As seemingly daily developments in generative artificial intelligence (AI) continue to dominate headlines, executives charged with executing digital transformation strategies are eager to assess the impact that this technology, in all its forms, will have on enterprise applications.

While the devil is, as always, in the details, few doubt that this emerging technology will leave a significant mark on enterprise resource planning (ERP) operations. The promise of AI – as well as machine learning, deep learning, robotic process automation and more – is compelling.

This is especially true for organizations facing an IT skills gap, that struggle to find and keep technical talent through intricate technology modernization initiatives that integrate on-premises and cloud infrastructures. As a result, major technology players are bringing different flavors of AI to their offerings, so that businesses do more with increasingly scarce resources. SAP is no exception.

In the two weeks leading up to the SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, SAP broadened its partnerships with major industry players, demonstrating AI’s growing role in elevating the value organizations extract from ERP investments. That is why we can expect AI to emerge as a significant topic of conversation among conference attendees.

SAP and Google Cloud’s Data and Analytics Technology Come Together Using AI

Google Cloud and SAP expanded their partnership, introducing a comprehensive open data offering that optimizes the value of business data. The joint offering, announced on May 11, leverages AI to build an end-to-end data cloud that aggregates data across the enterprise landscape.

“Few resources are as important to digital transformation as data,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO, Google Cloud. “By deeply integrating SAP software data and systems with our data cloud, customers will be able to utilize our analytics capabilities -- as well as advanced AI tools and large language models -- to find new insights from their data.”

Dinesh Vandayar, Partner Manager, SAP Strategy and Architecture at Google, told ASUG that a strong data foundation will provide the basis for users to build operational, analytical, and AI-based outcomes on the same platform, alleviating the need to move data back and forth between multiple data platforms and thus breaking down silos.

According to the announcement, the joint initiative will streamline resources needed to implement complex data integrations and develop custom analytics engines across enterprise applications – including supply chain management, financial forecasting, human resources records, and omnichannel retail – through generative AI and natural language processing (NLP) models. It will also let business leaders combine SAP software data and non-SAP data on Google Cloud from virtually any source.

“Bringing together SAP systems and data with Google’s data cloud introduces entirely new opportunities for enterprises to derive more value from their full data footprints,” added Christian Klein, SAP CEO and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE.

SAP Further Integrates IBM’s Watson AI into Solutions

Earlier in the month, SAP and IBM announced an initiative to leverage Big Blue’s Watson technology to power the digital assistant in SAP Start. With SAP Start, users can search for, launch, and interactively engage with apps provided in cloud solutions from SAP and SAP S/4HANA Cloud. The new AI capabilities will help users boost productivity with both natural language capabilities and predictive insights, while preserving trust, transparency, and data privacy principles.

“This milestone collaboration with IBM aims to provide SAP customers [with] a better user experience, faster decision-making, and greater insights to help transform their business processes,” said Klein in a May 2 statement.

The initiative will help organizations to harness the transformative power of AI and allow them to establish new areas of competitive advantage, added Arvind Krishna, IBM Chairman & CEO.

Fabio Di Capua, VP Analyst/Tech Product Manager for Gartner, noted that “IBM has been integrating Watson in its SAP implementations for years,” expressing confidence that there will be multiple opportunities to evaluate the advantages, from improving user productivity to enabling additional insights.

AI and Cloud Keeps Core Clean While Supporting Industry-Specific Requirements

In the week before Sapphire, ASUG caught up with Sven Denecken, SVP and Chief Marketing Solutions Officer for SAP Industries and Customer Experience, to better understand the role AI will play in addressing specific needs of different vertical sectors.

While AI is commanding attention in the news lately, Denecken explained that advanced analytics and automation have been natively embedded within core SAP technologies for years. In today’s technology environment, however, the stars have aligned to put the right technologies in their proper places to achieve mission-critical outcomes.

As enterprises migrate away from legacy deployments that were once highly customized to address the competitive requirements of various verticals, new cloud technologies and AI capabilities are combining to support unique features and functions without modifying standard modern SAP offerings.

From an industry requirements perspective, he observed, the advantage of bringing these new technologies together is that SAP can leverage AI services out of its platforms and integrate them with partner solutions to enable industry-specific extensions, defining the future state of key business processes.

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