What’s Ahead for Intelligent Automation – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series
by Daniel Newman | February 3, 2022

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series, I am joined by Jeanette Barlow, Vice President of Product Marketing for Pegasystems, for a conversation around the future of AI and intelligent automation.

What’s Ahead for Intelligent Automation

In our conversation we discussed the following:

  • The possible innovations we might see in 2022 in intelligent automation
  • How the brands will also focus on their employees more in the coming year
  • The role AI will play in the coming year
  • What is driving the changes we are seeing in the workplace

It was a great conversation and if you’re interested in the intelligent automation space, one you don’t want to miss. Want to learn more about what Pega is doing to move intelligent automation forward? Check out their website.

You can watch the video of our conversation here (and subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re there):

Or listen to my interview with Jeanette on your favorite streaming platform here:

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Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.


Daniel Newman: Hey everybody, welcome back to another edition of the Futurum Tech Webcast. I’m Daniel Newman, your host today. Principal Analyst, founding partner at Futurum Research, and very excited for this insider edition part of our interview series of the Futurum Tech Webcast. And today I’m going to have Jeanette Barlow, Vice President of Product Marketing of the Intelligent Automation platform at Pega. And I’ll bring her on in just a moment.

Now, before I do that, first of all, thanks to everybody out there and our audience that’s tuning into our show. We do love and appreciate everyone that watches our weekly show. We hope to provide a lot out of analysis. And when we bring partners like Pega onto the show, we hope we give you some good insights at some of the leaders in technology and what they are doing in the marketplace.

Quick disclaimer so you know, this show is for information and entertainment purposes only. And while I will be talking about and two executives from publicly traded companies, please do not take anything I say on this show as investment advice. Anyhow, we’re going to talk intelligent automation today. And without further ado, Jeanette Barlow, Vice President of Product Marketing of the Intelligent Automation platform at Pega, welcome to the show.

Jeanette Barlow: Thank you very much for having me, Daniel. I’m excited to be here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s a mouthful. That’s quite a title.

Jeanette Barlow: It is.

Daniel Newman: But that’s good. Listen, we’ve done a number of shows with the team at Pega. We’ve got a great partnership with the company. It’s been on a growth terror over the last year. I’m excited for you to tell me a little bit more about that. But of course, since this is your first time I believe joining the Futurum Tech Webcast, I’ve figured why don’t we start with introductions? Tell me a little bit about your background and the work you do at Pega?

Jeanette Barlow: Okay. Thank you. You’re right, Pega has been on a real growth trajectory. And that’s one of the reasons I was really drawn to join Pega. So I’m quickly coming up on my one year anniversary with Pega and could not be more excited. So I am one of those folks that made a career change during the pandemic. And so what we’ll talk about today is particularly of interest and relevant to my own personal experience.

Before joining Pega, I was really focused over many decades and we don’t have to count them all up on bringing innovation and tech into business solutions, and how we can apply that to address really some of the naughtier problems that a lot of enterprise organizations have. And most recently I was focused on the supply chain space, which we all know is fought with its own set of challenges. Here at Pega, I’m really helping elevate the intelligent automation platform story and how we go to market and the solutions we’re focused on.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. Well, first of all, at Futurum here, we’ve worked very closely with IBM. Off camera, I talked a little bit about that many years of attending Think, and I know probably past each other in the halls, if not, a few times across other technology events around the world. So it’s great to hear about the work you’re doing. And it has been really great to watch you and the team and Alan. Alan’s been on a few of my podcasts, great leader, very prolific, and also fascinating guy. Every time I’ve had him on the show and every chance I’ve had to talk to him, he’s thoughtful. He always makes me smile. And he’s also very provocative, which we all have to enjoy that a little bit too. He keeps us all honest.

Jeanette Barlow: Yeah, that could be a good and bad thing depending on where you’re sitting on the table, but really, truly you nailed it. We are very fortunate to have the leadership of Alan here at Pega. And it’s inspiring every day to just watch him and the rest of the leadership how they’re thinking about charting that path forward for ourselves and for our clients when it comes to things like digital transformation and on the automating of processes and workflows that are pervasive throughout an organization.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And so let’s talk a little bit more about you. You focus on the intelligent automation business at Pega. What are you seeing there? What kind of innovation are you thinking that the market is going to see the year ahead? Well, can you share, of course, I know you can’t share everything, but come on.

Jeanette Barlow: So there are several things are going on here. Let me key on one of them in particular I think is going to be a shift or an evolution, if you will, in the focus. Really, intelligent automation started very much at the front of store if you want to think about it, or the very front doors of an organization and focused very much on that customer experience. And that was critical.

