As Wanda is the first – or one of the earliest bots shipping from an ERP vendor, it is worth to dissect the press release in our customary style, it can be found here.
Unit4 releases its enterprise digital assistant, Wanda, a completely new out-of-the-box ERP user experience. A core component of its Spring ’17 launch, Wanda is an important milestone on Unit4’s journey to deliver self-driving enterprise software.MyPOV – Good summary, and kudos for being the first, or one of the first ERP vendor with a bot / assistant.
To ensure a natural user experience, Unit4 has built its digital assistant to be embedded in the user’s chosen interface, accessed through Skype, Slack, and Facebook messenger. Wanda provides a friendly and simple gateway to data in the Unit4 Business World ERP system, adding a level of intelligence and context to suggest actions and help users complete tasks quickly.MyPOV – Always good to learn early in a press release how ‘it is done’. Good to see Unit4 bringing Wanda (and with that access to its applications), to chat and communication platforms, where users do more and more work these days.
Available as a cloud service out-of-the-box to all customers, Wanda requires no user training. It proactively helps people automate, prioritize and complete repetitive tasks in a fraction of the time it took before. Uniquely, users can communicate and interact with their enterprise systems in the same way they would with colleagues: through chat. Wanda even understands multiple topics mixed in a single thread. For the first time, employees can benefit from the data in their ERP system without logging in.MyPOV – And more on Wanda. Good to see the focus on repetitive tasks. This is bang for the buck for both Unit4 customers and the vendor. Multi topic supports puts Wanda on the forefront of chat agents… e.g. something that the popular Amazon Alexa is just learning to do (Google Assistant shipped with the ability from scratch). And not having to log-in to the ERP product will sound almost too good to be true for the average ERP user (and quickly become standard for assistant based interfaces).
Wanda is built on Unit4’s People Platform, the engine behind the development of self-driving applications, powered by Microsoft Azure. It therefore benefits from the most sophisticated analytics and machine learning technology available today. Unit4 also utilizes Microsoft’s Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) giving Wanda the ability to understand what a person wants from the language they use. By using Microsoft’s technology as building blocks, it can now take people productivity to completely new levels.MyPOV – Good to understand where Wanda is built on, given the partnership with Microsoft no surprise.
“Convergence of conversational user experiences with augmented solutions that self-learn will fundamentally change how enterprise software serves people”MyPOV – Good and right on the money quote from Unit4 CEO Sieber.
Stephan Sieber, CEO Unit4
With Spring ’17, Wanda delivers customers a market leading bot architecture to build on for the future and five new assistants:MyPOV – All assistants are limited (see the weekly newsletter from the home based assistant providers). Great choice with picking regular transactions that employees are still never familiar with like from HR Employee Self Service, Purchasing, Time and Approvals. It makes sure that Wanda is seen by a lot of Unit4 users and ensures wide adoption, making their lives considerably easier.
· HR Assistant – Simple completion of HR-related employee self-service tasks like making absence requests and enquiring about holiday balances and pay slips.
· Purchasing Assistant – For finding products & suppliers, generating requisitions and managing approvals.
· Time Assistant – Automatically generates timesheets based on multiple data streams and GPS and beacon location data to track time.
· Travel Assistant – Generates travel requests and manages approvals based on travel patterns and preferences. Auto-population of expense claims using receipt recognition technology.
· Approval Assistant – Notifies and reminds managers to approve tasks and flags important tasks where deadlines are imminent.
“We are delivering the most helpful ERP in the market, a self-driving assistive and conversational user experience,” said Stephan Sieber, CEO of Unit4. “Microsoft’s broad consumer experience gives it an edge as a platform vendor, bringing consumerization to the enterprise and democratizing complex technology. We are using our expertise in designing and deploying this state of the art technology to support people’s productivity so they can create value for themselves and their organizations. Convergence of conversational user experiences with augmented solutions that self-learn will fundamentally change how enterprise software serves people.”MyPOV – Good quote from Sieber, hitting the popular democratization theme of partner Microsoft. But it really is about different usage of enterprise software. Voice and Touch are quickly replacing the keyboard and the click.
Customer championsMyPOV – Always good to see customer quotes in a new product announcement.
“Having business users spend time in back office systems that don’t help them reach their goals is not the best use of their talent,” said Roland Flutet, IT Service Manager at ACL. “The more time an employee spends adding value, the more successful our company will be. Wanda can help us do exactly that, by simplifying and accelerating administrative tasks such as expenses and travel booking via slack. I can’t wait to welcome Wanda into ACL.”
“I am enthusiastic about incorporating AI and self-driving tech such as Unit4’s ‘Wanda’ into Heifer,” said Jesus Pizarro, VP Enterprise Accounting & Controller. “It will help us to increase efficiency across our entire portfolio of projects designed to help end poverty and hunger on a global scale. I cannot wait to see Wanda become a core member of our team.”
“Wanda has the potential to revolutionize the accounts processing functions and significantly enhance the end user experience. It provides timely reminders and assistance to automate tasks that will help minimize the bureaucratic red tape for academic colleagues,” said Ian Sibbald, CFO, Cranfield University. “With McKinsey & Company predicting that technology could automate 45% of the activities people are paid to perform, Wanda shows in the real world how this is likely to happen over the coming years.”
Overall MyPOVAlways good to see innovation. Bots like Wanda are changing the user experience of ERP radically and lastingly, probably forever. Once voice and chat work as a user interaction, there is no way back for a user. Interesting enough it will create a temporary stickiness of ERP applications from the user side – who don’t want to go back to keyboard and old screens, logins etc. In a few years having to login to put in a time-off request, approve something will be anathema to employee engagement and user experience. The ERP industry has never seen this, maybe the closest was credit card downloads for expense management.
So, overall good news for Unit4 customers, who can see that Unit4 is living up to its promise of self-driving ERP, that is people focused. Now we can’t wait to see and hear of the live customer proof points and ROI realized through Wanda.