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Why self-driving software will grow profits

Posted by  Stephan Sieber

This blog was first published on Diginomica.com 

It won't be long before autonomous cars are seen zipping down the highways. These cars are capable of sensing the environment and navigating without human input - even though a human driver is still required at the wheel to take control at a moment's notice. Soon they will be driverless thanks to the intelligent software operating them. The self-driving car illustrates an important point. It will change lanes and avoid collisions while you read a magazine or photograph the scenery. It will not decide whether to take a break or a detour to pick something up along the way. Man and machine intelligence work together to create the smoothest driving experience possible.

We are seeing a similar revolution taking place in the enterprise software market. Self-driving enterprise software will help people in business by taking over many routine daily tasks, letting us focus on what’s important and providing us with a new layer of intelligence throughout the day. For services organizations whose value inherently lies in the output of its people, the impact is real and enormous. It will fundamentally change the way we create value and do business.

What is self-driving enterprise software?

Self-driving software delivers intelligent automation. It is about freeing people from menial and administrative tasks, so they can spend their time doing what they were hired to do: Teachers teaching, nurses nursing, and everybody serving the customer. It is about software discovering patterns that are hidden by the limitations of human comprehension, and detecting invisible problems buried deep within zettabytes of disparate data, enabling undiscerned challenges and opportunities to be identified, flagged and alerted, or even automatically addressed, well before they could otherwise be identified.

Sales reps will produce expense reports in moments, employees’ most important tasks will be automatically prioritized for them, departments will run payroll in minutes, project managers will set up new projects in hours. How? It is the melding of two ‘minds,’ where intelligent software does the bulk of the work, and human intelligence supervises, guides and manages by exception.

By collecting and utilizing critical business data in ERP systems in innovative ways, this type of software changes user experience by automating many of the functions that keep employees from otherwise focusing on their primary jobs.

The term "self-driving" implies that software will minimize decisions and take action independent of human interaction. It does this by increasing the predictive abilities of the software and prepopulating data based on existing data, user schedules, routines and smart connections between devices and the software.

Self-driving ERP software:

  • Reduces repetitive manual user tasks by automating tasks.
  • Reduces or eliminates the need for manually inputting data.
  • Uses the moment of action instead of waiting to ask for necessary input from the user.
  • Senses potential problems or bottlenecks so they can be avoided.
  • Senses potential opportunities and acts upon them.
  • Makes intelligent and sensible recommendations to drive business forward.

How will self-driving software accomplish tasks?

In the past, critical input could take days or weeks to enter the system. Decisions were routinely made using outdated data. Data residing on a local computer’s spreadsheet may never get into the system. Decisions were routinely made without using that particular data at all, more from gut feel than based on facts.

Compare that to the self-driving experience, where embedded analytics scour every bit of big data. Decisions are based on current and complete information, saving time, money, do-overs and occasionally even embarrassment.

Self-driving software uses predictive analytics to leverage machine learning tools with social media and mobile devices to provide context for the information within and throughout the system. It captures transactional data in new ways to streamline and automate business processes.

This type of software uses:

  • Alerts engines to keep users updated to new patterns.
  • Rules engines to establish and self-configure rules that alter themselves based on user interactions.
  • Community definitions to create social contexts.
  • Location detection to provide a mobile context for tracking and information pushes.
  • Event stream analysis to sense problems and patterns.
  • Peer analysis and customer sentiment capture to provide crowd context.
  • Workflow engines to put all the data together so businesses can get the most use out of the information.

Organizations can essentially augment the knowledge of their employees every minute of every day. Imagine all your workers being empowered to be the best they can be all of the time. They will use data to make better business decisions, find new opportunities and provide the best possible customer service automatically and almost instantly.

Why we should have confidence in new technology

In an online survey of 1,505 office-based employees from 11 countries and markets commissioned by Unit4, participants identified the administrative tasks that take up their time, preventing them from focusing on their value-add primary duties. On a daily basis, an average of:

  • 52 percent of employees handle administrative tasks.
  • 42 percent collate and enter data manually.
  • 32 percent analyze data.
  • 23 percent produce reports manually.
  • 22 percent enter timesheet data and track project information.
  • 17 percent handle invoices.

Across all countries surveyed, an average total of 552 hours annually are spent accomplishing tasks that could be automated. Two-thirds or more of office workers in each country felt that automation of administrative tasks would improve their productivity. Over 80 percent said they would welcome new technology and would place their trust in it to automate those tasks. And more than half of all office workers surveyed either agree or strongly agree that implementing automated intelligence technology is imperative for staying competitive in the marketplace.

How this journey may look for businesses

Through applying pattern recognition to categorize structured and unstructured data, self-driving software will be able to flag anomalies and facilitate management by exception. Here's an example of what this might look like in practice:

A busy sales rep might be weighed down by spending hours generating and managing requests for travel. A self-driving ERP assistant would learn previous travel patterns and preferences and help manage approvals. It would automatically create expense claims around each trip using receipt recognition and complete timesheets based on the knowledge of your whereabouts. No more time spent searching for receipts, poring over calendars, making bookings and recreating data lost during the course of a busy trip. But, with self-driving software, that same sales rep will be able to save time by taking only a few minutes for all the admin that typically surrounds a trip today:

  • It learns from the date of the trip and the client visited data from Outlook.
  • It learns your favorite hotels, restaurants, modes of transport.
  • It makes suggestions and populates an expense claim using the airline and ticket info from a travel app.
  • The taxi fare and route from the sales rep's phone's GPS and credit card data are used.

Self-driving software seamlessly collects information as it's created and applies user history and the company's history using machine intelligence to complete an expense report that only requires acceptance with a click of a button. Now, that sales rep can spend more time selling instead of collecting and inputting data.

It won’t only save people time. Self-driving software will boost sales and empower management. Take professional services for example. A potential customer sends out a request for bids on a complex project.  Your firm delivers a time and cost proposal the next day. It is detailed and accurate. Discussions begin immediately. Ten days later your competition finally submits their bid. Yours is better. This is the type of scenario that will become common place as organizations embrace new technology. Self-driving software can analyze thousands of projects and help choose the best, most similar project as a starting point. With a few modifications, a final, comprehensive bid is completed.

The essence of the shifting roles and responsibilities that automated intelligence drives is that people will spend their time providing value-added services that can generate higher margins and new revenue streams. Knowing this, we can assume uptake will be rapid. The best organizations will have the best technology, supporting the best people, delivering more value to their customers than their competitors.

Stephan Sieber

Stephan Sieber

Stephan Sieber was appointed CEO of Unit4 in 2016. He joined Unit4 in 2014 with responsibility for driving strategy and corporate development. He became responsible for global sales operations in 2015. Stephan previously worked for SAP where he held multiple leadership positions over more than 10 years including Managing Director of SAP Switzerland and Chief Operating Officer of the region DACH (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). He was also a member of the management team of SAP Germany.

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