Over many years Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been moving from a fascinating concept of science fiction through a promising research topic to, at last, a number of consumer products. From ‘Siri’ to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly. There are a variety of opinions on the subject of Artificial Intelligence. Some people are saying that it is simply the next advance in technology and others are afraid of unleashing an uncontrollable robot species. But rather than a generalised view of how AI could affect the world, in the following article, I will be discussing the impact that I believe it’ll have in the coming year in the ERP landscape.
Artificial intelligence can be defined as the creation of intelligent machines that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making and translation. AI is a broad subject that includes many theories, methods and technologies. Using such technologies, computers can be trained and train themselves to accomplish tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognising patterns in the data.
It has been said that Artificial Intelligence is the future of ERP. Without a doubt when new technology is advanced to the user stage it is normally incorporated into your work life: phone, mobiles, printers, smart watches, tablets etc. What does this mean? For the foreseeable future, AI will enable organisations to optimise further their operating model made up of business processes, software applications, governance structures and technology infrastructure.
We all know innovation is key to business survival both with ERP providers and customers alike. I can see that to coalign with this big game changer; organisations must revamp their IT strategies and roadmaps, invest in the value that AI can have on the modern enterprise. Artificial Intelligence, alongside ERP, could provide invaluable insight into operational efficiency that could provide you with the resources to succeed over your competitor. More data, more knowledge. Operational costs should be the main impact of introduction AI to ERP system. Cutting costs in operations should lead to greater profit margins, greater profit margins will lead to better business growth, or at least give you the option to expand should you wish.
Computers have always been used for the more mundane tasks in order to free us up to concentrate on complex tasks that computers cannot do. It is no different for AI, simply the boundary between mundane and complex has moved. What was thought of as complex, can now be achieved by AI. But there are still tasks that it cannot do. So the purpose is still the same, to free us up from the routine to concentrate on the complex.
Structured data has been around for decades it was one of the best benefits of having an ERP system years ago. But it was limited to the information that users could type in. Now the advent of Big Data, IoT and Artificial Intelligence has meant the collection, manipulation and transformation of much larger volumes of data into meaningful information is available like never before. This is where ERP systems have stepped up to the mark in the last few years, giving you the inbuilt tools to read and understand this data and help with business decisions based on facts, not estimates. Now entering the business we have AI that can speak, learn, read, respond, predict and execute transactions you should be able to pull all of this data together in far more meaningful ways.
Customer service is a big area of improvement with Artificial Intelligence: several companies are already using the capabilities to provide their service support to clients. Phone messages where you deal solely with an automated voice have made the customer waiting decrease and client satisfaction increase. Alongside automated phone systems, ChatBots have become more responsive and helpful over the past year and are expected to improve. Having ChatBots on your website can eliminate staff and cut costs while providing a better level of customer service. As with many aspects, the familiar 80:20 rule is a good model whereby 80% of customer enquiries can be handled automatically leaving humans to deal with the 20% of trickier aspects. So those with a simple query are dealt with quickly, and those with complex issues have a longer and more satisfying experience with the human operator. The business gets to reduce costs, and all transactions are automatically recorded in the ERP system. A real Win: Win: Win.
All in all, Artificial Intelligence, is not new but it is a hot topic at the moment due to the advancements made so far and in the pipeline. It will be exciting to see where it goes and what it can do next to improve companies and make work life easier.
Written by: Phil Nicholls