Every technology conversation today centers around the transformative potential of generative AI for the future. But the reality is, it’s already happening today. And while its capabilities are noteworthy, the real promise of generative AI for business is not what it can do so much as the value it can create.

In my role at SAP, I speak to business leaders all the time about the value that generative AI can add to their business in ways they might not even realize, and I hear countless stories about how it is already starting to do that. One of my favorite examples is one that SAP announced last week in an arena that is near and dear to me: finding and developing the next generation of star athletes.

See what SAP is building with generative AI

As someone who used to play and coach basketball in Australia, I have had a lifelong appreciation of coaching but also of scouting talent. Scouting is a discipline where art truly meets science, where experience and intuition are strengthened by the objective reality revealed by data.

While professional scouting has been around for a very long time, as more data on players becomes available, more teams are using it as a competitive advantage. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. While the sophistication of scouting reports is impressive, the process of creating and using them effectively has never been efficient. When you consider how many potential young star athletes there are in the world, you can see how this would create an enormous amount of scouting reports to go through in a short period of time. The problem gets even more daunting when you consider that they are written in different languages and in different writing styles. 

In short, it’s exactly the kind of challenge that generative AI for business is built to solve.

For proof of that, just look at the German professional soccer clubs FC Bayern Munich and Hertha BSC. For a long time, both clubs have employed talent scouts who travel the world watching matches and collecting reams of data about players in the hope of finding the next great star before any of their competitors do.

But to show how this could be done better, SAP collaborated with FC Bayern Munich and Hertha BSC on a prototype. It uses generative AI to create automated summaries and recommendations of the reports created by their different scouts in different parts of the world and makes them available to club executives simply by asking for them in their natural language.

For example, imagine a German-speaking manager of the club being able ask for a key summary in 100 words or less of a scouting report on a young player who was scouted in Argentina and written in Spanish. That same manager can also ask it to compare two players based on their just their defensive skills or endurance. While translation apps can translate an entire report from Spanish to German, it takes a large language model (LLM) to create these summaries and competitive analyses on demand using natural language commands — essentially just the information that club executives really need to make informed decisions fast.

This is exactly what the prototype allowed these clubs to do. It took a time-consuming task and automated it in an intelligent way to make it useful. As a result, we will soon be rolling out this capability as part of our sports management suite, SAP Sports One, which has already been helping athletes and teams get better results in their sport while also creating better experiences for their fans since 2015.

Why should business leaders care about better scouting reports? Two reasons: first, because they face many of the same challenges in their own business, needing to harness the power of their data quickly on demand for competitive advantage. And second, because generative AI is not just a specific solution for a specific problem. Its true magic is that it is also scalable across an entire enterprise to address other business needs, from financing and supply chain management to procurement, travel, trainings, and more. For example, when generative AI is combined with SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP), businesses have the ability to write code, keeping their core clean and building generative AI extensions to further scale impact.

There is simply no doubt that data is the playbook of champions in sports. But it is also creating a new playbook of value in business. And with the era of generative AI for business only just beginning, I cannot wait to see what other amazing innovations will move from imagination to reality — and all of the value that they will create.

Scott Russell is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE.

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