SAP Harnesses the Cloud for Intelligent ERP 'Copilots'

SAP gives S/4HANA Cloud a machine-learning boost, enabling customers to make informed decisions from mountains of ERP data.


SAP recently updated its S/4HANA Cloud business application suite with an array of new intelligent software capabilities that the German software maker is betting will help organizations make smarter business decisions while their users spend less time pouring over enterprise resource planning (ERP) data.

Based on the company's in-memory computing and analytics platform, S/4HANA Cloud already produces business insights in real time. By layering new machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, the company's cloud ERP solution now plays a more assistive role in managing complex business environments, ultimately enhancing employee productivity, explained Sven Denecken, senior vice president of product management at SAP S/4HANA.

Somewhere along their digital transformation journey, businesses inevitably realize that "everyone needs more speed," Denecken told eWEEK. Of-the-moment information, and the ability to act on it, becomes the new status quo for top-level executives, rank-and-file business users and everyone in between.

Digging through ERP records and compiling reports while business decisions are waiting to be made is momentum lost. To help its customers stay on track, and perhaps move things along, the company baked machine-learning capabilities into its product. It works behind the scenes to sharpen user focus, speed workflows and improve decision-making, Denecken said.

Layered onto the solution's analytics functionality and combined with historical data, S/4HANA Cloud's new AI-infused capabilities now allow workers to "look around corners" and gain a clearer awareness of where their business stands, Denecken said. They can also prod users into making smarter decisions and the most of their workday.

In addition to managing business data, S/4HANA Cloud ERP now acts as a digital assistant, or a "copilot" of sorts, that captures the context of each data point and nudges users toward higher-value tasks, Denecken added.

For example, in cash management and accounts payable scenarios, the technology may urge a user to "focus on the exceptions" for better business outcomes and a more rewarding workday overall. "It taps him on the shoulders and gives him an idea on what he should focus on," said Denecken. Likewise, when applied to fraud management, the technology can help detect and rank incidents, making sure a user's time is better spent on cases that matter and may lead to successful resolutions.

Denecken describes SAP's latest offering as "next-generation, intelligent ERP in the cloud" that can be seamlessly incorporated into business processes and is accessible from practically any device via SAP Fiori, the company's mobile-friendly user interface software. The new capabilities in the new release (version 1702 signifying February 2017) are available across SAP's cloud ERP suite, including S/4HANA Professional Services Cloud, Finance Cloud and Enterprise Management Cloud.

And SAP is showing no signs of slowing down.

Denecken said to expect a new version every quarter. Future updates will include smarter configuration tools with prepopulated fields and new setup wizards that build on S/4HANA Cloud's AI tech to speed deployments. The company is also working on adding internet of things and blockchain capabilities for emerging business models.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...