It’s been just over a year since the enterprise technology space was forever changed by the arrival of ChatGPT. OpenAI’s groundbreaking chatbot has since come to symbolize a paradigm shift in technological advancement, ushering in the era of generative AI.

Back then, industry analysts, seasoned business executives, and technology leaders around the world reacted with a combination of fear and awe, and the tech industry was near-instantly engaged in, if not outright consumed by, spirited dialogue around this technology’s game-changing potential.

The hype and hysteria of a year ago has since been replaced by a more constructive line of discussion, as technology partners and enterprise executives explore real-world applications for harnessing the potential of this technology. One point is clear: its impact is both incredibly widespread and profound.

It’s been particularly fascinating to see the effect of generative AI on the business community in general and enterprise technology in particular. Companies in all industries, and governments worldwide, have rushed to form task forces and development teams to explore possible applications for this unfamiliar but undeniably powerful technology. In June, for example, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) formed the National AI Research Task Force to establish a roadmap that will promote AI innovation and research.

Within a calendar quarter of generative AI entering the corporate zeitgeist, major players in the enterprise technology space announced major initiatives involving the technology. SAP was no exception. At SAP Sapphire, the company’s signature event in Orlando, Thomas Saueressig, head of SAP product engineering and a member of the SAP executive board, declared that SAP was doing much more than making bets on generative AI. “SAP is an AI company,” he declared. “SAP’s AI is built into our systems, which power your business.” On stage, Christian Klein, CEO and member of the SAP executive board, announced plans to integrate AI that’s “built for business” across its portfolio while expanding AI partnerships with Microsoft, Google, and IBM.

Fast forward to the fall of 2023. In late September, I had the opportunity, along with ASUG’s leadership team and a few of our board members, to visit SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, and sit down with several of the company’s senior executives. While on campus, I attended an SAP press conference that featured Philipp Herzig, SVP, Head of Cross Product Engineering & Experience at SAP, alongside other SAP executives.

While the press covered RISE with SAP, SAP S/4HANA Cloud, and other important developments for the SAP product portfolio, AI was also front and center. The conference made clear SAP’s intention to leverage generative AI to meet customers’ needs while aligning with current and emerging standards and regulatory requirements. Key to the company’s business AI strategy is Joule, a natural-language, generative AI copilot that—as announced during our visit to Walldorf—will be embedded throughout SAP’s cloud enterprise portfolio.

It was remarkable to see, less than a year into the generative AI era, the extent to which SAP executives have moved to integrate AI into core products and emerging initiatives. Weeks later, that momentum was compounded by a number of AI announcements at SAP TechEd, including SAP Build Code solutions, which include AI-powered developer productivity tools optimized for Java and JavaScript development.

Before generative AI, cloud was the new frontier taking enterprise computing by storm. While cloud technologies today permeate just about every aspect of enterprise computing, it took over a decade for it to achieve its current mainstream status. Generative AI reached and perhaps even surpassed the same level of interest in just 12 months.

Managing risk

While the speed with which generative AI has established itself across the business landscape is exhilarating, this community’s rapid embrace has also led many to urge caution and restraint, and everyone’s asking essential, mission-critical questions. How will generative AI impact our industries, companies, and ecosystems in the short and long term? What does responsible AI look like, and how can companies leverage this exciting technology while mitigating any risks that could result from doing so?

Balancing the concerns and opportunities associated with generative AI requires the community of interest—which is to say all of us—to invest as much in developing effective guardrails as in rolling out new innovations.

For his part, Herzig explained that SAP closely observes international standards and regulations, including those still emerging, such as the European Union (EU)’s AI Act and the proposed Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights from the White House’s OSTP. In November, SAP announced it had joined the Stanford Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) Corporate Affiliate program; the company said it will commit expertise and resources to support new research areas and explore the opportunities, problems, and solutions ahead for generative AI in business.

These efforts complement SAP’s own comprehensive AI ethics policy, created over the last decade to govern the development, deployment, use, and sale of AI systems at SAP. The company continues to evolve its AI ethics policy as new regulations emerge, and all the AI use cases SAP develops will continue to be assessed with respect to this policy, Herzig noted.

Looking ahead

While there is no way to precisely project the economic impact that generative AI will have on the business landscape, Bloomberg Intelligence predicts the generative AI market will grow to $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years. The rising demand for generative AI products could add about $280 billion of new software revenue, driven by specialized assistants, new infrastructure products, and copilots that accelerate coding, according to that team.

What does this mean for our ASUG community?

At a minimum, it means that we ignore the implications of generative AI, both positive and negative, at our peril. The pace at which this technology is evolving will likely require each of us to develop a stronger understanding of what generative AI can do, and of the impact it will have on everything from strategic planning and operational execution to financial projections and technology deployments.

It’s incumbent upon each of us to integrate generative AI considerations into our organization’s governance, change management, and risk mitigation calculations. Bloomberg may have provided a glimpse into the potential upside of AI, but it will be up to us to make sure that we have strong oversight functions in place to guard against the potential downside.

The good news is that we are not alone. We have each other. As participants in the ASUG community, we can and must tap into the wealth of experience and expertise that exists within our membership. ASUG’s First Five newsletter, distributed weekly to all ASUG members, is available for you to share your adventures in AI-enabled transformation. So, reach out to us at, suggest stories, and let us know if you have a case study that needs to be told or a use case that needs to be shared.

And rest assured that we will be closely following the story of generative AI as it continues to unfold across 2024, at our in-person and virtual events—and through all our content, research, and editorial channels—as part of our promise to deliver value to you, the SAP community.

Patricia Brown is ASUG’s Editorial Director.

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