Work Applications is one of Japan’s largest enterprise software companies, but it’s still unknown in the United States. The Tokyo-based company is hoping to change that with the launch of AI Works, a cloud-based enterprise resource planning platform that uses artificial intelligence to make data entry less tedious, faster, and more accurate. AI Works was unveiled yesterday at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas.
The company’s products are currently used by 7,000 organizations, but to make a dent in the U.S. market, Work Applications has to convince companies to choose AI Works over well-established products from competitors like Workday, SAP, and Oracle.
Work Applications, which has 4,000 employees, was founded in 1996 to provide ERP software to Asian companies. Chief executive officer Masayuki Makino says that at the time, products from most U.S.-based companies had not been localized yet. Not only were languages an issue, but also the different financial calendars used in Japan and other countries. Work Applications built market share by taking a different approach from its competitors, which Makino says were focused on making software for clients in the U.S. and Europe.
Now that Work Applications is one of Japan’s top players, the company wants to expand beyond Asia. Over the last 20 years, Makino says, the user experience of ERP software has remained relatively stagnant, which gives Work Applications an opportunity.
“We’ve shifted our mindset from guarding our number one position in Japan to becoming an innovative company and dramatically improving the productivity of users with breakthrough technology,” he told TechCrunch in an interview last month.
The company claims that AI Works, which integrates spreadsheets, emails, analytic tools, and cloud storage so users can collaborate on documents, cuts the amount of time employees spent on data entry in half. The idea behind its user interface will be familiar to people who rely on Google Autocomplete and Work Applications claims the software has a response time of 100 milliseconds or less. AI Works can be especially helpful for accounting and finance departments by predicting what items are being entered or automatically pulling numbers from receipts and other documents.
Work Applications will continue to expand in Asia (Singapore and China are both top priorities), but Makino says it is tackling the North American market “because in the world of IT you have to nail America in order to be considered a global player.”
Of course, Work Applications faces the considerable challenge of convincing companies to switch over from their existing ERP software. Makino is confident that AI Works will be able to win over new customers through demonstrations and by keeping switchover costs low, but concedes that “there is no guarantee of success because this is our first experience marketing in the U.S.”
On the other hand, he claims that Work Applications has been able to convince most Oracle and SAP users in Japan to switch over to AI Works once they see the software in use. “When it comes to the product, it’s hard to anticipate that they will resist it,” he says.
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