I think what you’re going to see is an expanding of the thinking around intelligent automation to be much more to end and focused on the total experience, not just customers, obviously they continue to be at the forefront and the center, but also the employees, the IT teams and everyone involved in that. And I think you’re going to see many more organizations focusing on creating those consistent experiences for everyone into end.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, as I’ve been watching the marketplace, I think automation, it’s one of those things that it’s not really new, but every year there’s something new about it. I wrote a book a few years ago now called Human Machine and it was focused on the relationship. And funny as a lot of people think about robotics, think about it on, they literally think about robots running around in office. They think about the Boston Dynamics type of robots. And of course, you’ve got the Amazon robots that are moving equipment around. And if you’ve ever been in one of their fulfillment centers, it’s absolutely fascinating.

But most of the automation we’re seeing is in software. It is taking processes, it’s making them more smooth. It’s eliminating unnecessary repetition. It’s taking data and the valuable data to create better experiences. It’s helping customer service agents predict better next steps to help consumer and customers get to their next actions. And that’s something, by the way, I’ve heard Pega talk about for years, the NBA, the Next Best Action.

But as I see it, you mentioned a lot about how customers and the experiences can be driven. But one of the things that I think the automation space has a big opportunity to help it is with employees and actually the process is, and I was alluding to that. Like take a process that might have been done in an old legacy ERP and took seven or eight or nine people to have to touch something or click a button in order to get something done. And with the intelligent automation, you could take that down to two, three, sometimes one and sometimes no human interaction, completely human out of the loop. Talk a little bit about how we’re seeing automation, intelligent automation really improve employee experience.

Jeanette Barlow: Well, and you really onto a key point there. I think some years back or when this first began to be such a popular space to focus on, everyone thought about job elimination. And we’re not really seeing that as the case. What we’re seeing is, we’re freeing up that precious workforce to focus on delivering better experiences, being more capable in their job, and things of that nature. And I think that is really the important point there is those very repetitive manual data entry tasks can be automated and you can then do that intelligently. So you’re not just automating, but you’re actually applying some intelligence there to have guided experiences for the employees. So every employee or every customer service agent can be your best customer service agent. We like to think about it like that.

And we’re also seeing this as a key part of being able to attract and retain our employees in a very, very tight and volatile labor market right now. The tools that they have to work with and their empowerment to do a better job and to get job satisfaction out of being able to do a better job in their engagement with each other or with a customer or a client is really key to that. And so what has been looked at as operational efficiency or cost savings in the past is now really looked at as, and this is what I believe is a big trend that we’re going to be seeing, as a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I could not agree more that companies have to figure out how to uplevel every employee’s outputs. And that’s one of the things where intelligent automation could play a big part. It doesn’t seem to matter where you are in the executive ranks all the way to the frontline work, or they’re just too many things that we all do and have to do. In some cases, it might be approving expenses and how could an intelligent automation solution help detect anomalies, presents you with only those particular expenses that maybe an issue for you to look at as opposed to having to look at entire reports to make decisions on things that a system should easily be able to look at.

And I realize this may or may not be an example that is a focal point for your business, but these kinds of examples are the nuances that affect people all the way up and down the chain. Everybody wants to uplevel their work and of course, get rid of the mundane repetitive. At the same time, it’s not about eliminating those jobs. It’s about getting the most out of people. And that’s probably one of the biggest market paradigms that we seem to vacillate on. Are we automating to save, or are we automating to grow and expand? And I think the companies will do the latter do better.

Jeanette Barlow: Absolutely. And the reality is, just the math of it is, at the rate and pace at which companies are going to have to digitally transform to be competitive, if they don’t supercharge or make their employees super employees through these automated capabilities and these AI-assisted tools, then they’re just not going to be able to keep up. It’s not a matter of trying to get rid of a workforce. You can’t hire enough to keep up with that digital transformation requirements in order to be competitive. So it’s just a business imperative.

Daniel Newman: Especially now. By the way, trying to hire, my gosh, it’s so hard to find talent right now.

Jeanette Barlow: And companies that have had a geographic lock, let’s say we work with some of the largest organizations and without naming names, we work with the very large global bank, and one of their challenges is just developer and IT staff. Now, where they’ve been located geographically, they had a really good handle on that.

Well, COVID just changed everything. You can work… People are learning and organizations are learning. You can work from anywhere. So suddenly the labor market that you thought you had a lock on because of some geographic proximity isn’t there anymore. And you’re competing with talent, or from some of the startups and folks or powerhouses out in California, et cetera. So I think that too is another thing.

You’re not only have to help make employees more capable and productive. You want to deliver more job satisfaction, but you also have to empower them to be able to work in very distributed ways. And so when you look at that, it’s not about the task that employee does. It’s really that end-to-end workflow that you’re trying to really unleash, and how do they participate in that in a way that just keeps the work going and again, delivers the outcomes that you need as the company, but also your customers are going to expect.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. You hit on a lot of important points there. Here’s another thought that dawned on me as we were talking, but we’re also seeing the rise of the citizen developer. We’re seeing the rise of the frontline worker that needs to develop applications to streamline their work, to build automation tools, and to also implement. I guess to simplify, low-code/no-code, that’s been a huge trend we’re seeing it across the industry.

