In the past 30 to 40 years, technological advances have helped businesses move from large and expensive main-frame computing to more affordable computer devices able to share and access business data from almost any location. Our children are using computers in almost all of their school classes, producing a highly computer-literate workforce. This means that access to data from anywhere, and automated processes are now basic requirement in all businesses.
Some people are frightened of technological advances and the unknown consequences of unleashing a Pandora’s Box of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the cloud and the internet of things (IoT).
Others are ecstatic about the speedy improvements to people’s (and businesses’) quality of life by replacing everyday struggles with clever tech solutions. The elimination of hard, laborious work leads to the transformation and reformation of jobs that we can’t even imagine yet. But is this really useful to businesses?
Often what comes to mind when you think of future technology is drones delivering your Amazon order or a creepy humanoid taking your order at McDonalds, or perhaps driverless cars picking up your kids from school.
But what changes are actually going to impact real business (including ERP) computing over the next few years?
MYOB recently presented about this to an Endeavour (NZ) client function. Here we take a look at some of their insights into how AI, data and the multi-cloud world is impacting the way we do business.
Artificial intelligence (AI) describes the apparent intelligence of a non-living machine – anything from a family’s personal computer, to a humanoid robot.
Increased computing power means more powerful artificial intelligence. Over the past 25 years computing power has sped up over 200x since the MAC 128 was introduced in 1984, while the size needed to encapsulate this computing power has decreased, resulting in tiny but powerful technology devices, and small but incredibly powerful technology devices.
Separating practical AI from science fiction AI
There are three main categories of AI – narrow, general and super.
Super AI currently falls into the science fiction category. It refers to agents of intelligence far surpassing the brightest human minds, with extraordinary problem solving and creativity abilities.
General AI is in its infancy stage and describes an entity with multiple focuses and the ability to apply self-learning. It can also reason.
The most relevant type of AI technology for ERP business processes today is ‘Narrow AI’. Also known as ‘weak’ AI, it is focused on one task, is able to self-improve, but is not able to learn outside its field of use.
Broad examples of narrow AI include chat-bots, self-driving cars and Amazon purchase guidance.
What AI tech has MYOB been working on?
MYOB has been utilizing AI for OCR and extraction and Natural Language Generation. They have also started to experiment with chat-bot interfaces to help with capturing and categorizing expenses, and to categorize encoded transactions.
MYOB SmartBills (Greentree eDocs)
SmartBills allows a customer to upload or email a supplier invoice into their company file. On receiving this invoice the product attempts to read (with OCR) the invoice and auto-populate fields when creating a Bill.
The background technology (Xtracta) uses machine learning to improve the reading of invoices with accuracy over 90%.
MyAdvisor is an advisory reporting solution that utilises Natural Language Generation (NLG) to prepare financial reports that have plain English commentary and recommendations.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) and NLG are the underlying AI technologies used in much of the chat-bot and speech-based interfaces.
MYOB Advanced Business ERP – Chat-bot
MYOB’s cloud based ERP, MYOB Advanced, has created a proof of concept chat-bot using Microsoft Skype for capturing expenses.
In the prototype you can nominate to create an expense and allocate to an expense type as well as upload an image of a receipt for the expense.
The multi-cloud world
Another way technology can make life easier for businesses, is by extending ERP with more specific, cloud-based solutions, including:
- Industry-centric (e.g. e-retail capability)
- Product extension (e.g. time tracking apps)
- Business intelligence tools (e.g. analysis and presentation tools)
Although these features do sound a bit daunting at first, it’s exciting that AI, the Internet of Things and the cloud goes beyond simply being futurist buzzwords. MYOB has demonstrated that they’re taking these forms of technology seriously, and that there are real, beneficial tools that you can utilize now to cut ERP processing time, effort and resources in your business. For now, this isn’t so much a threat to your job, but more an opportunity to grow, and focus on the more strategic, creative, ‘human’ side of your role, that machines can’t do… yet.
Endeavour Solutions is a provider of MYOB ERP products, Greentree and Advanced. To learn more contact us today on 1300 583 097