Where is the AI in ERP?

If like me you were working in IT during the build up to year 2000, you might recall a high level of noise about the “Millenium Bug”. The issue, we were told, was about nothing less than the potential threat of complete system failure across the globe. This time around, with Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to some, we should be concerned that the very existence of the human race is under threat. Thankfully, AI in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) isn’t about robots deciding when and how to completely replace or destroy humans.

Instead, it’s about freeing up valuable resources and enhancing how people, computer systems, including ERP applications, do what they have always done, only much better. Whilst this doesn’t sound so dramatic, it could nevertheless be just as life changing for business.

Working with AI

What is emerging from the AI opportunity is the potential to incorporate immense computing power and unlimited data volumes with the ability to embed structured and unstructured information and ever more complex algorithms.

ERP systems have always been about implementing and maintaining a high level of automation across business processes, improving decision making, faster data analysis and more advanced analytics. These systems are so pervasive because over the years they have done these things well. Everything from better inventory management, enhanced forecasting accuracy and optimizing supply chains can be attributed to the success of ERP.

When AI is embedded across ERP platforms it should be possible to explore relationships in any data set, deliver step changes in automation, increase the effectiveness of predictive models and improve insights in new ways we’re just beginning to imagine.

ERP vendors and their customers are going to have to work fast to reap the benefits.

They will also have to pay attention to new regulations just emerging. The European Union has made the first move to regulate AI. Recent legal proposals include the potential banning of invasive technologies such as the continuous surveillance of citizens, employees and shoppers. Standards could be imposed for the disclosure of data used in AI that might concern the individual. Any AI robots that are deployed should not be let loose totally unrestrained.

To make the best use of new opportunities, users of ERPs and other complex applications will need to make sure they can fully exploit their rich sources of information. Investment in AI will only be worth it if the data supplied to it is accurate and relevant.

Before data quality can be checked, and improved, accessibility of the relevant data sources will need to be assured. This is often the first barrier to overcome. Data derived from ERP systems, for example, or from other sources impacting ERP results, are rightly kept very secure and typically require application specialists to help gain access. Once available, AI performance, reliability and success will be determined by how much effort has gone into the discovery, analysis, remediation and ongoing monitoring of all data fed through ever more complex algorithms.

With a plethora of data quality tools, and third-party data sources available, to help enhance the impact and adoption AI, it’s worth considering that very few data and metadata discovery utilities are available from the ERP vendors themselves. This is where Safyr can help. Once connected, Safyr can capture and generate a complete repository of all ERP metadata in a matter of minutes. By fully documenting and understanding what’s already in place, companies can accelerate time to value in AI without having to rely on SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and similarly costly specialist expertise.

You might recall that no airplanes fell from the sky when the clocks reached midnight on 01/01/00. As it turned out there may have been some hype around the Millenium Bug issue! I for one don’t think humans are under threat from AI any time soon. However, just as we witnessed a huge surge in IT investment and improvements in systems at the turn of the Millenium, we are bound to see the advent of AI drive similarly significant and impactful change across society and in business.

by Mike Sheridan
Silwood Technology

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