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How to get your organisation ready for AI-powered ERP

Dee Houchen, senior director of ERP solutions at Oracle, discusses how companies can prepare to start using AI-powered ERP How to get your organisation ready for AI-powered ERP image

There’s a term in psychology and science fiction that describes when technology advances too fast for the individual to understand or respond to it: technoshock. All industries are currently experiencing their own technoshock when carrying out enterprise resource planning (ERP). Progress marches on as old, established industries are made redundant or weakened past the point of no return by the latest technologies.

To survive, businesses should embrace the latest technologies and quickly. Central to this will be a new generation of ERP systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

However, crucially, companies should also bring their employees along with them. Machines and people, working in concert, will be critical to the success of tomorrow’s ERP systems and enterprises.

AI is rewriting the rules of business

ERP technology is hardly a trade secret. Even without AI, these systems have given organisations incredible advantages – increased efficiency, lower costs and a single source of truth that enables agility and rapid transformation.

However, there’s always room for improvement. Current ERP systems are heavily customised, leading to a lack of interoperability as updates are rolled out. An important variable or change can’t be introduced speedily without the system breaking down, so organisations usually have to spend enormous amounts of time and resources retraining the models.

Luckily, we’re on the cusp of a true AI revolution in ERP. AI-powered autonomous databases are becoming far more responsive to inputs, changing rules autonomously in reaction to real-time user feedback. Operations won’t need to be stopped to rewrite the rulebook – the rules will adapt to meet the needs of the game.

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When an ERP project fails, it’s usually down to the organisation having too much, too little or bad quality data, compounded by a lack of intuitive tools and executive backing. Key information is missing or siloed, making the complete visibility and insight organisations need to be competitive little more than a pipedream. Often, the will to tackle these challenges is missing within the business, so the project is allowed to die and its potential is lost.

A cloud-based, AI-powered system solves this problem. With all your organisational data sitting in the cloud, it is far more visible and is less likely to become fragmented and unmanageable. Self-patching and self-healing, the autonomous system then ensures the level of data quality remains high. In turn, the accuracy and value of predictions made using this data is enhanced.

To capitalise on the agility of this system, however, you should seek out solutions that get you up and running as soon as possible. An automated approach, combining a suite of apps – such as evaluators and configurators – that work autonomously, delivers increased agility and speed of migration through faster data loading. This all leads to shorter, more successful and secure migrations that cost less.

AI-accelerated learning

The introduction of these truly intelligent AI systems will enhance the technical capabilities of organisations. Yet there are two sides to every implementation – hard (technological) and soft (cultural). The technology is often the easy part; helping your human employees learn to utilise the new systems is the real challenge.

ERP coupled with machine learning technology can automate an organisation’s most crucial day-to-day functions. No one is immune to change, so everyone – from the boardroom down – will find their roles adapting to the presence of AI tools and applications.

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A big part of making ERP successful culturally is about setting expectations. Employees should be reassured that they won’t be replaced by AI, but at the same time it should be made clear that to thrive and be successful you need to be able to work hand-in-glove with the new technologies such as IoT, blockchain, AI and machine learning. Training and education will be especially important for employees to take on, as organisations expect to deploy technologies that enhance enterprise performance management over building their own by roughly two-to-one.

Transition should be framed as an opportunity rather than a challenge. The true value of AI lies in its ability to help the employee be the hero of their organisation. It helps them make sense of and capitalise on the previously disconnected data assets of the enterprise. With access to this insight, they can anticipate opportunities and make better decisions that add strategic value to the business.

For example, in the last decade the role of the CFO has been transformed by ERP, allowing them to emerge as the right hand of the CEO. Yet there is still much room for improvement. The majority (89%) of finance leaders have yet to deploy AI in the finance function, despite it having a clear correlation with revenue growth. By leveraging AI, they can automate the transactional tasks that still occupy so much of their time. This will allow them to focus solely on innovating and predicting the needs of the business, generating more value than ever.

Indeed, the most successful employees will be those able to learn how to best use new technologies to their and the company’s advantage. However, the impetus isn’t solely on them.

Organisations can help their employees adapt by choosing solutions with intuitive user experiences and interfaces. Employees now expect the level of simplicity they enjoy on their smart phones, with technologies like voice recognition and virtual assistants to help speed up navigation.

Previous rounds of back office automation have been piecemeal in approach and dominated by short-term thinking. Principally they’ve been focused on speeding up processes and improving efficiency – doing what you did previously, but faster. This time, everything is different. AI-driven ERP will empower workers with more insight into the challenges and opportunities of the business and give them the ability to innovate at speed. For many, it will completely change the nature of work for good.

Written by Dee Houchen, senior director of ERP solutions at Oracle

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