We’ve all heard SAP talk about the intelligent enterprise. We know for the most part that it requires digital transformation and an investment in new, intelligent technologies. But what most companies still question is what vision makes most sense for them, how do they get there, and why it’s important to do now.

ASUG News sat down with Mala Anand, president of SAP Intelligent Enterprise Solutions and Industries, to discuss those questions and more.

Mala is charged with running 25 different industries across SAP as well as the intelligent enterprise solutions. Her team looks at how they can take the entirety of the SAP portfolio and adapt it for specific industries. She talked to us about emerging technologies, guided outcomes, and how an organization can get started on its way to becoming a more intelligent enterprise.

Sharon: Can you explain the intelligent enterprise in a layperson’s terms?

Mala: The intelligent enterprise allows us to create and unlock new value for our customers. By integrating our products across the entire SAP portfolio, we can create solutions and deliver very specific business outcomes.

There are three key things to think about when talking about the intelligent enterprise, and this is true across all industries. The first is that it’s an experience management solution. It allows us to capture experience data. The second is that an intelligent suite of business applications allows us to capture operational data. And then the third is that it’s a digital platform that allows us to manage that data and apply intelligence to deliver a desired outcome.

SAP has three approaches to deliver this intelligent enterprise to our customers. The first is through embedded intelligence—whether it’s machine learning or big data or analytics—that will be embedded in every part of SAP’s portfolio, all the way from our ERP system to our cloud solutions. The second approach is through the recently announced 15 SAP Guided Outcomes, which are cross-LoB solutions that deliver specific outcomes. And the third is through open innovation with our customers.

Sharon: When looking to become an intelligent enterprise, what are some things an organization should consider about applying the right technology to drive better business outcomes?

Mala: With any successful implementation, I’ve learned that you should start with the outcome, not the technology. You need to clearly understand the problem you want to solve, as well as the specific objectives you want to achieve.

Those outcomes could potentially fall into different categories such as driving cost optimization, revenue growth, total workforce management, customer experience, or product and service excellence. Start with understanding all of them. And then based on those outcomes, you can begin to apply the right technology to achieve them. Using the SAP Guided Outcomes can help you make the right decisions.

Sharon: Let’s talk about the 15 SAP Guided Outcomes. What are they? Can you provide some practical use cases of how customers are successfully applying them?

Mala: The SAP Guided Outcomes provide a fast track to the intelligent enterprise by bringing together cross-LoB solutions that deliver specific business outcomes. They allow customers to innovate faster and really focus on strategic and quantitative benefits. SAP has created guided outcomes in five categories, which include cost optimization, revenue growth, total workforce management, customer experience, and product and service excellence. Within each of these categories, we have a series of additional guided outcomes.

So, let’s talk about a practical use case of how these can be applied. I’ll use an example within the cost optimization category that involves environmental track and trace. The company in this example is subject to temperature-sensitive ingredients and must know the exact ingredients that come into the production facilities, the time they’ve been out of refrigeration, the production cycles, etc. There are many challenges to get this all right, but the business benefits by complying with these regulatory requirements.

The environmental track and trace guided outcome brings together a series of SAP products—SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP S/4HANA, IoT, machine learning, and more—that will allow the company to manage and track environmental influencers. By being able to track and manage everything, the company not only benefits from cost optimization, but also can review the cost of quality assurance, as well.

Sharon: Whenever a new technology is introduced to an enterprise, there’s always the question of how to integrate it with the existing SAP portfolio. So how are you tackling this so that customers can adopt, implement, and configure quickly? How do you see this evolving in the next five years?

Mala: All these technologies go through a maturity cycle. And as they mature in the portfolio and with customers, they become more robust. And when they become more robust, then they qualify to be embedded into the depth and breadth of the SAP portfolio.

Some of those that have gone through a maturity cycle include advanced analytics, conversational AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA). As a result, we now have tiered intelligent technology packages which include these technologies within our portfolio of products, including SAP S/4HANA, SAP C/4HANA, and SAP SuccessFactors. With all these products, be it an ERP, CRM, or HCM product, you start with industry-leading technology, but if you need more intelligence, we've built out these intelligent technology packages so that you can easily get the power of SAP's advanced RPA, conversational AI, and machine learning as well.

Sharon: In your own words, can you define the experience gap? Why should an organization care about this and how is technology helping to address it?

Mala: Success is no longer about selling more units. It’s about developing new offerings and changing a company’s business models. We’re in the midst of this new paradigm which is really allowing us to drive a whole new level of experience. We’re able to measure experience in silos, whether it’s operational experience or customer experience.

But where the power really comes in is when we bring both the operational and the experience data together and close the loop between front-end and back-end operations, and then apply intelligence to allow for a 360-degree view of the customer. And that’s where I think there’s an opportunity to close that experience gap. We are in the next frontier of transformation. Industries that have integrated digital platforms and intelligence are really blurring the lines for those that haven’t yet. So, it’s important to pay attention.

Sharon: What can a company do to prepare and train its workforce to be ready for a change to an intelligent enterprise?

Mala: When we talk about training and preparing a workforce for an intelligent enterprise, we need to be mindful of two areas. One area is in the existing enterprise silos. You need to prepare your workforce to become more data- and insight-driven. As a result of more intelligence being applied, businesses will become more automated, which means the current workforce will need to be trained on new tasks. 

The second area to consider is that an intelligent enterprise is connected in ways it’s never been before. It’s connected to a data value chain, and with that, you see the lines of functional boundaries are blurring. So, what used to be a distinct line between HR and finance and between finance and supply chain and between supply chain and marketing are slightly blurring, meaning the data should be interpreted and applied across these boundaries. So, training our enterprise workforce to understand how to read the data across function boundaries is going to be an important element as well.

Sharon: What would you like ASUG members to know about adopting an intelligent enterprise strategy and how they can start the journey?

Mala: Always start the journey to the intelligent enterprise by understanding—from a customer-centric perspective—what are the business outcomes you want to deliver. Focus on the strategic and quantitative business benefits, the rapid time to value, and then look at applying the intelligent enterprise vision. 

Interested in becoming an intelligent enterprise? Register for the “Delivering the Intelligent Enterprise from Strategy to Action” webcast series on demand.