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Machine Learning and AI is ready for the Intelligent Enterprise. Is your Integration Strategy, too?

Just a few days ago, SAP announced a set of enhancements to the SAP Analytics Cloud solution, combining new machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities with existing business intelligence and planning workflows. With the fast pace of technology innovations the lines between technologies are blurring – and in the end, it is not about applying technology for technology’s sake. It is about achieving meaningful business outcomes, with integrated and intelligent business processes at the center of gravity.

Many ML and AI initiatives at customer sites risk to get stuck in data silos! To complicate matters even further, with the mass adoption of cloud computing, big data and mobile technologies over the last 20 years, companies are generating an overwhelming volume of data. Most of them are unable to leverage this data effectively due to the ‘age-old’ problem of insufficient data integration.

It’s about time that your integrations keep pace with the fast innovation cycles, new hybrid IT landscapes and deployment models – and it’s about time for your integrations to become intelligent, too! Here’s where SAP’s Integration Strategy can help. Fully acknowledging the fact, that hardly any company out there starts green-field– we have based our Integration Strategy on the following four pillars, putting an equal emphasis to SAP-to-SAP integrations as well as to hybrid deployment models:

Out-of-the Box Integration: SAP provides integrated E2E business processes including plug-and-play integrations enabled by a standardized application and technology portfolio. This portfolio also includes configuration and manageability aspects.
Open Integration: SAP provides exhaustive third-party integration capabilities supported by its partner ecosystem. Public API’s allow any type of custom extensions. The overall architecture of the Intelligent Enterprise is based on openness and extensibility, through open APIs and SAP Cloud Platform Connectors to integrate with non-SAP.
Holistic Integration: Based on the SAP Cloud Platform Integration Suite and the SAP HANA Data Management Suite, SAP supports all flavors of integrations (e.g. process, data, UX, IoT) across hybrid landscapes (cloud, on-premise, hybrid). In addition, various integration personas are supported (e.g. integration experts, citizen integrator or business domain experts).
AI-Driven Integration: SAP is investing into simplification of the E2E integration experience.
AI techniques will be embedded into next generation services to empower ad hoc and citizen developers. One such example is the content advisor for the SAP Cloud Platform.

SAP’s integration strategy is an essential part to realize SAP’s vision of a unified, but modular, cloud suite of applications that powers all aspects of a customer’s enterprise, even in hybrid cloud deployment models.​

Let’s have a closer look on how to achieve this, from an integration point of view:

CONSISTENT SAP-TO-SAP INTEGRATIONS

SAP has established well-defined integration guidelines that are currently being adopted to all integration scenarios of the Intelligent Suite.

Here are some examples:

  • Cross Product Navigation Applications support deep linking in order allow navigation to point to a particular business process item or step (in context of the end-to-end scenario)
  • Identity & Access Management: Applications support Single Sign-On with SAP Cloud Platform Identity Authentication service as identity provider
  • Cross Application Analytics: Applications will embed or integrate SAP Analytics Cloud for cross application analytics.
  • Consistent User Experience: Applications adopt SAP’s consistent user experience guideline (Fiori).

API-FIRST APPROACH

The glue for integrations for the Intelligent Enterprise are APIs. The API-first to integration allows for the creation of modular, decoupled application architectures.

SAP API Business Hub speeds up integration projects by allowing you to search, discover, experience and consume SAP and third-party APIs through a central catalog.

Sandbox functionality facilitates API testing and prepackaged accelerators help you integrate APIs into your applications and extensions.

SAP Cloud Platform Open Connectors Simplifying connectivity to non-SAP applications includes more than 150 open connectors to third-party applications such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Amazon Web Services, and many more. You can build custom application processes by extending preconfigured flows or using the included standards-based application connectors, and create additional adapters with the software development kit. Open connectors work in conjunction with other services, such as SAP Cloud Platform Integration, SAP Cloud Platform API Management, and SAP Cloud Platform Workflow.

EVOLVING SAP CLOUD PLATFORM TO A TRUE BUSINESS PLATFORM

Our plans to deliver reusable business services on the SAP Cloud Platform go hand-in-hand with the notion of aligned domain models. For instance, master data services already has an aligned and harmonized data model that is shared across the applications of the intelligent suite.

All reusable business services, including lifecycle management and data storage, will be implemented as cloud-native services on SAP Cloud Platform and consolidated in a unified service directory, making it easy to search for and find the required services. This makes it possible to transition from integration through data exchange to integration through data sharing.​

MEDIATED INTEGRATIONS with SAP CLOUD PLATFORM INTEGRATION

Unaligned APIs is one of the reasons that call for a mediated integration, using a middleware like SAP Cloud Platform Integration. Mediated integration happens with the help of integration flow templates leveraging integration patterns. Once APIs are aligned, it is no longer required to have mediated integration between the source and the target system. But we still see two major use cases that call for using a middleware solution,

  • the customer’s IT Governance model prescribe the usage of a middleware
  • the customer wants to do integration extensions

SAP will continue to offer route-through content (in the form of integration flows) to our customers going forward.

AI-DRIVEN INTEGRATIONS: NOT ONLY ENTERPRISES ARE BECOMING INTELLIGENT, SO DOES INTEGRATION!

Specifying, developing and maintaining integrations can be a time consuming and error prone activity. For instance, Gartner estimates that through 2020, integration work will account for 50% of the time and cost of building a digital platform. A new, scalable approach for integrations is needed.

For B2B integrations, SAP is offering a crowd-based machine learning approach, the content advisor for the SAP Cloud Platform, The integration content advisor contains a machine learning-enabled directory, along with powerful tools that reduce the need for manual definition and implementation of requirements and let you run simulations with integration partners. Advance machine learning functionality allows it to automatically generate interface and mapping content at the business domain level. Initial tests indicate that this new approach can speed up B2B content tasks – from drafting to deployment – by as much as 60%.

A second example for AI-Driven integrations is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), making use of technologies like screen scraping, image processing, and OCR. RPA is typically used for ad-hoc integrations and will require considerably lower integration efforts.

HOW TO BRING IT ALL TOGETHER: THE INTEGRATION SOLUTION ADVISOR (ISA-M) METHODOLOGY

SAP has defined clear recommendations on which technology to use for which integration use cases: We are also supplementing this with a decision framework for our customer- the Integration Solution Advisory Methodology (ISA-M) – which by now supports more than 1200 registered customers, partners and SAP consultants! ISA-M supports enterprise architects in shaping the integration strategy for their organizations. It includes an extensible set of integration styles and use case patterns that are technology agnostic and can be mapped to integration technologies relevant in a specific customer context.

OUTLOOK

Today many companies are still struggling with their digital transformation journeys, as a recent McKinsey study shows. But the good news, according to the study, is that digital transformation initiative are more likely to succeed when more sophisticated technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and advanced neural machine-learning techniques are getting used.

Don’t let data silos and a lack of enterprise integrations slow you down!

Further References

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