Australia’s headlong rush to embrace digital transformation has resulted in a significant problem with fragmentation in organizational systems and data, according to integration platform-as-a-service provider Boomi, and it wants to be the “enterprise glue” that brings it all together.
CEO Steve Lucas told TechRepublic that digital fragmentation had impacted Australia faster than many other Asia-Pacific countries. He added IT leaders could soon turn into orchestrators of artificial intelligence agents in addition to their human teams, and software development and delivery was about to speed up.
Digital transformation has turned into ‘digital fragmentation’
Digital fragmentation is the term Boomi uses to describe the landscape facing Australian IT leaders. With the average enterprise now having 364 cloud software-as-a-service applications, Boomi’s Steve Lucas said organizations are now dealing with the consequences of digital transformation.
“Do any of these cloud applications talk to each other? No,” Lucas said. “None of these vendors want to talk to each other — and this was a universal truth before the cloud. Oracle doesn’t want to talk to Microsoft, doesn’t want to talk to SAP, doesn’t want to talk to Workday.
“At our channel partner conference in Sydney, I invited everyone to raise their hand if integration and automation had not been the show-stoppers in any project they’ve ever worked on. Not a single hand went up. Everyone agrees that these are the challenges.”
Australia has arrived at the fragmentation problem sooner
Australia may be fortunate to have arrived at the fragmentation problem faster. Boomi Australia and New Zealand Director Nathan Gower said the pace of cloud tech adoption compared to other APAC countries means Australia is confronting the “hyper-fractured” landscape sooner.
SEE: Trends Australian data pros should consider ahead of 2024.
“Australia has been an early adopter of tech, particularly cloud, and our cost of labour has further driven the need for efficiency,” Gower said. “Everyone adopts a platform because it is about reuse and delivering more with less, but that has helped create this fractured environment.”
Enterprise vendors are selling applications, but not the glue
The competitive software vendor marketplace entrenches digital fragmentation, according to Boomi. As digital transformation and SaaS has been embraced in Australia, Lucas said there has been little help with stitching all this together.
“Whose job is enterprise glue?” Lucas said.
Lucas spent almost a decade at SAP. He said the problem with enterprise resource planning vendors, including SAP, is that they want to build integration tools that only represent their view of the world.
“It is SAP at the centre, and everything else orbits SAP. Well, SAP is not the sun,” said Lucas.
He said most vendors want to build the application and not the glue.
“You’d be foolish to believe the tools and tooling SAP builds around integration and automation, that all those roads don’t lead to SAP,” Lucas said. “Of course they do. And the same can be said for anybody.”
Being the glue could work out for Boomi
Boomi wants to bring order to enterprise software sprawl through what it calls “intelligent, automated integration.” Lucas said organizations looking to drive digital transformation without a single unified platform — one that “integrates any-to-any and automates any-to-any” from a system process application standpoint — have “one arm tied behind their back.”
“Our focus is to be independent, to provide choice in that ‘any-to-any’ infrastructure and drive digital transformation with less consequences — less of the fragmentation that comes with it,” said Lucas.
AI agents could soon manage the hard work of integration
Boomi has data on over 200 million unique integration design patterns from customers using its iPaaS offering. While customers can already leverage these for integration, including through a new conversational experience via Boomi’s AI tool Boomi GPT, there’s more to come.
IT leaders could soon be leading teams of automated AI agents equipped to take care of some of the tasks currently undertaken by IT teams managing complex system integrations. Boomi’s roadmap includes AI autonomous management and autonomous orchestration capabilities.
“Rather than waiting for things to break — a system stops working, invoices stop processing — these intelligent agents we’ll have working alongside IT will tell you when you are running hot, when you’ve crossed the red line, where the potential issues are,” Lucas said. “They will then be able to troubleshoot: Even a simple question — ‘Why did these three invoices fail?’ — can require sleuthing, investigation, forensics on a level that is unacceptable today. Again, we believe there are agents that will do much of that work for you.”
Slashing time to work while increasing malleability
The successful operation of the sometimes “brittle” patchwork of infrastructure, networks and data platforms an enterprise organization uses largely depends on the human talent within an IT organization, Lucas said.
“Our goal is to make technology and your infrastructure much more malleable and give it the ability to bend, not break,” said Lucas. “Technology today is largely if the 1 or 0 is not there, then it does or does not work, and that could be in myriad scenarios.”
Boomi wants to give IT the ability to create integration automations “at a rate and pace that has never been seen before,” with customers in some cases already experiencing a reduction in time to work of 90%.
“That means if I have something that took me five days, it’s five hours,” Lucas said. “That’s transformative, that is a massive productivity increase.”
Orchestrating both tech and people across organizations
“I view the future role of IT, both at the executive level and anyone working in IT, as much more of an orchestrator, someone that is leading a symphony of AI agents to do their jobs in IT — run the network, move data, secure it, identify threats, explain processes,” Lucas said.
Lucas said these AI agents will emerge in the next 24 to 36 months. Nathan Gower argues that orchestration will extend to the tech skills that exist today more widely across organizations.
“When I speak to CIOs, they are grappling for the first time ever with the fact that deeper IT skills often now reside outside of their direct IT team,” Gower said. “They are asking ‘How do they work with other lines of business that may actually have deeper skills in certain areas?’”
Most human software decisions to be automated
Lucas said the world of software development and delivery could be almost unrecognizable within just five years. He said the “established order” that has been in place for 30 years is being disrupted by AI, leading to sweeping automation across the space.
According to Lucas, we are like “traffic cops” or “routers,” receiving inputs from structured and unstructured data to use for making decisions and producing products. Generative AI, said Lucas, will be able to automate this process.
SEE: Microsoft invests $5 billion in Australia to boost AI, cybersecurity and tech skills growth.
“Generative AI — which has not even been on the market for even a full year yet — will have the ability to synthesize vast amounts of both raw information, as well as sophisticated data or information, and provide insights and make decisions that we feel are uniquely human today,” Lucas said.
And as generative AI and other technologies continue to improve, Lucas said up to “90% of the decisions we make will not need to be made in five years,” as these technologies will likely be making the decisions for us.
The role of humans will be a question of altitude
Human decision making will still be relevant but may shift towards more sophisticated decisions.
“I think it comes down to a question of altitude,” Lucas said. “We are just used to operating at a certain altitude in our jobs or varying degrees of altitude, and we will have to radically shift our altitude in a world where the machines will make better decisions than us.”
Due to AI, we’ll have to fly at a higher altitude — we might not be coding but making creative decisions about coding and then asking an AI tool to spit out the code we want. Lucas said an area of growth for humans will be the explainability of AI.
“Why did the AI system recommend these three candidates to hire?” said Lucas. “What algorithm decided these three are diverse and appropriate for our organization — or did it? Why is this information being routed in an unconventional way when a human would have done it another way?”
AI will accelerate software development and delivery
Generative AI will change the way software is developed and delivered to market. Lucas said the amount of code that can be generated in a compressed amount of time will give rise to “technology that we haven’t seen before,” and much faster.
For example, a tech startup that may have needed three years in stealth mode with $100 million in funding may now only take six months in stealth mode with $10 million in funding, Lucas said.
“Software has always been disruptive, but now we have disrupted the funding, innovation and the time-to-benefit cycle,” Lucas said. “It is something I have not seen in 30 years. It’s going to break — in a good way — everything we know about building and delivering software. The signs are all there. I only wish I was 20 years younger.”