With SAP emphasizing artificial intelligence (AI) from the keynote stage at SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference and unveiling a vast array of updates, investments, and partnerships intended to unlock generative-AI capabilities across its product suite, it’s clear that the company is committed to leveraging AI for business users.

During the conference, SAP executives focused their announcements on Joule, SAP’s generative-AI copilot, which will be gradually integrated across the entire SAP solution suite for cloud customers and serve as the company’s new front-end and user interface. That work is already underway; integration with SAP Ariba and SAP Analytics Cloud is expected before the end of the year. Additionally, SAP announced an expansion of its partnership with Microsoft, including integration with Microsoft Copilot, enabling the two AI copilots to access information between SAP and Microsoft 365 business applications.

As it expands its AI footprint, SAP also announced growth in its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), including featuring AWS large language models (LLMs) on the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP). Beyond further developing and expanding its AI partnerships, SAP discussed its own AI foundational model, which will reportedly be trained using SAP customers’ anonymized data with their consent. “This allows us to provide reliable resolutions hard to get otherwise,” Muhammad Alam, Head of SAP Product Engineering and a Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, said during his keynote address.

Recent ASUG research finds that, amid such announcements, AI adoption is on the rise in the SAP user community. According to the results of the 2024 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer Research survey, members are increasingly invested in learning more about AI and its usage, challenges, and potential impact. The annual ASUG flagship study—featuring insights from 766 respondents—explored AI more deeply than in past years, given SAP’s recently stated ambitions and product development on this front.  

How AI is Impacting Enterprises

“AI can radically change the way organizations conduct business,” said Geoff Scott, CEO & Chief Community Champion at ASUG. “This technology isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay, and it will fundamentally transform how enterprises manage and leverage ERP platforms.” 

The 2024 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer Research data indicates ASUG members are increasingly embracing AI, with 38% indicating that AI technologies will “greatly affect their organizations’ digital transformations,” up from 23% last year.

“We are only just beginning to understand the full potential of AI,” added Scott. “The data from the 2024 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer shows that the ASUG member community is starting to realize AI’s potential and they are beginning to implement it into their technology stacks. Our job is to help ASUG members understand how they can embrace this game-changing technology in effective, thoughtful, and responsible ways.” 

Managing Skills Necessary to Utilize AI

Even as AI adoption grows in the ASUG member ecosystem, a lack of AI skills and talent may hamper progress. Over one-third (34%) of 2024 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer respondents noted that they’ve tried out AI technologies “at least once,” but 26% said they have never used it, and just 5% indicated they use AI regularly for work.

Amid complex cloud migration and digital transformation initiatives, practical concerns are most pressing when it comes to SAP users implementing AI capabilities at their organizations; SAP is focused on inculcating a “clean-core” mentality and incentivizing users to cut down on custom code in their ERP environments ahead of migrating to the cloud, and data security capabilities are equally top of mind for members.

Nearly one-third (30%) of ASUG members said they would be concerned about security and privacy if entering their organizational data into a generative AI model. Additionally, 14% of respondents to the Pulse survey said data quality/accuracy is an issue with such projects.

Among other AI concerns among ASUG members, 12% indicated they are hesitant about sharing their data and use cases. “We won’t load our data into a third-party model,” one respondent told ASUG. “We will need to maintain control and not share outside our company.”

AI Benefits and Usage

Despite their hesitancy to fully embrace AI, ASUG Members indicated they understand the benefits of entering/loading their organization’s data into a generative AI model. Efficiency and automation were seen as top benefits by 28% of respondents.

“This could get us out of maintaining the recurring questions and allow us to spend more time thinking forward and how to change the pattern, and not just report on the existing pattern,” one ASUG member said, reflecting on the increased automation of manual tasks that AI could allow.

Additionally, 19% of respondents saw data quality and learning as significant benefits of AI. ASUG members specifically highlighted learning abilities enabled by AI, including providing context about historical data, one respondent specifically said the benefit lies in “better identifying human bias in prosecution entries,” and identifying data trends and suggestions.

ASUG members also shared the business challenges AI can help solve. The top five processes reported were:

  • Dashboard and analytics: 42%
  • Customer experience: 22%
  • Transitioning from manual to digital processes: 21%
  • Integration between SAP and non-SAP solutions: 21%
  • Standardizing business processes: 21%

ASUG members are already engaged in considering ways to leverage AI in enterprise environments. Nearly half (48%) of respondents said their IT departments are using AI for their work, and over one-third (34%) of members said those tasked with business intelligence (BI) and analytics roles are leveraging AI.

The five most popular tasks noted by members who are leveraging AI included:

  • Crafting the first draft of documents: 30%
  • Forecasting trends or anomalies: 29%
  • Use of Chatbots: 25%
  • Identifying trends in customer needs: 22% 
  • Summarizing text documents: 20%

However, as we saw at SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference, AI is quickly changing the SAP ecosystem, and its full potential remains largely untapped. SAP is developing practical use cases to help its customers understand just how the technology can improve their processes and workflows. ASUG will continue monitoring the evolution of AI and how it will impact the business activities and priorities of our members.

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