Process AI revealed at SAP Sapphire: An interview with Gero Decker

Written by Calvia Patrizia | 6 min read
Published on: June 4th 2024 - Last modified: June 4th, 2024

Generative AI has emerged as a disruptive game changer. According to McKinsey, it is expected to add between $2.6 to $4.4 trillion incremental value annually to the global economy. Customers are not just interested; 33% of companies globally are using generative AI regularly in at least one business function. *

But how has generative AI been reshaping the process management world?

Today, at the SAP Sapphire event in Orlando, SAP Signavio is all set to pull back the curtain on its process AI offering. To discover what capabilities are coming your way and how your business can benefit, read on for an exclusive interview with SAP Signavio General Manager Dr. Gero Decker.

We are announcing our new process AI capabilities today at Sapphire. What are they about?

Gero Decker: At SAP Signavio we're committed to providing our customers with fast time to insight and fast time to adapt. With process AI, we can help them on both dimensions. We can surface a larger number of insights, more relevant, faster than ever before. And we can contextualise them for the user, based on the situation that they're currently in and the processes that they're looking at. Also, we use process AI to speed up time to adapt to help customers realize change in their organisation.

We have designed a process recommender that points you to the most relevant best practices, such as the most suitable process models, that apply to the process that you're currently looking to improve. And, we are launching a textual interface to process mining, called process analyzer. It is basically a process mining co-pilot that allows many more users than previously possible to participate in a very detailed and interesting analysis about business processes. We are rolling out a wide range of new AI capabilities now and in the future. Although generative AI is in its early stages, we are front-runners in applying this technology to process modeling and analysis.

This sounds great. Can you walk me through specific examples? What does it look like for a customer to adopt these capabilities?

Gero Decker: Sure, as a tangible example, let me walk you through the benefits of our process analyzer. This is basically a text to insights engine, where in natural language you can ask questions to the system and the system automatically goes off and tests hypotheses. It surfaces the right widgets and it changes the selection of data. Even as a non-technical user who doesn't know anything about query languages, or how to configure an analytic system, you can run very sophisticated analysis.

A customer told me: “Gero, today I have twenty people using the system for the production and assembly processes because they needed to go through a training of query languages and how the tool works now. With the text to insights capability, I can involve at least ten times the number of users because they can get started right away.” Also, talking to a global automotive corporation, they mentioned to me that with the process analyzer and the textual interface, they have potentially thousands of people they aim to involve into process analysis. So, when we say that with process analyzer you could achieve a ten time increase of users and empower so many teams to benefit from the insights of process mining to take informed decisions, this is not a fantasy. It's what customers actually tell us and plan to do.

You talk to many organizations, what is their feedback with regard to our AI approach and what are their burning questions?

Gero Decker: So, first of all, everybody understands that gen AI opens up possibilities that simply didn't exist before and everybody wants to leverage that. Now the questions go into two directions. One typical question is how does SAP Signavio leverage generative AI so that the customer can do process improvement and process change in a faster, better, more informed way and with many more people involved. They are intrigued by how they can make use of these capabilities. This is one aspect. But then, there is an even bigger question for companies, which is how they can apply gen AI more broadly within their organisation: “What are those processes where can I best infuse AI? How can I manage that? How do I govern that?”

And this is where together with SAP LeanIX, we made a big step forward by launching an AI adoption and governance capability so that you can identify and keep track of AI usage across your company. You can see for example, in the context of which applications or which processes I am using AI, what’s the amount of risk associated to that, what underlying technologies are being used, and how the data flows; you can basically do all things that are needed when you want to make use of AI in an enterprise context. Ultimately, our aim is to leverage AI to enable complete enterprise observability and to provide a digital twin where organizations can de-risk their change programs, test assumptions and simulate possible outcomes.

SAP has pledged to invest more than US$1 billion in AI. How does SAP Signavio’s AI strategy fit into the overall SAP Business AI framework and vision?

Gero Decker: At SAP, we do three things with AI. First, we vastly improve productivity for SAP users by automating tasks that were previously manual and speed up processes that were previously lengthy.

Second, we provide AI capabilities for things that previously were not even possible with SAP applications, not even in a manual way. SAP Signavio solutions are a perfect example of that because not only can we surface insights now through the help of AI, but we can start navigating the solution space for a customer and start recommending changes based on the collective knowledge that we have from thousands of customer examples. This is something that an SAP product didn't deliver so far where you inherently needed a human expert, a very experienced person to do that job for you. With the use of generative AI, we can train our models in a way that we can harness the collective experience from a broad array of organisations and make that available at the push of a button.

Third, AI is more than capabilities and services. It’s a new way of consuming content and connecting dots that previously seemed distant. For example, at SAP Signavio we own one of the largest repositories of process knowledge based on thousands of process models and process measurements. With generative AI and Joule, we will be able to deliver contextual, personalised and highly relevant insights and advisory directly to the system where the process is executed.

What are we doing with partners when it comes to AI?

Gero Decker: Our partners have always been and continue to be critical to SAP Signavio and our success in the market. They work very closely with our customers on their transformation initiatives to guide them in the right direction, to help them set up approaches and methodologies. When it comes to AI, one of the partnerships that I'm particularly excited about is that with McKinsey. The McKinsey Value Finder demonstrates the power of converging Gen AI capabilities of SAP Signavio, and the McKinsey knowledge base through Lilli. For example, at a global Chemical company, SAP Signavio identified 54 process performance indicators that can yield up to $250m in benefits – these insights are then processed through McKinsey Lilli to calibrate the opportunity, prioritize, and estimate possible value. All delivered with unprecedented speed and precision.

Most vendors claim some sort of AI offering. What sets SAP and SAP Signavio apart?

Gero Decker: Look, let me tell you an anecdote. I met an old university friend the other day and he was currently thinking about what start-up he wants to launch next, so he's looking into AI and gen AI, and experimented with the technology a lot. And he said, “Gero, it’s just amazing what is technologically possible, but I simply lack the data to turn this into a meaningful service.” And I said, “Why don't you come and join SAP instead, we have all of that data available, ready to be used for those gen AI use cases that you are looking to develop.”

Long story short: Your AI is only as good as your data and at SAP we have a broad and diverse data set. Our access to business data, our understanding of business processes, as well as our deep domain and industry expertise: these are major differentiators to our partners and customers. SAP is just a beautiful place to be at, as the most exciting stuff for generative AI in the business context is happening here.

How can companies learn more about our and what’s next for them?

Gero Decker: Join the sessions of SAP Sapphire, the virtual sessions, or the ones on site to learn more. Stay tuned to all of the releases that we have this summer, but also every quarter going forward. And if you don't want to wait, we even have the possibility to participate in early testing to have early access to our capabilities.

Find out more about Process AI.

*Source: “The State of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s Breakout Year”, McKinsey & Company, August 1, 2023.

Published on: June 4th 2024 - Last modified: June 4th, 2024