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AI in the enterprise - how everyone from IBM to SAP is making systems smarter

Scott Carey | June 27, 2016
How the enterprise stopped worrying and learned to love AI

The world's biggest tech companies are investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI): software that can learn to think and solve problems in a human-like way.

ai artificial intelligence
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According to Deloitte: "By end-2016 more than 80 of the world's 100 largest enterprise software companies by revenues will have integrated cognitive technologies into their products."

Each company takes a slightly different approach to making business processes smarter through the development and deployment of machine learning, or cognitive computing. Here we have rounded up some of the biggest names in the industry and what their approaches are to AI.

"The evolution of enterprise software"

David Schatsky, head of the trend-sensing program for the US innovation team at Deloitte said at the AI Summit in London earlier this year that the big victories in artificial intelligence over the last couple of decades have all been in games, from IBM's Deep Blue mastering chess in 1997, to Deep Mind's AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol at Go this year.

Now he asks: "How do we translate these undeniably important achievements to create value in business? What we have realised so far is that it's a journey and we are going to build it together."

Dave Elkington, CEO at Insidesales.com, a tech unicorn that uses predictive algorithms to help sales teams close more deals, sees data as the key to opening up the possibilities of AI in the enterprise. 

"The data is what is most interesting," he says, "and most people incorrectly think it is the algorithm. It's about the data. It's the evolution of enterprise software."

SAP

One company that is a gatekeeper for all of this data in the enterprise is German software giant SAP. Markus Noga is responsible for introducing disruptive technology to existing networks at SAP, where he has been focusing on making its business applications more intelligent.

"Machine learning starts and ends with the data and we have a fantastic advantage with some of the most precious data sources in the enterprise world, and the way that data flows through our network," says Noga.

SAP delivers its machine learning capabilities as APIs on its enterprise cloud and embeds them into existing applications, such as its travel booking platform Concur and its HR offering Success Factors. Concur processes $50 billion (£34 billion) of travel transactions every year and Success Factors is installed on 245,000 systems. That's a lot of data to crunch.

SAP started out by creating simple invoice-matching and CV-matching applications, where computers learn to read and match documents, freeing up human workers from these mundane tasks.

Speaking to ComputerworldUK, Noga couldn't resist taking a shot at the competition: "We look after real-world business problems. The boring things that matter to businesses. We're not going to showcase it on things like winning a game of Go or Jeopardy. [Our focus is on] transactional problems that drive significant value."

 

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