Automation Intelligence-I’ve been working in enterprise software for more than 20 years, and I’ve experienced many transformations firsthand. In the 1990s, we started talking about ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, which has been defined as “a method for the effective planning and controlling of all the resources needed to take, make, ship, and account for customer orders in manufacturing, distribution or service company.” The focus at that time was to centralize information in a database that will serve as a central repository. It was easier to control and consume data from multiple modules or systems. This was the beginning of automation.
The evolution of technology and the internet brought a huge influx of ERPs, bringing with it three-tiered system architecture. The focus at that time was just to get the data right and secured. Now we’re looking at the adoption of enterprise software on a subscription model — through cloud adoption. But this is just the beginning of a big disruption. It’s digitalization that will be happening throughout the next decade.
In between every disruption I’ve witnessed in this enterprise software industry, specifically regarding ERPs, there’s a predominant gap that is not covered: actual intelligence (AI). Software development has aimed to bridge that gap with integrations, interfaces and programs primarily focused on centralization and data-centric solutions for automation and labor-intensive tasks. I helped organizations with code that automated repetitive tasks, such as bank reconciliation and receipt applications. Today, there’s a name for software that can be trained (or programmed) to mimic human interaction with a computer, completing high-volume and repetitive tasks. It is called robotic processing automation (RPA). Unfortunately, this is still all automation lacking intelligence.
Automation Does Not Always Mean Intelligence
Many businesses are setting up internal organizations with the title of “automation.” In fact, Gartner indicates that only 4% of organizations have no digital initiative at all. For the most part, this digital initiative is focused solely on automation over intelligence.
The most common first automation project that I see more and more at multiple organizations is the automation of their payables process. It started a while ago with optical character recognition (OCR), which was an RPA that focused solely on automation, but today, it is way more than just recognizing and entering the values in a system. We’re moving toward a more advanced understanding of what is being processed by OCSs — we’re adding that intelligence into the automation. We’re contextualizing and using AI and machine learning (ML) to speed up the flow of payables, which included multiple points of human interventions originally. My company has had the opportunity to work with many global organizations and multiple ERPs on how to automate the payables processes as part of their initial journey to automation.