Pretty much any company in enterprise software productivity are trying to find ways to… It’s never about alleviating and eliminating pro-code. It’s about augmenting pro-code to be able to help companies build things that the business analysts might understand better than the developers. So what are you seeing there? How can brands and enterprises really focus on both of those groups and continue to output the best tools and productivity assets for their employees?

Jeanette Barlow: Okay. So citizen developer, you’re right, it really has taken a rise in the conversation and the consideration. And it’s really a broad term that is interpreted in different ways. And so let me just give you our point of view and how in particular I like to think about that. So you’re at… You said something there that is so important. This is not about undermining or walking away from the pro development community. In fact, this is about empowering them. And that business and IT collaboration is so important because the end of the day, you’re not just coding specific actions. You’re really are thinking thoughtfully about process automation. And process automation traverses functional areas. It traverses different data sources. It has to speak to different personas that engage in that process and the very folks that have the expertise on how that needs to happen and what the business outcome is, sit with the business.

So that’s one of the key things I think is driving this rise and interest around citizen development is, let’s get that innovation happening close to the ground truth where it’s going to have to be executed. Let’s keep that and tap into that subject matter expertise in a powerful way. Secondly, the skill shortage in pro dev is a very real thing. You cannot hire enough pro dev to keep up, again, as we circle back, to all the requirements that are out there.

So how can organizations set up like a factory model, if you will, in order to sustainably have an experience where their business teams can actually self-serve in some cases? Or in many what, we’re seeing even more and more in some of the large enterprises we serve with this factory model is, they want to be able to empower them for parts of that, like designing the flow and the process, but then still have the governance and the guardrails and the security model put in place to make sure that when it comes to final deployment of these applications and these workflows, that they’re not setting up a problem to pay for later down the road. And I think there’s a lot of degrees of nuance under citizen development, but it is an incredibly powerful model that organizations should start to look at for themselves.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And probably the last thing and where I’d like to finish our conversation, and Jeanette, thanks so much for the time. It’s been really enjoyable just chatting about this with you is automation and AI. Let’s talk about that. Sometimes I think people bucket these things as one. And to be very clear, they’re not. Now, at times you can use AI to create automation. And so there can be an interdependence upon the two. But very likely the next wave of “intelligent automation” is going to be heavily powered by AI where it’s started out with using applied analytics and applied analytics or sometimes used with AI, but now we are truly seeing deep learning and neural networks being applied to start utilizing automation that is truly AI-powered. Talk about the role that AI is going to play and where all this is heading?

Jeanette Barlow: Absolutely. And I think that you can automate stupid. The key is to be intelligent and thoughtful about how you automate. And without that intelligence, whether it’s AI or decisioning rules, et cetera, you’re just going faster in a less effective way. So I do think intelligence and in particular AI is going to have a very wrong role going forward. And that’s going to traverse a lot of the life cycle of this work.

Just think about developers. How can AI assist them in building better applications and better workflows? Let’s think about also the data scientist, they can build these models, but I know a key area where we are investing and we’ll be exploring even more as we go through the year in delivering some solutions is around, how do we use the AI to help the developers understand when their models need attention? When they’re not performing well or anticipating when there’s going to be a problem around that? And then of course, in the run time when you have the user community. Everything from natural language engagement in with the applications through to next best, not easy for me to say, Next Best Action recommendations and guided experiences to turn agents or users into much more effective users of the software to even predicting outcomes.

The early on that we’re predicting, let’s say I’m applying for a loan and there’s prediction around that this is going to be more trouble… There’s going to be an exception here. So you can turn what could have potentially been an unhappy situation with a customer. You can proactively turn that in into an opportunity and really build that brand loyalty. So I think AI is going to really grow up from just reserved for the most leading edge proof of concept use cases to being mainstream in the next couple of years.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. You hit it on the head. And I think in my personal opinion, one of the biggest opportunities for automation is the intelligent application of artificial “intelligence.” And why is that? Because like I said, the actual pathway to AI is still somewhat nascent. Everybody thinks we’re using AI. For a lot of things, we’re really just using applied data and applied to data sciences, but we are starting to see that shift as more data is being trained and those models are being trained and becoming the application of inferences, but it is a process. It takes time. It is not going to happen overnight. But as it is applied, we will see all the things that we’ve been trying to do with automation become even more invaluable to the enterprise. Jeanette Barlow, Vice President of Product Marketing, Intelligent Automation platform. Going to reiterate that, going to get it right every single time. Hey, thank you so much for joining me.

Jeanette Barlow: Thank you.

Daniel Newman: And thank you to Pega for joining the show. I’m going to send you off to the green room and we will close up the show. So Jeanette, thanks again. There you have it, everybody. Jeanette Barlow. She was great. Some very, very good insights. If you’re paying attention to what’s going on with intelligent automation, you’ve got to pay attention to, of course, what Pega is doing, but just what she had to say, the experience and the companies that they’re working with every day gives a very real world understanding of what the market is looking for and the opportunities that exist. So thanks again.

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About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Chief Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio