Software companies are racing to announce they have artificial intelligence built into their applications. The latest is Kimble who has taken a more accurate view and announced augmented intelligence within their latest release. Augmented intelligence is also known as intelligence amplified (IA) to differentiate itself from artificial intelligence (AI). In the former, machine learning supplements human decision making with rapid analysis of data sets. In the latter, the machine itself makes the autonomous decisions. Most software companies actually do the former.
Kimble 1.25 IA
WKimble has used the next sequential version number for what is, they claim, an auspicious release for a professional services solution. Whether deliberate or not they will be hoping that it transforms the use of ERP within professional services as the iIntercity 125 train did 30 years ago for rail travel in the UK.
We spoke to Mark Robinson, co-founder and CMO of Kimble Applications about the new release. He explained that most of the insights are currently built around the fiscal side of the solution. Its intention is to provide insights to less experienced people within a professional services organisation who might not have the experience to spot an anomaly. The example he gave was where a consultant might be quoting for hotel costs in San Diego. If that element has been tagged then a light bulb will appear to show them what the average price for that area or client is.
Robinson gave another example stating: “If you are adding someone to a project and that will reduce the margin on the project the system will notify you that is the case.”
When he says notification it is not the annoying paper clip of Microsoft Office fame. It is a small light bulb that doesn’t stop you working, just alerts the user to the anomaly. The solution has around 30 insights, or light bulbs, already pre-configured. Robinson is hoping that at the company’s upcoming user conference he will be able to feed back far more to the development team. These insights will then get rolled out across the user base in a single release.
So are Kimble copying the fad for AI
In fact the answer appears to be a categorical “No!”. Robinson sees the latest version as something Kimble has been building towards. He explained: “It is something for me that is the culmination of what we wanted to do when Sean, David and I came up with the company. This was the whole idea around this type of augmented intelligence, driving best practise and ultimately around the more intelligent diagnostics.“
One of the key challenge for growth is having enough experienced people around. The problem is that experience is diluted as companies get larger. These insights are aimed at augmenting the knowledge and experience of the less experienced staff. As Robinson added: “The aim is to get everyone working to a high standard.”
On early adopter agrees. Howard Roberts, professional services director at Canon commented: “Kimble’s intelligent insights help us to expand and to drive increased business performance without the need to take on many more administrative or supervisory staff.”
Robinson is aware though that these features will not be appropriate for every company. He added: “The insights are surfacing the right data and the you need to decide what outcomes you want to decide. For some people that will be very, very appropriate and for others it may be a step too far.”
What is the extent of the data set
This is the first iteration of augmented intelligence and the data it draws on is customer specific. However Kimble are already working with a group of 50 customers where it has anonymised and aggregated the data. It has enabled their helpdesk to be proactive in spotting issues within clients. For example, informing them that they are currently slow at closing off month end. This is an early form of benchmarking and the intention is to ultimately use this aggregated data, with permission, to add further insights into the application.
More than 200 companies and 30,000 people use Kimble every day. The insights that they could draw on may make a significant difference across their customer base. If they can make their customers more successful and happier then it may draw more customers to them.
John Ragsdale, vice president of research technology and social at TSIA seems to concur with the Kimble approach to IA. He commented: “We are using technology to enhance intelligence, not replace it. We are not bringing in robots to do a professional services project. Instead, we are looking to use machine learning to better guide the employees in the right direction. Analytics and dashboards can really go to waste if someone doesn’t use them. But with augmented intelligence, the PSA system can start prompting executives instead of forcing them to dig through dashboards, so they can spend their time identifying what needs their attention and impacting those projects.”
Kimble has also introduced gamification with this release. It has embedded SuMO Insights into the application. The introduction of gamification enables teams to compete with one another and drive performance. Criteria can be established that teams compete on. This not only adds a level of competition but the system will also sent notifications to management when targets are not reached. This enables them to take proactive action to avoid problems before they become apparent.
Robinson explained further: “We are working with another product called SuMo which is a gamification engine, we pulled that into the product. Things like getting timesheets on time, who has closed their books quickest, who is the most accurate in their forecast. It depends on the company as to whether that is right for the culture.”
Robinson concluded: “It is back to our philosophy of what we are trying to do. When you understand that you can see whether gamification or whether surfacing some of this information such as Kimble insights is the right approach.”
This release is a step ahead of its competition. With Salesforce Einstein not generally available to ISV’s it is even more impressive that Kimble seems to have delivered a solution. So what is next? Robinson concluded: ”The next stage of evolution will be taking this even further and not just surface information to help make the right decision but actually diagnosing why these things are happening. Too big a contractor mix versus staff etc.”
It will be interesting to see how close they get to achieving in the months ahead. It will also be interesting to see where the light bulbs appear in the future. Also, whether Kimble will add them to some of the non-financial elements of the software.