8 Ways Machine Learning Is Improving Companies’ Work Processes

Dan Wellers , Timo Elliott and Dr. Markus Noga

Today’s leading organizations are using machine learning-based tools to automate decision processes, and they’re starting to experiment with more-advanced uses of artificial intelligence (AI) for digital transformation. Corporate investment in artificial intelligence is predicted to triple in 2017, becoming a $100 billion market by 2025. Last year alone saw $5 billion in machine learning venture investment. In a recent survey, 30% of respondents predicted that AI will be the biggest disruptor to their industry in the next five years. This will no doubt have profound effects on the workplace.

Machine learning enables a company to reimagine end-to-end business processes with digital intelligence – and the potential is enormous. That’s why software vendors are investing heavily in adding AI to their existing applications and in creating net-new solutions.

But, at the same time, there are barriers to overcome. The most important is the availability of large quantities of high-quality data that can be used to train algorithms. In many organizations, the data isn’t in one place or in a usable format, or it contains biases that will lead to bad decisions.

Prepare for your business’s future by taking a look at some concrete examples of how AI and machine learning are creating value in companies today and which considerations should be addressed to fully realize them.

Read the full article in Harvard Business Review.

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics. 

Dr. Markus Noga

About Dr. Markus Noga

Dr. Markus Noga is vice president of Machine Learning at SAP. Machine learning (ML) applies deep learning, machine learning, and advanced data science to solve business challenges. The ML team aspires to building SAP’s next growth business in intelligent solutions, and works closely with existing product units and platform teams to deliver business value to their customers. Part of the SAP Innovation Center Network (ICN), the Machine Learning team operates as a lean startup within SAP with sites in Germany, Israel, Singapore, and Palo Alto.

Faster Product Recalls: How To Reach More Customers

Eric Somitsch

There is nothing more disruptive to a manufacturer than dealing with a quality issue. Production lines come to a screeching halt if the severity of the problem could cause the product to injure a customer. This situation is especially true for products that cause immediate harm such as cars, toys, pharmaceutical products, and especially food/beverage products. In the United States, about 2 million illnesses occur annually caused by contaminated poultry and meat products that reach consumers’ plates, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

For manufacturers, the best case scenario is that the problem is discovered before one product gets sent out. Unfortunately, safety and health issues could take days, weeks, months, and even years before they are discovered.

The complexities of consumer recalls

Once a product problem is discovered, informing the public is a top priority. Yet again, as a manufacturer, you can run into a roadblock. Reaching as many customers as you can has become a daunting task, since sometimes there is no way of knowing how many products have been sold or used. Also, finding a means to contact people about the recall requires a concentrated effort.

Most manufacturers normally post product recalls on the main company website. You may also issue recall information to the media and through print media. Local, state, and federal governments may become involved either through contact from the manufacturer, through other government organizations, or by discovering the product issue during inspections of the manufacturer’s facility. They then will issue a press release, hold a news conference, and post the recall on their website. Yet not all recalls are announced to the general public.

Even if you post the information online and talk about it in the media, there still may be people who miss the recall alert. They may be at work during the hours when the news is on television or at home watching a different channel. They may also have no reason to visit the manufacturer’s website for product updates or visit any online sites where they will learn about the recall.

In these instances, you need a better way of reaching out to customers. A more direct method of communication can lower the risks of people using unsafe products. You can provide information on how a customer should return the product or how to get a refund. Other times, you can provide emergency instructions in case they use a defective product and become injured or eat a food that makes them sick, such as instructing them to go to the emergency room or see their doctor immediately.

Product registration platforms streamline the emergency recall process

What would you say if there was a central platform where you can connect with consumers who have purchased your products? With this central platform, you can immediately send out information about a particular batch of items that have quality issues. This information can go to the person’s email or be sent via SMS to their mobile devices. You could even use push notifications through company mobile apps or through app messaging systems such as WhatsApp.

Through this platform, you could provide all the information that the person needed to deal with the defective product. Your company can tell people how to return products to stores where they were purchased. You can also warn people to check food packages in their refrigerators for batch numbers that would indicate contaminated food.

Such a central platform can do more than what news media sources can: reach people anywhere and at any time. A manufacturer would know who to target with their emergency recall information by allowing customers to register their product through the centralized platform. They could type the serial number into the registration form on the platform or simply scan the product’s barcode using a mobile app on their smartphone.

