A year ago, the biggest concern for automation was the dampening effect of economic uncertainty. But what a difference a year can make. In 2024, leading firms will surge ahead with transformative automation initiatives, fueled by a new wave of AI enthusiasm. Physical and cognitive automation will be boosted by advances in physical automation and practical application of large language models (LLMs) in operational enterprise use cases. LLMs packaged as autonomous workplace assistants (AWAs) or digital coworkers will augment a variety of operational use cases. Physical automation will see autonomous delivery take center stage, and process intelligence will take a data-first approach.

These trends are exciting, but the efforts will only pay off for those who consider the potential downsides, as well. In short, 2024 is poised to be a pivotal year for automation. Here’s a sneak peek at Forrester’s top automation predictions for 2024:

  • Ten percent of operational processes will use LLM-infused AWA digital coworkers. Operational tasks are internal activities that sell, deliver, tailor, or support a product or service and include general administrative, maintenance, and support processes. AI to automate these internal processes was the top choice from our survey of data analytics leaders, ranking ahead of customer experience, business agility, security, new revenue opportunity, and other investment areas. LLMs, coordinated by AWAs (digital coworkers), will power 10% of these operational process automations, drawing investment away from transformation initiatives that garner most of the LLM hype. LLMs with the greatest ROI will be company-specific and domain-specific.
  • Autonomous product deliveries will outpace robotaxi transit. Look for robotaxi distraction to be replaced by greater acceptance of autonomous physical-item deliveries. Despite the recent hype around robotaxis, regulators are pushing back after recent traffic jams and incidents were reported. Expect a booming year for self-driving forklifts, curbside delivery robots, and drone delivery, driven by the increasing popularity of e-commerce, the need for last-mile delivery solutions, and more sophisticated autonomous technologies.
  • Enterprise app vendors will disrupt the DPA market, taking 35% of new automation spend. Process tools embedded in enterprise application platforms, with improved process visualization, RPA tooling, and process intelligence support, will gain ground as a strong process option. Digital process automation (DPA) pure-plays such as Bizagi and Bonitasoft are getting squeezed from all sides: low-code such as Microsoft’s Power Automate and ServiceNow, robotic process automation platforms like UiPath and SS&C Blue Prism that are building in DPA support, and enterprise app vendors such as SAP and Salesforce.

2024 appears to be an exciting year for automation, filled with enthusiasm and activity. The enterprises that make the most of these trends are those that learn to balance the risk and reward of automation and target the right use cases for their organizations.

Forrester clients can read our full Predictions 2024: Automation report to get more detail about each of these predictions, plus two more bonus automation predictions. Set up a Forrester guidance session to discuss how these predictions could influence your plans or to plan out your 2024 automation strategy.

If you aren’t yet a Forrester client, you can download our complimentary Predictions guide, which covers our top predictions for 2024. Get additional complimentary resources, including webinars, on the Predictions 2024 hub.