SAP RPA: The future of Software Automation
Hello everyone, my name is Marius and I am going to be writing about RPA (Robotic Process Automation). RPA is an emerging business automation technology based on software robots and machine learning. Imagine if we can do to software automation what robotic factory automation has done to manufacturing.
I am going to go over some tasks with automatable business processes at a fortune 500 company. Teach you how to use a platform to automate a current business process that you easily use yourself and talk about the future in the space and how SAP fits in into the space.
Traditionally, software has automated segregated and siloed business process. This has led to a more fluidity in processes in integrated system. This is the golden age of SAP ECC systems. You now have an extremely powerful system to run your business from the CEO –> factory floor –> sales floor –> etc. This is just one side of the coin; the opposite side of this coin is that this has now led to day to day repetitive individual and siloed tasks which have become as repetitive and cumbersome as the paper and pencil tasks they replaced.
SAP GUI Automatable Tasks
I am reminded interning as an accounts receivable rep at a large food processing organization prior to transitioning to software development. My day to day tasks were repetitive and automatable. These tasks included the following flow.
- Log-into into SAPGUI
- Look through our customer base
- See if customer had outstanding balance with our organization
- If So, see what the value was:
- Is the value worth us collecting?
- Or is the value is low enough write off the loss?
- On the flip side, see if we owed money to any customer (accounts payable)
- Clean systems of old data and antiquated entries littering reports
Transitioning into software development, the above tasks almost seem programable(If this condition is true, do this and so on). This flow could have used RPA to be further be streamlined and be completed in what took me me six months into possibly less than six weeks. If you use an SAP system (or any business system) how many processes can you think of that fit the above mold eating into resources time, which could use the help of RPA?
Automation, Conversational AI and Business APIs
Let’s take a look at a tool which we can provide to businesses users they can use to automate business task to free up resources and ease into software automation. In this example we will take a simple process of looking up how many vacation days I have in the current production system provided to employees. This is not a complicated task but from this task we can build more in depth automated logic, such as requesting time off, seeing which days I have taken this year or receiving a team calendar.
The below flow is a graphical representation of an automated task to pull this information from an existing system. What these tools provide is the ability to put these flows together and ease into automating them in the same process as a user would do them currently.
1) Automate Open Browser
The logic will open our browser and navigate to our Respective System (Log in is through SSO, but users can enter Username & password just as securely).
2) Click on the Fiori “Leave Requests” tab
Navigate to the Leave Request portion of the system. Here we are in a web/HTML environment, but this data can be in any system.
3) Navigate to Listings Page
From here we can navigate to the data table we are searching for. This is where the relevant data resides and we can begin scraping the data.
4) Scrape Web Data
We want access to this information for use in other systems or other processes. We have a need to scrape the data from the HTML environment into an Excel environment (or any other environment).
This data is the information that we are interested in scraping and returning back as a proof of concept.
5) Extract Business Data into variable that we can save anywhere
We are done scraping and now we can now save it or take it another system.
6) Create and Save Excel Spreadsheet for external Processing
This is the step where all the benefit of the above steps.
Having access to the information is what is important. The user already has access to this data but only in one environment. The process above gives us the ability to create APIs into this information where no API existed before. Bridging a gap in information for the user but also other processes and systems.
What can we go from here?
As a developer I see infinite possibilities with processes like the one mentioned above. Low hanging fruit examples are creating APIs into this data to provide access to other systems through conversational AI. Imagine if we can give conversational AI our vacation days, the comment input and then the automated process above fill out the form UI inputs to automate the entire process. Simplifying the process entirely and automating away the usage of navigating the traditional UI.
What we can also do is create APIs which can be consumed by other systems and other business processes. We can chain link business processes together that we previously could not before. We can create a window in a process that we can use through other means of consumption.
Extending the Process
We can also expand on this process into other tools that we are using. We can also take the same process, expand it SAP Concur. We can give the bot/conversational AI our airport, destination, departure day, return date and the bot returns all available flights. From there we can choose which flight is best for us in any other/different environment (Chatbot, other UI, different business process flow etc). Automating an already expedited process for ease of access to end users. We can also create APIs from this process that can be consumed by other systems. what this allows us to do is create windows for a process where APIs currently do not exist where we can tie it to other business process to automate an entire end to end process flow.
SAP Tie In
This is important to SAP and customers. Similar to the Food processing accounts receivable example, PTO example and SAP Concur example tied to conversational AI. What SAP and customers currently lack is the depth and breadth of APIs into business processes which can be tied and stringed together to simplify and entire business process flow from start to finish. The power that SAP has is the environment which can empower this type of business flow already exist and are available. We just need a way to tie into those systems and complete that flow.
Can you think of a current process which you think can be automated with the help of RPA? If so please let me know. Thank you and please feel free reach out for any questions.