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The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) has been well documented over the past few years and the rise of the machine is unquestionable. Why it is happening now and how it will impact your ERP system is the topic of this article.

SAP Leonardo

With SAP Leonardo all of the key capabilities required to create AI centric applications are available as services on SAP Cloud Platform which I would summarise are :-

  • Machine Learning Engines : The availability powerful compute to allow pre-delivered AI and ML algorithms to run at low cost.

  • Connected Machines : The ability to read / write data to everything with a sensor can make the Engines “Aware” in real-time.

  • Machine Trust : BlockChain allows machine to machine trust to be created removing the need for human verification slowing down the process.

  • Mobile Alerts : The ability for machines to alert people to “situations” is greatly improved when the alerting can happen “anywhere”.

All of these could be bucketed in to the term AI as a Service (AIaaS) where the implementation of the “smarts” isn’t something the end user has to worry about as long as the results are being achieved – see what SAP have to offer here.

AI Progressions

I think that AI in the work place will progress very much like the relationship between a supervisor and a new employee. Below I have described the stages thinking about this from an Human / AI perspective.


In the early days we will not know what we can trust the AI co-worker to do, so we will have to spend time supervising its work and training it how to handle known situations.


Where it gets interesting is when the computer can start to learn how to solve problems based on how they have been dealt with in the past without having to be told every step. This is where machine learning comes into the picture with the machine looking at how similar situations were dealt with and applying similar logic (not necessarily the same). Depending upon how they have been trained they also take on the trainer’s BIAS.


The final stage of AI will be where the machine is actually dealing with both known and unknown situations and make decisions / recommendations that are as good or better than a human would make.

AI and S/4HANA

So what does all this have to do with your SAP ERP system ?

Well with S/4HANA we are seeing AI take on tasks in ERP that have traditionally taken human effort on repetitive tasks (where mistakes were made or rules were applied inconsistently) or manual effort that introduced latency into the process – as an example see what SAP are doing here. I would expect to hear lots more about this at SAPPHIRE 2018.

By using AI to take on these tasks systems can operate much closer to real-time keeping the digital version of events in line with the physical. Overtime I can imagine us being able to move to a “Darkened ERP” world where we only get involved via critical exceptions / KPI violations (a topic covered in one of my other pieces here).

SAP call this Intelligent ERP – but I prefer Darkened ERP meaning it can work on its own.

One things is for certain – The Machines are Coming to S/4HANA – how will you use them ?
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