SAP announced enhancements to SAP Analytics Cloud, including augmented analytics, new levels of Business Intelligence (BI), enterprise planning workflows, and data integration capabilities.

No doubt this is good news, but we need to ask some questions. First, why did SAP list augmented analytics as the first additional superpower? How does augmented analytics dovetail with the other elements of the SAP Analytics Cloud tool set? And, most important, what is augmented analytics anyway?

What Are Augmented Analytics?

Technology analyst Gartner defines augmented analytics as an approach that “automates insights” using machine learning and natural language generation. But that still doesn’t tell us much.

In terms of real-world actions (they’re actually virtual cloud-based actions, but you get the point), an augmented analytics system will perform tasks for us that it knows we need to make happen. For example, it could take on tasks such as automated data preparation, so that data is deduplicated or perhaps re-parsed to send it hurtling into the analytics engine.

The Natural Language Advantage

Natural language intelligence means that users can ask questions of their data in natural language. When SAP says users can “ask,” this still refers to typed text rather than spoken, but they can phrase these questions in a conversational way. For example: “How do I sell more widgets in region x?” Or perhaps: “What section of my stock is most out of date?”

Once it works on information and finds results, augmented analytics doesn’t just sit on it, it performs “insight sharing.” As Gartner puts it, “Augmented analytics will enable expert data scientists to focus on specialized problems and on embedding enterprise-grade models into applications. Users will spend less time exploring data and more time acting on the most relevant insights with less bias than is the case with manual approaches.”

Data Literacy and Responsibility

As with all things in life, with great power comes great responsibility. In this case, there is a greater responsibility for individual workers to understand and interpret the information that comes from these analytics. ASUG members looking to channel new augmented analytics functions into pre-existing work roles will need to assess each user’s current level of data literacy and, where necessary, train staff to take advantage of these new information streams.

A car with an automatic transmission still needs someone to steer it. Likewise, augmented analytics is essentially an automated function, but data-literate humans still need to weigh in on and manage the process.

Machine Intelligence + Human Creativity = Better Insights

“The combination of machine intelligence and human creativity is where analytics is at its best,” said Gerrit Kazmaier, senior vice president, SAP Analytics. “With SAP Analytics Cloud, our focus is continuous innovation in a unified solution that is intuitive, powerful, and designed for the business user. We continue to provide our customers with an end-to-end data and analytics approach enabling confident, data-driven decisions and intelligent processes that power better business outcomes.”

Kazmaier answers the question of how expanded augmented analytics functions will dovetail with the other elements of the SAP Analytics Cloud tool set. It’s a unified solution, so all these functions will exist as part of a user’s natural experience when using the SAP Analytics Hub.

The SAP Analytics Hub is the route to augmented analytics in the SAP Analytics Cloud. It offers a single point of access for all analytics content, whether those analytics come from SAP technologies or non-SAP sources.

Big Business Intelligence (BBI)

ASUG members looking at their BI tools might now think of them as bigger and more powerful. SAP isn’t calling this Big Business Intelligence (BBI), but it’s an acronym that could stick if users adopt it as widely as SAP hopes.

What makes BI bigger? Users can now add new machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to existing BI and planning workflows. According to SAP, “With the smart predict capability, business analysts can train models to predict future outcomes. Enhancements include time series models and user experience improvements that make it easier for analysts to predict future outcomes and automate decisions.”

Better Business Plans

With enhanced live connectivity to the embedded models of the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation application, users can amplify their existing investments and connect complex planning processes in the cloud.

These new capabilities allow end users to create and adjust their business plans within SAP Analytics Cloud and other tools, including Microsoft Excel. SAP says that this will mean organizations can extend and align plans in finance and across the enterprise to make the best end-to-end plan for the business.

A Wider Data Pipe

SAP is opening more data channels, 100 new data sources, and more types of data analytics. At the risk of throwing another analogy into the mix, this is a wider, faster-flowing, and longer data pipe than ever.

Analytics are smart, but augmented analytics can automate the insights we need to know to run our organizations. Going further, augmented analytics is smart enough to find unexpected values in complex data patterns that we may not have on our radar. Smart just got even smarter—and that means we can all raise our game.

If you’re looking to learn how your peers are doing more with business intelligence and analytics, you should join us at the BI+Analytics Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, March 9–11.