Artificial intelligence and machine learning will pave the way for an Intelligent Enterprise – at least SAP CEO Christian Klein believes that’s how it will work. It’s a vision he’s very fond of, and potentially very wrong about.
Self-driving cars, learning machines and intelligent, self-healing algorithms are fascinating, but not universally applicable. Artificial intelligence has made enormous leaps over the past few years thanks to innovations in hardware and software, but the progress it made has typically been very narrow, only pertaining to one specific area of use. Which begs the question: What, exactly, is an Intelligent Enterprise?
While I cannot claim to know about their system landscapes, at least I know that SAP customers are intelligent enough to see that SAP has made a few very un-intelligent decisions over the past years. It acquired a lot of different cloud app providers, resulting in a patchwork rug of cloud data models that will neither fit with each other nor with ERP/ECC 6.0. This chaos, brought onto SAP by SAP itself, resulted in the ERP giant extending the maintenance deadline for Suite 7 until 2027/2030. It was a necessary step, and I cannot imagine SAP taking it lightly (or willingly, for that matter).
Intelligent Enterprise: A vision, not a strategy
In a pre-Sapphire keynote video, Christian Klein talks about innovations and artificial intelligence, revealing to attentive listeners that he has a lot of visions, but no real strategy. Artificial intelligence and machine learning could foster innovation in SAP user companies, if SAP synchronizes, harmonizes, and automates its solutions, cloud applications and systems first.
Intelligent users benefitting from a harmonized and automated ERP, that would be the most realistic approach; however, it just hasn’t quite the same ring to it as Intelligent Enterprise, making it unlikely to be hyped up during any Sapphire keynote – virtual or in-person, live or pre-recorded.
While Christian Klein loses himself in his visions, SAP customers are dealing with many different challenges. While the global pandemic still rages on, crushing any hope about returning to relative normalcy anytime soon, they still have to decide what to do about their existing ERP systems and the migration to S/4 Hana. There are still some questions left unanswered, and many customers are undecided if they even want to move to the new ERP system. This is nothing that a mere vision can fix – SAP customers need data harmonization, automation and a clear strategy now more than ever.