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When SAP talks about the intelligent enterprise, it envisions a world where organizations make smarter, faster and more flexible decisions based on data flowing into their business systems. This data is infused with "intelligence" and can be analyzed and acted on in near real time. This, in turn, enables organizations to improve products and services, develop new processes and create new business models.
The SAP intelligent enterprise is based on three highly integrated elements: an intelligent suite of enhanced business applications; a digital platform to integrate the applications (via the cloud) and manage the data; and intelligent technologies that enable the intelligence, including IoT, advanced analytics, AI and machine learning.
In this Q&A from SAP TechEd 2018, Björn Goerke, SAP CTO and president of SAP Cloud Platform, discussed the SAP intelligent enterprise and the three pillars that provide its foundation.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
When you talk to customers and partners, what do they want to know about the SAP intelligent enterprise?
Björn Goerke: From the interactions I have and conversations with CIOs and chief digital officers, we see an increasing need to be more agile in how they run their businesses. So, it's about how SAP can help customers look at their standard core processes in a way where they are integrated and run. That's what we're aiming at with the intelligent suite -- taking the core products where customers have been focused on [line of business] specific, best-of-breed solutions and saying you don't run HR or finance in isolation; these things need to come together.
How does the SAP intelligent enterprise bind these intelligent suite applications together?
Goerke: What you need underneath is a strong data foundation, and with SAP HANA we have a single, extremely powerful solution amongst all of our applications. This in-memory infrastructure puts a single analytics solution on top so that you can get insights into everything across those applications, which were in silos in former times.
Now, you get a single view in everything from first customer touch points on a website down to your invoicing or delivery capabilities and supply chain. It allows you to put machine learning on top so you have the right data assets and right computing capabilities to look at data assets where they are stored. With SAP Data Hub, we're expanding beyond the SAP data sets into non-SAP-centric data sources like IoT, big data, social networks and data silos that companies have all over the place in their companies -- places where there's a plethora of data, but little possibility to put it together in a controlled and governance fashion and put things to work.
Two of the pillars of the SAP intelligent enterprise are the intelligent suite of applications and the digital platform, which consists of SAP Data Hub and SAP Cloud Platform. How do they work together?
Goerke: Exactly, they are complementary. You couldn't do a cloud platform without an underlying data foundation because it wouldn't deliver much value. Everything is built on data assets these days, and SAP has a wealth of data assets stored in the lines of business that the customers are operating, so you can combine this into an integrated set of data points across an end-to-end process, like from lead-to-cash or procure-to-pay. You can look at these data sets in a consistent way, with the data sets being harmonized around HANA as a very powerful in-memory database engine that brings [online analytical processing], analytical and transactional processing, unstructured and structured into a single environment. It then enriches that with the rich data sets from outside your enterprise.
The third part of SAP intelligent enterprise is the intelligent technologies. Are these what actually provides the 'intelligence?'
Goerke: Exactly, it's all about analytics, machine learning, blockchain -- it's how you manage big data. You can only make intelligent decisions as an end user if you have the confidence that what you're deciding on is solid data. The more solid you can make the data by proving it against outside input into the process, you can make much smarter decisions about how to improve the product or have better service.