I was speaking with a Gartner client at an onsite visit late last year about their ERP strategy. After a high level discussion of scope, the conversation moved to questions about new technologies being applied to enterprise applications. Of particular interest was how the major ERP vendors are investing in AI and Machine Learning – and where and how those technologies were likely to be applied to applications. I gave a high level overview of the respective vendors under discussion, and then asked if they had particular applications or problems to be solved in mind. The answer from the Enterprise Architect made me laugh. He said “We want applications that keep getting smarter and challenge us to develop ever improving quality and processes. In short we don’t just want intelligent apps – we want Skynet.”
After the laughter subsided, we got into a discussion of how this client planned on using intelligent applications. And how jobs and the required skills in enterprises would change as a result of AI, digital transformation, data science and intelligent applications. My colleagues on the ERP team and other analysts at Gartner have written a number of notes on the topic.
AI success stories are becoming more numerous, from Amazon gaining operational efficiencies using its AI-powered Kiva warehouse robots, to GE keeping its industrial equipment running by leveraging AI for predictive maintenance. There are many others.
Yet while there is tremendous interest in AI and its applications in enterprises, adoption is occurring at different rates across sectors and verticals. AI, data and analytics have become central themes for the success of digital business transformation. Yet many companies struggle with prioritizing and assessing the business impact of these investments.
A Harvard Business Review survey last year indicated that companies can’t easily leapfrog to AI without digital transformation experience1. Some industries leading in AI adoption – such as high-tech, financial services, telecom, and automotive – are also the ones that are the most digitized. The message is clear: AI alone is not enough – digital capabilities come ahead of AI.
Stop wondering whether Skynet is going to take over – it isn’t.
Start thinking about how you’re going to coordinate digital transformation efforts with AI to leverage the processing power and intelligence of your intelligent ERP system. Or you could find yourself at a serious disadvantage against continuously improving competitors.
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