In this Supply Chain Matters This Week in Supply Chain Tech update, we highlight SAP SE’s announcement of Joule, a natural-language, generative AI copilot.

The technology will ultimately be embedded into various SAP Cloud based applications including those supporting supply chain management.

According to the SAP announcement: “Joule will be embedded throughout SAP’s cloud enterprise portfolio, delivering proactive and contextualized insights from across the breadth and depth of SAP solutions and third-party sources.” This includes elements of SAP’s Business Technology Platform (BTP) aimed to support B2B data and information needs.

The stated roadmap for Joule capability will reportedly include initial use in SAP SuccessFactors Cloud platform and the SAP Start site later this year. Subsequently, the roadmap calls for selective use within SAP S/4HANA Cloud public and private editions, and SAP Customer Experience, SAP Ariba solutions along with SAP Business Technology Platform to follow.

Added Supply Chain Matters Perspectives

A briefing held with industry analysts and market influencers indicates that the roadmap of Joule parallels that of the planned two year release schedule of SAP S/4 HANA Cloud Private edition with some added augmentation of generative AI for certain appropriate business process use cases or where a chat bot and enhanced automation of large amounts of knowledge are appropriate.

SAP’s emphasis is on the interaction between application users and various data stores, including the most appropriate data engines needed to support data types including chat bot and large language model use.

One specific area being targeted is support for business sustainability actions including the termed “Green Ledger,” a system of record for carbon accounting that can record as well as context carbon emissions overall. A demo of functionality included not only the accounting of carbon consumption, but the creation of a data store of material components specified and procured in product supply chains that can be leveraged by supply chain teams in procurement sourcing or supplier management decisions.

Added Supply Chain Matters Perspectives

This SAP Joule announcement somewhat parallels with rival Oracle’s recent set of announcements at the recent CloudWorld event held last week.

That event included the showcasing of AI-powered capabilities within Oracle Analytics Cloud, leveraging both the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and Generative AI service platform. Oracle executives indicated that over the next two major releases, over 50 various use cases of generative AI support will be available for use across applications including select support application areas within the Oracle Cloud SCM suite.

From our lens, many of these generative AI announcements coming from enterprise and specialty technology support providers are marketing driven. They are efforts to both increase the user level interest levels in the opportunities associated with this technology, and to garner customer inputs as to what areas of application provide the most interest.

In the specific case of SAP, Oracle and other large IT infrastructure hyperscalers, they represent added efforts to motivate businesses and their IT teams to accelerate their upgrade of legacy applications to Cloud based platforms where they can be able leverage newer advanced capabilities including generative AI.

As we have stated in our published research advisories, it is more important for businesses themselves to establish their own plans and strategies relative to the use of these more advanced generative AI capabilities especially in light of some of the stated drawbacks and concerns relative to either data readiness, accuracy and security. Consider centralization of this effort as a means of control. We further recommend that businesses prioritize and tackle data rationalization and harmonization as a foundational step before deploying advanced AI systems, in some cases utilizing more proven narrow AI and machine learning technology.

These guidelines especially include evaluation for use in supporting business mission critical supply chain, procurement sourcing and product management business processes. It is going to take more time for advanced AI approaches to establish their viability in this segment.

The bottom line is that quite a lot of expensive investment has occurred among large tech providers and systems integrators on the promise of this technology and on potential for added market growth segments.  Keep that in mind as this flurry of announcements continue.


Bob Ferrari

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