Making the right connections: The secret to building intelligent enterprises

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At SAPPHIRE NOW 2018, SAP’s showcase business technology conference staged in Orlando, Florida, there was a lot of talk about the intelligent enterprise — SAP’s name for a modern organisation that leverages emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT and analytics to create smarter business processes, enable deeper insights and improve decision-making.

Sounds great. What SAP customer wouldn’t want that?

Yet as a customer, knowing exactly what must be done to reach that goal is critical. If you walked the floors of the exhibitor halls and listened to the presentations, you may have come away feeling that you had to go on some sort of transformational, digitally empowered journey. But what does that journey entail and what is its ultimate destination?

The specific intelligent enterprise goals set out at SAPPHIRE NOW are compelling:

  • Improved visibility through connected data
  • Greater focus to direct resources into areas for maximum impact
  • Better agility to respond faster to marketplace changes.

These are key capabilities that define successful business in our modern economy.

According to SAP, the philosophy driving these objectives relies on two elements – humans and machines – working together. Self-running systems with machine intelligence provide the overall organising structures for the modern business ecosystem, but they are informed by human ingenuity driving the creation of new markets and new business models. Essentially, the message is: Organisations that can utilise a combination of machines and humans will reap greater rewards than those that rely solely on either one alone.

However, right now, as SAP CEO Bill McDermott said in his keynote presentation, we have “great brains and great computers but a lousy process for integrating them.” In a nutshell, that is what SAP is setting out to fix.

At a simplistic level, an intelligent enterprise means taking systems of record, where data is stored, and turning them into systems of analysis and engagement that perform more advanced processing. But for that to work properly the whole organisation, and not just one department or operational area, must be connected.

CRM provides a good example. One of the big splashes at SAPPHIRE NOW was the news that SAP has rebranded its CRM products under the new SAP Customer Experience banner, reflecting just how important a seamless, connected customer experience is when doing business in the digital age. To succeed in today’s economy, businesses need a single view of the customer, seamless front and back office integration and the ability to actively build customer trust through the acquisition and proper guardianship of customer data.

Deploying a standalone CRM application such as Salesforce will offer some insights, but by itself it won’t give you the real benefits you need. As a manufacturer for instance, a CRM application won’t add real value until you connect it to your shop floor processes. Only then will you know if what you promised from a selling perspective was delivered in the production and delivery areas of your business. Building interconnections so that every part of a business executes and interoperates smoothly is the secret to attracting and retaining customers over the long term.

The key to building an intelligent enterprise is ensuring your suite of core ERP applications and specialist line-of-business applications talk to each other. And SAP Cloud Platform lies at the heart of making that happen is. It is a platform-as-a-service offering that enables the collection, connection and orchestration of data, and facilitates the extension of application processes. Combine that with cutting edge AI technologies, powerful analytics and SAP’s S/4 HANA digital core and you have a potent solution with the capability to leverage the data treasure trove that many organisations are sitting on but unable to unlock.

There is no doubt that technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) — a style of automation where a computer mimics the execution of human users’ repetitive activities — is a “hot” trend at the moment. But in reality, RPA and other machine learning technologies have been around for some time. While there is no doubt that their sophistication is growing exponentially, you still need to make the business case as to what they can add to your enterprise and then implement the technology in such a way that it provides a transformative effect on your business — in short, an intelligent approach to your intelligent enterprise.


Stuart Dickinson, is Director / General Manager at DXC Oxygen.

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