I recently read an article which said “AI will not replace accountants and auditors, but accountants and auditors that use AI can replace those that don’t.”
I predict that will also be true of implementation consultants in the next few years. SAP has invested in automation to analyze current ECC configurations, and to inspect custom mods at customers looking to move to S/4HANA. Oracle, as part of its SOAR initiative has other conversion tools. Plex has a project applying ML to examine parameter settings across their customer base. Incorrect settings lead to inefficiencies and errors. Extrapolate that and with AI, consultants should be able to configure parameters much quicker and more accurately. The toolbox keeps growing.
My premise was reinforced when I was talking to a roofer recently. If you look at how that industry has evolved and how it can routinely replace roofs in a day, you see similar opportunities to make implementation projects quicker, cheaper and importantly, much more predictable.
Before you laugh and think implementation projects are way more complex, review this video of EagleView which applies AI to imagery and allows roofers to better scope their jobs. No two roofs are alike, and EagleView has case studies where the proposals can be done at 60 to 70% less effort than before. With drones, robotic crawlers and other automation the industry will become even more efficient.
The ERP, CRM etc SI market similarly has data on millions of projects. These projects mostly follow similar steps – parameter configuration, data conversion, end user training, testing etc. In 2001, Jim Holincheck (who then went on to Gartner and Workday), Brian Sommer and I were part of a startup which had built early project configurators and proposal engines. With today’s CPQ, PSA and other technologies and data from projects from another 18 years, I am confident we can similarly apply machine learning and other automation to IT projects.
Let’s continue the comparison. With EagleView you don’t have to climb roofs to estimate jobs, Similarly with technology projects we can move to remote delivery models – saving on travel costs which often exceed the cost of the software being implemented. Offshore vendors have been doing that for decades. Modern roofers use automated conveyors to port shingles and other materials from truck to roof, and return debris back to recycle trucks. That’s where we need much more automated enterprise class data conversion capabilities. With improving ETL and services architectures, IT projects should move to similar conveyor thinking.
Roofers tend to use specialty teams – one strips the old shingles, felt and other sealants, another inspects the plywood for rot and replaces pieces, others apply ice and water shields. Some use staple guns, others use magnetic rollers to tidy the work. Still others use digital cameras for their testing and documentation. The systems integration industry will likely move to similar specialization. Expecting a project team to do all the tasks is sub-optimal. We could have specialized training or testing teams as shared service centers.
The building blocks are in place. The toolbox keeps growing. It may take a disruptive set of new SIs or software vendors to bring them together. But safe to say “implementation consultants who use AI and other automation will replace those that don’t”.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)