“2024 will be the year AI moves from discovery to execution,” said Christian Klein, SAP CEO, in his interview with CNBC earlier this year.

While AI has undoubtedly become one of the hottest topics discussed in boardrooms around the world, business leaders today are racing to cut through the hype to translate all that potential into tangible business outcomes.

For SAP partners, that presents an unparalleled opportunity to offer more intuitive and autonomous solutions to customers, and drive growth by creating new services and transformation programs tailored to meet industry needs – an opportunity that was estimated to be worth US$15 billion in 2023[1].

AI is not a new concept for SAP and many of our partners. It has been embedded into our business solutions for a long time now, infusing intelligence natively into business processes. The exponential growth in AI – especially generative AI (GenAI) – over the past eighteen months, however, has fuelled a seismic shift in how computer systems learn from data, solve complex problems, and even provide creativity when it’s needed – a transformation that will fundamentally change business and society.

Burgeoning opportunities

SAP’s commitment is to deliver Business AI that is relevant, reliable, and responsible – by combining the power of AI with the processes and data that run the business world. SAP today serves over 293 million cloud users globally and our customers generate 87% of total global commerce. The sheer scale of SAP’s data estate provides unmatched potential to enhance the capabilities of large-language models across industries.

When we look at the AI engagements undertaken by SAP partners to date, we can see that they fall broadly into two categories:

Enhancing existing SAP business processes through AI-powered automations
AI has augmented the types of data processes that can be automated. For example, SAP is working with IBM to develop solutions that help clients in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail industries by using traditional and GenAI solutions to address the complexities of the direct store delivery business process and product portfolio management. Through feeding data such as weather, traffic, and local events into the SAP Direct Distribution solution and applying AI to it, CPG companies can identify optimal store delivery routes, reducing costs and their carbon footprints.

In another example, SAP is collaborating with Microsoft to integrate natural language processing capabilities from Microsoft 365 Copilot into SAP SuccessFactors solutions to improve how organisations attract, retain and skill their people.

Creating entirely new services
AI has also empowered SAP partners to create new, innovative solutions, including rapidly converting complex data into actionable insights. Icertis, for example, offers an AI-powered contract intelligence platform on SAP Store – the online marketplace for SAP and partner offerings, to transform the unique business information found in contracts into structured data that connects to SAP solutions. The solution enables more efficient contract creation, negotiation, and obligation management to drive revenue and reduce risk across the enterprise, with the ability to apply more advanced AI on top.

Also on the SAP Store, a leading enterprise automation and AI software company, UiPath, offers the AI-powered UiPath Business Automation Platform to help enterprises ease their migration of critical business operations to the cloud and accelerate digital transformation efforts.

Bringing these concepts to life for customers requires more than just the technical foundations – it requires a committed and competent partner ecosystem that can work with customers to define industry-specific use cases and then bring them to life in a timely manner.

Accelerated AI journeys

The breadth of SAP’s AI capabilities means there are many ways in which partners can bring AI into their own solutions, enabling them to quickly find the path that best matches their existing expertise and future business objectives.

Firstly, we have integrated AI capabilities into many of our existing applications and platforms, such as our ERP and HCM solutions, as well as SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP). AI integration into SAP BTP, in particular, provides partners with a platform for training and implementing powerful business AI models which can be easily customised with corporate data. This is supported by our Generative AI Hub, which provides even more options for training GenAI models using industry leading foundation models.

To bring partners closer into our activities, SAP held Hack2Build prototyping programs, where partners were invited to embed GenAI into their solutions in ways that aligned to their customer’s real-world business processes.

In a recent Hack2Build event, ten partners were selected to pilot their use case with SAP Generative AI Hub as AI foundation. Examples created included:

  • An intelligent supply chain solution from LTIMindtree which used GenAI to help participants make accurate delivery date predictions by considering historical shipment data, real-time weather conditions, traffic patterns, production lead times, and other relevant factors.
  • A project from DXC Technology Services LLC showcased GenAI’s potential in healthcare by leveraging data from a mobile application for sufferers of Parkinson disease to support doctors in making inquiries using either business or medical language.
  • Another use case from Inflexion harnessed the power of Generative AI Hub to build a web-based application to manage work that enhanced user experience through the use of a conversation-based chatbot.

Our second focus area is to use AI to streamline the processes partners use when creating technology solutions. SAP Build and SAP Build Code software development tools harness GenAI to enable business and professional developers to create powerful applications quickly and easily, enabling partners to bring new innovations to market faster.

And thirdly, we are embedding AI into the heart of how our customers engage with our applications and services. SAP Joule is an AI copilot that provides a context-aware interface for managing and improving business processes across SAP application suite, and makes finding an answer from an SAP system as simple as just asking a question. Over time partners will be able to utilise Joule as a key interface between customers and their systems, redefining how they interact with processes and corporate knowledge in more natural language formats.

SAP’s AI services will also play a critical role in fast-tracking the path to value realisation from RISE with SAP cloud transformations. SAP and our partners will offer AI-powered development tools and content on SAP BTP to enable automated code generation and harmonize data silos through intelligent migration tools.

Building partner AI capabilities

These fields of activity create different entry points through which partners can incorporate AI into their existing solutions or create entirely new ones.

For our partners to get the most out of AI, they too must go through a period of transformation as they build the necessary expertise.

At SAP, we believe every developer can be an AI developer, and that means every developer at our partner organisations has that same opportunity. Hence SAP is providing targeted enablement for partners including a full range of AI-focused learning journeys, coaching services, hands-on support models including Hack2Build events, and new dedicated certification options available via the SAP PartnerEdge Program.

SAP’s AI offerings for partners will continue to expand through 2024, with SAP having established partnerships with leading GenAI model and MLOps providers to equip our partners with cutting edge AI technologies and AI models. This includes our recent announcement with NVIDIA, and SAP’s participation in the AI-Enabled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Workforce Consortium together with Cisco and other leading companies – focused on upskilling and reskilling roles most likely to be impacted by AI.

Through making open source and proprietary foundational models available and via AI Services on SAP BTP, our partners can act as one-stop-shops for their clients’ Business AI needs. We are also easing the process for partners when it comes to training their own AI systems, through the creation of a single metric called “AI Units” that allows consumption of AI use cases across SAP’s SaaS, with partners able to track their quota and consumption from the SAP for Me site.

A future partnership built on AI

SAP partners bring a wealth of business knowledge and domain expertise. By bringing SAP’s AI-embedded portfolio to market, including our new premium plus package for RISE with SAP and Joule, and using our Business AI platform and AI services, SAP partners will be able to contextualise AI for business and build innovative AI use cases to accelerate customers’ cloud transformations.

[1] Source: Generative AI will be a US$158.6 billion opportunity for the channel ecosystem by 2028 – Canalys