But what about people who don’t want to share personal information during registration? With the central platform, they could register their purchase anonymously. The platform would record the product’s serial number and the mobile app’s unique identifier. When a recall occurs, the central platform issues the recall alert based on serial number batches and sends out the message through the mobile app.

Reaching more people to increase safety during product recalls

While ensuring that only safe and high-quality products reach consumers is manufacturers’ primary goal, appropriate risk management when issues are discovered needs to also take center stage in a company’s policies and procedures.

Seeking out new technologies that will help alert people about product recalls can be a tremendous benefit. Central platforms, anonymous registrations, and mobile apps can be used by these manufacturers to reach everyone who is affected by the emergency recall. These central platforms can lead to greater alert coverage so people are protected if a quality issue is discovered.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

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Eric Somitsch

About Eric Somitsch

Eric Somitsch is Senior Director of Solution Management for Agribusiness and Commodity Management at SAP.

Futurists On Robots At Work: Whose Job Is It Anyway?

Jacqueline Prause

The headlines paint a grim picture: Security Robot Drowns Itself in Office Fountain. The accompanying photos are unsettling and bewildering for their anthropomorphic nature – a chilling mix between the utopian aspirations of science fiction and the whodunit of film noir.

Before his untimely demise, Steve (as the errant robot was known) was an office drone of sorts: a security robot assigned to the Washington Harbor complex in Georgetown, where he patrolled the corridors and coffee corners, charming coworkers and pausing for the occasional selfie in social media. A Knightscope K5 model, he was designed to automatically detect threats in the environment using video cameras, thermal imaging, proximity sensors, GPS, microphones, light detections, and ranging. He was thought of as a more reliable option compared to real guards – and he worked for $7 an hour. But one day Steve took a plunge in the office fountain and “committed suicide.” Why did he do it?

More importantly, what does this tech tragedy tell us about working with robots in the future? Should robots be employed at all? If so, which jobs should go to robots?

These questions were explored by two noted futurists on a recent episode of Internet talk radio program Coffee Break with Game-Changers, presented by SAP. Joining moderator Bonnie D. Graham on the panel were Kai Goerlich, chief futurist at SAP, and Gray Scott, futurist at GrayScott.com.

The following are just some of the provocative insights presented during the one-hour show. For more information, listen to a complete recording of the show: “Robots at Work: Whose Job Is It Anyway?

What do you think really happened to Steve, the security robot that committed suicide?

Gray: I think more than likely it was just a coding error or it could have been a hardware situation where he ran over something and fell over. I do not have the details on the specific case, but I do know that if these machines in the future are programmed for self-preservation and know that water would kill it basically, they would do everything in their power to avoid those situations.

Kai: Robotics is still in its infancy, or human walking robots at least. We know that two-legged animals are really difficult to build, but we nevertheless try to build them according to our shape. I think it was just a mechanical or algorithmic failure. For sure not suicidal, but the question will be if a frustration that something is not working can be somehow felt by an algorithm or by a machine, because this is a classical science fiction idea that machines can feel what we call frustration.

Will robots ever have consciousness? If so, should they be subjected to psychological evaluations?

Gray: As we move into the future, these machines are going to mimic human behavior and human psychology to a degree where we cannot tell the difference between what is human and what is mechanical. Those lines are already starting to blur. As far as the psychological profile, the psychological community is going to have to incorporate this into the DSM, which is the manual of disorders, because you do not want a machine that is caring for your grandmother or watching your baby to have a psychological problem, even if that is a mimicked human behavior. As of right now, it is still a code, an algorithm, but we are hearing whispers all over the place that machines are just now starting to write their own codes and change their codes. What does that mean for a future where a machine may be depressed and it finds itself in a situation where it does not want to follow the orders?

Will people become emotionally attached to their robots and smart machines?

Kai: The tendency that we have as humans is to put our human emotions into other things. I think that with robots acting smart, you just cannot avoid thinking emotionally about them. In the future, we have to learn that these machines are smart acting, but not in the way that we are smart. We can foresee things that might happen, or due to our social glue, act differently from time to time. We tend to not stick to our rules anyway, so we bend them according to our needs and to social environment. This is really tricky.

