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Millennial CIO explores augmented reality, intelligent assistants

Clint Boulton | June 6, 2016
Under 31-year-old Thomas Saueressig, SAP is testing emerging technologies to boost workforce productivity and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.

SAP SE is exploring augmented reality and intelligent assistant software in initiatives intended to boost employee productivity, according to new SAP CIO Thomas Saueressig, who at 31 is the youngest CIOworking for a global 2000 company. More productive employees will ultimately improve the business software maker's ability to serve customers, one of the German company's core tenets.

CIO Thomas Saueressig
SAP's 31-year-old CIO Thomas Saueressig.

"I fundamentally believe that the new generation and the expectations of our customers and our employees are changing so significantly," says Saueressig, who took over for Helen Arnold on May 1. "And we need to shift our focus purely on the end-user [employees and customers]."

Saueressig is something of a rarity among first-time IT leaders. As a millennial, he is a member of a generation HPE CEO Meg Whitman describes as as supremely confident if not entitled. But with millennials now the majority of the U.S. workforce Saueressig's says his perspective makes him uniquely qualified to tackle one of his main challenges: improving the productivity of SAP's employees.

This holographic meeting is now in session

Saueressig says augmented reality software can help SAP’s roughly 78,000 employees scattered across multiple offices around the world conduct virtual meetings. He expects employees will one day use software that can generate a hologram of all of the people in the meeting as they collaborate on crucial documents and presentations.

In another scenario, SAP's data center engineers may perform maintenance on servers and networking gear using Microsoft's HoloLens headsets to locate specific computing clusters, routers and switches. Eventually, SAP's sales staff could use augmented reality to virtually meet with customers, which will could both improve productivity and reduce travel costs.

Saueressig expects his IT department, which is evaluating multiple augmented and reality startups and discussing HoloLens with Microsoft, to deliver proof of concepts this year. "The iPhone changed the entire work environment in 2007 and I believe that augmented reality will change again how people in a business will work together," Saueressig says. "We need to evaluate that and how it actually changes work."

Testing augmented reality is bold considering that most technologies that mesh the physical and virtual worlds routinely make people nauseous. Yet it also speaks to Saueressig's intent to move more nimbly and try cutting-edge innovation than SAP has in the past.

Alexa, please reroute my application to server 66

Saueressig is also testing voice-powered intelligent assistant technology. For example, he can ask's Echo home appliance, which is powered by the company's Alexa search software, to tell him employees' usage of mobile and other applications running in SAP Hana's cloud software. "I can just ask questions and get analytic answers from Alexa," Saueressig says. "A dynamic query that can tap into that knowledge would be amazing."


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