If you follow tech news even a little, you’ll certainly have noticed that there is a lot of buzz about new information technologies such as Big data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. These new technologies harness the phenomenal amount of data that is generated and collected every day, as well as our ever-increasing capacity to compile, process and analyze this data.
As fascinating and promising as such technologies might be, how can they actually help you manage your business on a daily basis, or plan your long-term strategy?
Microsoft is betting big on these new technologies, integrating them into its management systems (ERP systems). According to Microsoft, we are facing nothing less than the fourth industrial revolution, after the rise of telecommunications (3rd), electrification and the internal combustion engine (2nd) and industrialization and the steam engine (1st).
The goal is to give small and medium business access to these technologies, which, up until now, have only been available to large global enterprises. Indeed, only the largest companies had the kind of research and development budgets required to take advantage of these new technologies.
Artificial intelligence for forecasting
So how can Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning help a company become more productive?
In the latest versions of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV integrated management system, the Cortana artificial intelligence module can be activated to refine cash-flow forecasts. Such forecast models present a high level of uncertainty; it’s this uncertainty that Microsoft is seeking to reduce.
For example, though you may require all your customers to pay up in 30 days, some will pay within two weeks, while others will systematically miss the deadline. Manually integrating such variations into forecasting models would be a colossal or impossible task. And that’s assuming no customers will thereafter change their payment habits.
However, with the Artificial Intelligence module activated, the system is able to automatically analyze past data to uncover trends and apply them to future forecasts. Furthermore, the system can compare its forecasts to reality and, as time goes by, use this feedback to further refine the next round of forecasts. This is what is meant by Machine Learning.
Similarly, a Sales Item Forecast extension can also be activated. Once again, the system can automatically analyze past data and uncover potentially hidden or seasonal trends in sales history. In a highly competitive world, having the right products on hand at the right time is of the highest importance.
Big Data and Social Media
Many companies would like to follow what’s being said about their products on social media. Are their products mentioned in Tweets, in Facebook posts or on LinkedIn? If so, are these mentions positive, neutral or negative?
When you consider the amount of information generated every hour on social media, you are truly faced with a Big Data issue. It would be quite the challenge for a small or medium-sized company to compile everything that is published on the various social platforms in order to track mentions of its products, and harder yet to determine the tenor of these mentions.
Now, in the most recent versions of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV solution, activating the Microsoft Social Engagement extension allows you to see what is being said about your products on social media, right in your management system and in real time. And should you wish to look at this more closely, you’ll be automatically redirected to the Dashboard of the Microsoft social engagement platform, where you’ll have access to all manner of performance indicators.
Once on this portal, you’ll be able to drill right down to individual mentions and validate whether the algorithm correctly evaluated the sentiment (positive, neutral or negative) of the specific mention. If need be, you can correct the assessment made, allowing the algorithm to learn from this feedback and refine its future assessments.
Living in the future
With the current pace of technological change, we often feel like we’re living in the future. If you’re looking to change your integrated management system, make sure to choose one that sits at the forefront of this fourth industrial revolution currently underway.