ERP and the A.I. Factor

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here. Once a topic of conversation, news, and science fiction, AI has finally entered our technology landscape. We are only beginning to see the impact it will have on our businesses, our jobs, and our enterprise software, but we already know that impact is profound and growing.

Until very recently advanced AI functionality was extremely expensive due to the limited and immature tooling available. Constructing the algorithms required highly skilled and very specialized employees, not available to most software vendors. In addition, these new and complex algorithms required immense amounts of additional data storage for pattern recognition and required CPU-intensive computing power for pattern recognition.

All this has changed. We will see it often. Current ERP software will incorporate AI capabilities more and more, and here is why.

Today, all major cloud vendors offer both PaaS and IaaS that specifically address computing and storage issues. Fierce competition between major cloud players has resulted in decreasing prices for both cloud storage and computing power, literally democratized machine learning functionality and AI capabilities. It is allowing software vendors to incorporate more-complex algorithms that crunch bigger and bigger datasets.

The result is ERP with AI for all.  It is leading to ever-more-advanced solutions. It has given birth to a whole new range of systems capable of making decisions based on historic data. Data collection is becoming pervasive, automatic and non-intrusive, instead of spotty, manual, and requiring high levels of interaction. Natural language input will soon decrease the need for manually intensive UI.  Increasingly, computers will proactively support decision making.

We recently announced our new digital assistant, Wanda. Wanda and its functional agents epitomize the evolution to semi-intelligent and self-driving solutions. They liberate people from their tedious manual interactions with enterprise software and allow them to focus on running their business and serving their customers.

Should we fear AI?

Human beings all share an important trait – the ability to devise tooling that simplifies tasks and drives our species forward. Our tools liberate us from mundane day-to-day chores, so we can focus on more abstract challenges, solving more problems – problems we solve, ironically, by devising even more tools. This has made us the most successful and adaptable animal on the planet.

Every new technology invented gave rise to a backlash. Change is difficult. Many people will prefer the status quo.

Despite resistance to change, advances in technology always prevail. In time we learn to trust and use our new tools with enthusiasm. The introduction of AI into enterprise applications will follow the same path. It’s only human. Initially there will be lots of resistance because AI will fundamentally change how users interact with software.  Large amounts of structured and unstructured new data will enter the ERP system invisibly, through mobile, UI improvements and IoT. Knowledge systems will employ agents – computer programs that decide and act independently on behalf of an employee.  Many users will feel threatened. Despite this, technology will prevail. It always does because companies will always strive to operate more efficiently and focus on their primary objective, serving their customers.

Should we then fear it? No, not at all. New technology brings us better living standards, safer working conditions, more goods, better services, and endless benefits. AI will do likewise. It will remove tedious, repetitious work.  It will empower employees to improve their performance. It will enable companies to provide more goods and better services. A new era is upon us. Embrace it. The impact of AI on ERP will be enormous and wonderful.