If you have followed major ERP vendors’ technology roadmap announcements for the past two years, the term “autonomous ERP” is used quite often to promote self-executing business processes as a future capability. What I am not hearing is how to determine the trust level needed in order for organizations to allow the autonomous ERP to take over.
Let’s take a look at how the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defined five different levels of maturity when it comes to autonomous driving. Keep in mind each level of autonomy describes the system and not the company that is using it.
Level 0: Basic level where driver (human) controls it all: steering, brakes, throttle, and power. It’s fair to say that’s how most ERP software operate today.
Level 1: While the driver controls most functions, the car can do specific functions like steering or accelerating automatically. In ERP it is the same as level 1, but with the ability to execute batch jobs automatically or raise alerts on specific risks or threats from transactional monitoring.
Level 2: Driver can disengage from physically operating the vehicle by having their hands off the steering wheel and foot off pedal at the same time. The car will perform cruise control and land centering, steering, accelerate / decelerate using information collected from sensors about the driving environment. However, the driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle. From an ERP’s perspective, that is where automation of business processes (Robotic Process Automation) are being used today.
Level 3: Driver able to shift safety and critical functions to the vehicle. While the driver is not required to monitor the driving condition the same way as level 2, they must be alert and intervene if necessary. This, I believe, is where the trust factor plays a major role in convincing the enterprise to start believing that it is safe to trust their ERP system to manage some part of the business operation.
Level 4: Fully autonomous. Level 4 vehicles are “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.” However, it’s important to note that this is limited to the “operational design domain (ODD)” of the vehicle—meaning it does not cover every driving scenario. In the ERP world, this is where AI / ML will fully operate but is constrained by, perhaps, specific industry domains or line of business functions.
Level 5: The vehicle’s performance is now an equivalent of a human driver (driverless) and can adapt to every driving scenario including extreme conditions. This is where I have doubts if software vendors are willing to be financially liable for such tasks with the complex and ever changing integrations in the world of ERP systems. What if something goes wrong and causes an organization to go out of business? At least in the driving world, you can purchase auto insurance. In the business world, what is liability coverage? I am not sure.
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