American software company Infor has launched an artificial intelligence-powered tool called Coleman, to help customers make better, faster decisions using the data sitting in their ERP systems.
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are becoming increasingly popular within enterprise software, with many of the big vendors building machine learning capabilities into their business applications.
The Coleman platform is named after Katherine Coleman Johnson, an African-American physicist and mathematician whose calculations were vital to enabling NASA's successful moon landing. Infor said the aim of the Coleman AI is to support users of its cloud applications in making faster and more accurate decisions by connecting them to ERP system data and Birst analytics.
Coleman functions in a variety of ways. For instance it enables conversational interactions, with Infor building on Amazon’s Lex framework. “For chat and voice, we are just leveraging the same technology that sits behind Amazon Alexa and other AI frameworks,” said Infor president, Duncan Angove during the company's customer conference in New York this week.
The speech recognition functionality will also advise and provide recommendations to software users, such as which application they should use to execute a certain task, or what attachment to add.
Angove also sees applications in areas such as finance departments in automating mundane and laborious processes. “Studies have shown that 40 percent or more of the tasks in the finance department could be replaced by AI bots by 2020. Coleman will execute these low complexity, volume tasks like invoice matching, expense report reconciliation, evaluating credit risk for new customers."
Another potential use is within an IoT network, predicting failure of machine components, for example, and creating an order in an asset management system for a machine to be serviced by a field worker.
The technology underpinning Coleman systems is not new, though it is early days for the platform and more will be added gradually. Angove said that the vendor has been building machine learning into its software for a while now, and "elements of Coleman are already available today". But while these machine learning algorithms have been applied to specific software applications in vertical solutions in the past, Coleman is a platform that will cut across all of its Cloud Suite software applications, accessible via its ION APIs.
While Infor is building Coleman as a ‘platform’ it will still enable different functionality for various industry verticals, executives have said. For example, price optimisation will work differently in the hotel business compared to retail or distribution.
“We think the wrong approach to machine learning is to build discrete applications that are bolted on to existing apps which is traditionally how this has been done. It should be a more pervasive, ubiquitous part of the overall experience," said Angove.
He added: "Coleman is industry specific, we are not in the business of building a horizontal machine learning platform - there are plenty in the market that we could invest in."
For the most part Coleman will ship as part of the Cloud Suite at no extra cost, Angove said in a press briefing, with hopes that it will entice users to move away from on-prem software. However, a specific machine-learning powered demand forecasting module, for example, might have its own cost.
“In general we see it as a feature of the Cloud Suite - it should be a reason to upgrade to the Cloud Suite,” he said.
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