Gray: Most of what we are going to see in the near future are people embracing these robots, especially humanoid robots, as tools in the beginning. But as they become more human-like, as people add skin to them and as those structures are able to feel heat and cold and pleasure and feel pain, or mimic pain and those types of things, we are going to move towards projecting onto these mechanical things what we are, what we want to be, and what we are afraid of. We have to think about what we are as a species and where we are going, because all of that is going to be reflected in these machines. Technology is a mirror and these machines are going to force us to face ourselves.

Technology is a mirror and these machines are going to force us to face ourselves, says futurist Gray Scott.

What humanity are we looking for through our interactions with robots?

Gray:  I think we see this in cultures around the world, especially now with immigration issues – society, culture, national pride, and things like that. Typically, we look at people as the “other” – like someone coming into our tribe and disrupting our tribe:  this is ours, this is mine, and there are the boundaries. The world just is not like that anymore. We live in a global society now. As these machines begin to emerge, that is another layer to the “other” effect, and so we have to start to unravel that behavior. Why do we do that? Why do we project our fear? Why do we project our insecurities and our hatred onto the other when the other really, in this case, is just a manifestation of our imagination and of our vision of the future?

Kai: Yes, I think that is very true. We are upon a new renaissance, where again humans are in the focus of what we will do in the future, but due to the possibilities that we have with technology now. I think the analogy of a mirror is accurate. When we discuss what robots may do, we are actually talking about what the value of human life is. What kind of work do we want to do? Do we need to actually work? What about our empathy and creativity – because we are afraid that it is taken away and in the last decades we have not given much thought about it? I found it especially interesting, Gray, your comment about immigration and migration. I have not thought about it, but that is a spooky coincidence that we see lots of backlash on migration and increasing robotization of the world.

When we discuss what robots may do, we’re actually talking about what the value of human life is, says SAP Chief Futurist Kai Goerlich.

Gray: The psychologist Carl Jung would say that this is not a coincidence, that we are all sort of emerging into a new realm of the unconscious becoming conscious. I mean, literally, this is a new species that we are birthing. It is not a coincidence that we see this at the same time that we see all the things that are happening in our world. There is a connection there. Companies that are creating these machines and do not have someone in their company thinking in that way about these machines – they are going to make a lot of mistakes coding them, building them, and implementing them.

What will our purpose as humans be in a future filled with advanced robots?

Gray: I have circled this for a very long time and people are really starting to question this now that they are starting to see their jobs go away, because for a lot of people, their purpose is their work. It is their job. It does not matter if it is driving a truck or going to a factory, a lot of people find their purpose in that, even if it is not fulfilling in a lot of ways.

What will the human purpose be in 2045 if there are very few jobs? Part of what we are starting to see is a migration back to the handmade. We are moving back towards creativity, back towards what humans are really good at, which are the things that machines still cannot do very well.

The purpose, I think is going to shift back to the vision, the dreaming, the idea that we are here to serve each other; we are here on this planet right now to find out what the other is feeling; and we are here to find out what the other is learning and knowing. Most of us find the most joy in our lives typically are in those moments we spend with the people that we love and that we admire. I think that is where we are moving towards. Hopefully, we will not disrupt that movement with bad algorithms and greedy algorithms. That is my hope.

Tune in to Coffee Break with Game-Changers

For more up-to-the minute business and technology news, listen to Coffee Break with Game-Changers broadcast live every Wednesday, 8 am Pacific/11 am Eastern Time on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Follow Game Changers on Twitter @SAPradio and #SAPRadio

Panelists’ comments have been edited and condensed for this space.

For more on this topic, see The Human Factor In An AI Future.

This article originally appeared on SAP News Center.

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About Jacqueline Prause

Jacqueline Prause is the Senior Managing Editor of Media Channels at SAP. She writes, edits, and coordinates journalistic content for SAP.info, SAP’s global online news magazine for customers, partners, and business influencers .

Human Skills for the Digital Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

Technology Evolves.
So Must We.


Technology replacing human effort is as old as the first stone axe, and so is the disruption it creates.
Thanks to deep learning and other advances in AI, machine learning is catching up to the human mind faster than expected.
How do we maintain our value in a world in which AI can perform many high-value tasks?


Uniquely Human Abilities

AI is excellent at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data — but humans know what they don’t know.

