The market ecosystem of automation technologies – and the terminology, acronyms, and jargon surrounding it – are evolving so quickly it is rapidly outpacing most organizations’ abilities to make sense of it all.

Let me give you an example. While many struggle to embrace the term “robotic process automation” (thinking that robotic must mean physical devices rather than virtual or software-delivered versions), along comes a litany of other technologies to understand, such as autonomics, cognitive systems, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, emotional recognition, machine learning, deep learning, intelligent APIs, and neural networks.   The real issue is not keeping up with this firehose of products but understanding where and how they can help companies solve real business problems.

While the cognitive technology solutions market is projected to exceed $40 billion by the year 2020 (per IDC’s ICT Market Outlook on October 2015 webcast, by Crawford Del Prete) is there a less complex view to understand the potential value of automation?  Yes there is!

Do. Think. Learn.  The Three Horizons of Automation

At Cognizant, we recognized the client need for an “easier discussion” around the automation ecosystem and a clearer view of how it can help them achieve the outcomes and results they are seeking.  Thus, we have developed ourThree Horizon Automation Ecosystem which includes:

  • Horizon One: Systems that DO
  • Horizon Two: Systems that THINK
  • Horizon Three: Systems that LEARN

Our Do, Think and Learn Automation Ecosystem incorporates automation platforms, tools, and vendors along with many complimentary technologies representing what we call innovation multipliers.

Our ecosystem market analysis now includes hundreds of individual companies across these horizons.  While our research teams continuously monitor and track these companies our Automation Innovation Lab benchmarks their technologies and creates use cases of where they apply best.  Ultimately, many become part of the services, offerings and solutions we provide our clients.

Along with this ecosystem horizon model, we have developed our Intelligent Automation Framework to encompass the many Cognizant solutions that span the “do, think, and learn” continuum.  These solutions include automation ideation, center-of-excellence enablement, automation integration, and industry-specific as-a-service automation programs.  Most importantly, they have evolved well past back office process automation in the BPS environment and now address opportunities in infrastructure, enterprise applications, QA and software development, maintenance and support.

Intelligent Automation is now a true differentiator for leaders of shared services, transformation and innovation, outsourcing, and operational areas such as: human resources, finance, supply chain, and support services.  As HfS Research has pointed out in announcing their 2016 Autonomics Premiere League,“Crucially, the discussion on Intelligent Automation will move beyond RPA toward broad notions of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. Thus, the ability to manage and integrate this plethora of automation approaches will become the reference point for providers’ maturity and ultimate success.”

Rather than looking at 2016 as yet another Year of the Robot as many are predicting, I foresee it as the year of simplification and believe it will be heralded by less and less focus on individual technologies (and jargon) and more on solutions and outcomes that actually solve client challenges.   We’ll know soon enough!