Buzzword Breakdown – Blockchain, Big Data, IOT, Machine Learning, AI Webinar Preview

This blog post provides a preview of the content the Performance Architects team will discuss during a free, live webinar on Friday, February 1, 2019 at 12:30 PM EST entitled “Buzzword Breakdown – Blockchain, Big Data, IoT, Machine Learning, AI.”  Register here to attend the webinar!

Blockchain, Big Data, Internet of Thing (IoT), Machine Learning, AI…all of these terms are like teenage sex!  Everyone is talking about it, nobody has any idea what they are doing, and we all think that everyone is doing it – so we all say we are doing it! What does this all really mean? How is this going to affect our world, especially as it pertains to financial planning and analysis (FP&A), analytics, and data warehousing?

To successfully incorporate these technologies and concepts into our world, I think we first need to start with a foundational understanding of each term. This upcoming webinar aims to help define these emerging technologies and concepts for the layperson, providing some clean examples to help demystify these terms. I’m aiming to also cover the practical applications of concepts like artificial intelligence and machine learning as well.

For example, when we hear “artificial intelligence,” how many of us think about HAL, or IBM Watson’s epic defeat of its opponents on Jeopardy as our measuring stick? Is “artificial intelligence” really the looming presence of giant server rooms replacing our human world? What does it really mean?

Put simply: Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of computer systems to mimic or simulate our own human intelligence.

Put another way: AI is a computer, mimicking our very human decision-making process, as this slide from the upcoming webinar demonstrates:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is quite a broad term, encompassing a variety of subset concepts and enabling technologies such as “robotic process automation,” “machine learning,” and “deep learning.” These have even more branches, varying in complexity and composition – some are even still theoretical! During our webinar, I’ll try to dive in a little deeper and provide additional context on all of these ideas.

From a functional and technical FP&A, analytics and data warehousing perspective, these AI concepts provide us with opportunities to augment and extend our ability to deliver to our business customers and partners. Robotic process automation (quite a fancy phrase, by the way) provides us with an opportunity to reduce the mundane, repetitive tasks that take away from our ability as professionals to analyze and dig into details. Let’s explore a quick example:

It is fairly common for members of the Accounting team to log into the general ledger (GL) on a monthly basis to perform a mass export of “Trial Balance” data, in an effort to start reconciliation and month-end processes. Think of the time it takes to export twenty E-Business Suite (EBS) Financial Statement Generator (FSG) reports, manually!  This equals hours spent by staff, repeating the same clicks, every month!

With RPA technologies, an accountant could automate the monthly export of these reports from the GL. After “recording” the process, an RPA tech would be able to do it, again and again – freeing the team up to spend time on value-add activities. This might even contribute to reducing the time to close the books!

RPA is a crude form of AI, but one that also has a low barrier to entry. In my world, RPA is exciting. It provides a quick area to generate wins and to add value, and by extension, gets folks away from the mundane as quickly as possible! That said, this is also a double-edged sword as nothing less than a methodical approach to implementation will make these efforts successful.

Alright, enough for now! I’ll be covering this and more in my upcoming webinar. Again, you can register here.

If you have other questions that aren’t addressed in this blog post or the webinar content, please don’t hesitate to contact us at or to leave a note below and we’ll be in touch to address your interests.

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