SAP S/4 HANA Cloud harnesses AI to offer an 'intelligent cloud' for the enterprise

At SAP's Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, the business software giant unveiled plans to make the cloud smarter and more automated. Here's what it means for business.

Image: ZDNet

On Wednesday at the 2017 SAP Sapphire Now conference, SAP board chairman Hasso Plattner presented his forecast for how enterprises can harness "intelligent" technology.

Available now, SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1705 is an intelligent, Software as a Service (SaaS) tool for enterprise resource planning (ERP) to automate processes and help businesses become more efficient. Along with it, SAP's Co-PIlot offers an AI-based assistant to support businesses by "recognizing and connecting to business objects and offering in-context chat," as well as to "take away the tedium of repetitive tasks," according to a press release. By using machine learning, SAP S/4HANA Cloud also automates processes such as invoice matching.

This news follows several other major announcements by SAP, including its plans to upgrade Leonardo with integrations in machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and blockchain technologies, as well as its new recruiting tools for businesses.

According to a blog post by Darren Roos, president of SAP S/4HANA Cloud, a host of other SAP products and services are also getting machine learning updates::

  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud for Finance. WIth this new capability, large enterprises can manage finance tasks, such as statutory financial consolidation, for-credit integration, and SAP digital payments.
  • End-to-end processing for manufacturing. This new capability will boost manufacturing by bringing greater transparency to finances, inventory, and supplier management.
  • SAP Project Companion mobile app. A new app gives quick feedback through push notifications and provides a space for collaboration.
  • Third-party systems. New integrations are now available, such as the ability to build sales orders for automation within a company's sales force.

In addition to SAP S/4HANA Cloud's machine learning updates, there are also some new analytics-based upgrades.

  • SAP Analytics Cloud, (formerly SAP BusinessObjects Cloud), available in May, offers "an iOS mobile app, connections to the SAP BW/4HANA solution and universes, R scripting, enhanced visual linking, new data preparation functions available to all user types, new smart discovery features including simulations and scoring, a new smart insight feature to automatically propose visualizations, and new prebuilt industry and line-of-business content," according to a blog post by Michael Flannagan, SVP of Analytics at SAP.
  • SAP Digital Boardroom can help businesses make collaborative decisions, and can be tailored for specific industries.
  • SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) 4.2 has an improved interface. The software, SAP Lumira 2.0, can also "simplify the landscape for both IT and business users," according to the post. SAP and Zoomdata are partnering to enhance connectivity and speed up analytics. And SAP Analytics Hub can help "find analytics content across their enterprise, whether on premise or in the cloud."
  • By using machine learning, SAP Predictive Analytics software offers "enhanced SAP HANA platform support, data preparation and feature engineering." Also, SAP Cloud Platform Predictive service has recommendation and clustering models and "model training services for automated regression and classification." Finally, SAP IT Operations Analytics 2.0 software helps IT address issues by offering additional context to problems. It also supports hybrid data centers.

Another announcement is a partnership between SAP Ariba and IBM to "deliver next-generation applications that digitize and make procurement awesome." This new team will harness the power of Leonardo and Watson to "drive an intelligent source-to-settle process for managing all categories of spend that creates value across the entire business."

In addition, these applications can pull in insights via unstructured data along with predictive insights from procurement data, which can help organizations interact more efficiently with supply chains.

And in the pursuit of improving employee wellbeing--since employee burnout is such a common problem, especially in the tech industry--SAP is expanding its partnership with Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global, a corporate wellbeing platform.. By surveying employees about individual behavior, Thrive will "deliver science-based microsteps designed to improve employee well-being and productivity," according to a blog post by Jennifer Morgan, executive board member and president, Americas and Asia Pacific Japan, SAP. This new tool will be available through the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and Learning Management solutions, and will initially address how employees interact with technology, in an effort to reduce distraction and stress, and improve performance at work. Additionally, it will be used to aid employees who are experiencing important life events, such as a job promotion, divorce, or death in the family.

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