I've been “in IT”, as people say, for a long time. Because I'm a software developer both by background and in my heart, I appreciate great software.
I still marvel at typing something into Google and getting instant results from literally millions of pages. We tend to get very used to things over time, but I like to stay excited by technology and appreciate it.
I saw something recently via an excited conversation in the TNP office between some fellow geeks. The thing causing excitement was OpenAI.com. If you haven't seen this yet, I think you'll be excited too. When I saw its power, my initial response was “I think that's the most amazing software I've ever seen”. Why? Because, as a developer, I can understand how things like Google work; it's still amazing, but I understand the fundamental processes and software mechanisms in play. With OpenAI, I just don't. I have to fall back on the “well, it's artificial intelligence and that's just amazing”.
So, what does OpenAI do? The mechanism I was marvelling at is its chat bot – we all know those annoying chat bots that sometimes try to help on websites? But this chat bot (called ChatGPT - which means Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) has a huge artificial intelligence store of knowledge pumped into it (one imagines from websites and books). This chatbot and its AI engine has been 'trained' on this information to respond to instructions in a human way.
For context, ChatGPT is nothing to do with Dynamics 365 Business Central, but of course the things we asked of it came from our own world, so we asked it to:
“Create a PowerShell script to move files from one folder to another” and before our eyes it typed the script (in a satisfyingly fast human typing speed).
“Create an AL script to add a field to the customer card” (AL is the language we use in Business Central). To my amazement, it duly obliged and, bear in mind, AL is hardly one the world's most used programming languages.
But it got weird.
“Write an article on upgrading Dynamics NAV to Business Central”. Out came a perfectly sensible article, the sort you often see on a blog, not a detailed study but a sensible page with advantages of doing an upgrade. By the way, none the articles in this magazine came from OpenAI!
“Write a complaint to my landlord about my broken heating”. Out came a very usable letter.
And then a jaw dropper. “Write a reply to this email…” We pasted in an email. Out came a very usable reply to it!
Those of you that know me will know that I have a bit of an obsession with useful bots, and we have built both Dynamics NAV and Business Central bots. One of our bots is called 'Ask nOra' and this bot sits within Microsoft Teams and answers any question you ask of it regarding your Dynamics NAV or Business Central data. It's one of my proudest achievements and we're excited to be able to deliver it to your systems! It does this using the power of ChatGPT's natural language processing intelligence. We use the artificial intelligence to assess the user's input, such as 'Tell me the balance of customer X', define what they mean and then implement what they've asked for in Business Central.
I remain enthused by the idea that bots as a front end to information in our systems is a huge part of our future ERP and systems of the future. The idea of finding the right page by pressing the right button sequence will dramatically reduce over the coming years. AI of the kind that OpenAI are working on will be very much part of the future. This was the first technology that made the TNP team sit back and say “wow, this is witchcraft” - we simply could not understand how ChatGPT was working in the background.
Is it an alternative to Googling? No, it isn't but I think there are times where this is a better tool to use. I typed “How does a fridge work?” and got a very good, clear explanation. The same thing in Google provided a list of sources of information for me to 'go fish and find', sometimes I just want an answer.
Will this mean all copywriters are done for? Not at all. We couldn't have produced a magazine like our 'Ultimate Guide' that engaged you with a bunch of autogenerated articles. But it's a great tool and it will only get better. Microsoft are betting big on this, by the way, I've put my money on them being right in the past and it's served me well. I am betting on Microsoft continuing to lead the way on this stuff.
By the way, I asked ChatGPT: “Should I upgrade my NAV solution to Business Central?” Here's what it thinks…I would have said “yes”, so it's a bit wordier than me!
It's generally a good idea to upgrade to the latest version of a business management solution to take advantage of new features and improvements. However, whether you should upgrade your NAV (Microsoft Dynamics NAV) solution to Business Central depends on your specific business needs and goals. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to upgrade:
- Features: Business Central includes a number of features that may not be available in older versions of NAV. For example, Business Central includes integration with other Microsoft products such as Office 365 and Power BI, as well as advanced financial management and inventory management tools. If these features are important to your business, you may want to consider upgrading to Business Central.
- Cost: Upgrading to Business Central can involve significant upfront costs, including the cost of new licenses, training, and any customisations or integrations you may need. It's important to carefully evaluate the potential return on investment to ensure that the upgrade is financially viable for your business.
- Support: Microsoft has announced that it will end mainstream support for NAV 2018 in January 2023, and extended support will end in January 2028. This means that if you're using an older version of NAV, you may not receive support or updates from Microsoft in the future. Upgrading to Business Central can help ensure that you continue to receive support and updates from Microsoft.
Ultimately, whether you should upgrade to Business Central will depend on your specific business needs and goals. It's a good idea to carefully evaluate the potential benefits and costs of upgrading, and consult with a Business Central expert or Partner if you have any questions or concerns.
But there's more! ChatGPT is just the language bot part of OpenAI. There is also a graphical AI tool called DALL-E – this may be even more mind blowing. Type “A Woodland scene, with a large full moon on a frosty night with a deer in the foreground” and watch as a few versions of this scene are produced! Add “as a watercolour” or “as a pencil drawing” to be more specific in your need and out comes something that could've been lurking in your mind's eye.
For both of these AI tools (and there are others), we can already see how the considerable investment Microsoft have made in this organisation are already filtering through to mainstream tools. The software development platform Visual Studio leverages the code generator to help produce and debug code.
Microsoft Designer is a new 'Office' tool for the production and amendment of graphics which are produced by DALL-E. I predict Outlook will soon have 'suggested replies' for your emails and the scope to use AI in our business tools like Teams and Business Central.
At TNP, we will be looking hard at how we can exploit the world of AI to the benefit of our users…hopefully without them even knowing it's there!
You can read more about our chatbot built into Microsoft Teams here - nOra is a product designed to bring your Dynamics NAV or Business Central data to your fingertips. Ask a question and get an answer, whether that's the balance of a customer, the inventory of a set of items, anything you can think of.
Talk to our team about your plans for incorporating artificial intelligence into your business. We can help you to discover the possibilities for bringing the future to your ERP solution.