SAP Sapphire Now 2017, Day 2: Creating Smarter Businesses with Machines

ORLANDO — The release of SAP Leonardo's set of digital tools means that "the speed with which we develop software now is accelerating," declared Hasso Platner, chairman of SAP’s supervisory board, on day two of SAP's Sapphire Now conference at the Orange County Convention Center.

During his Wednesday morning keynote, titled "The Intelligent Future," Platner explained that the Leonardo release, described by CEO Bill McDermott on day one of the conference as a system for digital innovation, would enable the building of "new-style applications and the services around [them]." Later, during an executive Q&A session, he went further, comparing Leonardo to a “bounding box,” with tools that companies can use "to build machine learning systems which produce software."

"We have a much better technology now to build extensions in the SAP Cloud Platform, with no touch—we don't change the code of the SAP system, just touch the code through interfaces," Platner said.

Platner went on to stress the importance of storing "the data in one place" and safeguarding it from outside threats. "We sit in the system of record and do analytics there."

According to Platner, SAP has a grand total of 5,000 integration points. The SAP Cloud Platform, which has 600 partners, is the "go-to place for us to integrate new applications when we continue to build new SaaS products or acquire new SaaS products," Platner said. It is also where SAP integrates with Saas applications created by third parties. "This is where we bring data from other companies like Google Maps," Platner added. "This is where we put everything in for modern software development as fast as possible, and as easy as possible." It is compatible with SAP’s Data Center, Google's Cloud Platform, Amazon's Web Service, and Microsoft's Azure offerings.

Executives demonstrated several capabilities powered by SAP's updates, including a solution that can scan video for the number of times a brand logo appears during paid broadcast advertising, as well as the Digital Boardroom, which allows users to slice and dice data from disparate parts of the enterprise, to better understand what information they should be monitoring and what issues they should tend to.

So far, "we have built over 100 boardrooms," Platner said, and no two are alike. Each of them are company specific. Some tend to be more finance-oriented and others more customer-oriented. "We monitor things interactively—this is not dashboarding," Platner said, adding that SAP has done away with Powerpoint presentations and now uses the capabilities to run its own internal board meetings.

Platner also stressed having a design-led strategy for developing SAP software. "The [user experience] is so important, because it's such a large cost factor to train people, new people, to make people reasonably happy using the system," Platner said. "So it is important that they can participate in the design process."

"We have 20 machine learning applications under construction," Platner added, predicting that by this time next year, that number would be in the hundreds.

By the end of the event, SAP had made it clear that its mission with the technology, ultimately, is to automate repetitive tasks that occur at high frequency and make analytics and data-driven insights available to everyone in an organization. By tapping into the collective intelligence of its workers, an organization can drive collaboration and fuel digital assistants that can provide end users with the right answers at the right time.  

Platner also addressed a popular topic of late: artificial Intelligence, and the extent to which machines will replace human beings in the workplace. “Artificial intelligence solutions are not perfect,” Platner conceded, but he suggested that smart applications, like self-driving cars, will get better, with time and training. In the meantime, he suggested companies adopt a hands-on approach, wherein end users are involved in supervising the technology and deciding when it is safe to trust the systems, and when it is appropriate for manual intervention.

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