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Automate business processes using Intelligent Robotics Process Automation – Part 1

Automation is a key characteristic of Intelligent Enterprise. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been playing a significant role in automating business processes for many years. Organizations have been looking at RPA as a way to improve operational efficiencies and also enhance the user experience by allowing users to focus on important tasks rather than those repetitive tasks. Towards end of 2018, SAP acquired Contextor to augment its intelligent technologies portfolio and drive the automation of processes within S/4HANA and other cloud solutions.

What is Robotic Process Automation

Its one of the emerging forms of business process automation technology which allows one to configure a software (or bot) to emulate human interactions with various systems. They help to capture and process the data, trigger events and run other applications.

Consider a scenario where the user would have to obtain data stored in an excelsheet, PDF and online websites before updating business records in an SAP system. Using RPA, you could easily automate these steps and schedule the bot to perform these tasks regularly.

The software which does this for SAP is Intelligent Robotics Process Automation (iRPA).

What is Intelligent about SAP’s iRPA

iRPA is available on SAP Cloud Platform making it a true cloud solution. The power of SAP Cloud Platform enables iRPA to be more scalable, robust solution which can integrate with wide range of systems as well as structured and unstructured form of data.The availability of Machine Learning capabilities along with Conversational AI on the same platform enables SAP to offer an Intelligent RPA which can be used to automate actions that involve more than a traditional user interface. Intelligent bots provide an opportunity for businesses to reimagine the way they perform some of their business processes. Consider a supplier who wants to enquire about the status of an Invoice? Using new technologies on SAP Cloud Platform, they could talk to a chatbot and upload their invoice. The system could use Machine Learning capabilities to extract invoice data from the uploaded PDF and trigger a RPA bot which would interact with the backend SAP system. As you can see, iRPA has opened new paths to leverage emerging technologies to handle complex tasks much more efficiently.

Another common question with RPA’s is – What happens when the system upgrades and the UIs change. How does iRPA handle such changes?

iRPA leverages Machine Learning based rules to make decisions rather than the simple rule-based approach. This makes the bot to be more intelligent and make decisions on its own. The bots which are delivered by SAP go beyond UI and leverage APIs and metadata which make them more robust to UI changes.

Components of iRPA

SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is a hybrid solution made of three components:

  • Design the automation processes with the on-premise Desktop Studio (Windows only).
  • Orchestrate the automation processes with the cloud Factory.
  • Execute the automation processes with the on-premise Desktop Agent(s).

SAP provides prebuilt contents for various core business processes in finance, procurement & Data Management area. The contents utilize the existing UI & API to obtain, process and enter data and information to automate the business processes. Customers can import these standard contents and configure them to quickly implement these bots.

To find more information on the accelerators, navigate to “SAP Best Practices for SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation integration with SAP S/4HANA‎”

Automation modes

iRPA supports both attended and unattended automation modes. Unattended bots are primarily used for back-office functions. They can execute tasks and interact with different applications without human intervention. These bots usually run in a separate server which has been dedicated for this purpose. They are typically used for batch jobs which could be scheduled to run in a particular frequency.

Below is a sample Solution Diagram which shows how iRPA can be used to create an unattended bot which leverages SAP Cloud Platform integration services to interact with SAP and non-SAP systems to complete their tasks.

Attended bots usually work along with humans and help speed up their tasks. These are triggered by the user and the bot runs in the user’s workstation. For example, a call center agent who is speaking to a customer might use an attended bot to fetch customer information from several systems and populate their screen. This way the call center agent spends less time switching between applications and can focus on the conversation with the customer.

Below is a sample Solution Diagram which shows how iRPA can be used to create an attended bot which obtains requests from chatbots and processes them using Machine Learning APIs before updating the data in an SAP backend system.

In the next blog post, I will walk through the steps required to setup iRPA and configure your first project.

5 Comments
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  • Thanks Murali Shanmugham for the great blog series much needed with respect to RPA, waiting similar kind of series on XM:). I have two questions though

    • Don’t you think Attended bot are more like just another logic being executed.  It is like a function waiting for being called
    • How do you compare it with other automation tool like UIPath and Automate anywhere. I have used UIPath only challenge which i find was learning Objective C, here i see javascript being used similar to the one we used in SAP Screen personas.

    Thanks

    Nabheet

    • Thanks for your feedback.

      1. Yes, its another logic which is being executed. In an ideal world, we would have all the systems seamlessly connected to other systems via APIs. However, in a complex landscape, with multiple systems from different vendors, its not the case. RPA can help in integrating these solutions in short timeframe without lot of development.
      2. I am not fully across the capabilities of UIPath & Automate Anywhere. What I heard is that some solutions don’t offer a Cloud first approach, don’t cover both attended and unattended modes. With respect to SAP, the key differentiation comes with the tighter integration to SAP stack via APIs and leveraging CAI + ML to go beyond just automating traditional UIs. There are some benefits also from the commercial aspects for SAP customers.