When speaking with IT leaders from the world’s largest companies about their greatest business challenges, there’s one thing I hear often. They all want to be future proof, where their operations become more flexible and resilient so they can bounce back faster to unforeseen challenges.  

It’s easy to see why. In a world where macroeconomic uncertainty has become the new normal, being future proof is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a must have. One of the ways that many companies are getting there is by becoming smarter and more strategic about their IT planning and preparing for an AI-powered future.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” The same is true when it comes to resiliency planning.

Businesses can become more resilient in many ways, from optimizing production with supply chain planning to better leveraging data to diversifying their suppliers, as well as by giving their workforce new tools and training to become future ready. While organizations always need to be able to respond quickly to operational disruptions and have a flexible contingency plan in place, true resiliency comes from being able to forecast and anticipate disruptions before they happen to avoid them altogether. 

Today, businesses have a golden opportunity to do this by moving their ERP systems to the cloud. Among many other benefits, the cloud allows them to react faster to the unexpected, scale their operations without requiring massive investments in hardware, and make it easier for teams to collaborate when troubleshooting a problem. We all saw a global case study in how the cloud can support resiliency when the pandemic hit in 2020. Companies that had moved their operations to the cloud were able to pivot far faster to the new realities of having a workforce that couldn’t be together physically.

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In my role at SAP, every day I see plenty of examples of customers using the cloud to work smarter and make their businesses more resilient.

Take, for instance, Nestlé S.A, which has been in business for more than 150 years. The company produces some of the most beloved brands in food, beverages, and nutritional products around the world. It has been an SAP customer for over 20 years and recently selected RISE with SAP to transform in the cloud. As a result, they’ll be able to automate processes across operations, create innovative business models at scale, and achieve greater agility and resilience.

We’ve also worked with Watco, a leading transportation and logistics provider, to streamline its financial planning, forecasting, and reporting processes. SAP Analytics Cloud helped the company get access to a profit and loss account for each of its 200 individual locations as well as a comprehensive, consolidated company view. It has connected 320 team members, allowing them to collaborate on enterprise plans with one source of information across their locations to be better prepared for the unexpected.

But this is just the beginning. While having ERP systems in the cloud is essential for making any business future proof, the benefits become even greater when AI solutions are also built right into cloud solutions. AI promises to be a force multiplier. Together with the cloud, business AI has the potential to help companies become true systems of intelligence where speed and agility meet data and insight.

Every journey is different. But there is simply no doubt that businesses that are willing to invest in the latest cloud and business AI solutions with a trusted partner like SAP will be able to future proof in ways that were previously unimaginable. And this is the most important thing they can do to thrive in an uncertain world.

In 2023, we saw what is possible when generative AI for business is specifically tailored to the unique business context of the company using it. With this in mind, I’m predicting that because of the growing power of generative AI for business — especially when it is embedded in ways that are relevant, reliable, and responsible — 2024 will be a watershed year for resiliency planning.

Those who are willing to make it central to their transformation journeys will open themselves up to new models and revenue streams that will become proof of their future promise. 

Scott Russell is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, leading Customer Success.

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