SAP is embedding AI in applications; MapR is doing so in its data platform. In both cases, AI is becoming more ubiquitous and more convenient.
Sometimes when we write about analytics, machine learning and AI, it’s challenging to come up with concrete use cases. That makes it harder than it should be for readers to grasp the power of these technologies. And that’s a shame, because it makes AI seem ethereal rather than useful or easily understood.
But every so often I am reminded that when one needs use cases, one need look no further than ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. Sometimes ERP is disparaged as mundane. In reality, ERP is what makes businesses run, and when cool technologies are applied to ERP, their impact can be huge, and their value becomes crystal clear.
SAP and AI
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1802 is the latest quarterly release of the canonical ERP suite, and AI figures into it prominently. SAP’s Chief Product Officer, Christian Pederson, graciously made time and broke down for me how AI has become woven into the software’s very fabric.
With SAP Leonardo Machine Learning available to the software, it now features really cool capabilities. These include things like determining a deal’s probability to close; predictive profit and loss, based on impact of pending orders; and a system that automates matching invoices to orders, which can observe, and learn from, how users do this manually.
Handling the AI situation
SAP S/4HANA Cloud includes digital assistants that feature a voice command interface and — through a partner solution — can integrate this capability with Amazon Alexa. This release also offers automated payment processing and a new “situation handling” tool. This latter alerts users to risks in purchase order confirmations and purchase requisitions, and automates customer communications proactively.
Pederson told me that SAP is now looking through almost every business process its software handles and determining where AI should be added. SAP’s asset managementfunctionality, for example, is getting predictive maintenance capabilities added in. In our conversation, Pederson also made the point that AI is worthless without crucial data. SAP has that data, and combined with the HANA and Leonardo platforms, makes AI useful in an everyday manner.