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Infor to expand PHL footprint as it doubles down on AI

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Infor-Coleman-demo
A computer screenshot of Infor Coleman's basic capabilities demo on YouTube.

Enterprise software provider Infor is keen on growing its footprint in the Philippines as it ramps up its global strategy on cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Soma Somasundaram, Infor’s executive vice president of global product development, said the company is actively looking for a new office space in addition to its Taguig office to house its growing workforce.     

Infor_Soma Somasundaram
Soma Somasundaram —
Photo: Infor

“[The Philippines] is a key location for us. We have a lot of technical expertise here. Two-thirds of the employee population here works on products. We actually have innovations coming out of this location,” Mr. Somasundaram said in an interview with BusinessWorld at Infor’s office in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.  

Mr. Somasundaram, who manages the rollout of Infor’s suite of business applications, said the company’s workforce in the country “more than doubled in the last four years” as it hired more engineers to meet the company’s goal to expand into more vertical industries and accelerate the company’s cloud push.

“We are already running out of space. We need an additional office location within the next six months because we are hiring very, very aggressively,” he said, adding that the company adds 200 to 300 new employees every year.

Infor is beefing up its efforts to augment its cloud-based business applications to stay ahead of the digital curve, with a key focus on artificial intelligence (AI). In July, it launched Coleman, an AI platform that uses machine learning to improve processes such as inventory management, transportation routing, and predictive maintenance.

“Coleman is a digital assistant, much like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, designed for enterprises. You can ask questions like, ‘Tell me more about this particular product…’ and Coleman will pull up the data and show you things like, ‘Here’s how your product performed over the last four quarters’ or ‘Here’s how much inventory you have’”, Mr. Somasundaram said.

Infor is leveraging machine learning — a subset of AI that uses algorithms to analyze a massive amount of data, recognize patterns among the data, and make a prediction — to allow Coleman automate jobs and make AI-driven recommendations to enable users to make smarter business decisions.

“The days have gone when people fill out forms and somebody will key in the data in a computer. User experience now is much more intuitive. We say the best user experience is no user experience at all,” he said. 

Infor is just one of the many companies betting big on the promises of AI. Cloud giant AWS, a partner of Infor, announced during its re:Invent conference in early December a wide array of AI-powered cloud solutions.  

It’s a trend that will keep going over the next few years. According to market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), global spending on cognitive and AI solutions will continue to see significant corporate investment over the next several years, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54.4% through 2020 when revenues will be more than $46 billion.

“Intelligent applications based on cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, and deep learning are the next wave of technology transforming how consumers and enterprises work, learn, and play,” David Schubmehl, research director, Cognitive Systems and Content Analytics at IDC, said in IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Cognitive Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide.

“These applications are being developed and implemented on cognitive/AI software platforms that offer the tools and capabilities to provide predictions, recommendations, and intelligent assistance through the use of cognitive systems, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Cognitive/AI systems are quickly becoming a key part of IT infrastructure and all enterprises need to understand and plan for the adoption and use of these technologies in their organizations,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

AI: THREAT OR ENABLER?

While AI is being heralded as the key to digital transformation, its integration in some industries is seen as a threat to jobs. News of robots increasingly taking over professions in healthcare, human resources and investment banking cast doubts on the impact of AI breakthroughs.

Infor’s Mr. Somasundaram, however, dismissed these claims and pointed out the unwarranted hype surrounding AI. Robots, he said, should be viewed as enablers, not as threats.

To prove his point, he cited one of Infor’s award-winning services, Infor Team Dynamics, which combines AI, in this case, Coleman, and Infor’s predictive behavioral analytics tool, Infor Talent Science, to streamline recruitment process. This AI-driven hiring tool uses large quantities of behavioral and performance data to predict who will be a company’s high performers, who will stay on the job longer, and who is most likely to receive a promotion. This service automates the process of candidate selection, succession planning, and development.

“My view is, worldwide, human talent is on the rise. People don’t want to do mundane work anymore. They want to be challenged, they want to pushed. I believe that human beings should be doing higher value work. I think by replacing mundane work and getting people to do more value work is actually an exciting thing,” Mr. Somasundaram said.  — Mira B. Gloria