Driving Business Success with AI Automation: Unlocking the Value of Data Insights

By Mark McCausland

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You’ve heard about AI, machine learning, and all of those fancy buzzwords. You know the potential of this technologyBut did you know it’s been in SAP Analytics Cloud all along? You just have to know where to look. 

If you’ve built a new story in SAP Analytics Cloud since the first half of 2023, you are probably quite familiar with the Select Design Mode Type screen.

What design mode would you like to use?   

A simple question, perhaps, but the answer in SAC is more complicated.   

Advantages and Limitations of the Optimized Design Experience

In the case of building stories in SAC, I would generally recommend using the Optimized Design Experience.  Sure, it’s newer and boasts performance improvements, but the big selling point is bringing together legacy stories and legacy analytic applications into one toolAdvanced reporting capabilities that used to be exclusive to the Analytic Application are now available in storiesIf the design of a story reaches a point where the standard features don’t cut it, you don’t need to completely start from scratch with a separate applicationThis is nothing to bat an eye at and is a big reason to use the Optimized Design Experience when possible. 


SAP is quick to point out in the screen above – “it does not include all the features that are currently supported in the Classic Design mode.”   

In my view, some of the biggest features that are not (and likely won’t ever be) supported in Optimized Design Mode are the various smart features.   

Source: SAP Help Portal Optimized Story Experience Restrictions 

The Rise of Smart Tools in the Age of AI

In the Age of AI, using “smart” or “intelligent” tools is becoming more and more commonplace.  And those tools are becoming more and more advanced. Have you heard some of these buzzwords in the last year alone? 

  • Machine Learning 
  • Generative AI 
  • Natural Language Query 
  • Deep Learning 
  • Training a model 

Smart Features in SAP Analytics Cloud

SAP and SAP Analytics Cloud in particular were ahead of the game with some of this, having included a small suite of smart features in SAC from its earliest days.  The key highlights of these features are: 

Search to Insight

Search to Insight is a Natural Language Query tool that generates visualizations from your data based on simple text inputsIn other words, you tell the system you need to see your last three fiscal years of gross margin by region and it generates a chart for you.   

Smart Discovery

Smart Discovery is basically the Search to Insight feature but ramped up to the point where SAC generates a full report with multiple pages and visualizations for you based on some initial information gathering. 

Smart Insights

Using Smart Insights, you have a story with some visualizations, and you could very simply add additional context that was procedurally generated to highlight trends and, well, insights that you didn’t have to find yourself. 

Time Series Forecasting

When using Time Series Forecasting, with the right type of chart, SAC would forecast future data points, all while providing confidence levels and suggestions for improvement – with 3 or 4 clicks.

These features are underused in SAC, but they are very valuable. Want to learn more about these great smart features?  Take a look at our intermediate SAC Developer learning path. 

Streamlining Data Analysis with Smart Features

Generative AI is all the rage now, but SAC could build a story for you 4 years ago. 

The goal, of course, of these smart features is to make your job easier, improve your efficiency, increase your effectiveness, and to help you get from your data the information you need to make business decisions.  You can spend a day sifting through tables and spreadsheets, carefully filtering on this column and that dimension, highlighting things that might be important, running calculations to try and confirm if something is a valuable takeaway.  Or you could ask SAC to do it for you in minutes. 

The tools are there, and they are still there, but SAP would have you looking in the wrong places for them with the Optimized Story Experience being front and center these days.  Perhaps the biggest reason to continue using the Classic Story Experience is to keep leveraging the machine learning algorithms at the heart of SAC. 

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