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We hear lots of people talk about innovation with purpose and their future plans and visions.

In this multipart blog I will discuss how EPI-USE and SAP are delivering on their plans and strategy today!

ERP ( was founded as a non-profit initiative by ( , which employs more than 2,700 people in 32 countries, and is better known for EPI-USE, one of its 16 trading brands. EPI-USE is the world’s leading independent SAP HR/payroll service provider, with a particular focus on large, complex multinational corporations and large public sector agencies.

The ERP (Elephants, Rhinos and People) team operates predominantly in South Africa, and they are delivering live innovation with a purpose solutions.  What I found fascinating is the fact that certain critical components of the solution leverages SAP Cloud Platform functionality.

I had the honor of meeting the EPI-USE team at Saphila in June 2019 last year where I was presenting on the SAP Apple partnership at Sun City close to Johannesburg in South Africa.

Saphila is a biannual conference for SAP users to connect, create and collaborate, through sharing knowledge about innovations. Little wonder then that the likes of EPI-USE would be proudly attending and presenting at this event.

I was lucky enough to speak with Barco Smit (Director EPI-USE Business Services) at Saphila.

After an insightful discussion and an exchange of ideas as to, how we could help each other, Barco offered me the opportunity to come back to South Africa and meet with the ERP team.

The ERP team have built an innovative solution with SAP Cloud Platform that helps their conservation rangers help protect South Africa’s wild Elephants and Rhinos.

Moving the Needle

The objectives of the trip were simple and clear. How could we support the local ERP team with their current solution to make their jobs simpler and significantly faster. We also wanted to explore how we could potentially commercialize the solution so that we could enable other wildlife parks and projects around the planet to leverage this technology.

Additionally, we wanted to explore how we could improve the experience of the visitors to the park. We wanted to identify areas where visitors could become more engaged as they travelled through the park for instance by enabling visitors to:

  • Provide additional information and data that could support the rangers;

  • Send live photos and locations of the animals;

  • Purchase merchandise and make donations all in real-time as they travelled through the park.

The Moonshot

We contemplated whether it would be possible with the use of the latest innovative tools such as AI, Machine learning models, Predictive Analytics, Big Data, IOT and the SAP Apple partnership for us to make this Safari park 100% safe from poachers.


The Challenge Begins

After two weeks of careful planning and alignment with all the teams involved (The ERP development team, SAP, COIL, Presales, OEM sales team, COE and Management the trip was booked. I was on flight from my office in SAP Dubai to Johannesburg to listen and learn.

Having arrived in Johannesburg, I went to meet up with Barco again and Gov Totawar, SAP’s local pre-sales lead for cloud platform who is supporting us on the project.

Finally we were all together, so we travelled to the ERP conservation project area. Upon arrving in the park we got our first glimpse of some of the majestic animals Wilderbeast, Zebras and Ostriches. We stopped at the park’s restaurant and meeting area and it’s here where we met the local ERP SAP development team leader David Allan and members of the ERP conservation team.

Several team members wear many hats ranging from local IT responsibilities, SAP development, drone manufacturing, drone piloting as part-time rangers and then of course their actual day jobs.I was truly excited with the team’s knowledge of SAP Cloud Platform. What impressed me most was the team’s immense passion to leverage this innovation to help them combat the poachers. Right then and there I knew we had a team and the technology to make this moonshot achievable.

The ERP team discussed how their solution gathers an array of data from smart camera’s, IOT sensors from around the park. They also have GPS trackers on animals. SAP Cloud Platform front-end functionality provides for a seamless user experience in tandem with highly specialized niche drone piloting software solutions. Data is furthermore sent back to the SAP Cloud Platform in real-time. Data-driven solutions provide rangers with fantastic insight into what is happening at the park at any given point and time.

One of the most innovative components of this creative solution is the “ERP Air Force”. The “ERP Air Force” is made up of both multi-rotor and fixed wing drones (UAV’s). The goal of the drones is to quickly identify and validate threats as they happen. The drones are an extra set of eyes that can be instantly deployed to potential incidents in a rapid time frame directly from a mobile device.

The drones play at critical part for the rangers helping them to effectively monitor park with far greater efficiency and speed. The challenge is this park and many others around the planet face is that they will never have enough rangers to effectivley cover such vast areas. The park also requires constant vigilance day and night to securely protect the animals.

Innovation to the Rescue

Combining the latest technologies AI, Machine learning models, IOT and big data, combined with the drones provides the strategic advantage to effectively combat the poachers. The combination of all this technology and drones have helped to extend the reach and effectiveness of individual rangers by creating a “Virtual Ranger” security dimension.

These Virtual Rangers are very cost effective, and provide an extra level of safety for the rangers on the ground.


In the next part of this journey

I will discuss the following

  •   What were the ideas that came out of the discussions with the team

  •   The next steps to help move forward to reach our moon shot

  •   How we leveraged the Apple SAP Partnership

  •   The business value of the SAP App Center


Andre Russell

Director SAP Cloud Platform

Centre of excellence EMEA

SAP Apple Ambassador