Technology is changing the way we do business. We can accomplish everything from customer interactions to executing and optimizing processes more efficiently. Some say more intelligently. This means that businesses looking to stay relevant and competitive need to start adopting end-to-end intelligent technologies to keep pace with these changes—and the competition.

The phrase “intelligent enterprise” isn’t new. And SAP customers have been hearing about it since SAPPHIRE NOW in June 2018 as SAP started ramping up its efforts to be at the core of business transformations. It’s not simply implementing the newest ERP system—SAP S/4HANA. Although that’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Simply put, the intelligent enterprise is all about building modern end-to-end business processes. It’s about collecting both experience and operational data and using that to influence business outcomes. “It’s about listening, understanding, and then acting on that information,” said SAP SVP and Global Head of Customer Innovation Technology and Innovation Anja Schneider. “The role of technology is to connect those bridges.”

Building Bridges to Intelligence

SAP recently held its SAP Innovation Day for Partners, where it laid out the road map for next-generation partnering, which is a multiyear transformative movement aimed at accelerating partner-led innovation to work together to help customers realize the power of becoming an intelligent enterprise.

“Customers feel the pressure to go on a digital transformation journey,” Schneider said. “Now, more than ever, our customers have a strategic need for the right technologies that help them become intelligent enterprises and fully capture the unprecedented value of the experience economy.”

So, what are those “right technologies” and how do they connect one process with the next to form that bridge? According to David Judge, VP of intelligent enterprise solutions at SAP, those technologies include robotic process automation (RPA) and conversational AI. Both these technologies help automate human tasks and labor, allowing a business to be more efficient, and ultimately, more effective.

“The center point of intelligence where many of our emerging technologies sit, be they within analytics, or our database technology, application development technologies, or the intelligent technologies—things like blockchain, or Internet of Things (IoT), RPA, machine learning, and conversational AI—these are the technologies we believe will start to drive innovation to the future and ultimately create efficiencies, but also new experiences between the experience and operational data sets,” Judge said.

Making Intelligent Connections on an Enterprise Level

Since its acquisition of Qualtrics in 2018, SAP has put an emphasis on experience (X) and operational (O) data working in concert to answer both the what and why of a business. “Most organizations understand what’s happening in their business,” Judge said. “But they don’t always understand the why. “They know what’s happening because they have systems that capture operational data, customer transactions, information around the supply chain, manufacturing and spending, the activities of the workforce, etc. They can see the data through reports and dashboards, and they can see trends, and some can even predict what will happen next within a certain resolution. But if they want to influence what will happen next, the other half of the picture is necessary.”

SAP says to win the experience economy, organizations need to connect the X with the O within as many touch points as possible—customer, employee, product, and brand— and on an ongoing basis to help guide business decisions. The most efficient way to do that, the most intelligent way to do it, is to automate as much of the process as possible.

Technologies such as SAP Intelligent RPA and SAP Conversational AI are at the heart of how businesses can be more effective. “These things together will form what we believe will be the pragmatic end of what artificial intelligence will deliver to businesses,” Judge said. “Automation is not just about efficiency. It’s about what organizations can do with the freed-up effort and how the most effective organization now can focus on higher value-added activities.”

What Is SAP Intelligent RPA?

ASUG has covered SAP’s “Foray into Robotic Process Automation,” but just to recap, what makes RPA at SAP intelligent is that its optimized for use on SAP Cloud Platform (SCP), and that it can integrate with any SAP or non-SAP application.

“Traditional RPA has a history of brutal implementations, where even small changes to underlying systems can cause the upstream of automation to break,” Judge said. “The SAP Intelligent RPA approach, however, simplifies integration by leveraging native connectors.” SAP solutions such as SAP S/4HANA have invested in road mapping prebuilt skills in automation that customers can leverage to  accelerate deployment.

The SAP Intelligent RPA can be used in two modes: unattended, which is a fully automated process where bots are working autonomously with human supervision, or attended, which is a partially automated process where bots are coworking with humans. This is also called Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA). You can automate processes via APIs and user interfaces (UIs), and you can run SAP Intelligent RPA on-premise or in the cloud using three different solutions. The first is the Desktop Studio where you handle project development of workloads and processes you want to automate. You can then move those workloads or processes to the Cloud Factory where you orchestrate, monitor, and configure your bot. And then last, but not least, the runtime of your solution is the Desktop Agent which runs in both attended or unattended mode.

Working with its ecosystem of partners, SAP aims to be the best integrated RPA solution for automating SAP applications. It looks to offer robust and efficient solutions that reduce implementation time and maintenance efforts, and to expand the presence of AI by embedding it in the RPA core.

What Is SAP Conversational AI?

ASUG also has explored “Understanding SAP Conversational AI and How It’s Being Used on SAP Digital Channels.” We learned that SAP is using this intelligent technology to improve its own customers’ experience, but during the SAP Innovation Day for Partners, the focus was on how customers can use this technology within their own enterprises.

“Like RPA, conversational AI can be leveraged to create automation benefits,” Judge said. It can also drive new customer experiences that can be superior to traditional interfaces.” SAP’s Conversational AI is SAP’s platform where customers and partners can build powerful conversational interfaces and chatbots. There are currently more than 120,000 bots available, and SAP has begun to embed conversational interfaces into its core platforms, including SAP S/4HANA and SAP SuccessFactors.

In 2018, 67% of consumers used conversational interfaces such as Amazon's Alexa or Apple’s Siri, just to name a couple. They used the technology to automate a task such as shutting off the lights or starting the car. But this technology can be used to not only lighten the load of tasks a consumer needs to complete, but employees also.

SAP has recently made it easier for end-to-end bot building on a collaborative platform with an intuitive user experience while providing for seamless integration with SAP products. As SAP looks ahead, the plan is to include enhancements such as advanced dialog modeling and support for customer-specific data sets. It also plans to deliver bots as part of a product out of the box.

Ways to Drive the Intelligent Enterprise Journey

To help customers along their adoption and consumption of these technologies, SAP has developed two intelligent technology packages—Silver and Gold—currently available for SAP S/4HANA, SAP C/4HANA, and SAP SuccessFactors. The Silver package includes SAP Intelligent RPA, SAP Conversational AI, and SAP Machine Learning Foundation. And the Gold package includes all three plus SAP Analytics Cloud.

SAP also offers 15 Guided Outcomes solutions, which have a defined business outcome for multiple lines of business. These guided outcomes also address an end-to-end process, leverage intelligent technologies, or both to help a customer along their journey to become a more intelligent enterprise.

“As a core part of our intelligent enterprise strategy,” Judge said, “we’ve begun to embed intelligent technologies across the SAP applications suite. The benefits of automation, conversational AI, and of machine learning will be leveraged wherever they will derive customer value.”

ASUG members have a lot to consider as they look to become intelligent enterprises. What does that look like, where should we start, and how do we get there? As you consider your options, start by understanding the processes you currently have and the ways you want to improve them.

Interested in becoming an intelligent enterprise? Register for the ASUG on-demand webinar, “Delivering the Intelligent Enterprise from Strategy to Action.”