Digital transformation (DX) is still among the biggest business trends driving technology investments today. IT market analyst IDC estimates businesses will spend $2.3 trillion a year on digital transformation investments during the next four years. By 2023, the analyst estimates that digital transformation will account for 53% of all worldwide technology investments.
Modernizing legacy infrastructure by digitizing all areas of a business is mission critical, but it may not be enough. In addition to DX, enterprise organizations will need to explore bolder investments that power the next generation of business, to more effectively compete against innovators and digital native companies.
The lifeblood of any company is data. In many cases, organizations are anchored by decades of technical debt that hinder growth and performance. This means data that is siloed and processes and legacy systems that are increasingly outdated; yet markets evolve and new breeds of competitors continue to disrupt industry giants. Right now, critical ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) systems are strewn across the organization in various states and conditions, largely housed on different vendor platforms.
Digital transformation is addressing the modernization and integration of some of these systems. But what if you could integrate, without a rip and replace, a cloud cognitive platform on top of existing stems? What if that platform could learn from all the human-based decisions and CRM and supply chain data to create a digital brain and memory to learn and improve future decision making and performance?
Enter Aera Technology and the era of cognitive automation, the integration of AI, machine learning, data modeling and data science functions to augment and automation critical business operations. The company announced Aera, the industry’s first Cognitive Automation Operating System that enables the Self-Driving Enterprise. Before we move on, let’s unpack exactly what that means.
Connects the dots in a modern IT system
Aera’s cloud-based cognitive automation platform takes existing ERP and CRM systems and adds a unifying cognitive data layer that sits on top of them. As a cognitive operating system, Aera becomes an intelligent digital brain within the enterprise to understand complex business operations, make real-time recommendations, predict business outcomes and eventually take action autonomously. Employees then take their hands off the steering wheel, so to speak, to let Aera drive while freeing them up to work more efficiently, creatively and strategically.
This isn’t robotic process automation (RPA), however. RPA is a form of business process automation of routine tasks normally performed by knowledge workers. Here, the Aera OS learns how humans make decisions across the organization. As information is fed back into the OS, Aera gets better and better at decision-making. As Aera learns, decisions are made faster, they’re more accurate and impactful, with new insights continually discovered to improve and transform supply chains, operations and organizational performance.
As Aera continuously crawls through data sources and understands the impact of each decision, it creates so-called “learning moments.” These become a permanent memory of business-critical decisions and outcomes that help Aera learn, operationalize and improve decision-making and recommendations over time.
“Some of the world’s leading and time-tested companies are facing increasing competitive pressure from innovative enterprises, challenger brands and digital natives such as Amazon,” Aera Technology CEO Frederic Laluyaux said. “Even though companies are digitally transforming, critical supply chain decision-making and processes are still driven by humans interacting with aging organizational ERP and CRM systems, processes and data silos.
“The Aera Cognitive Operating System becomes the digital brain within the enterprise, allowing enterprises to become self-driving. This is the true potential of cognitive automation, continuously learning from data, human IP, while building a digital memory that improves performance over time,” Laluyaux said.
Aera’s cognitive automation platform opens to developers and partners to build cognitive skills
In addition to its Aera Cognitive Operating System, Aera Technology also announced that its OS includes prepackaged Cognitive Skills and is also open to developers and partners to build custom skills on the platform. Cognitive Skills are automated processes that combine different functions and data sources. Think of it like an enterprise version of Amazon’s Alexa platform for cognitive skill-building on the Aera platform.
Skills enable intuitive calculations, workflows and intelligent conversational voice interactions to optimize demand planning, promotions, available-to-promise/ capable-to-promise, inventory, procurement and other critical logistical applications. Skills orchestrate processes across disparate transactional systems and provides personalized insights with recommended actions.
In one example, the company shared its Skill for demand planning in the supply chain:
- “The Cognitive Skill for demand planning has the ability to instantly sense, forecast and track changes in demand through harmonized internal and external data sources (ERP, CRM, sales, marketing, market trends, social media, etc.) pertinent to demand planning. It predicts variability, market conditions and customer patterns in real time and makes real-time recommendations to the plan, such as inventory adjustments, new product introductions (NPIs), safety stock and others based on insights derived from Aera’s Cognitive Automation Platform. Aera then executes the resulting actions in the transactional systems autonomously and sends exceptions to the planners. Planners can accept or decline decisions recommended. The Skill will take actions accordingly. Operational decisions made across an organization are monitored and their impact is measured for continuous improvement.”
Beyond the included Skills, the Aera OS allows for custom Skill-building to meet the exact needs of enterprises and their customers. Each new skill empowers Aera to support and augment decision-making at scale across multiple business units, market units, customer segments or product segments. Aera Skills learn from every experience, suggesting ways to improve financial and operational performance, predict business opportunities, risks and outcomes and prompt enterprise managers for decisions to automatically complete actions.
Enterprise evolution beyond digital transformation
Cognitive automation is the next chapter in the evolution of the digital enterprise.
The reality is that digital transformation is not a “won and done” event. It’s an infinite game. Technology, trends and capabilities will always evolve. Systems and processes will always need updating.
However, while organizations digitize all aspects of their business, companies need more than DX and cloud migration to compete. Digital transformation is now an everyday part of business, and the cognitive enterprise is an extension of this work--resolving key pain points in demand planning, supply chain forecasting and management.
Executives see and feel how rapidly technology is advancing, and they know how their organization’s capabilities and performance are held back by out-of-date structures, processes and systems. Cognitive automation solves real operational and business problems and generates outcomes and ROI that allow companies to more effectively compete in a digital economy that’s already worldwide.
The release of Aera will help new adopters accelerate the deployment of cognitive automation to become more agile and upgrade operations to internet speed and scale. Aera is already implemented by its pioneer customers, including Johnson & Johnson, Merck, RB and Unilever.
Until now, the old guard, brick and mortars, et al., didn’t have a universal, real-time promise and solution to compete. Cognitive automation represents a key to unlock that future.
eWEEK contributor Brian Solis is a world-renowned digital analyst, anthropologist and futurist. He is also a global keynote speaker and an award-winning author of eight best-selling books. Through his research, keynotes and work, he humanizes technology trends to help people shape the future they want to see.