Boomi doubles down on AI and automation

Boomi executives talk up the company’s artificial intelligence and automation capabilities and its growing traction in ANZ during a recent event in Sydney

Boomi showed off its artificial intelligence (AI) and automation capabilities at the recent Boomi World Tour 2023 in Sydney, where CEO Steve Lucas told a packed room about the changes that were needed to unleash the full potential of those technologies.

Take data, for example. Noting that while data is important and abundant, only a small fraction of it is used, so rather than seeing data as the new oil, the mantra should be “data is the new sand”, focusing on the parts that really matter, he said.

The digital footprint of organisations is also increasingly fragmented. Citing various sources, Lucas said the average enterprise has 324 cloud apps, 79% of organisations have over 100 data sources (30% have more than 1,000), and yet only 19% of boards feel their organisations have made progress towards their digital transformation goals.

Furthermore, between two-thirds and almost all businesses responding to surveys said they had lost or missed out on business due to integration issues. And integration, of course, is Boomi’s bread and butter. Large language models (LLMs) are the current wave in IT, he said, and because this lets “computers talk like humans instead of humans talking like computers”, one consequence is that “good programming today starts with a good generative prompt, not code”.

When it comes to things like service requests, “there will be a time when you prefer to talk to the machine” rather than repeatedly pressing zero on the phone keypad in the hope of being transferred to a human operator.

One of the Boomi platform’s latest capabilities is Boomi AI. Based on an LLM with knowledge of the 200 million integration patterns created by Boomi users, plus various other models of unspecified types, it became generally available to Boomi customers in the past few weeks.

The first phase is Boomi GPT, an autonomous design tool that can respond to prompts such as “create the process to connect AutoTask to Salesforce” by requesting additional details of what is required, and then generating the integration.

Boomi GPT is capable of building integrations, application programming interfaces (APIs) and master data management models. The company plans to develop Boomi AI further to provide autonomous management and autonomous orchestration, and Lucas said it would soon be possible to ask questions such as why invoices had not been processed.

A task automation service is being developed and is currently expected to be released in the first quarter of 2024, chief product and technology officer Ed Macosky told Computer Weekly.

This will democratise the creation of automations, giving users the choice of specifying what they want through either natural language descriptions or assembling tiles in a visual interface. At the same time, IT departments will be able to enforce governance and compliance issues through mechanisms such as role-based access controls applied at run time. And if they see that dozens of people have created similar integrations, they can produce an enterprise-grade version and make that available to everyone.

Customers have also asked for the automatic production of documentation for AI-generated components, he said. Also on the roadmap are enhancements to Boomi GPT, special AI connectors, code generation, and autonomous management and orchestration.

AI features in the Boomi Standard Edition are Suggest, a data mapping assistant; Resolve, which provides possible solutions to document or process errors; and Quick Start, Boomi’s no-code environment.

The Pro AI Edition adds Boomi GPT, and the Enterprise AI Edition will include everything from the other editions plus the forthcoming features outlined above.

Also in the pipeline is Task Automation, a mobile-enabled tool that will allow users to create their own automations from spoken or typed natural language descriptions.

Macosky gave an example of creating a Slack or SMS message from an incoming email, and pointed out that Task Automation will operate under the governance of IT departments. This could, for instance, prevent personal identifiable information from being sent outside the organisation.

“Productivity is the keyword,” said David Irecki, Boomi’s director of solution consulting in Asia-Pacific and Japan, adding that Boomi AI can be used to reduce costs and redeploy integrations to high-value projects.

At the other extreme, because it allows organisations to add their own transformers, “Boomi can be at the heart of your AI strategy,” Lucas observed.

There is lots of interest in AI in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), Irecki pointed out. At the coalface, some are keen on the technology as they see it helping them do their jobs in the “co-pilot” model, although others are scared it will make them redundant.

But “integration is ubiquitous” – there are always things to integrate and automate, but inflation is still high – adding to cost pressures – and the skills shortage still exists. The challenge is to use technology to free up skilled workers to concentrate on the higher-value aspects of their jobs, and also to automate tasks such as data entry while preserving the process knowledge held by those currently doing those tasks.

Australian Red Cross CIO Brett Wilson said that with Boomi AI, his organisation will not need as many technical integration specialists, and that will make room for more business analysts who can deliver more value than simply building connections between applications.

He also described the part Boomi played in making possible the telethon in support of flood victims in New South Wales and Queensland, saying “Boomi was one of the technology partners that made it a success”.

Platform enhancements

A new version of the Boomi platform is released each month. The past 12 months have seen improvements in security, compliance, scalability, build times and run-time performance of up 93%, along with the introduction of machine learning and AI-powered features.

The Boomi Labs developer hub was launched in mid-2023 to provide a single place for the Boomi community to share assets.

That was shortly followed by Boomi Spaces, which allows organisations to create self-service portals for preconfigured integrations that are presented in a curated manner to suit different user personas and use cases. This, according to Boomi’s chief technology officer Matt McLarty, provides a middle path between the chaos that can come with unfettered shadow IT and the roadblocks that occur when the IT department has to be involved in every project. With Spaces, they can create and manage constrained integration packs that are offered to controlled user segments.

Also expected in the first half of 2024 are new public and private – though still fully managed by Boomi – cloud tiers.

Event Streams, Boomi’s fully hosted message queuing and streaming service, and incidentally the company’s first fully self-service product, became generally available in Australia in early November. This was the first time Event Streams was hosted outside the US, which, according to Macosky, came about due to pressure from the local operation, overriding the marketing department’s plan to take it to Europe before Australia.

A new version of Boomi Canvas – which is used to create integrations by dragging and dropping connectors – is expected in December. And while Boomi has already improved its API management capabilities, it will soon acquire two companies specialising in this technology, Lucas revealed without going into further detail.

Boomi’s growing traction in ANZ

Boomi ANZ managing director Nathan Gower told Computer Weekly that Boomi is “outgrowing the market” and is adding new customers and generally running ahead of plan.

The company has a world-leading product, he said, one that can help CIOs deliver business value, in part by optimising the use of existing resources through integration and automation.

One particular area where this is apparent is in industries where consolidation is still occurring. Boomi can help customers quickly achieve efficiency benefits by combining existing systems.

“It’s still a very tight labour market,” Gower observed, so Boomi customers generally aim to provide a good experience for their employees as well as their customers.

And Boomi’s predictable pricing enables the technology to scale with and for the business without a proportionate increase in cost.

In 2024, Boomi ANZ plans a stronger focus on state governments. All governments are trying to deliver better digital services to citizens, and they also want to provide better value to taxpayers. Gower believes Boomi can do more for them in this regard than some of the incumbent providers.

Alongside this will be work to further improve Boomi’s existing partner network, which Gower described as a “force multiplier” for the company.

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