Oracle, welcome to our world of self-driving

Posted by  Stephan Sieber

Oracle just announced the first “fully autonomous” database cloud service, or “self-driving” database. The company was typically vague about when this will be a reality, but we are pleased to welcome a new self-driving disciple.

We’ve been beating the self-driving drum for more than two years working with Microsoft, and building self-driving business applications ever since - re-imagining enterprise software to better serve people in large organizations. We have delivered a bot architecture and have been building self-driving digital assistants, including:

  • Time Assistant – Automatically generates timesheets based on multiple data streams and GPS and beacon location data to track time. Incorporates data from your calendar as well as people and project planning tools and learns from recent project and travel trends.
  • Purchasing Assistant – For finding products & suppliers, generating requisitions and managing approvals. Unit4’s digital assistant proactively monitors Goods Receipts, and automatically checks if goods are received on time before the invoice is processed.
  • Travel Assistant – Generates travel requests and manages approvals based on travel patterns and preferences. Proactively alerts to relevant travel policies based on location and extends travel requests, searching for flights and hotels, providing cost estimates, and connecting to travel providers in real time. Bookings can also be made through the travel assistant. Expense claims are auto-populated using receipt recognition technology and knowledge of itinerary.
  • Approval Assistant – Notifies and reminds managers to approve tasks and flags important tasks where deadlines are imminent.  Intelligently adds appointments to calendars with task reminders so deadlines are adhered to.
  • Absence Assistant -  intelligently helping managers to ensure people in their team and department take the vacation they are entitled to by suggesting the best times to do so looking at other people’s leave and commitments.

The wider promise is simple. In today’s services economy, people are the most valuable asset for any organization. Self-driving business applications empower people to be the best they can be by learning from the past and actively making use of the massive amounts of data and knowledge that is captured in them to provide context-sensitive support for mission-critical tasks. These applications take every day mundane tasks away from people and help them to do their jobs the best way they can.

For example, project managers can combine an analysis of historical data with predictive analytics to gain valuable insight on which projects to bid for (and which not). Public servants will improve fraud detection on bill payments with advanced pattern recognition and machine learning. Not-for Profit workers will have the ability to match campaigns to donation patterns and target donors more effectively. Universities will improve student success rates by spotting those ‘at risk’ early in the process by applying pattern recognition to various processes etc...

Self-driving enterprise software will be the new reality for everyone in today’s XaaS economy. But the real value of self-driving exists in the business applications that serve people using the reams of data we collect every day, not in the back office infrastructure. We moved beyond infrastructure components long ago. Cloud based self-driving databases have been around for years. Oracle’s announcement is another proof point of the self-driving model Unit4 has pioneered with its enterprise level applications.

This is the future for enterprise tech so we’re happy that other vendors are catching up to the reality of a self-driving future. Automation has always been a raison d’etre for enterprise software and self-driving business applications are the most logical step, albeit a giant one, towards total automation. But until we deliver levels of value that help people differentiate the services they deliver, through augmented self-driving solutions, data will remain static and rendered useless. The road to self-driving enterprise solutions will get busier, but let’s make sure we put people’s success, productivity, and their contribution to their customers’ and organization’s success at the forefront.

Stephan Sieber

Stephan Sieber

Stephan was appointed CEO of Unit4 in 2016, responsible for leading the development and execution of the company's long term strategy. He joined Unit4 in 2014 as EVP Strategy and Operations and 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. He completed an Advanced Management Program at INSEAD in 2002 and an MBA with the University of Toronto in 2007.