SAP is reimagining business processes for organisations with machine learning

Machine learning is the ability for computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. Some of the more practical applications of this is self driving cars and speech recognition. Machine learning at its heart involves statistical pattern recognition and data mining a mountain of data in the form of words, numbers, images and video.

With the release of the expanded SAP Leonardo tool set, with built in machine learning, the company enables their partners and customers to build intelligent customisable applications to process and analyse the flood of data collected from IoT devices as well as other traditional business processes. All this happens with real time data, so company executives have the most up to date information at their fingertips to plan and assess for the future and essentially allows organisations to reimagine their business processes.

According to Dr. Markus Noga, vice president of machine learning at SAP, there is tremendous interest in machine learning. “It allows [users] to employ computers differently to before – now we can process images and video as well – it’s a transitional shift,” he elaborated.

He had been showcasing SAP’s machine learning capabilities at the SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando and he said that it was interesting how companies were thinking up of their own applications right there on the show floor as the possibilities were explained to them.

“For example there were these oil company executives who were looking at the system and asking can we use this to identify any fires that break out on the oil rigs? And can we use this to check if our workers are wearing the appropriate safety gear when they go out to work. And the answer is yes. They can do this as these are patterns that can be detected from within the data,” said Noga.

When questioned as to how much machine learning intelligence could be trusted, Noga repeated that machine learning is based on statistics. “The checks and balances that are applied to human processing still needs to be applied here. Outliers have to be flagged and humans will have to check on it,” he added.

” I don’t think that machine learning can replace humans,” he stated, although the way humans work will change.

This view is also held by Hasso Platner, cofounder and chairman of the supervisory board for SAP. During his keynote address at SAPPHIRE NOW, he pointed out that intelligent machines have been around for some time. “The modern airplane has been able to fly itself for a while now. But you still need a pilot on board at the driver seat. He can’t be having a party at the back of the plane,” he pointed out.

The major grunt work that would normally fatigue a human after numerous repetitions – which is when errors occur – can be carried out tirelessly by the machine.

“A new business model is emerging. It frees people to do more intelligent things,” he elaborated further.

Within it’s own product lines, SAP introduced SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1705 with embedded machine learning capabilities that offer predictive analysis for increased end-user efficiency, automatic invoice matching and more. The 1705 release also features general availability for SAP Co-Pilot, a digital assistant for the enterprise that is aware of business context, driving efficient collaboration, quickly recognizing and connecting to business objects and offering in-context chat.

“The SAP Co-Pilot gives everyone a virtual assistant. It contributes towards the democratisation of the workplace, where everyone will now have access to an assistant,” said Noga about this development.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud is SAP’s intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP) software-as-a-service solution with contextual analytics, digital assistant capabilities, machine learning and the award-winning SAP Fiori user experience.

Other updates in SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1705 include:

  • Significant acceleration of finance capabilities for large enterprises including statutory financial consolidation, SAP S/4HANA Cloud for
  • Finance for credit integration and SAP digital payments add-on integration
  • The release of innovative end-to-end processes for manufacturing, providing transparency over financial impact, inventory management and supplier management, enabling demand-driven manufacturing
  • The SAP Project Companion mobile app, which facilitates collaboration in day-to-day actions and offers quick insights through push notifications
  • Additional integrations to third-party systems, including creating sales orders for sales force automation