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September 02, 2019
Post-digital SAP: Innovating with emerging tech
By: Stéphane Martin

In this series of blog posts, I’m looking at how SAP solutions and technologies help enterprises get ready for the post-digital world.

For the SAP customers we work with, preparing for the post-digital future—where technology is so embedded, everywhere, that it stops being a competitive advantage—is perhaps the most pressing call to action raised by this year’s Technology Vision for SAP Solutions.

The key point is to use the next wave of technologies, plus SAP’s intelligent solutions and technologies, to reorient the business around the needs of the individual—whether that’s an end customer, an employee, or a partner.

#SAP solutions combined with “DARQ” #EmergingTech - think of the possibilities. Stéphane Martin explains in a #TechVision2019 blog:

 
 

It’s about “human-centricity,” in other words. And in this post I’m focusing on how the SAP stack supports the use of new and emerging technology to embed that human-centricity and bring on the next step-change in business capabilities.

Shining a light on the DARQ

So, what are the technologies that are coming next? As the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 explains, they’re DARQ. That is, distributed ledgers (“D”), artificial intelligence (“A”), extended reality (“R”), and quantum computing (“Q”).

Not all these technologies are at the same level of maturity right now of course. But it’s important to recognize that even something like quantum computing is advancing at remarkable pace and will have business-ready applications before long.

And when you look at technologies like artificial intelligence (especially machine learning) and extended reality, the practical use cases are already mounting up. In fact, 89 percent of executives surveyed for the Technology Vision said they were already experimenting with at least one DARQ technology.

When I look at the SAP digital core, intelligent suite, and technologies, I see that these future-facing capabilities are already integrated (artificial intelligence), able to be integrated (extended reality and blockchain) or ready to be integrated when mature enough (quantum)—all on a single platform.

And that’s important, because it’s the way these DARQ technologies combine that will really drive future competitive advantage.

First, there’s combining DARQ technologies themselves, such as bringing the power of AI and extended reality to applications like our Smart Fleet app (which I’ll touch on below).

Then, there’s combining DARQ technologies with the systems that run your business processes. With everything in one platform, seamlessly integrated with core systems, businesses have everything they need to experiment with the possibilities and create end-to-end solutions much faster.

Look at SAP conversational AI (coming out of SAP’s acquisition of recast.ai). It means SAP customers can quickly and easily create market-leading conversational chatbots in any language. And because it’s all integrated with the SAP backend, development of full end-to-end services is much more streamlined.

And then there’s using DARQ technologies to enable and infuse intelligence into end-to-end processes that bring together multiple SAP systems from the front office to the back office. Think of the possibilities of intelligent spend management in the procurement space, integrating direct and indirect procurement, contingent labor, and T&E to reduce direct and indirect cost by exposing clear information across all spend categories.

Keeping options open

Crucially for emerging DARQ technologies, SAP offers the flexibility to adapt existing solutions and processes iteratively to accommodate new capabilities as and when they’ve matured.

I think our work on the Smart Fleet Application is the perfect example of this “keeping it open” approach. The application, built by the Accenture Liquid Studio for SAP Solutions, initially only used IoT, mobility, and analytics technologies.

The idea was to visualize and manage an entire vehicle fleet in real time. And that was great—a real innovation at the time. But things move on. And thanks to the flexibility of SAP Cloud Platform, the application has moved with them.

So, as predictive analytics technologies evolved and matured, we added these capabilities to the smart fleet application, meaning customers could assess component performance in real time and predict when failures were likely to occur.

And because the application plugs into the SAP core, it can interface seamlessly with SAP Ariba for spare parts purchasing—another compelling reason to have everything on one platform.

More recently, we’ve added extended reality components to the solution, offering technicians the ability to “see” repair instructions overlaid on equipment in real time via immersive tech.

Unchaining enterprise data

The way SAP systems can support blockchain or distributed ledgers is also highly relevant for the post-digital agenda—in particular, for businesses looking to streamline how data gets shared with external parties and across borders.

Blockchain has the potential to streamline customs processes and improve supply chain transparency radically. There’s even a pilot in the Netherlands looking at how it could support international travel without the need for paper passports.

Of course, one of the main reasons blockchain is so valuable—it solves complex, multiparty data-sharing scenarios—also means it can be difficult to align incentives and outcomes for all the parties involved. That’s a challenge some of the consortiums which have been exploring these cross-border scenarios have come up against.

But the important point is that the technology is there. And the SAP application portfolio is ready to support blockchain implementations for any network of organizations that wants to pursue the undoubted benefits on offer.

I hope this blog gives you a flavor of the way SAP is supporting businesses as they experiment with DARQ technologies and start to scale them up. In my next post, I’ll talk about how customer experience needs to change in the post-digital world.

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