Generative artificial intelligence (AI) represents the latest disruptive innovation SAP has harnessed as it continues to support the evolving needs of the global business community, said Christian Klein, CEO and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, during keynote remarks on the opening day of SAPPHIRE 2023.   

The SAP community last week gathered in Orlando for its annual assessment of new features, functions, and innovative business practices enabled by current and emerging enterprise applications. But while other significant developments were unveiled related to the company's existing suite of solutions, the new frontier of AI took center stage with the launch of SAP Business AI.

Further embedding responsible AI within business solutions, this suite of AI tools and improvements aims to personalize customer engagement and enhance the sales process, aiding with procurement and order auto-completion.  

To put this latest technological tsunami into context, Klein offered a compressed timeline of events that transformed the industry and defined SAP's role in it. He noted how SAP revolutionized financial accounting through pioneering work 50 years ago, followed by making real-time data analytics a reality 20 years later. He then reminded the audience of the rapid progress the company has made in bringing its offerings to the cloud.  

Today, he said, SAP is harnessing AI to redefine enterprise applications' role in transforming the operations of all verticals while leaving an indelible mark on horizontal business disciplines. The emergence of generative AI, observed Klein, advances SAP's long-stated objective to democratize access to insights by enabling intuitive data-driven decision-making.  

"Embedding generative AI and intelligent chatbots into our products is about two things,” he said. “First, increasing the productivity for the billions of end users working with SAP's software, and second, opening up new game-changing capabilities for all business functions."  

Klein reported that AI has already been embedded in SAP applications used by more than 20,000 customers. Meanwhile, the company has developed more than 130 embedded use cases of AI, according to Thomas Saueressig, head of SAP product engineering and a member of the SAP executive board, who spoke in the afternoon keynote.

“Last year, we processed 40 million invoices automatically and generated savings of more than $366 million for our customers,” Saueressig said. “SAP is an AI company and SAP’s AI is built into our systems, which power your business.”

AI SAP Partnerships Dominate Headlines

A flurry of joint announcements with major players -- including IBM and Google Cloud -- presaged AI’s high profile at this year's conference, with opening day unveiling yet another generative AI-related relationship, this one with Microsoft.   

The companies outlined the integration of SAP SuccessFactors solutions with Microsoft 365 Copilot and Copilot in Viva Learning, as well as with Microsoft's Azure OpenAI Service.   

"We have an incredible opportunity to deliver next-generation AI that will unlock productivity growth for every individual, organization, and industry, including the human resource function," Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, said in a statement.  

The integrated offerings, he added, will access powerful language models that analyze and generate natural language, enabling new experiences that improve how organizations attract, retain, and skill their people.  

During a joint session on the main stage, in which Nadella participated virtually, the two executives explored AI's practical implications for human-machine interactions.   

"With generative AI, we will increase the productivity of every end user by changing how people work with our software,” Klein said. “For example, our software will be able to answer any business-related question and recommend actions to improve your company's performance."   

Nadella concurred, adding that generative AI will serve as a force multiplier to build new layers of value into enterprise cloud initiatives, enhancing the categories in which SAP and Microsoft are innovating. He highlighted specific opportunities in human resource (HR) management.   

"It’s the context of the business process and the data mixed with AI that creates the magic for any professional at work,” Nadella said. “In the context of HR, it's about recruiting and it's about skilling.” Integrating Microsoft 365 Copilot with what SAP is doing in human experience management brings data together, and adding AI capabilities will completely change how human capital and human experience management operate, he added.  

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