Business intelligence, data key for innovative enterprises

Kathy Gibson reports from SAPHILA 2023 – Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest big move in the technology space. It is exploding and it’s going to make a massive difference in how companies do business.

While ChatGPT might be the best-known example of generative AI, there are dozens of large language models (LLMs) now available, says Timo Elliott, global innovation evangelist at SAP.

“At SAP, we want to use the best of these (AI) models to further your business processes.”

Timo Eliott – Global Innovation Evangelist,
SAP

SAP AI is built for business, he adds – it needs to be bult-in, relevant, and responsible.

“You need the best data possible,” Elliott says. “You need to know what to solve; and it needs to be used responsibly.”

Indeed, AI has long been a part of SAP solutions and millions of people use it already. “To a great extent, we want most of this to be taken for granted. The best AI is the AI you don’t have to think about,” Elliott says. “You want AI to just work.”

For instance, Cash Application does sophisticated pattern matching for Mercedes-Benz, matching transactions automatically. “And it gets better all the time,” Elliott explains. “Every time there is an exception, it is dealt with by a human and fed back into the algorithm so it knows how to handle it next time.

“Where we are going is self-driving, intelligent applications that get better over time as people use them.”

These capabilities are available already, but the advent of generative AI will add creativity in coding, formal writing, and more.

“We announced a set of new AI applications recently, many of which include new generative AI models.”

Use cases include expediting freight and documentation; creating compelling job descriptions and interview questions;  generating ready-to-use process models and KPI recommendations; and enhancing employee and customer experience.

Generative AI can now code in ABAP (SAP’s coding language) to create new SAP applications. “This can accelerate the efforts of your skilled people to create code much quicker,” Elliott says.

Digital transformation requires companies to innovate faster and composable enterprises are key to this.

“The irony of composable business is that, if its done right, you shouldn’t have to do too much of it yourself,” Elliott says. “So we spend a lot of time working on content so customers can just take a bot off the shelf, plug it into their operations, and do their business processes faster.”

The partner ecosystem is key to this and, ideally, partners will contribute to solutions in the SAP store.

Business intelligence is key to modernisation and innovation which is why SAP launched its Signavio Business Process Intelligence

“Signavio can shine a light into your business processes and figure out what is going on – and what is going wrong,” Elliott explains. “It is then possible to find the best process to solve the issues. This is the future of what we call automated automation.”

But what stops organisations from being successful? “The real trick is not using AI – it’s about turning their minds to systems and processes,” Elloitt says. “And this is where the AI magic happens.”

Every organisation grapples with the issue of bad data quality. “The good news is that, with AI, the opportunities are huge, the possibliities of cleaning up your data are greater then ever before.”

An innovation roadblock has always been how to leverage the business data – but this tends to lose the metadata, the context of the business.

The idea of data mesh or data sphere is to bring the technology to the data to provide reliable data products using an API approach that understands and retains the business context. “As much as possible, leave the data where it already is,” Elliott says.

SAP Data Sphere is the solution here, he adds. It brings together a range of solutions that creates a data layer that could be stored just about anywhere; whether in SAP or third-party repositories.

Value is key, of course, and companies need to get relevant data and information to the fingertips of every staff member.

“There is a huge opportunity to use data in new ways,” Elliott says. SAP’s continuous intelligence prototype aims to push relevant information to people as they need it.

We will see the rise of the business technologist, more powerful users who can create new and profitable processes using the right data and tools. This will see us moving from low-code or no-code scenarios to the new world of co-code where IT and business work together to solve problems or innovate.

IT would supply basic application blocks to the business people who could use those to create their own innovations.

“We think SAP has the biggest benefit here,” Elliott says. “One thing we are good at is processes and governance.”

Elliott believes we are in the “horseless carriage” phase of AI – using old things and just bolting new things on. “But it is a great time to reimagine what we want to do and to rethink value propositions.

“Let’s spend some time thinking about what we don’t need, and how to leverage what we do.

“Remember, AI is about empowering people to do more, not getting rid of them.”

Elliott points out that only human beings will ever be able to innovate. “We are the only ones that can understand what is going on, who can bring innovation.

“AI will take away the parts of our jobs that make us act like robots – and let us focus on the things we do best.”

In conclusion, Elliott reiterates that SAP and business AI go hand in hand to help organisations to innovate faster and more effectively.