SAP adds machine learning 'scenarios' to S/4HANA Cloud

© SAP
© SAP

The German vendor is adding machine learning features to its core cloud ERP solution, and increasingly pushing users towards its digital assistant CoPilot

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SAP is continuing to add smart features to its cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution - S/4HANA Cloud - as it looks to help customers automate processes and react faster to information held in their core systems.

It has also integrated S/4HANA with CoPilot, its digital assistant, allowing users to take action through a natural language interface, like Microsoft's Cortana.

The 1805 release of S/4HANA Cloud, which is out today, will include 12 new 'scenarios' to help customers optimise common processes. Nine of these are machine learning solutions and three are CoPilot 'conversational UI scenarios'.

Read next: S/4HANA: What does SAP’s next generation ERP mean for customers?

Sven Denecken, SVP head of product management said of the announcement: "With enhanced machine learning capabilities, businesses can now have intelligent interactions that anticipate the needs of their end users – incorporating intelligent self-learning mechanisms, and liberating users from mundane tasks for higher level thinking. This will further support the journey to automation and the intelligent ERP."

Use cases

The features are designed to support a broad range of business users. For finance there is automatic account reconciliation powered by machine learning, with the system making recommendations, instead of relying on manual resolutions.

Sales can now create orders from sales quotes using a conversational user experience. 

For project managers there is an AI-powered project cost forecasting feature which promises to reduce budget overruns.

“ML use cases take out the manual heavy lifting for the user to allow them to focus on more strategic, or differentiating activities," Denecken said. "If we also tie into this a conversational aspect, then the impact on user productivity is further improved.”

He gave the example of CoPilot nudging users to take action. Concretely he said users of S/4HANA Cloud for Sales can create a subsequent sales order from a sales quotation using CoPilot. "Using natural language interaction, end users can select open quotations within the system and ask SAP CoPilot to create a subsequent sales order. In this way, end users create new sales orders with only minimal input," he said.

Conclusion

This adding of intelligent features to software is a pretty established industry theme at this stage. Microsoft's new motto under Satya Nadella is "Intelligent core, intelligent edge", Oracle is working hard to automate its core database and PaaS offerings, and Salesforce introduced Einstein in 2016 to bring machine learning-powered features across its cloud products.

Read next: SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner defends S/4HANA cloud strategy

It's a sound strategy, using machine learning to ease the burden of tiresome and repetitive admin tasks, however the level of investment in a digital assistant could be misguided, as other tech giants like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana continue to struggle to get mainstream enterprise cut-through.

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