If we can train digital workers to handle S/4HANA, we can train them to do anything."
Accelerating digital transformation through a blend of human, digital workers and systems
It’s 2021, and your company has fully embraced the idea of a hybrid workforce; humans working alongside digital workers that provision AI skills where necessary to accomplish highly complex activities at scale. Now imagine that these same digital co-workers could access a pre-built library of reusable automation objects for the most common SAP transactions and instantly know how to operate SAP, including S/4HANA!
Thanks to the Blue Prism Innovation Centre, this is now a reality. Among all the new and exciting product releases from Blue Prism in 2020, the Blue Prism Accelerators for use with SAP ERP are by far my favourite. The release of this new SAP competency was a watershed moment for the world of automation, and I hope everyone will appreciate the significance of it.
Blue Prism customers have seen a 50-90% acceleration in their automation development of SAP through utilizing our accelerators. This includes competencies of financial accounting, sales and distribution, materials management, and many of the most common SAP modules. Hundreds of T-Codes have been automated and can be easily adjusted without coding to meet any level of SAP customizations for any company.
Also, the accelerators can solve the global human labor shortage for SAP expertise as well as help companies who have invested in SAP upskill their current workforce (human or digital).
The enterprise app saga
Enterprise applications (EA) will be with us until the end of time. Implementing these systems is a major investment of money, time, resources. It’s not uncommon for many people to get reassigned to an EA implementation project and never return to their day job. It’s one of those ‘black holes’ in companies that some try to avoid. For others, EA projects have been career-defining moments, assuming they go well and come in on time and at or under budget.
In my consulting career prior to joining Blue Prism, I had many different experiences with enterprise apps. I was never really a bona fide ERP guy, but even so, I was frequently asked to do quality and risk reviews of large ERP implementations.
I consistently observed these issues across ERP engagements:
- Frustration. EA implementations consuming so much time and energy and with extremely long payback periods.
- Anxiety. Executives worried that they would not see the return on such incredible investments.
- Stress. People working nights and weekends to keep implementation schedules in check, despite curve balls thrown at them on a weekly or daily basis.
- Disillusionment. Clients waking up to the fact that the systems they were implementing didn’t look or function at all like the demos they saw during the evaluation period.
- Chaos. Extreme levels of discouragement and fear once people realized there was no turning back.
Now, not all these engagements were unsuccessful. In fact, most of the ones I experienced eventually reached a good conclusion. But the journey was painful, and some people, quite frankly, did not end up in a good place by the end. They moved on to other companies that, subsequently, began their own EA implementation. Thus, the cycle began all over again.
Digital workers to the rescue
The collision between the intelligent automation space and enterprise application world is presenting a clear path to changing the way companies not only implement these apps but how they run them once they are in production. Blue Prism digital workers can now simply download a bunch of pre-built EA automations for SAP, and they are immediately able to perform that work at scale. This includes transaction execution but also other key activities such as master data management, financial close, Basis, testing, archiving and configuration.
Here's one specific example that demonstrates the value:
The Order-to-Cash (OTC) process in SAP typically requires 18 screens, 92 elements, 44 data items, 42 wait stages and 84 exception stages to handle the login, sales order, shipping and billing activities. Digital workers can now automate the majority of this work by taking advantage of seven pre-built SAP T-Code objects that are downloadable from the Blue Prism Digital Exchange. Furthermore, any business process in the company that involves OTC activities can re-use this pre-automated capability. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Enterprise applications will continue to be the foundation for how businesses are run, but what desperately needs to go away is the manual work required to execute these systems, pass information back and forth between them, and report upon them. As the work on EA systems historically performed by human workers continues to diminish while the digital workers get smarter and smarter, the human workers will be enabled to focus on higher value activities, ones that are best suited to innately human capabilities.
The new wave of EA automation such as SAP Accelerators will bring greater benefits, including:
- Expediting the implementation timeline and payback period.
- Reducing the amount of hiring and training you need to do to support enterprise applications.
- Improving the quality of data fed into enterprise applications.
- Improving the effectiveness of these applications, enabling them to deliver more value.
Because digital workers are being used to deliver this automation, there are more advantages: no errors, 100% auditability, improved productivity, faster turnarounds, extended processing windows, etc.