Tanja Breitling-Zboril is Senior Manager of Partner and Alliance Management at UiPath.
In a recent study sponsored by UiPath, SAPinsider surveyed 204 SAP® customers about their automation journey with SAP S/4 HANA, what drives them to automate, and the results they expect from automating SAP processes.
What is driving automation?
Fifty-six percent of respondents said that they already use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platforms. The two key drivers for automation are:
- Empowering employees to focus on higher-value activities while freeing them from mundane tasks
- Optimizing processes as part of planned S/4HANA migrations
Respondents mentioned that their employees’ and coworkers’ amount of work was continuously increasing while having only limited resources. In order to keep up with the increased workloads, automation helps maximize productivity by reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks.
An SAP S/4HANA migration is seen as an opportunity to start fresh with optimized and automated processes.
When it comes to RPA and business process management (BPM) products, the majority of customers are choosing products from third-party vendors over products from SAP directly.
According to the survey results, automation is mostly applied in finance (56% of respondents), supply-chain (43%), and SAP S/4HANA migrations (39%).
What are the top strategies to meet the business drivers?
The survey results also identified the top three strategies for customers to achieve their automation objectives.
1. Integrating automation capabilities across SAP and non-SAP applications
The top strategy by far is integrating automation capabilities across both SAP and non-SAP systems. Fifty-eight percent of respondents reported this as the key strategy. This is in line with feedback that I regularly receive from our customers.
Siloed applications and media breaks between these applications are still the main cause slowing down knowledge workers in their productivity. This finding shows how important it is that RPA products provide both top-notch user interface (UI) automation capabilities as well as the pre-built native integrations for enterprise applications which are mostly applied for specific high-volume use cases.
2. Standardizing processes as part of an SAP S/4HANA migration
Next, 40.5% of those surveyed stated standardizing processes as part of an SAP S/4HANA migration as the second most important strategy.
I recommend customers use the momentum of an SAP S/4HANA implementation (no matter whether it is a greenfield or brownfield migration) for both standardizing processes as well as introducing RPA for automation needs in the new SAP S/4HANA environment. By doing so, customers benefit in four ways:
- 1. Increase the overall employee productivity and maximize ROI of the migration project
- 2. Reduce data entry errors and achieve data consistency
- 3. Increase the user acceptance for the new SAP S/4HANA system
- 4. Introduce automation and increase user adoption of RPA
3. Configuring and executing bots to automate processes
The introduction of RPA in general and using software robots to automate processes ranks as number three of answers, given by 40% of respondents.
On this specific response, the survey did not go into more detail. It would have been interesting to also know whether respondents are purely deploying bots on a departmental level or whether they have implemented a hyperautomation strategy for the complete enterprise (or are working on it).
While departmental bots and smaller automation projects can help to speed up specific core processes and demonstrate quick wins, making automation a company-wide goal and inspiring all employees to both identify and implement automation ideas will:
- Boost the ROI of your automation project
- Improve your company’s agility
- Make your customers happier (and your competition look outdated)
If you want to learn more about hyperautomation, I recommend reading our article Are You Ready for Hyperautomation?
Top requirements and capabilities for successful automation
The next questions in the SAPinsider survey were geared towards finding out which priorities customers have set when it comes to automation product features and general requirements for successful automation projects.
1. Flexibility of automation solutions and quick implementation
The number one requirement for process automation solutions with 82% of respondents is flexibility of automation solutions and the ability to implement automation quickly. Customers do not want to spend as much time automating processes as they would otherwise need for manual tasks or a traditional integration. They also don’t want to constantly fix and repair bots as this would mean losing the benefits of automation. This comes as no surprise and is well aligned with our UiPath product strategy.
UiPath has made strong investments over the past years to achieve exactly this for our customers. And this is how we did it:
- 1. Citizen developers: We introduced a new version of our design product for citizen developers called UiPath StudioX. This simplified tool allows business users to create their own automations without involvement of an RPA developer. If you are moderately trained, you can create automations on your own. We also have the Citizen Developer Foundation training (free and available to the public) through UiPath Academy.
- 2. UiPath Action Center: If you have processes that require human intelligence and decision making skills you can still automate the mundane part of your process (via UiPath Action Center) and include humans for decision making or exception handling as part of the process.
- 3. UiPath AI Fabric: With a tight integration of machine learning models, UiPath AI Fabric allows you to create more robust and flexible automations with added intelligence.
2. Transparency into operational processes and bottlenecks
A still impressive 75% of respondents chose transparency into operational processes and bottlenecks as the second most important requirement for their selection of automation tools.
The reason for this is clear - process transparency points you directly at automation potential.
When you introduce automation as a broader strategic concept, you want to be able to achieve two key results:
- 1. Identify the processes that matter the most (those that are used most frequently and that slow your organization down the most).
- 2. Measure how your manual and automated processes perform and where you achieve the biggest benefits.
For identifying those core processes, we offer UiPath Process Mining with an even better SAP integration since 20.8.
For tracking, measuring, and forecasting the performance of your entire automation program, we offer UiPath Insights to demonstrate the automation program ROI.
The results of the survey show very impressively how more and more SAP customers are deploying automation with RPA and beyond. Get a free copy of the survey results and report.
RPA and process mining have moved from futuristic technologies for a few early adopters to widely used enterprise software products which support SAP customers on their journey to digital transformation, maximized process efficiency and a more fulfilling work-life.