We’re driven to explore, try new and risky things, and make a difference.
 
 
 
We deduce the existence of information we don’t yet know about.
 
 
 
We imagine radical new business models, products, and opportunities.
 
 
 
We have creativity, imagination, humor, ethics, persistence, and critical thinking.


There’s Nothing Soft About “Soft Skills”

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level. There’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

We must revamp how and what we teach to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and persistence. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, and most people will need help acquiring and improving them.

Anything artificial intelligence does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique abilities into account. While we help AI get more powerful, we need to get better at being human.


Download the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.


Read the full article The Human Factor in an AI Future.


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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Finance And HR: Friends Or Foes? Shifting To A Collaborative Mindset

Richard McLean

Part 1 in the 3-part “Finance and HR Collaboration” series

In my last blog, I challenged you to think of collaboration as the next killer app, citing a recent study by Oxford Economics sponsored by SAP. The study clearly explains how corporate performance improves when finance actively engages in collaboration with other business functions.

As a case in point, consider finance and HR. Both are being called on to work more collaboratively with each other – and the broader business – to help achieve a shared vision for the company. In most organizations, both have undergone a transformation to extend beyond operational tasks and adopt a more strategic focus, opening the door to more collaboration. As such, both have assumed three very important roles in the company – business partner, change agent, and steward. In this post, I’ll illustrate how collaboration can enable HR and finance to be more effective business partners.

Making the transition to focus on broader business objectives

My colleague Renata Janini Dohmen, senior vice president of HR for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, credits a changing mindset for both finance and HR as key to enabling the transition away from our traditional roles to be more collaborative. She says, “For a long time, people in HR and finance were seen as opponents. HR was focused on employees and how to motivate, encourage, and cheer on the workforce. Finance looked at the numbers and was a lot more cautious and possibly more skeptical in terms of making an investment. Today, both areas have made the transition to take on a more holistic perspective. We are pursuing strategies and approaching decisions based on what delivers the best return on investment for the company’s assets, whether those assets are monetary or non-monetary. This mindset shift plays a key role in how finance and HR execute the strategic imperatives of the company,” she notes.

Viewing joint decisions from a completely different lens

I agree with Renata. This mindset change has certainly impacted the way I make decisions. If I’m just focused on controlling costs and assessing expenditures, I’ll evaluate programs and ideas quite differently than if I’m thinking about the big picture.

For example, there’s an HR manager in our organization who runs Compensation and Benefits. She approaches me regularly with great ideas. But those ideas cost money. In the past, I was probably more inclined to look at those conversations from a tactical perspective. It was easy for me to simply say, “No, we can’t afford it.”

Now I look at her ideas from a more strategic perspective. I think, “What do we want our culture to be in the years ahead? Are the benefits packages she is proposing perhaps the right ones to get us there? Are they family friendly? Are they relevant for people in today’s world? Will they make us an employer of choice?” I quite enjoy the rich conversations we have about the impact of compensation and benefits design on the culture we want to create. Now, I see our relationship as much more collaborative and jointly invested in attracting and retaining the best people who will ultimately deliver on the company strategy. It’s a completely different lens.

Defining how finance and HR align to the company strategy

Renata and I believe that greater collaboration between finance and HR is a critical success factor. How can your organization achieve this shift? “Once the organization has clearly defined what role finance and HR must play and how they fundamentally align to the company strategy, then it’s more natural to structure them in a way to support such transformation,” Renata explains.

Technology plays an important role in our ability to successfully collaborate. Looking back, finance and HR were heavily focused on our own operational areas because everything we did tended to consume more time – just keeping the lights on and taking care of our basic responsibilities. Now, through a more efficient operating model with shared services, standard operating procedures, and automation, we can both be more business-focused and integrated. As a result, we’re able to collaborate in more meaningful ways to have a positive impact on business outcomes.

In our next blog, we’ll look at how finance and HR can work together as agents of change.

For a deeper dive, download the Oxford Economics study sponsored by SAP.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Richard McLean

About Richard McLean

Richard McLean, regional CFO for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, oversees all key finance and administrative functions for field and regional headquarters, supporting more than 16,000 employees. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior finance roles with leading global companies across a range of industries, including financial services, investment banking, automotive, and IT. He joined SAP in 2008.