fbpx Skip to main content

Automation for the Future

SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is becoming more important for businesses with SAP sytems. One of the main themes of SAP Sapphire Now 2021 was that the automation of business processes is increasing: So let’s take a look at RPA and SAP iRPA.

During an interview at Sapphire Now 2021 Robert Madl said that automation will become incorporated much more into many aspects of business, including security, networking and infrastructure in order to keep pace with the accelerating speed as “applications have become an increasingly distributed, dynamic, complex, and really beyond the scale of human management.”

In order to provide for this massive increase in automation SAP has taken some strategic decisions and improved the capability of their existing products.

SAP iRPA Strategy

SAP acquired the intelligent robotic automation firm Contextor in November 2018. Last year almost half of all Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020 were directly or indirectly related to automation.

During the online Sapphire Now 2021 event SAP CTO Juergen Mueller revealed that SAP had created new capabilities in SAP Robotic Process Automation. Now automated functions can be processed faster. To illustrate this he gave the example of Zuellig Pharma’s use of chatbots and SAP iRPA to increase their order processing to 30 times it’s previous level.

This new development in SAP automation adds to a previous decision by SAP to widen the accessibility of development to citizen developers within a workforce with low- or no-coding skills in order to extend business applications and create work flows using the SAP Cloud Platform Extension Suite, announced at SAP TechEd 2020.

Also in February IgniteSAP reported on SAP’s acquisition of AppGyver: “a pioneer in no-code development platforms” based in Helsinki.

All of these developments are in line with a long-term strategy at SAP to provide the means by which businesses and organisations can ensure hyper-automation of their business processes.

As the importance of RPA is increasing, this week IgniteSAP will explore RPA and SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation. We will look at the advantages to businesses in implementing RPA and the benefits to IT professionals in becoming familiar and certified as SAP iRPA practitioners.

The Rise of Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation allows business administrators to relieve their workforce of the vast and increasing workload of data-processing so that they can concentrate on tasks which add more value to the business. RPA automates repetitive activities similarly to a robot on an industrial production line but in this case the “work” is processing finance transactions or customer related activities, among many other areas. SAP iRPA is particularly useful as a cost cutting measure because it reduces the number of employees allocated to data processing.

Skills in RPA are useful to product managers, solution managers, and the pre-sales community as well as those tasked with implementation of SAP systems in order to increase the efficiency of a business. Information gained from RPA about the workflow of particular business processes can also contribute to an understanding of the workforce with Robotic Desktop Automation: how and where inefficiency can occur, and where the bottlenecks are in the flow of transactions.  RPA is typically applied when information is input into a system. Typically this is employee, customer, manufacturing and logistics information . In the past it was used along with Optical Character Recognition to extract text from scanned documents and now is used in the following cases: form filling, copying and pasting data, comparing data fields, identifying exceptions to data processes for review, content migration, data mining and “screen scraping” data from a screen.

SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation

SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is part of SAP Business Technology Platform. As well as the common RPA functions it drives optimal process models and applies bots with a greater degree of automation. It brings about higher customer satisfaction with a minimal data-processing time for customer requests. It uses a visual design of bot workflows and creates trigger mechanisms for bots. These bots can be supervised or autonomous. SAP iRPA provides a series of pre-defined bots for common tasks and the ability to develop unique bots. The function of the bots is then monitored and analysed.

SAP Intelligent RPA allows users to adopt a low-code or no-code approach. The low-code approach allows users to build and run application bots with Javascript. The no-code approach guides users through the process with a workflow design interface. Actions within desktop or web GUIs are captured and used as the basis for a workflow. One of the most powerful uses of SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is to accelerate SAP S/4HANA processes with embedded AI and intelligent services.

Other examples of the use of SAP iRPA include the automation of:

  • common Ariba processes
  • daily email activities
  • process invoices and other business documents by integration within BusinessOne and ByDesign
  • recurring procurement, retail or finance processes
  • Travel and expense management
  • common tasks in human resources

Augmenting Your Skills with SAP iRPA

Because of the emphasis of ease of use in SAP Intelligent RPA it is fairly easy for a non-IT specialist to become familiar with. IT professionals with a proficiency in Javascript can use those skills to customise pre-existing bots or build entirely new ones with an original function and so it is an easy way to augment your skills and employability as an SAP specialist.

openSAP run free enrolment in courses in RPA with SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation at a variety of skill levels, roughly every 3 months. For example the course entitled “Enter Next-Level Bot Building with SAP Intelligent RPA 2.0” provides an overview of the updated solution: covering how to create bots in the Desktop Studio, how to configure and monitor them in the Cloud Factory, and how to make them run as digital workers and assistants.

openSAP courses typically have a time commitment of 3-4 hours per week and a duration of 5 weeks. They are a great way to see if the solution is a good fit for you as an SAP professional.

If you want to gain Global Certification in SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation then the SAP Training Store offers individual courses for purchase, though if you intend taking more than one course then subscription for a year to SAP Learning Hub may provide better value for your investment, as it also includes access to two exam bookings.

The IRPA01 – SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation course on the Training Shop is the most comprehensive training in SAP iRPA and currently costs 3,625.00 € (EUR), which is a substantial amount but as with other Globally Certified SAP Courses you can expect the salary you can command to go up proportionately.

In 2020 the average salary for an SAP consultant was $85,816 per year but in the group that was certified by SAP this average figure was $112,488 per year, according to research conducted by a selection of organisations in America. This demonstrates an improvement to yearly salary of approximately 30%, so although some official SAP training courses cost thousands, those who achieve certification can expect return on their investment quickly. It is possible that your employer may be willing to finance your training as part of a policy of continuing education in their workforce.

The three levels of SAP Certification are Associate, Specialist and Professional. Associate certification requires that you pass an exam once but because of the constantly changing nature of SAP products you may be required to take “stay-current assessments” when a newer version an SAP solution is released. Once you have completed your training then you can purchase a subscription to the SAP Certification hub (with six exam attempts available within twelve months of your subscription) and then schedule your cloud exam. Each exam can be taken anywhere and is proctored remotely.

The Automated System Specialist

We can see from a brief glance at Robotic Process Automation and at SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation that this is an area of ERP that is expanding to provide for the much larger trend of hyper automation. Historically we saw companies who wanted to maximise their growth choose outsourcing as the model for expansion, but now almost all companies that want to expand in a way that is not going to stretch their finances to breaking point will inevitably use RPA as a means to achieve growth. Consequently the importance of RPA and so SAP iRPA for SAP specialists is increasing.

While SAP is seeking to make application extension and development more accessible to the section of the workforce that does not specialise in IT, it is clear that those who can back up their SAP iRPA skills with Javascript fluency will find a place for their skillset adapting and building these new tools for speeding up business processes.

Familiarity with SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is a going to be a skill that SAP system integrators will find more useful over time as the sheer number of applications and end-points in the digital enterprise expands dramatically over the course of the next decade.