Kathy Gibson is at Saphila in Sun City – Innovation sometimes seems like magic, but it is really about applying methodology and technology to achieve something new.

The intelligent enterprise also relies largely on automating processes to create a company that operates better than it would using manual processes.

Isabell Petzelt, group vice-president: Customer strategy and innovation at SAP America, likens this to new autonomous cars which have automated processes that learn as they go and eventually drive better than a driver.

In fact, the car becomes the platform, Petzelt says. It learns and connects various types of information, going beyond simply being able to drive the car.

“These platforms are completely changing business models,” she says. “And this is what the intelligent enterprise is all about. We embed processes, we have different devices, and we create new experiences.”

In the past, different processes and data sources where in different silos, Petzelt adds. Today these need to integrate, communicate with each other, and operate together.

Today more than half of the workforce are millennials – possibly the most impatient people in the company.

They are efficient and have different aspirations, Petzelt points out.

“You have to change your enterprise to accommodate the different generations that make up the workforce.

The different generations working in a single company could include builders, baby boomers, generation X, generation Y and generation Z – just entering the workforce now. Gen Alpha is those people born after 2010.

“These different generations also drive how people want to interact with processes and companies,” she points out. “Gen X and millennials already want instant interaction.”

Younger people expect technology to talk to them and interact with them by default.

In the intelligent enterprise, this means companies have to integrate applications to build a seamless end-to-end process, as well as the data that goes into these processes.

This data is not just that which comes from SAP systems, but data from devices and other resources. “And you need to do something with that data,” Petzelt says.

A number of companies are already using data to change their business models.

For instance, Philips installs lighting that is about more than just providing light – data is used to help cities to create more people-friendly, safer and more engaging spaces.

“They are using experience data to provide lighting as a service,” Petzelt points out.

This is why the combination of experience and data is becoming more important than ever. Combining the experience data with operational data, companies can start analysing inputs, and triggering action to bring the loop together.

“This is a real game-changer,” Petzelt says.

“Just capturing the experience data doesn’t make much difference. But if you can immediately act on that experience, that is what makes the difference.”

This can be achieved by creating a platform that closes the loop, she says, and that is where SAP is going with the intelligent enterprise.

“The platform becomes the centrepiece, giving you all the technologies you need to create new experiences.”

Because it is decoupled from the back-end, where the cost business continues to run, implementing a digital platform could be a relatively simple project, Petzelt adds.

Importantly, the digital platform connects back to the enterprise applications, allowing intelligent enterprises to build intelligent processes on top of the back-end systems.

SAP advocates a human-centric innovation approach, Petzelt adds. This embraces explore, discover, design, deliver and, finally, run and scale.

Petzelt explains that organisations need to create an innovation culture within the company. “The key is in bringing the intelligent enterprise together with a customer-centric approach for innovation, using a digital platform.”