January 6, 2021
But what is the hype all about? Sebastian Schroetel, Head of SAP Intelligent RPA, has shared with us his insights on Hyperautomation, Business Process Automation, Low-Code / No-Code and how to make everybody in the company a part of it.
Sebastian, Hyperautomation is currently one of the hottest topics in tech. What is new and different about it?
The goal of Hyperautomation is to automate everything from a simple task to complete processes. Through globalization and especially the worldwide pandemic, we’re facing accelerated market changes and the need for faster business process solutions. Hyperautomation combines several technologies such as machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA), work management tools and business process management, and provide a unified end-to-end experience that is agile and quickly adaptable. This combination gets us to a stronger overall solution that is greater than the sum of its parts.
It seems a lot of companies are already using automation tools. How can these augment the new potential of Hyperautomation?
This is where process mining and user behavior mining comes into the game. Through business process insights applications like Spotlight by SAP, you can mine and analyze operational data from existing business processes. For example, I can see how long users spend time at a specific process task and thereby discover frequencies and repetitions. This holistic approach reveals inefficiencies to derive potential for Hyperautomation.
In the era of Low-Code / No-Code solutions, automation applications can be created by citizen developers. Is it true then, that most employees will soon automate processes by themselves without requiring support from professional developers?
Exactly! According to Gartner, low-code development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity by 2024. And the reason for this is obvious – the employees working with processes and applications every day are best informed about what is needed.
Just to be clear: We’re not talking about developers with a degree in computer science. Low-Code / No-Code empowers everybody in a company to build their workflows and implement them in their daily work, fully independently of IT support and without code. That is why it’s called "Citizen Development" - Hyperautomation can be executed by everybody.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) as a system to manage main business processes, was born by SAP half a century ago. How is SAP approaching this topic today?
The SAP founders started our company with the simple idea that it is more efficient to run business processes with software than with pen and paper. Today, we are investing in a wide set of business process automation technologies. Let’s look at our Business Technology Platform: We offer a BPM workflow tool set with SAP Ruum’s strong no-code workflow. Additionally, we have Ruum’s work management and collaboration features. Plus, with SAP Intelligent RPA we have strong SAP and non-SAP integration points.
For AI, we are offering AI business services to do automatic processing of documents and Conversational AI for vocal user interactions. Our low-code and multi-experience application development tool set allow our users and customers to build their own application or extend their SAP applications. Improving business processes is in SAP’s DNA, and that hasn’t changed within the last 50 years.
Although Business Process Automation is an emerging topic, automation initiatives are often viewed critically by many employees. How can businesses convey the added value and opportunities of automation to their employees?
I regularly work with customers running shared service centers. Here we are talking about people doing administrative work, so very repetitive tasks. So, you could think those are the people who are the most afraid that software could substitute their jobs. In one project, we let them run mindless processes with RPA solutions. One accountant said: “Wow, I like that tool because then I don't have to do that stupid task repeatedly.” This is a great starting point to motivate employees. Show them how automation can simplify their daily tasks and thereby make their work trouble-free and more efficient. By trying the first automation, they also quickly realize the value for other tasks and processes. If you enable a positive experience, the willingness to use automation solutions increases.
What effect did Covid-19 have on automation initiatives?
The pandemic has massively increased the demand for digital transformation. Look at e-commerce growth, credit card usage, digital payments and remote conferencing. The resistance against digitization has significantly decreased over the last months, because it became an urgent question of business survival. Many companies have had to cope with workforce limitations, higher cost pressure and increasing workloads. This urgency increases everyone’s willingness to invest in automation.
How can Business Process Automation help organizations cope with the higher workloads triggered by Covid?
Allow me to answer this with two specific examples. The Swiss canton of Zurich normally gets around 10 advance notices of reduced working hours every month. In March this year, this number shot up to 30,000 applications because so many businesses were struggling in the pandemic. In order to cope with this demand, we jointly built an RPA bot that automatically executes the applications – in only 6 days. We increased the process speed by a factor of 50, from 25 minutes to only 30 seconds per application.
Another example: The rapid increase in demand for pharma products. With a new bot farm, our customer Zuellig Pharma fully automated incoming customer orders without disruptions and enabled even more orders per day. Through automation, they cleared up an entire backlog of more than 10,000 IT and system-related cases in need of auditing – a process that would have required 3 full-time employees.
The market worldwide was already trending towards greater process automation. The pandemic dramatically increased the pressure on the need for digitization and demand for automation. With Hyperautomation, SAP helps our customers to better tackle the tremendous challenges ahead.
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