“Alexa, what are the latest trends in enterprise technology?”
In the consumer world, voice-activated AI is now becoming an everyday user interface in everything from remote controls and home speakers to mobile devices, watches and appliances.
Now enterprises are starting to realize voice-driven experiences as well. In November at Dreamforce, Salesforce debuted an AI-powered Einstein system, bringing intelligent voice engagement to its cloud-based customer relationship management marketing platforms. In September at Openworld, Oracle introduced its AI-powered Digital Assistant to communicate with its enterprise applications.
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Is voice a novel trend or does it have the power to transform business processes and operations? The answer is yes. But, when it comes to digital transformation, voice is merely the front end to a back-end integration of single purpose or multi-disciplinary systems and data. Voice is solely a user interface; it isn’t the where the intelligence or integration happens. That’s an entirely new layer of technology.
The Digital Transformation of Digital Transformation
At the heart of digital transformation is cloud migration. Every imaginable system is migrating to the cloud, while legacy and modern services are plugging into--or operating on top of--existing and new platforms, ERP, CRM, inventory management, advanced planning, weather, social media and others.
The gold “in them thar hills” is data. Yet no matter how far along the digital transformation of any organization, hundreds--if not more--data sources still aren’t talking to each other. As a result, they don't offer real-time visibility into how they relate and how to best act upon integrated insights.
The more disparate the systems, the more difficult accessing and operationalizing the data. No amount of intelligent voice interfaces is going to change that. The lack of integration is one of digital transformation’s most enduring challenges. It hinders business performance and operational agility, creating a competitive gap between legacy organizations and born digital businesses.
Enterprises need a new business operating system (OS) to compete. A modern OS serves as a new layer that sits in between voice and those disparate systems. When it comes to data, it can organize, extract and make sense of multi-source insights to inform executives on not only status, but their next best action based on those insights. It’s real-time and predictive. AI-powered operating systems usher in the next iteration of digital transformation--a cognitive OS that ultimately powers a truly cognitive enterprise.
The Cognitive Enterprise Gets Its Voice
Frederic Laluyaux, CEO of Aera Technology, described the future of cognitive automation as the “self-driving enterprise.” I recently met him Aera’s office in San Francisco. Shortly into our meeting, he picked up his iPhone and asked, “What’s my forecast?”
A pleasant voice responded: “On track at $1.2 billion, with an additional $134 million revenue opportunity. Do you want the regional breakdown?”
That was my introduction the potential of the self-driving enterprise, a category Laluyaux trademarked to double-down on the revolution of the enterprise.
Think of Aera as a cognitive OS that connects disparate (and aging) ERP systems and data into a digital brain. It serves as a cognitive layer that connects data, insights and people in an on-demand operational model. Aera provides Google-like indexing capabilities with an Alexa style interface.
Its unique value comes from a proprietary cognitive AI platform that makes sense of scattered and unclean data across multitudes of ERPs to deliver business critical information on-demand. More so, Aera learns from every instance how the business operates today and how it can improve day after day. This give the digital brain memory and the type of precious expertise that was previously relegated to human brains.
The challenge with human capital is that as people come and go, that knowledge leaves and has to be replicated every time. Between this and aging infrastructure, siloed business models and general “out of touchness” and a business as usual mindset, barriers and blackholes have over time, impeded progress and innovation.
Businesses have to do more than digitally transform. Executives have to split efforts into modernization and innovation. They have to invest in innovative operational infrastructure, models and expertise that’s capable of competing against a new breed of digital native competitors.
From Business as Usual to a More Cognitive, Self-Driving Enterprise
Before Aera, Laluyaux served as Chief Executive Officer and President at Anaplan. He successfully grew that company from 20 to 650 employees with a $1 billion-plus valuation. His track record gives him access to C-suites at major organizations. He’s already seeing that they all have the same problem: They’re firmly stuck with one foot in legacy infrastructure and the other in digital transformation. But there’s more to digital transformation than upgrades and migration. It’s about building a new business and operational OS powered by a human brain with creative human capital that is at the same time, future-ready and future-proof.
At the heart of this is data, which is often referred to as the new oil. But data is a bit more like crude oil. You have to first find and collect it from all of its vast repositories. Even when you do, it’s unrefined. Data also is often bad. It’s all over the place. Oftentimes, key data points are missing, especially in an era of real-time and predictive analytics. You can’t just make decisions with what you have; you need to upgrade, organize and clean the sources, plug it all into an intelligent system and upgrade human capital to connect the dots and make the most informed decisions consistently all at the accelerating speed of business.
Every CEO knows they have data, operational and human capital problems. Digital transformation is one of the paths forward. You can’t solve it overnight and becoming digital is a game everyone is playing. But you can start making the investment in cognitive platforms that connect disparate dots while also giving stakeholders the ability to literally ask different questions that beget different answers. This starts to change organizational behavior, develop new human and machine knowledge and capabilities that ultimately change organizational course. More so, it starts to improve decision-making, introducing real-time and predictive capabilities, which accelerate and improve business outcomes.
As Laluyaux said: “The leap from transactional automation to cognitive automation is imminent, and it will forever transform the way we work.”
Therein lies the opportunity for executives running legacy-based businesses in a digital-first economy. You can now implement a cognitive OS within an existing infrastructure that places your organization on the path toward a more agile, intelligent, self-driving enterprise.
eWEEK contributor Brian Solis is a world-renowned digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist. Brian 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.