The Cloud Coach: What to Look for in an Intelligent ERP Solution

Don’t get stuck with yesterday’s technology.

The six-part “Cloud Coach” series focuses on addressing the questions, concerns, and thoughts of a business considering ERP. Mark Labedz, senior director and global head of Product Marketing for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, is a long-time marketing leader at the company, with more than 12 years of key product experience under his belt. Labedz has worked in a variety of roles, including new acquisition communications, business case building with customers, customer reference development, and product marketing within the ERP space.

Q: Which technologies will be most useful for businesses to have moving forward? Which technologies are simply buzzwords?

A: The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is important and will fundamentally change the way work is accomplished. When we think of AI, it’s a fairly broad category of technologies. Machine learning will be most important to enterprise resource planning (ERP) processes and ERP functions because it allows companies to shift that processing load of routine low-value transactions from people behind keyboards to the system itself – and then flagging the exceptions for human review and human involvement.

What that allows companies to do is shift their people resources – the most valuable resources a business has – to more creative and strategic endeavors. It allows your employees to focus on what is uniquely human to your business. That adds a lot of value for companies of all sizes in every industry.

Q: Could you describe what “intelligent technologies” really means?

A: If we think about intelligent technologies, there’s a variety of them. There are lots of buzzwords. But ultimately, we’re talking about enabling business outcomes. I like to say, “Instead of looking at yesterday’s report today for decisions tomorrow, everything now happens at that same time.” You can not only make guesses about the future, you can confidently predict the future. This comes back to the idea of having data at your fingertips, so you can be smarter about the decisions you make.

At the end of the day, if you’re not serving your customers better every day, somebody else will. You’re leaving opportunities for competition to emerge. It’s never been easier for an industry to be disrupted than it is right now.

Q: When comparing ERP solutions, what sets SAP apart from competitors?

A: A couple of key things really set us apart. First, we build intelligence into our core ERP business processes. We’re deploying machine learning, predictive analytics, and robotic process automation (RPA) directly within the core. We’re delivering the technology within the business process itself. We are the first intelligent cloud ERP, and we continue to build on that leadership quarter over quarter with each release.

Second, we give customers complete choice. For a company that is not sure about which environment to choose – public cloud, single-tenant cloud, multi-tenant cloud, IaaS, or on premise – SAP S/4HANA is available with the same data model, the same user experience, and across all of those environments. None of our competitors can match that.

Third, SAP has more than 45 years of ERP experience. We have defined and created the ERP space over the last four decades, working with leading companies in every sector. That has given us tremendous insight and a big step up.

Q: Are there certain features that businesses should consider as “must haves” when looking at ERP options?

A: When looking at ERP solutions today, you have to consider the marketplace that you operate in –  the global environment, the shifting dynamics at play, and whether those are triggered by new technologies, by political change, or by changing population dynamics, for example. All of these factors create a lot of complexity in which businesses operate.

The ability to have insight in a complex world is key to building and maintaining competitive advantage. And ERP has a very strong place in that story.

You need to consider what your business needs are and where you want to go. That might mean new products, new geographies, or different ways of interacting with your customers. We call that business agility. Your ERP needs to be flexible enough and provide the kind of insight that enables you to make decisions in real time – the decisions that will impact your business today and well into the future.

ERP is helping companies look at all the data they have – massive amounts of data – and applying AI and predictive analytics to help companies think more about the future. It’s not just a quarter-end reporting system showing what’s happened in your business, but really a forward-looking view that enables you to make better decisions for the future of your business.

Q: How can companies take advantage of new innovations like machine learning with cloud ERP?

A: If you look at SAP S/4HANA Cloud, we’re deploying artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning, within core business processes. We take a lot of the guesswork out of how to deploy technology. It’s not technology for technology’s sake. It’s technology with an outcome in mind.

If we look at demand-driven manufacturing, for example, we employ machine learning so that you have early detection of slow downs and non-moving assets. It can take in different data sources, whether that is actual day-of sales as they’re happening, or a variety of other data sources, and bring those in to have a better view of where the market is going.

Getting stuck with yesterday’s technology is easy to do if you don’t take a moment to know where you want to go first and evaluate vendors based on their track record of delivering success for companies and on a vision that they have for the future.

Learn more about enterprise resource planning solutions from SAP.

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