How to create a self-driving ERP strategy the Tesla way

Ton Dobbe Profile picture for user Ton Dobbe January 26, 2016
Just as Tesla is bringing us smart, self-driving cars, enterprise application vendors are innovating to apply smart, self-driving ERP to our organizations, writes Unit4's Ton Dobbe

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Tesla is to the automobile industry what Apple is to mobile phones. The electric car maker is disrupting the industry in ways not thought possible only a few years ago. Its reimagining of the modern car is going to change our lives. Software sits at the heart of the company’s vision and its AI-based Autopilot advances will make self-driving cars mainstream.

Unlike other luxury car companies, Tesla has taken a completely new approach to the design and engineering of cars. It’s achieved a level of innovation not typically associated with the car industry. Rather than purely focusing on aesthetics or performance improvements, it has shown that innovation can be disruptive and can change the way we think about something we all use, and which has existed in today’s form more or less since 1886.

Tesla’s electric cars can accelerate as fast as today’s sports cars without the noise. They are bringing down the cost of driverless vehicles and have proven zero-emissions are possible. Cars will be networked, safety assured, and journeys optimized in real-time, solving the problem of congestion in our cities. From batteries to speed and fuel they are truly innovative. By utilizing the advances that software can deliver, rather than working within the constraints of hardware, they have changed what’s possible.

Post-modern ERP is here

Unlike the auto industry, the software industry has long been known for very rapid innovation. ERP systems are currently undergoing massive change and innovation. Technology advances and the growing services-economy mean that the way companies are thinking about ERP and using it to support the growth of their business is changing dramatically, and in a good way.

Organizations today must make better decisions, provide better customer service and find new business opportunities from their data – if they do not, the competition will. The key to this is leveraging every piece of data at our disposal.

By feeding this data into the cloud and utilizing machine learning and other smart analytics, we can start to make sense of this flood of data and apply it in context to reimagine the user experience completely. As a result, this information can be used to:

  • Pre-populate data into ERP applications thereby freeing the user from manual tasks;
  • Sense potential problems and notify users where an error is about to occur or when something in the business needs attention;
  • Provide intelligent recommendations and turn traditionally complex and painstaking tasks (e.g. planning of a multi-stage project) into an activity that actually provides sustainable competitive advantage;
  • Remove the need for user interaction at all and apply smart analytics to process a transaction from start to finish making it 100% self-driving.

 The roadmap to self-driving ERP

Ultimately, understanding and applying data will make ERP more automated, more self-driven, and it will deliver a completely new experience. There are four stages to getting this right.

1: Standardize

Standardization of structured procedures enables integration and automation. Integrating the operational and financial systems of an organization provides a comprehensive and consistent picture to all the stakeholders within an organization, greatly enhancing the speed at which information flows through the business. This enables you to better manage inefficiencies and gain a bigger-picture overview of overall business performance. By automating as many tasks as possible, you can work smarter and faster, freeing up time to focus on tasks that lead to positive impact.

2: Optimize

Companies that understand their position sooner are in a better position to adjust quickly to risks and opportunities and execute efficiently. Using dedicated software to intelligently capture, organize and integrate data will enable companies to disseminate up-to-the minute information in real-time and produce better, faster insights that are firmly rooted in reality. This empowers business management to act instantaneously on the information provided, minimizing delays and operational disruption.

3: Become smart

With optimized and reliable data in place, smart analytics can start contributing to the business. Embedded inside cloud-based applications it has the power to enable anyone to access, review and act on information in-context to the task they work on. The inclusive intelligence this provides empowers people to make real-time insightful decisions; spot opportunities based on intelligent recommendations and as such deliver a personalized service to customers.

4: Let applications self-drive

Big-data analytics combined with in-memory technologies and predictive, pattern-matching tools have the potential to uncover correlations between behaviors and outcomes and make ERP completely self-driving. Here’s where users will benefit from reduced manual input:

  • Instead of having to enter their time line-by-line, a simple yes/no answer to a pop-up question auto-completes the action in the moment.
  • Manual tasks such as the weekly or monthly expense claims can be completely predicted and pre-populated, requiring just the “OK” from the user.
  • Approval steps can be reduced to zero or the bare minimum by presenting the user with just the exceptions simply by using the power of smart technology.
  • Potential problems can be sensed and presented to the user’s attention to take corrective action, or go even one step further by prescribing the potential solutions.
  • Where the system does require the skills and intelligence of the user, it can help by providing intelligent recommendations. Based on the user’s choice, it can complete complex actions such as planning a full project including resource assignments in literally seconds.

So where Tesla’s software-led innovation is paving the way for self-driven taxis, zero-emission cars, automatic ride sharing and driverless delivery services, the same is true for ERP and enterprise applications as the engine for business success. The possibilities seem almost endless thanks to cloud and digital.

The new approach to delivering self-driving ERP goes beyond the perceived limitations of ERP in the same way Tesla has broken the mold for speed, economics and disruption in the car industry. The end goal for services organizations is delivering the best services and customer experience. The roadmap set out here paves the way to increased service delivery sophistication and has the power to accelerate business growth ambitions like never before.

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