If 2023 was the year when generative artificial intelligence (AI) finally became a consumer reality, this will be the year when AI in a business context takes a big step forward.
There is simply no doubt that more and more companies will adopt business AI this year as a key part of their digital transformations and to future proof their operations. But to look at AI alone is to miss the bigger picture of this generational shift in enterprise technology.
While AI may get all of the attention, this is actually a moment when two transformative technologies for business are converging. On one side there is the awesome power of the cloud, which allows businesses to break down silos so their teams can access the data they need to innovate faster and in a more secure environment. On the other side is generative AI for business, which can do everything from generating content and code to automating time-consuming tasks and discovering new insights.
But behind the hype and the headlines about generative AI lies a fundamental truth that IT professionals know very well: Any new technology only has value when it can be integrated seamlessly across systems and processes so organizations can do things they couldn’t do before.
In other words, it’s never about the new technology itself; it’s always about what the new technology can do to move businesses forward that really counts.
Increasingly, CIOs recognize what is at stake with getting generative business AI right. According to CITI’s 2Q23 CIO survey, 86% of respondents are directly funding generative AI projects. But there’s a lot of confusion about where these investments are best directed to drive growth for business and value for customers.
In my role for SAP, I speak with CIOs all the time about how to make the most of their technology investments. And whether it’s the cloud or generative AI, my message to IT professionals is simple: experience within your industry and integration across your systems matter now more than ever. Working with experienced partners like SAP is also the only way to unlock the power of responsible, reliable, and relevant AI for business.
The potential of ERP systems powered by AI is huge. It could allow mundane tasks to be automated more intelligently, freeing up teams to tackle more strategic challenges. It could allow analytics to become even more predictive by using data in AI algorithms to identify trends and patterns long before they become obvious. And it could enhance customer experiences by using data on preferences coupled with real-time data on supply chains to help companies offer more personal recommendations while also making sure those products are available where and when people are ready to buy them.
SAP has been helping businesses use technology to solve these kinds of challenges for decades, starting with ERP and expanding across the enterprise. And while the idea of having cloud solutions augmented by AI might seem new, the reality is we have already been embedding AI into use cases. Today, more than 24,000 businesses are already using and benefiting from SAP Business AI capabilities — and they are seeing impressive results.
For example, American Sugar Refining, Inc., which has been delivering sugarcane products for over 150 years, is now using AI embedded in SAP Business Technology Platform to predict the cost of moving freight more accurately. Predictions that used to be a painstaking process are now being generated automatically in seconds. As a result, the company has been able to generate 2,200 forecasts for 628 trucking lanes sampled from six U.S. states with six months of data — with 95% accuracy.
Or take the example of Motor Oil Group, which need to monitor the health of its refinery equipment to minimize downtime and reduce maintenance costs. By embracing machine learning and predictive analytics from SAP, the company has been able to build predictive models for abnormal events based on sensor data and feed them into user-friendly dashboards and e-mail notifications. As a result, it has been able to explain abnormal events with 77% accuracy and predict future sensor measurements with 70% accuracy.
These are just two examples of what’s already happening when AI is embedded into cloud solutions. And it is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come.
But to get the benefits of business AI, companies must first move to the cloud. And that raises an important question for IT professionals. What are you doing today to get ready for the coming flood of business AI solutions that will be available to you but also to your competitors?
This race has already started. Those who team up with partners with the right combination of experience and integration will be the ones set up to win it.
Scott Russell is head of Customer Success and a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE.