AI vs. Blockchain: Two Innovative Approaches to DTM
by Jim Lundy
(Aragon Research) – Two technology areas have recently been in the news: AI/machine learning and blockchain.
Partly due to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin in fintech, blockchain is grabbing the spotlight. As we will unveil in research later next week, there are competing standards for blockchain in the enterprise. Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is also overhyped by vendors, but when done right, can deliver real suggested actions and advanced content analytics.
These two very different technologies are currently being applied to Digital Transaction Management (DTM) technologies by a variety of providers in the market. This blog overviews how AI and blockchain provide two different approaches to Digital Transaction Management, and offers advisory to DTM providers looking to augment and enhance their offerings.
Intelligent Content Analytics Will Leverage AI
Last fall, we identified the Intelligent Content Analytics (ICA) market, which includes advanced insights in documents, video, images, and voice. ICA is fragmented today with new voice analytics appearing in contact center offerings. In document analytics, we have seen it be most pronounced in two areas: Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) and contract analytics, where a number of players such as Pramata and Seal Software are disrupting legacy contract lifecycle management providers.
In Digital Transaction Management, many providers do just the basics—such as alerts when a signer opens an envelope or notifications when a transaction is in process. We think that content analytics, which will leverage more and more AI, is one of the catalysts for driving business outcomes. DTM providers should look to add more content analytics into their solutions and buyers should be asking for more content intelligence in solutions they are procuring.
DocuSign Dives Into AI with Appuri
While DocuSign has already executed some blockchain concept demos with Visa, it voted with its wallet in December 2017, when it purchased the assets of Seattle-based Appuri. Appuri is an AI startup that is focused on analytics and customer engagement. The deal gives DocuSign a shipping platform that can be integrated into the DocuSign offering.
DocuSign is doing exactly what larger providers like Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft have been doing— acquiring AI talent. Other DTM providers should make note of this as a best practice to move faster and to innovate their DTM offerings with AI.
The Race to Blockchain
Blockchain is the other technology area that DTM providers are placing bets on. Blockchain is still in the debate of which platform (e.g., Ethereum vs. Hyperledger) will become dominant. This is like the early days of networking when it was Token Ring vs. Ethernet. That said, the platform debate isn’t slowing down prototypes of transactions and payments using blockchain.
CryptoCurrencies and Smart Contracts
Of all the capabilities, cross-border payments using current currencies or newer cryptocurrencies is progressing the fastest with firms such as Ripple gaining traction in payments. Outside of payments, smart contracts have tremendous potential and this is where a lot of the focus is going into blockchain. Our upcoming blockchain research discusses the implications for smart contracts relative to SLAs and transactions.
ThinkSmart Jumps Into Blockchain
San Francisco-based ThinkSmart was one of the DTM providers to announce a blockchain BlockAudit solution in September 2017. This enables enterprises to store their workflow audits on a private Ethereum-powered blockchain.
To us, this is a sort of records management for workflows and in certain use cases, could be very valuable. Suffice to say it is early days in blockchain for the enterprise and ThinkSmart is one of the first to announce a commercial product offering.
Prioritizing Blockchain or AI
One of the big questions we get from clients is where to focus. Today, there are more immediate payoffs from leveraging AI in business processes, but it isn’t easy to insert AI into an application. Blockchain has tremendous potential in smart contracts but is still in what we would consider a pilot phase. There will be more to discuss in this area as part of our ongoing DTM and Workflow and Content Automation (WCA) research agendas. Stay tuned.