It should be clear by now that automation and artificial intelligence are about to hit the enterprise in a big way. But while this transformation will be rapid, it will not happen across the entire IT stack all at once.
So where will this new computing paradigm first make its presence known in the enterprise? According to leading researchers, the most obvious candidates are the productivity applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relations Management (CRM) that have already subsumed much of the IT operational model, and this will effectively create a data environment that will, for the most part, manage itself in response to changing workload requirements.
Gartner’s David Cearley, for example, notes that artificial intelligence and machine learning have already shown a marked propensity to understand, learn, predict and adapt to a wide range of events, to the point that they can function autonomously even in complex environments. Backed by massive parallel processing, advanced algorithms and enormous amounts of data, these systems can actually improve their performance, and thus the processes they support, as time goes by – a complete reversal of the obsolescence that current systems face the moment they are deployed into production environments.
This will affect IT most acutely in the realm of ERP, says technology consultant Bas de Baat. In a recent post on cio.com, he points out that AI is gearing up to take on the heart and soul of day-to-day data operations, which are increasingly exceeding the human capacity for management due to the influx of vast amounts of unstructured data. AI will not only provide a more streamlined and less expensive IT footprint, it will boost the productivity of advanced analytical processes, increasingly diverse and distributed compute, storage and networking platforms and the real-time Big Data and IoT applications that are the key to competing in a digital services economy.
This trend will accelerate as the enterprise migrates more of these operational and analytic workloads to the cloud. Microsoft just launched an AI-infused Dynamics 365 platform on the Azure cloud that supports functions ranging from sales automation and customer service to manufacturing and supply chain execution. Tech Times’ Chris Loterina says the launch is a direct challenge to SaaS providers like Salesforce that have been adding intelligent capabilities to their platforms as a means of improving business agility and flexibility among their enterprise customers. Microsoft’s solution is said to be backed by the recent acquisitions of AI developers MetaMind and RelateIQ, and will feature dozens of new applications for finance and other vertical industries.
Smaller providers are also turning to AI as a means for boosting their productivity service offerings. Utah-based TECHeGO recently announced the Hoist ERP solutions marketplace powered by intelligent API automation technology from DreamFactory. The offering will allow clients to pick and choose the specific applications that can best augment their resource provisioning and management processes and then take advantage of the platform’s ability to incorporate new user, connectivity and data patterns to improve performance through normal operations. A key advantage is DreamFactory’s ability to automatically generate system-wide APIs as changes to the application environment emerge.
AI, machine learning and other aspects of next-generation automation certainly have the ability to take over many of the functions currently performed by the IT workforce. But as any technology expert will tell you, deploying new solutions simply as a means to cut the payroll is not likely to produce the full return on the investment. Rather, the real gains come from automation’s ability to enhance the value of knowledge workers by making them more productive and tying their activities directly to revenue-generating functions.
Let machines handle the repetitive, boring tasks, while human minds focus on creative solutions to core business processes.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.