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SAP broadens CX offerings with new AI tools for Joule

The ERP software vendor brings AI-based tools to strengthen identity and data security as well as end-to-end personalization to highlight its customer experience offerings.

SAP on Wednesday unveiled new tools for its AI assistant, Joule, to expand its portfolio of CX offerings.

The Germany-based multinational software vendor introduced the tools during SAP CX Live, an online conference.

SAP's new features include AI risk-based authentication capabilities, which use AI to accurately authenticate end users, as well as AI-generated customer profiles that use real-time data from SAP's Customer Data Platform. Other new generative AI tools for Joule can automate routine tasks for service workers and summarize customer queries and suggest responses.

These new capabilities will be released starting in December, according to SAP.

Fitting into the CX market

When considering SAP in the broader CX market, it continues to lag behind CRM leader Salesforce, according to Joshua Greenbaum, principal and analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

SAP basically has not kept up with the advances in CX and CRM over the years.
Joshua GreenbaumPrincipal and analyst, Enterprise Applications Consulting

"SAP basically has not kept up with the advances in CX and CRM over the years, and that has really led to a huge number of SAP customers running to Salesforce and other systems," Greenbaum said.

One fundamental difference is Salesforce's cloud-first approach.

Since its founding in 1999, Salesforce has maintained its mission to deliver CRM software as a cloud-native company with a SaaS model. Such an approach allows for rapid updates, scalability and ease of implementation, all of which are important as CX software requires flexibility.

Salesforce's strong cloud-based approach has helped it dominate in CX, according to Greenbaum.

In contrast, SAP's move to the cloud has been relatively slow. SAP's acquisitions of CallidusCloud and Gigya, both cloud-based CX companies, aimed to expand SAP's capabilities in the CX and CRM markets. But while these acquisitions brought cloud CX capabilities directly into SAP's CX product suite, the cloud is not omnipresent like in Salesforce.

As for SAP, the software giant pointed to Joule as a key example of how it is integrating AI with its CX software in the same way it is doing so across its entire cloud enterprise portfolio.

"We're delivering more value for our customers by breaking down silos and bridging gaps with a unique offering that gives real insight to business users, drives more personalized customer experiences and delivers profitable business outcomes," said Ritu Bhargava, president and chief product officer, industries and CX/CRM at SAP, in a prepared statement.

Building on a legacy of ERP technology

However, SAP also has strengths.

SAP is known for its ERP data capabilities -- capabilities that Salesforce doesn't have, as Salesforce doesn't compete in the ERP market.

SAP's products track and manage the complex logistical aspects of the product supply chain and the end-to-end journey of an item from the manufacturer to the customer or store. Meanwhile, CX and CRM vendors focus on the customer-facing aspects of sales, service and marketing, and not on the intricacies of distribution.

By tracking these processes, SAP is privy to unique data and insights about supply chain management and other business processes.

"SAP is able to gather data from a wide range of sources, like ERP data. That's a big positive. That's something SAP can do that no one else can do," Greenbaum said.

Influx of AI tools is not enough

But none of SAP's new AI tools will likely have the power to convert new customers or pull it ahead of competitors, according to Greenbaum.

"This is not game-changing stuff at all," he said, noting that most CX vendors aren't presenting any groundbreaking AI products, but rather incremental improvements.

To stay competitive, SAP should build on its strengths, such as product journey management, to gain momentum in the CX world, Greenbaum said.

Bhargava said generative AI technology already is working throughout SAP's CX applications -- across sales, service, commerce and marketing teams -- and ERP. For example, sales and service users are now benefiting from automatically generated email summaries and responses, she noted in the statement.

"SAP's deep industry expertise, track record of embedding AI into applications for the past 10 years, and rich and complete data" distinguish the vendor, she said.

But "the bigger picture of how does SAP become competitive isn't going to come from these AI capabilities," Greenbaum said. "It's going to come from SAP's ability to do things its competitors can't do, such as present this end-to-end process and to make it a rational and cost-effective process."

The price of the new features depends on AI usage, features in use and total units purchased, according to SAP.

Updated on 11/16/2023.

Mary Reines is a news writer covering customer experience and unified communications for TechTarget Editorial. Before TechTarget, Reines was arts editor at the Marblehead Reporter.

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