The ex-CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, in his keynote speech at the 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference, revealed SAP's vision for the future - intelligent enterprise, with the purpose to fuel economies, lift societies, and sustain our environment with a new holistic offering.
An Intelligent Enterprise, according to SAP, is one that consistently integrates advanced technology and best practices within the agile framework to enhance business processes.
In terms of ground-level implementation:
- Instil a cloud-first approach for end-to-end storage and processing needs.
- Implement AI and Machine Learning into business processes to create autonomous processes.
- Use the power of the cloud and modern tech to derive deep business insights, to better understand customer experience and operations.
These are the core ideas for building an intelligent enterprise - migrating the value chain to the cloud, creating fully autonomous processes, and implementing data-backed process improvements.
An intelligent enterprise is cloud-centric, automation-centric, and customer-centric.
What does it mean to be fully autonomous?
In the context of an enterprise, levels of enterprise process automation can be split into 5 stages. As each stage progresses, human involvement reduces, and AI involvement increases:
Levels of Enterprise System Automation (Source)
- Level 0 - Manual enterprise: All processes are run manually, and data is stored on physical mediums
- Level 1 - Transactional enterprise: While processes are run manually, technology is used for data storage, data sharing, and process management.
- Level 2 - Digital enterprise: Manual tasks are backed by AI-powered real-time analytics and recommendations.
- Level 3 - Intelligent enterprise: Robotic Process Automation takes over tasks and uses AI to improve. While processes are automated, they run in silos based on function and require human monitoring.
- Level 4 - Autonomous enterprise: Fully automated processes that interact with each other and make data-based decisions, so human intervention is not needed.
We have the technology available today for businesses to be fully intelligent enterprises and achieve Level 3 of automation. Intelligent technologies in SAP S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo technologies are designed to help businesses transform into truly intelligent enterprises.
The importance of advancing towards becoming an intelligent enterprise
Even though the technology and expertise are readily available, most enterprises are still digital enterprises, at level 3 of automation, and some are transactional enterprises at level 2.
The Covid pandemic accelerated digital transformation, with companies implementing digital solutions for operations and customer service. And yet, many companies still lag or are stuck in limbo, with some processes digitalized and some others running manually.
With all the benefits that automation provides, why would companies still lag in implementation? While there could be a lot of reasons, most companies fail to embrace automation because of a lack of knowledge or a lack of funds. They either don't know that their processes can be automated, or they don't have the money to implement automation technology.
That being said, it's important to weigh the long-term benefits of becoming an intelligent enterprise when deciding:
- Automation greatly reduces the time and effort needed to run processes, and that saves money.
- Enterprises can run on lean teams and streamline their workforce.
- Employees can focus on more critical tasks while automation takes over repetitive BAU tasks.
- Employees can deliver better results by leveraging technology like business analytics.
- Data and processes will be interconnected instead of being in silos creating a single enterprise environment.
Implementing the SAP intelligent enterprise framework
SAP's framework for an intelligent enterprise has six primary pillars:
1. Business process management
Using technology and agile methodologies to create smart and lean business processes.
2. Industry cloud
Leveraging the power of the cloud, for data storage, processing power, services, and so on.
3. Experience management
Using data analytics to understand customer experiences and then tailoring business processes to enhance customer experience.
4. Sustainable business solutions
Delivering service while being sensitive to the impact on the environment and people.
5. Business technology platforms
The use of cloud platforms to build, buy or lease applications to build a digitalized enterprise.
6. Business network
Unifying all these functions to create a single enterprise environment that is intelligent, shares data and information, and consistently enhances itself.
Becoming 'intelligent' in 2022
The path to becoming a fully intelligent enterprise begins with small steps, by implementing easily available and affordable tech like AI chatbots, RPA for processes, smart data analytics, and so on. As you add products to your enterprise tech stack, the entire system begins to improve and optimize.
And then comes the bigger step - partnerships with providers like SAP that have the full-scale technology to help businesses become intelligent enterprises. Through a structured plan, every enterprise can transform into an intelligent enterprise with SAP cloud platform.