Gartner Blog Network


“What the human body teaches us about ERP” by Tim Faith

by Debbie Wilson  |  July 29, 2019  |  Comments Off on “What the human body teaches us about ERP” by Tim Faith

I have enjoyed team sports and individual sports pretty much my entire life.  I find that the human body is capable of amazing achievements, whether in pursuit of team titles, Olympic glory, local bragging rights, or simply being “better than I was as a 20 year old”.

I’m writing this en route to present at a Gartner conference on Top 10 Technology Trends for Application Leaders. Gartner research has arrived at three key themes in the trends: Intelligent, Integrated and Innovative.  As always, increased utilization and use cases for AI is a notable trend (among others, but you’ll have to attend the presentation to hear the other 9!).  Because I’m weird, it got me thinking.  Multitudes of writers have written multitudes of articles about Human-Machine interaction and Cybernetic Integration.  There is a concern of replacement of humans (going all the way back to the Terminator and Matrix movies) and a trend in writing is how technology can augment humans.  Yes, there are cyborgs among us, according to the strict definition.  My dad is one!  He’s got a pacemaker.  As applied to ERP and Business Systems, there are some who are concerned that AI will do humans jobs better than humans, resulting in a wave of job loss.  Our research shows that is not the case, but rather people are applied to other tasks that cannot yet be automated.

Which took my mind on another track, as to what ERP and technology is, and what it is useful for.  Many years ago, my dad would describe various business programs and systems as the “heart” or “brains” or the “eyes” of the business, like body organs.  As systems matured and became more sophisticated, the descriptions became the “central nervous system of the business” or the “circulatory system of the business”.  ERP has grown like that, from various parts connected together, to more cohesive systems.  Now, the next step seems to be Intelligent businesses.

So, if we’ve gone from an “organ-based” view point to a “system view” point, what is next in the evolution of building ERP like a body?  I believe this: the human body seeks capability, integration and experience.  I believe that is the next stage for ERP also.

For example, the practice of analyzing an injury and rehabilitating is not solely to reconnect a system.  It is to restore or enhance the body’s capability of doing something.  Maybe that capability is simply to walk again, or sometimes it is to make a body capable of running a Spartan Race.  In that same light, ERP technology has to move from connecting systems to providing capability.  Maybe the ERP can help our businesses start walking, or to really start running.  The capability will be there, it will be up to us to apply it to our goal.

Our bodies already have conscious and unconscious intelligence systems that work together.  If you are reading this, those systems are working together.  You are breathing without thinking that “I need to breath now.” (Made you think about it though, didn’t I?)  You are also translating these words subconsciously into meaning.  That is where AI in ERP should take us.  It will act as the breathing and translating capabilities so that we can utilize our decision making and execution capabilities.

Humans need to interact with each other, in an integrated fashion.  We connect, we engage, we share lives together in some way, shape or form.  ERP strategies executed well will create seemless engagement and interaction with external applications, systems and entities in a way that emulates human integration and interaction.   These integrations will provide experiences in such a way that they are repeatable, natural and memorable.  And these experiences will improve through feedback in the same way that initial people interactions grow to become valuable lifelong friendships (without being programmed to do so!)

So, looking at the future of technology for ERP, there has been a tremendous amount of progress.  However, we can still look to humans to see where the future lies.

Additional Resources

Category: applications  erp  

Deborah R Wilson
Managing Vice President, ERP Strategy Team
12 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a recovering Gartner research analyst, leads the Gartner ERP strategy research team. Read Full Bio




Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.