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SAP’s Chief Design Officer Sam Yen recently published a blog titled “Digital Transformations: Going Beyond the Technology.” In the blog he commented that “IT’s role for years has been fixed on words such as ‘reliability’, ‘scalability’, ‘mission critical’, yet little has focused on the need for design and the experience of the user. […] Today, our human centered approach helps organizations unlock innovations, not only with their IT infrastructure but with how they go to market as well.”

It is this people-centered mindset that has driven SAP to invest in human centered tools and cloud-based services to drive Digital Transformation with a focus on people.

People’s habits are changing in the new digital world. How we engage with systems is changing. Attitudes towards development are shifting. Innovation is happening everywhere. In this blog I’ll share two innovations that will be showcased at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in February – Virtual Personal Assistants and Micro Apps.

Virtual Personal Assistants

As computing has evolved, we always had to type to interact with personal computers and laptops. Until recently, we clumsily typed to enter information into our tablet or smartphone. We didn’t have smart devices in our living rooms to order pizzas. Recent innovations have introduced voice-enabled user interfaces like Siri and Alexa to change the way we engage with systems – and made it simpler for consumers.

SAP is making strides with our own SAP Co-Pilot, a virtual personal assistant (VPA) for the enterprise. As we enter the “post app era”, we will use our voices to perform business actions from anywhere. A blog written by Tyler Nickerson, a Strategist at SAP Labs, explores this topic further. Tyler states “the trick will be to find the right use cases and to design experiences that take full advantage of the nascent technology. Like all brand-new technology, design will be instrumental in transforming the potential of voice-enabled user interfaces into something powerful and tangible.”

If you were looking to hire a personal assistant, you would probably look for someone who is familiar with your business, who could think analytically and provide helpful suggestions. VPAs fill this role in a digital world. They eliminate the user’s need to manually interact with a multitude of different apps to get the job done. Users simply ask the VPA to retrieve information from different apps in order to perform tasks that the user would normally do him or herself. VPAs rely on a conversational user interface; the user simply needs to talk, gesture, or chat with the VPA. The traditional graphical interface is replaced by a natural conversation between the user and a virtual human robot powered by artificial intelligence. VPAs take questions and requests, analyze them, and respond in a meaningful and effective way.

In the world of enterprise software, VPAs can alleviate a user’s manual workload and reduce operational costs by taking over routine tasks such as booking meeting rooms or filling out leave requests. They can be very valuable when interacting with multiple apps or multiple systems, streamlining the process in a seamless way.

As I mentioned, SAP is taking conversational UI for enterprise to the next level by introducing SAP CoPilot. Users can chat with SAP CoPilot, ask questions, and give commands just as they would to a regular person. Their informal and unstructured speech is then contextualized, analyzed, and used to execute actions and present the user with business objects, options, and other relevant data in a simple and conversational way. SAP CoPilot has the potential not only alleviate to the user’s workload, but also to help users to make informed decisions based on complex data analysis that is done in real-time.

Micro Apps

As we evolve to engage with systems via conversational UI, we also are seeking to simplify the way we engage with enterprise data from a mobile perspective. The concept of Micro apps might sound new, but I’m sure you have been using them without recognizing it. A micro app (until now) had been a consumer-oriented app delivering highly targeted functionality. A great example would be when you get your electronic boarding pass from an airline. Essentially, micro apps provide narrowly focused, task-based information to address a simple need with maximum efficiency.

When I Googled the term "micro apps” I found this definition: “Micro Apps are a type of small REST applications that are designed with the sole purpose of being integrated with other applications. In most of the cases, one does not need MicroApps on their own because they are not particularly helpful or useful.” The boarding pass example fits this definition well – it is related to an airline check in app, but it just provides the data you need to get past security and board your flight.

At SAP we think of the concept of a Micro apps in the form of a “card” where a small amount of data can be access and acted upon. Some examples of Micro apps could be simplified approvals that an employee needs to complete, client data card for simple access to customer account information, HR self-service cards like employee directory or travel request, or simple content delivery like corporate communications.

SAP Content to Go provides a way to mobilize simple SAP Fiori based Micro Apps. Admins can add content from any system to a “card” that is saved in an Apple Wallet style screen so that end users can share data from a desktop SAP Fiori launchpad to a mobile device. Data is available offline, but syncs live and is Spotlight integrated. End users are equipped with anytime, anywhere access to the most up-to-date business data available. Data is presented in an easily consumable mobile-friendly format.

I’m excited that SAP is at the forefront of exciting innovations. Follow me @miljagillespie