With the gathering pace of headlines touting artificial intelligence in the business press, one could be forgiven for assuming that all facets of the enterprise stand to benefit equally from its application – everything from the electric stapler to the espresso machine to the ergonomic furniture.

But in reality, some functions are much better suited than others to gain from AI. The deeper the reservoir of data associated with an operational process – and the broader the sharing of that data not only within an organization but among its trading partners as well – the greater the potential for AI to bolster collaborative capabilities, instill operational resilience, and unlock exponential value.

By facilitating the convergence of trading partners’ operational data, cloud-based networks strengthen transparency and foster collaboration across interconnected processes such as procurement, supply chain, logistics, and asset management. The vast troves of data accumulated from these functions – and the insights they reveal – bear significant implications for forecasting demand, planning inventory, sourcing components, procuring labor, maximizing utilization, managing logistics, gauging sustainability, achieving compliance, and securing financing. Yet the sheer volume of such data, sometimes spanning billions or more transactions, can defy human interpretation in the quest to optimize decision-making.

That’s where artificial intelligence comes in.

As the world’s largest B2B collaboration platform, SAP Business Network facilitates hundreds of millions of transactions per year, capturing a unified, end-to-end view of spend. So prodigious is the cloud-based network’s volume – exceeding US$5.3 trillion in commerce annually, greater than the gross domestic product of every nation except the United States and China – that, through innovations in predictive and generative AI technologies, SAP Business Network is transforming procurement, supply chain, logistics, asset management, and related operational processes, with the goal that every business runs as an intelligent, sustainable enterprise.

Connect people, processes, and systems across multiple enterprises to digitalize transactions

The cloud is uniquely fit for the task of delivering simplicity within a many-to-many network of trading partners. A network’s features, from its search functionality to the matching of buyers with suggested suppliers, must aid the dual goals of transparency and ease of use. Predictive and generative AI capabilities augment businesses’ ability to discover trading partners on the basis of complementary resources, mutual value, and strategic alignment. With every successive use, generative AI sharpens its ability to anticipate operations professionals’ requirements to match supply with demand. Meanwhile, AI helps businesses to automate their most time-consuming procurement and supply chain activities through predictive mechanisms as well, hastening the ability to arrive at better, more informed decisions. When applied to the broadest possible sets of operational data, AI removes the guesswork from business-to-business commerce and replaces it with new leads, renewed confidence, and resilient supply chains.

With these objectives in mind, SAP Business Network is transforming its powerful discovery functionality into a simple chat prompt this year. Also in 2024, generative AI will enable SAP Business Network to create catalog content based on existing data in the network, detect potential errors within invoices, and obtain quote requests from buyers via natural-language, on-screen dialogue with matched suppliers. Integrating AI capabilities into SAP Business Network thus promises to reshape the trading partner experience by enabling buyers to reach far more suppliers with precision for the specific goods and services they produce. Trading partners large and small benefit equally from the increased flow of accurate, detailed, and complete information identifying each other’s offerings and competitive advantages.

As AI technologies take shape and mature, infusing intelligence natively into business processes, digital commerce platforms are certain to introduce many enhanced capabilities. Naturally, with its scale and history of innovation, you can expect SAP Business Network to lead the way. But you’ll know the moment that artificial intelligence has truly transformed enterprise software when its features subtly blend in, almost imperceptibly, to simplify everyday operational processes, making business applications more intuitive and predictive for trading partners. That is our vision for AI at SAP Business Network, where the intelligence may be increasingly artificial but the commitment to customer success is invariably genuine.

For further information on SAP Business Network and how we are equipping enterprises with AI and other digital tools needed to counter disruption, visit sap.com/businessnetwork and sap.com/ai.

Jörn Keller is executive vice president and chief product officer of SAP Business Network.

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