SAP connects S/4 Hana in the cloud with ‘intelligent’ ERP

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SAP is stepping up the public cloud delivery of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system S/4 Hana and, in what it says is a related move, adding artificial intelligence (AI) to S/4.

The company made the announcements at the New York Stock Exchange at a Capital Markets Day event for financial analysts.

In a briefing in advance of the cloud and AI announcements, Sven Denecken, senior vice-president, product management, co-innovation and packaging, SAP S/4 Hana, said: “I wouldn’t favour one over the other. Just to water down an existing ERP to the cloud does not make a difference. That is why this next-generation intelligent ERP that we are alluding to is important. I think the fact that the market is ready to consume an ERP in the public cloud means the two have to come together and come together with business outcomes, too.”

In a press statement, the supplier said “contextual analytics, digital assistant capabilities, machine learning and Fiori [applications]” in the cloud version of S/4 Hana means customers can “instantly adjust and adopt business processes and models and act on real-time insight and advice”.

Competitors, such as Oracle and Salesforce, have also trumpeted the putative infusion of their business applications with AI and machine learning in recent months, Oracle with its Adaptive Intelligent Applications, and Salesforce with its Einstein software platform.

Darren Roos, president of SAP S/4 Hana Cloud, said: “Decades ago, SAP invented and became the leader in first-generation ERP. Later, we were early to build first-generation cloud ERP along with other new cloud vendors.”

The new release of S/4 in the cloud features a “professional services cloud” for project management, a finance cloud that, the supplier says, includes procurement and order management capabilities, and an “enterprise management cloud”, for what it calls “comprehensive real-time business management”.

Bob Barton, chief financial officer, MOD Pizza, a US-based “made-on-demand” pizza restaurant chain that has been using S/4 on the cloud, said: “The company prides itself on its commitment to employees and customers, and SAP S/4 Hana cloud gives us a stable, scalable platform to help us manage our business and our people cohesively, with real-time access to reliable, actionable information.”

In the UK, management consultancy the Birchman Group also went live with S/4 this year, and is implementing it among its customers, an SAP spokesperson confirmed.

SAP also outlined the road map for S/4 at the event. The company plans quarterly updates to include setup wizards that will “grow increasingly intelligent with machine learning and artificial intelligence”.

The supplier also said it plans to include blockchain digital ledger and internet of things capabilities.

Denecken, in the pre-event briefing, added: “Quarterly updates are a major milestone. We are moving to a full SaaS [software as a service] model and at scale.” He said the S/4 Hana ERP has been rolled out in weeks rather than months in the public cloud mode among early customers.

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