Companies deploying artificial intelligence (AI) should look closer at the integration challenges, says an executive at software company Appian.

That’s because the ideal AI strategy combines multiple automation technologies, says Paul Maguire, Senior Vice President for EMEA & APAC at Appian, which sells a platform for building business applications with minimal programming.

“Today’s automation technologies by themselves are restricted in their potential,” Maguire says.

He says companies can fix that by making AI a cog in an “intelligent automation” (IA) machine. This involves integrating it with business process management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning or chatbots.

For example, an AI-enabled chatbot could integrate with an RPA-driven customer relationship management or customer support system to help improve sales or customer service.

Good AI strategy also involves getting automation technologies working across entire businesses, rather than deploying them in isolation, Maguire adds.

Of course, this will create more integration work.

“What we’re currently seeing in the market is that many businesses are challenged because they are stuck with complex business processes and legacy systems that slow them down, Maguire says.

“And when they do look at automation, they find it difficult to identify which platforms will meet specific, but also wider business needs, while also being able to be integrated into a seamless solution,” Maguire comments.

Discouraging custom code

Appian’s promoting this issue because it pitches its “low code” application development platform as a solution. The drag-and-drop, visual platform is marketed as a way to unite and orchestrate data, systems, AI, RPA and BPM “without writing code”.

Appian tells CIOs that if they reduce their reliance on custom code they’ll decrease risk, speed up integration and deployment, and help IT teams meet deadlines.

Maguire doesn’t think automation deployment timelines typically take into account the pressure IT teams are under. In fact, more than 40 percent of the 305 senior Asia Pacific IT leaders Appian surveyed in September 2019 saw pressure to adopt AI, RPA and analytics as a challenge. And about half pointed to organisational culture and delivery speed as challenges.

Yet, many CIOs surveyed by Appian expect greater use of custom code in the future. Nearly half expected a shift to “fully custom coding” to build applications.

“A move to fully custom coding would only accentuate the many challenges - cultural resistance, speed of delivery, customer demand, skills gap and resource shortages, and ability to meet deadlines - IT departments already report they are faced with as a result of digital transformation and desired business outcomes,” Maguire argues.

Setting a benchmark

Some organisations are paying more attention to this issue. Maguire points to Queensland University of Technology, which is an Appian user and has created a business unit focussed on using automation to improve processes.

And he singles out Internet data provider and Appian user Belong, which created a guild to get all its business teams involved in intelligent automation.

“While working with Belong we’ve seen the business achieve great results from breaking down barriers between IT and the rest of its people, so that the whole business collaborates on IA and has shared goals,” he comments.

The need for other companies to follow suit will only grow, Maguire predicts.

“Automation is everywhere. From RPA to AI, any projection for the future seems to include these and other facets of intelligent automation and the impact it will have on business models.”

Sponsored by Appian.