Intelligent ERP platforms are hitting the channel in increasing numbers, bringing a wealth of new capabilities to a class of software that had started to stagnate. But what, exactly, can intelligent ERP do that traditional systems cannot, and is it possible that this very intelligence could ultimately push the enterprise away from ERP in general in favor of less complicated software?
Clearly, today’s ERP vendors are seeing no downside to outfitting their products with more and better forms of intelligence. At its recent OpenWorld event in San Francisco, Oracle showed off new AI updates to its cloud-based ERP and EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) platforms. The line-up includes an intelligent process automation engine that removes many of the manual tasks within its portfolio of cloud applications, as well as a chatbot reporting assistant for control and compliance solutions. Elsewhere, the company has launched an intelligent payments system and smart categorization tool in the supplier relations module, and a new AI-empowered Advanced Access Control system for a more active, dynamic security framework.
Meanwhile, SAP is responding to recent research that upwards of 90 percent of business leaders expect AI to become a critical aspect of their business models going forward. To that end, the company is pushing intelligence to the forefront of the S4/Hana Cloud with tools like the copilot digital assistant and an AI-powered automation stack capable of self-learning, projecting forecasting, and a host of other capabilities. The company says it is also working to redefine the business process itself with tools like dynamic pricing and predictive workforce management.
The running theme behind all of these intelligent capabilities is the need to locate and map data across an increasingly diverse and distributed infrastructure. Tech consultant Dan Woods notes that the sheer amount of data puts most enterprises in a bind: It is nearly impossible to know what is already known. With AI, however, smart systems can navigate complex data stores, seeking out the relevant information without direct supervision by users or administrators. Even better, the more they do this, the better they get, so in time they are able to bring data sets into the process that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
But while intelligence can enhance all manner of ERP systems, it can also be used to augment other classes of software to make it more functional and, possibly, delay or even eliminate the need for full-bore ERP, at least for some organizations. That’s the thinking at Intuit which, according to CIO, has upgraded Quickbooks with AI and other enterprise-class features specifically to lure customers away from ERP vendors like Microsoft, Sage and Oracle. The new tools include an automation and recommendation system that captures and analyzes large data sets for tasks like tax planning and product/service pricing. As well, it features a natural language processor for a less techy user interface.
With just about all other aspects of the data ecosystem becoming smarter, it’s no surprise that enterprise productivity software is undergoing the same transition. Still unknown, however, is whether any of this newfound intelligence will actually make things better for the knowledge worker or simply add new levels of confusion. Normal software doesn’t always functional rationally, so it will be interesting to see if things change just because they start talking and “thinking.”
Without a doubt, it will be interesting to see all of this unfold, but whether it will lead to a new era in data productivity is still very much in the air.
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.