp up tactical intelligent process automation projects.

We believe 2020 will be the year when companies become laser-focused on AI value, leap out of experimentation mode, and ground themselves in reality to accelerate adoption. Specifically, our report predicts that:

  • Confident CDAOs and CIOs will come to the rescue to break data logjams. Data scientists often struggle to acquire, transform, and prepare the data they need to start a machine-learning (ML) project. Data lakes, data engineers, and data prep tools have helped, but the real problem is sourcing data from a complex portfolio of applications and convincing various data gatekeepers to play along. In 2020, senior executives like chief data and analytics officers (CDAOs) and CIOs who are serious about AI will come to the rescue, with a top-down mandate to get around the data access problem. Firms with chief data officers (CDOs) are already about 1.5 times more likely to use AI, ML, and/or deep learning for their insights initiatives than those without CDOs. Leadership matters.
  • Four out of five conversational AI interactions will continue to disappoint Turing. Brands have flocked to conversational AI and chatbots to reduce the strain on (and costs of) their customer service organizations. But more often than not, these overly ambitious projects fail to resolve customers’ issues or answer their questions. Despite the maturation of the toolsets — including the expansion of prebuilt and vertical-specific intent libraries and higher-power natural language understanding (NLU) engines — by the end of 2020, conversational AI will still power less than 20% of successful customer service interactions. That leaves the lion’s share of customers stuck interacting with chatbots that won’t even get close to passing the famed Turing test.
  • Three high-profile PR disasters will rattle reputations but won’t wreck trust in AI. AI can perpetuate harmful discrimination, bias, and even lead to fatal consequences — harming customers and corporate reputations. In 2020, the potential areas for harm will multiply: The spread of deepfakes, misuse of facial recognition, and overuse of personalization can harm, offend, or creep out customers and employees. Fortune 100 firms will have the most to lose, and we expect a few of them to face the most public exposure when things go wrong. But these imbroglios won’t slow AI adoption plans next year. Instead, they will highlight the importance of designing, testing, and deploying responsible AI systems — with sound AI governance that considers bias, fairness, transparency, explainability, and accountability.

Read our full report for more details and more 2020 AI predictions.

Several Forrester analysts and research colleagues authored and contributed to this year’s AI predictions including Mike Gualtieri, Craig LeClair, JP Gownder, Ian Jacobs, Andrew Hogan, Chris Gardner, Diego Lo Giudice and Chandler Hennig.